Sports Update: Way Too Early Predictions: NHL Edition By: Chris Affolder (2/6/21)
So far, this NHL season is proving to be even wackier than last season. Between the shortened schedule and teams only playing other teams in their own divisions, the landscape of the league has certainly changed. Because everything about the current season is so weird, I decided to try something new: predictions.
I’ll start with individual awards.
Vezina Trophy (Best Goalie): Philipp Grubauer, Colorado Avalanche
The German netminder has put up impressive numbers in the early goings of the season. Grubauer has played in nine games and won seven. In those nine games, he has faced 229 shots and saved all but 15 of them, good enough for a goals-against average of 1.67 and 0.934 save percentage. If Grubauer continues his strong play, expect his name to be on the Vezina Trophy at the end of the season.
Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman): Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche
My original pick for the Norris Trophy was John Carlson of the Washington Capitals, but I eventually decided to go with Cale Makar, mostly due to the fact that Makar has a better plus/minus rating this season. Last season, Cale Makar took home the Calder Trophy as the best rookie in the NHL. This season, I expect him to progress even further and take home the Norris Trophy. So far this season, Makar has notched 12 points (one goal, 11 assists) in 12 games played. That’s good enough for third in the standings for points by a defenseman this season. If Makar wins, he would be the youngest Norris Trophy winner since Erik Karlsson won it at the age of 22 back in 2012.
Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year): Vitek Vanecek, Washington Capitals
This is probably the hottest take in this article. Some NHL fans will be wondering why I chose Washington’s current starting goalie over Minnesota’s sensational forward Kirill Kaprizov. I will admit, I’m a little biased as I grew up in Northern Virginia and the Capitals are my favorite team. That being said, Vitek Vanecek has surpassed expectations this year. After all, he wasn’t even supposed to be on the bench this season. Despite this, Vanecek has been a workhorse for the Caps, recording five wins, two losses, and two overtime losses. He has also posted a respectable save percentage of 0.911 in spite of facing the second-highest number of shots. I’m not guaranteeing that he’ll take home the Calder. All I’m saying is don’t be surprised if it happens.
Rocket Richard Trophy (Most Goals): Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
Okay, this take might actually be hotter than the last one. Naturally, some of you may be wondering what exactly makes this take hotter. Well, here’s your answer. Washington’s Alex Ovechkin has won the Rocket Richard Trophy in seven of the last eight seasons. Last year he shared the trophy with Boston’s David Pastrnak. Not only am I predicting that Auston Matthews will win the trophy, but I also believe that Ovi won’t even share the trophy with Matthews. As a Caps fan, it pains me to say that because I really want Ovi to break the all-time goals record, and he has quite a hill to climb if he wants to beat Gretzky’s record. Bonus Hot Take: Ovi moves into fourth place on the NHL’s all-time goals list by the end of the season.
Art Ross Trophy (Most Points): Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Last season, Connor McDavid finished 13 points behind his teammate Leon Draisaitl, who won this award. Currently, McDavid has 24 points and sits just two points ahead of Draisaitl for the league lead. Now there’s still a lot of hockey left to be played this season, but I definitely see McDavid maintaining his lead throughout the season and eventually taking home the Art Ross Trophy.
Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player): David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
Pastrnak has only played three games this season, but he’s been on fire. In those three games, he’s put up five goals and two assists for seven points. He even notched a hat trick a couple of nights ago against Philadelphia. I know Pasta’s sample size this season is only three games, but he was a huge part of his team winning those games. You know what, I’m gonna go ahead and say that David Pastrnak will win the Hart Trophy this season.
Finally, I’ll finish off with my Stanley Cup prediction.
Stanley Cup Winner: Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins have been one of the best teams in the league so far this season. They’ve posted a record of 7-1-2 and they’ve beaten some contenders in those games. Boston has a solid core of players including Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Charlie McAvoy, not to mention goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. All in all, they are a very complete team and will easily contend for the Stanley Cup this summer.
There you have it folks - my hot takes for the NHL this year. Hopefully, I can look back at this article in a few months and see that I at least got a few things right. If not, then oh well.