Predicting NHL Award Winners For Next Season

You’re probably wondering why I’m predicting who will win awards for next season when we don’t even know who’s winning awards for this season. Well, because I want to and you can’t tell me I can’t. So that’s why we’re here! It’s never too soon to look ahead to next season and make some predictions for things that could happen.

The way I want to go about this is to give my top pick or picks for each of the bigger NHL awards and also give a sleeper pick as well. So, why don’t we get right into it?

Vezina Trophy

This season’s Vezina trophy winner seems to be a pretty obvious one. Connor Hellebuyck has far and away been the best goalie this season. The Jets would be nowhere without him and he has been putting up better numbers than any other goaltender in the NHL.

However, for next year, it may be a lot more wide open. The NHL is trending more towards tandem goalies so the days of goalies playing 60+ games is becoming less likely. So with that being said, who is primed to be in the conversation of best goaltender in the league next year?

If I was to put a bet on it, I would say Jake Ottinger will be the one to win it. Ottinger has had a down year to his standards but I think he will pick it up next season. Not to mention that he’s just starting to enter his prime as he’s only 25 years old. On top of this, the Stars are a deep team that only seems to be getting better. The team being better will make Ottinger’s job easier and would make him a prime candidate to win the Vezina trophy. I can also see Thatcher Demko being a candidate as well as Hellebuyck again but those two will depend on how much they play, in my opinion.

My sleeper pick for the Vezina trophy is Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. This may be a long shot but he has been pretty good to end the year and if he keeps building up his confidence, he could end up being someone who is sneakily good next year. The Sabres haven’t had the greatest goaltending in the past few years and it has hurt them. If Luukkonen can be a solid goaltender for them then they will have a legit chance to break there playoff curse. I don’t think they’ll be able to make it if he isn’t good for them and if he is, he just might get a Vezina nominee nod.

Calder Trophy

The Calder trophy for Best Rookie of the Year is always a hard one to predict, especially when it’s a year in advance. You can make predictions all you want but many things end up factoring into whether or not a rookie actually gets a lot of ice time or even plays at all.

However, there are still some players who will be notable names when they play their first full NHL season. The obvious pick for many is Macklin Celebrini who is going to be the first overall pick in this year’s upcoming draft. He’s incredibly talented and will have an immediate impact for whichever team he goes to. I’m not going to pick him though just because we don’t know what team he will go to and that will depict how good he will be in comparison to his peers in my opinion. If he’s on a bad team where he has to carry the load, similar to Connor Bedard this year, then it will be much harder for. I say he does get nominated though. Lane Hutson could be a good choice too because he will likely be quarterbacking the Montreal Canadiens top power play unit. That however is not a guarantee so I won’t say him either.

For the winner, I’m going to go with Will Smith from the San Jose Sharks. Smith has dominated the NCAA this year and will have a big role with the rebuilding Sharks next season. He will have a lot of pressure on him since the Sharks don’t have a ton of offensive weapons, but I think he will be able to handle it. Pairing him with William Eklund will make for a great one-two combination and they should be great.

My sleeper pick will be Scott Morrow from the Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes are going to lose some big defenceman this off-season and Morrow is expected to be able to step in and take a big role. His offensive success will depend on how much power play time he gets, but with Brent Burns still there, he may be limited.

Norris Trophy

I’ll get straight to the point with this one. It’s going to be Quinn Hughes or Cale Makar again. Those two will fight it out for the best defenceman of the year for many years to come because they are just that good. They’re both in the top five best skaters in the league and are so gifted offensively. They will continue to dominate the league until other defencemen can match their skills.

If I were to choose one I’d say whoever doesn’t win the Norris this season since they probably want defenceman. For argument’s sake, let’s say Quin Hughes wins it this year so Cale Makar will win it next year.

My sleep pick will be Brock Faber. He’s had a great year as a rookie for the Minnesota Wild and has looked comfortable being their top D-man. He will continue to get better the more he plays and with how important he is for the Wild, he seems primed to have a fantastic sophomore season with the Wild.

Hart Trophy

When picking a Hart Trophy winner for most valuable player of the year, it’s hard not to just say Connor McDavid because he’s just that damn good. The guy is going to put up 100 assists this season. That is absurd considering that’s more assists than all but 7 players have points this season. He is a freak of nature and will continue to terrorize the league for years to come.

However, I’m not picking him. This may seem crazy but I think there is someone else who may have a bigger year than him next year. And funnily enough, it’s his teammate.

Yeah, I think Leon Draisaitl will win the Hart trophy. Why you ask? It’s simple. Contract year. There’s no doubt that Draisaitl is going to get paid handsomely for his next contract, but he may have some extra motivation to play even better than he already is to get a high cap hit. We’ve seen multiple players explode this season because it’s their contract year and the same could apply for Draisaitl. William Nylander, Sam Reinhart, and Jake Gunentzel are all examples of players who have had great years because they’re in a contract year. They may have been good anyway but the contract part of it probably adds to their motivation.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Draisaitl become the highest-paid player in the league and to do that, he may want to motivate whoever is paying him by having the best season he’s ever had.

For my sleep pick, I’m going with Elias Pettersson. Call me a homer all you want but I think next year is going to be a good one for him. He’s got his contract now and this off-season will give him a chance to fully recover from whatever lingering injury he was dealing with at the start of the year. If the Canucks go out and get him a play-driving winger as well, then he will surely have a great season and one that could get him some Hart trophy votes.

Am I going to be wrong about most of these predictions? Probably. But dammit I like making far too early predictions because I’m weird like that. Just know that if you disagree, then you’re wrong, but I still think you’re a great person even though you’re wrong.:)

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