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NHL awards preview for the 2021-22 season

We get you ready for the start of the 2021-22 NHL season by previewing the potential awards winners for the MVP, Norris, Vezina, Jack Adams, and Calder Trophies. 


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McDavid is going to be at the top of this list every season for probably the next decade. He is coming off an unbelievable 2020-21 season that saw him top 100 points in a 56 game season and he is going to be the front-runner to win another scoring title. He is entering his age 25 season which is generally when offensive players really hit their peak production. So expect a massive year from him and another top-3 finish in the Hart Trophy voting. 

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Avalanche are still one of the best teams in the league and MacKinnon is one of the three best players in the world. That makes him an easy contender. He has been a finalist in three of the past four years and barring an injury he should be right there in the discussion again. The big question is whether or not the Avalanche can break through the Second Round ceiling in the playoffs and get the Stanley Cup. 


Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Here is an interesting player to watch. The Panthers are coming into this season with major expectations and should have a team capable of competing for the Stanley Cup. Barkov is their best player and one of the best two-way players in the league, blending elite offense and shutdown defense. If the Panthers reach their potential (they should) and Barkov carries the same load he has in recent seasons (no reason to believe he will not) he is going to be in that discussion all year. 


Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Matthews is the league’s reigning goal-scoring champion, and as Alex Ovechkin starts to slow down just a little he should continue to take over that crown. That automatically puts him in the MVP discussion, especially if the Maple Leafs continue to be a playoff team (as they should). But the focus in Toronto right now is not on goal-scoring crowns or simply making the playoffs, it is actually winning in the playoffs. 


Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Hate him all you want but Marchand is one of the league’s best players and a legitimate MVP candidate every season. That is what makes his other shenanigans so annoying — he does not need to resort to that stuff to be effective. Either way, Marchand is an elite scorer, a tremendous defender, and one of the most dangerous penalty killers in the league. He impacts every game in every situation and in all three zones. 


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Norris Trophy (Top Defenseman): Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche

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There is going to come a time in the very near future where Makar is the best player on the Avalanche (yes, better than MacKinnon). We might be getting to that point. Makar has only played two full seasons in the league and is already on an elite level where he can control the game with ease. The Norris Trophy is in his future. Maybe multiple times. One of the rising superstars in the NHL. 


Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The reigning Norris Trophy winner, Fox is part of that wave of defenders that includes Makar and Quinn Hughes that are starting to take over the league. He has quickly become the best and most impactful of New York’s young talent and is going to be a franchise building block for years to come. An all situations defenseman that can be the focal point of a contending team. 


Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Hedman is starting to slow down a little bit, but he remains a top-tier talent and defender. He also still has a name that carries a ton of clout in these discussions and is always going to be a contender based on reputation. Still, that status is not unwarranted. He is the best all-around defenseman of his era and is still one of the best players in the world at his position. 


Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Predators might not have many bright spots this season but Josi figures to be one of them. He is just one year removed from winning the Norris Trophy and is still one of the most productive defenders in the entire NHL. With Ryan Ellis gone he figures to take on even more importance this season as one of the few remaining impact players on the Nashville roster. 


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Norris Trophy (Top Defenseman): Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

McAvoy has quickly blossomed into one of the NHL’s top players and is the leader of Boston’s blue line. There are a lot of defensemen that will put up bigger point totals and score more goals, but few players are able to control the game in all phases the way McAvoy can. He was fifth in the Norris voting a year ago and figures to be a mainstay in the discussion every year. 


Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Vasilevskiy is a finalist every year now and is arguably the best goalie in hockey. That is almost unfair given the team he plays on, and it makes the Lightning an almost unstoppable force. But for as good as the Lightning roster is overall Vasilevskiy really is the game-changer here as they actually have a losing record (13-14-5) the past two seasons when he is not the goalie of record. 


James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Hellebuyck has become one of the NHL’s best goalies and the Jets’ most valuable players. He has helped mask an undermanned defense the past couple of seasons and kept them more competitive than anybody expected them to be. He is a true game-changer at the most important position on the ice. The Jets gave him a little bit of help this offseason and bolstered their defense a little and should only improve his overall play. He already has one Vezina Trophy on his resume and could definitely win another in his career.


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Vezina Trophy (Top Goalie): Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Saros took over Nashville’s net on a full-time basis this past season and had a sensational performance that saw him almost single-handedly drag the Predators to the playoffs. Can he do that again over a full 82-game season? That remains to be seen, but if he does he will certainly finish higher than seventh in the Vezina voting. Given Nashville’s offseason changes it is going to need another huge year from him. 


Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

You pretty much have to include the reigning winner, right? Fleury is playing some of the best hockey of his career the past couple of years and he was sensational during the 2020-21 season. Now he moves onto Chicago where he will be trying to help the Blackhawks return back to relevance. If they do make the playoffs they are going to need a massive year from Fleury given the state of their defense, and if he has that sort of year you can bet it will be a Vezina caliber season.


Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Rangers did not have to wait long to find another franchise goalie to replace Henrik Lundqvist. Shesterkin may not have a huge body of work to evaluate so far, but what we have seen has been fantastic. The pressure is on for the Rangers to take a step forward this season and get back to the playoffs and having a potentially top-tier goalie like Shesterkin will help them get back. 


Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

He is one of the reasons for excitement in Montreal this season. We only got a brief glimpse of Caufield last year in the playoffs and he was consistently one of the most exciting players on the ice. He has a chance to be a top-line goal scorer and is going to be one of the early favorites for the Calder Trophy this season, if not the top favorite. 


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Calder Trophy (Rookie of the year): Spencer Knight, Florida Panthers

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Knight is the top goalie prospect in the league and one of the top prospects overall. With the Sergei Bobrovsky experience not working out as planned in Florida, and Chris Driedger moving on to Seattle in the expansion draft, Knight is going to get an opportunity to play a big role on a Stanley Cup contender. If he lives up to his potential this season and helps the Panthers make a big leap in their development he is a no-brainer for this discussion. 


Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Red Wings faced a lot of criticism when they drafted Seider with the No. 6 overall pick a couple of years ago but nobody is questioning it now. Seider is one of the top defensive prospects in hockey and is coming off of a massive year in Sweden where he was the top defenseman in the league. He is the type of defense prospect that, if he reaches his potential, can help change a franchise. 


Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Kings have one of the most talented farm systems in hockey and Byfield is the top prospect in the group. He is going to get a chance to play behind Anze Kopitar and Phillip Danault to give the Kings some outstanding center depth and perhaps help make them a sleeper playoff team in a weak Pacific Division. 


Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports

Every year the Canucks seem to have another Calder Trophy candidate arrive on their roster. Brock Boeser, Elias Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and now Podkolzin. He is an enormous talent and should help the Canucks improve their forward depth. He is a highly skilled player that should be a great addition to their young core. The Canucks have been patiently waiting for him to arrive, and how he is here. 


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Jack Adams Award (Coach of the year): Joel Quenneville, Florida Panthers

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Quenneville is one of the league’s top coaches and is behind the bench of a Panthers team that has a chance to be a Stanley Cup contender. Given Quenneville’s success and reputation, as well as the fact he has been coaching for more than two decades, it is stunning he has only ever won this award once in his career. He should be in contention this season. 


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Jack Adams Award (Coach of the year): Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning

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Cooper has the disadvantage of coaching the league’s best team, and if we know anything about Calder Trophy voting we know it goes to a coach of a team that exceeds expectations and has a hot goalie. But Cooper is the league’s best coach and has his team in a position to win a third consecutive Stanley Cup. He will be in the running. 


Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

There was a strong argument for him to win this award a year ago given the Penguins’ injury situation and the fact they won the East Division. Well, he is starting this season without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the lineup due to offseason surgeries. He gets them back in the playoffs with that injury situation and a flawed roster he should get some major attention here. 


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Jack Adams Award (Coach of the year): Todd McLellan, Los Angeles Kings

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Now here is the type of coach that wins the Calder Trophy: Team that has missed the playoffs in recent years, enters the season with low expectations, and then somehow makes the playoffs. The Kings play in a division where there is probably only one slam dunk playoff team and a bunch of mediocre/rebuilding teams around them. They made some big roster improvements this offseason and have a chance to sneak up on some people with a great farm system. 


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Jack Adams Award (Coach of the year): Gerard Gallant, New York Rangers

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Gallant is arriving in New York tasked with speeding up the Rangers’ rebuild. Management wants this team in the playoffs, and if they get there this season it will be hard to ignore the narrative of the coaching change impact. Gallant is a successful coach with a recent track record of success and he is taking over a team with an MVP candidate (Artemi Panarin), a Norris Trophy winner (Fox), and several high draft picks just waiting to break out. 


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