Tampa Bay stars, coach highlight NHL Awards Show

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov is a candidate for the Hart Trophy, which goes to the league MVP.

Detroit — One of the NHL’s biggest events every year takes place Wednesday, with the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas.

The league’s biggest names and stars walk the red carpet in a get-together that regularly gets lampooned on social media for its occasional awkwardness and bad jokes.

But, it is the evening the NHL’s best get awarded, and this year’s ballot has some difficult choices.

Here are some of the top awards being handed out:

Hart Trophy (most valuable player): Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh), Nikita Kucherov (Tampa), Connor McDavid (Edmonton): Prediction: Kucherov had a historic season, with a league-high 128 points (never mind his playoff disappointment) and despite the individual brilliance of Crosby and McDavid, neither came close to the consistent greatness Kucherov produced this season.

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Norris (best defenseman): Brent Burns (San Jose), Mark Giordano (Calgary), Victor Hedman (Tampa): Prediction: Giordano wins it by a hair. You can make a strong case for any of the three finalists. Hedman won the award last season. But Giordano has the better all-around game and was so important to Calgary’s success.

Selke (best defensive forward): Patrice Bergeron (Boston), Ryan O’Reilly (St. Louis), Mark Stone (Las Vegas): Prediction: Bergeron. If Bergeron wins it would be his fifth Selke, passing Bob Gainey as the all-time leader. But this is no slam dunk. Both O’Reilly and Stone have solid resumes.

Calder (best rookie); Jordan Binnington (St. Louis), Rasmus Dahlin (Buffalo), Elias Pettersson (Vancouver): Prediction: Pettersson. This will be extremely interesting. Pettersson had 66 points in 71 games and was considered a cinch to win this award most of the season. But Binnington’s improbable run (24-5-1 record, .927 save percentage), which helped St. Louis into the playoffs (and eventually the Stanley Cup) made things interesting. If these awards would consider the playoffs, too, Binnington would have won easily.

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Vezina (best goaltender): Ben Bishop (Dallas), Robin Lehner (N.Y. Islanders), Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa):  Prediction: Vasilevskiy. He was the regular season’s best goalie, and was just behind Kucherov as to the reason Tampa had such a dominant regular season.

►Jack Adams Award (coach of the year): Craig Berube (St. Louis), Jon Cooper (Tampa), Barry Trotz (N.Y. Islanders): Prediction: Cooper. If this included the playoffs, too, Berube would win. But it doesn’t. So Cooper gets rightfully awarded for a spectacular regular season.

►Lady Byng (most gentlemanly player): Aleksander Barkov (Florida), Sean Monahan (Calgary), Ryan O’Reilly (St. Louis): Prediction: Barkov, who only had four minor penalties, while putting up 96 points.


Twitter @tkulfan