By: Brennen Krikorian
With 2019 coming to an end, we are quickly approaching the halfway point in the 2019-2020 NHL season.
In the first half of the season, we have witnessed miraculous goals, incredible saves, and an overall great start to the season. Looking forward to 2020 and the second half of the season, I present my mid-season award selections for some of the major individual awards.
Hart Trophy: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
2019-20 stats: 39 GP/22 G/34 A
The past two seasons, Nathan MacKinnon has proven to be an undisputed top-five player in the league, posting 97 points in 2017 and following that up with 99 points last season.
However, this year the 2013 first overall pick has found a way to improve even more. In the first 39 games of the year, the Avalanche star has posted 56 points while averaging just over 21 minutes a night.
Not only has MacKinnon been able to produce at an incredible rate, but he has been able to do it while his linemates have been injured. Wingers Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog have both been sidelined for various games throughout the season, forcing MacKinnon to carry the top line on his own.
The Avalanche currently sit at second in the Central Division behind the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, but without their superstar, the team would be prematurely destined for the lottery.
If MacKinnon can continue to stay healthy, he should easily surpass 100 points for the first time in his young career and can possibly lead his team to a deep playoff run in the spring.
Other candidates: David Pastrnak (BOS), Connor McDavid (EDM), Jack Eichel (BUF), and John Carlson (WSH)
Norris Trophy: John Carlson, Washington Capitals
2019-20 stats: 40 GP/13 G/37 A
This pick should not come as a shock to any hockey fan.
John Carlson is the clear frontrunner for best defenseman this season. The Capitals blueliner leads all defenseman in both points and assists, while sitting just one goal back of Roman Josi for the league lead in goals.
The Massachusetts native has already matched his last season’s goal total in half the amount of games while increasing his shooting percentage by more than four percent.
While some of that success is due to playing alongside guys like Alex Ovechkin and Evgny Kuznetsov, it is still incredible to see this kind of long-term production from a defenseman.
In a lot of cases with offensive defensemen in the NHL, their defensive efforts sometimes take a back seat. That has not been the case for Carlson.
He currently has a +18, just +3 less than his career-high of +21 last season, meaning he is not only contributing a lot on offense, but also on defense as well.
Washington currently holds the best record in the league and a lot of that has to do with the great season by their leader on the blue line.
Other candidates: Roman Josi (NSH), Alex Pietrangelo (STL), Dougie Hamilton (CAR), and Cale Makar (COL)
Calder Trophy: Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche
2019-20 stats: 31 GP/8 G/21 A
Although he has been sidelined for the past eight games with an upper-body injury, Cale Makar is still the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year.
During his college season last year at UMass, Makar recorded 16 goals and 33 assists in 40 games, which helped him take home the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s best college hockey player.
He also led his team to their first ever NCAA Championship appearance.
In his rookie season this year in Colorado, the 21-year-old is his team’s second leading scorer (behind Nathan MacKinnon) and is second in rookie scoring throughout the league. His 12.7% shooting percentage is also the best in the league for eligible defensemen.
Makar’s speed and vision on the ice is something that we are not accustomed to seeing as hockey fans from a defenseman as young as he is. Based on his first 31 games in the NHL, it is already undeniable that Makar will be Colorado’s top defenseman for many years to come.
Other candidates: Victor Olofsson (BUF), Quinn Hughes (VAN), John Marino (PIT), and Ilya Mikheyev (TOR)
Vezina Trophy: Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes
2019-20 stats: 15-8-2/2.17 GAA/.929 SV%
One of the bigger surprises throughout the season has been the play of Coyotes goaltender Darcy Kuemper.
Kuemper has been a serviceable starter throughout his career, but few thought he would ever be good enough to contend for the Vezina Trophy.
Heading into this season, Arizona’s plan seemed to be the use of a goalie tandem of both Kuemper and Antti Raanta, but the former sixth rounder quickly took over the net full time.
In 25 appearances, Kuemper has racked up 15 wins, two of those being shutouts, and is on pace for career bests in both GAA and SV%.
Arizona sits tied with Vancouver for second in the division standings and with the addition of Taylor Hall, the Coyotes offense has the potential to take some pressure off of their netminder to further improve his numbers.
The Vezina race is one of the closest at this point in the season and his recent injury might hurt his chances slightly down the road, but Kuemper’s play through the first half of the season has given me no choice but to name him the mid-season winner.
Other candidates: Ben Bishop (DAL), Jordan Binnington (STL), Connor Hellebuyck (WPG), and Tuukka Rask (BOS)
Cover photo via: Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images
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