The 2017-18 NHL regular season gets underway on Wednesday evening, and all 31 teams are ready to begin their chase for the Stanley Cup.
Before the regular season kicks off, it is time to make predictions on who the best players will be this season. Who will shine and take home the individual awards at the end of the regular season? What rookies could make the biggest impacts around the league? Who will be the top forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders?
HART MEMORAL TROPHY: MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
WINNER: CONNOR MCDAVID
Other Finalists: Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane
Analysis: In 2016-17, McDavid was the only skater to hit 100 points. McDavid signed a huge long-term extension over the summer and is expected to get the Oilers back to the Stanley Cup Final. McDavid is the star of this decade, and will be for many years to come.
VEZINA TROPHY: TOP GOALTENDER
WINNER: CAREY PRICE
Other Finalists: Braden Holtby, Cam Talbot
Analysis: While Sergei Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy last season, the Jackets took a bit of a slide late in the regular season and into the playoffs. Price is an easy choice to win in 2017-18 because he is the heartbeat and soul of the Canadiens franchise. Price covers any flaws the Canadiens may have in their roster. Expect Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot to sneak in to the conversation if the Oilers claim the top spot in the Pacific Division and in the entire Western Conference. The Washington Capitals may not have the same Presidents’ Trophy caliber year for a third straight season, but Braden Holtby should still be able to provide excellent play for the Capitals in net for many more seasons to come.
ART ROSS TROPHY: TOP POINT SCORER
WINNER: CONNOR MCDAVID
Other Finalists: Sidney Crosby, Nikita Kucherov
Analysis: McDavid is likely the clear-cut winner to become the points leader in back-to-back seasons. In addition to McDavid, the Oilers roster is loaded with plenty of firepower up front. Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Milan Lucic, and Patrick Maroon round out the Oilers offensive attack around McDavid. Expect Nikita Kucherov to sneak in to the conversation with a healthy Steven Stamkos back for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
NORRIS TROPHY: TOP DEFENSEMAN
WINNER: VICTOR HEDMAN
Other Finalists: Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson
Analysis: The Lightning did not have the best year in 2016-17, but Victor Hedman had his best year as a pro. He recorded 16 goals and 72 points, which were both career highs. The Lightning should rebound this year as they will have Steven Stamkos back and healthy. Erik Karlsson is expected to miss a little bit of time to start the 2017-18 regular season.
CALDER TROPHY: ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
WINNER: NICO HISCHIER
Other Finalists: Nolan Patrick, Brock Boeser
Analysis: Hischier will bring some much-needed scoring to the Devils lineup. Hischier was the #1 overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, and he has already shown plenty of scoring promise in the preseason games. The #2 pick in the 2017 Draft Nolan Patrick is expected to get plenty of minutes for the Flyers on opening night. Keep an eye out for former North Dakota standout Brock Boeser in Vancouver. Boeser will also bring a much-needed scoring punch under new Canucks coach Travis Green.
MAURICE “ROCKET” RICHARD TROPHY: TOP GOAL SCORER
WINNER: SIDNEY CROSBY
Other Finalists: Nikita Kucherov, Auston Matthews
Analysis: Sidney Crosby can do anything for the Penguins. Expect him to be their top goal scorer in 2017-18 as they chase their third straight Stanley Cup. Nikita Kucherov is a dynamic shooter for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and he put the team on his shoulders when Steven Stamkos went down early with an injury last season. Auston Matthews burst onto the scene as a rookie for the Toronto Maple Leafs and scored 40 goals for them in 2016-17.
SELKE TROPHY: TOP DEFENSIVE FORWARD
WINNER: PATRICE BERGERON
Other Finalists: Ryan Kesler, Anze Kopitar
Analysis: Bergeron is a 4-time winner of the Selke Trophy as the NHL’s top defensive forward. Bergeron is a player that any team would love to have. He can win many faceoffs, steal the puck from opposing players, and can handle the tough matchups. He is an easy nominee for this trophy every year. Ryan Kesler of the Anaheim Ducks makes his presence known on the ice with great defensive awareness, and some chirps on the side. Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings is a big centreman that is also sharp in the faceoff dot and he can outmuscle a lot of players that he plays against.
JACK ADAMS AWARD: COACH OF THE YEAR
WINNER: TODD MCLELLAN
Other Finalists: Ken Hitchcock, Mike Babcock
Analysis: If the Oilers win the Pacific Division and Western Conference, McLellan will have the clear advantage over the other Finalists. Ken Hitchcock has gone back to Dallas, and they are expected to be much improved under his guidance. Mike Babcock has taken the Maple Leafs to the next level and could be considered a top coach in every single season he coaches.
GM OF THE YEAR
WINNER: CHUCK FLETCHER
Other Finalists: Jim Nill, David Poile
Analysis: The Minnesota Wild have become a consistent playoff team under GM Chuck Fletcher. He tweaked the roster a little over the summer to remain competitive in the Central Division. He also re-signed some of his younger players to very friendly contracts. If the Dallas Stars get back into the playoffs, expect Jim Nill to receive some consideration as top GM. David Poile has done a phenomenal job managing the Predators roster over the last few years and could be up for consideration every year.
By: George Foussekis