The NHL Awards winners have been revealed and, for the first time in my professional career, I was fortunate enough to contribute to the results. Excuse the self-indulgence, but it's pretty cool to be able to write this column for the first time.
But one thing I have picked up on, and am now currently bracing for, is that folks really, really pick apart the voting process. I understand that egregious choices are worth chiding, but zagging in any way will attract attention. New Jersey Devils fans noticed the few (five) voters who circled Jack Hughes for the Lady Byng, including myself, and I'm expecting just as many, and probably more, to take umbrage with the fact that I left Igor Shesterkin off my Hart Trophy ballot.
But if you do the work, and have reason to back the decisions, it's really a matter of one opinion versus the other.
So here are mine.
Winner: Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
My Ballot: Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, Johnny Gaudreau, Leon Draisaitl, Jonathan Huberdeau
Watching the Stanley Cup playoffs may have been a challenge for some Hart Trophy voters. That's because the tournament served as a very clear reminder that not a single player is on the level of Connor McDavid. And in addition to that, if there was a single performer as impactful throughout the postseason, it was probably Igor Shesterkin.
But this is a regular season award and really only two choices emerged for me when considering 82 games: the NHL's top goal scorer versus the NHL's top point producer.
To pick between Matthews, McDavid and their historic seasons, it was worth considering the low moments of their season. Matthews had a real slow start, but had a valid excuse after recovering from offseason surgery. McDavid was unproductive over the final few weeks of Dave Tippett's tenure with the Edmonton Oilers prior to Jay Woodcroft's arrival. Eliminate the outliers, or at least Matthews' outlier, and the two performed at essentially the same level from a production standpoint with the difference being that Matthews scored more goals. Therefore I gave him the edge.
Draisaitl, meanwhile, was largely ignored because of his association with McDavid, but deserved space on the ballot for me for becoming the first player in a quarter century to pair 55 goals with 55 assists. His season wasn't as good, I thought, as that of Johnny Gaudreau, who drove some of the most incredible five-on-five results all season while reaching the second-highest point total in the league.
Admittedly, I wish that I included Shesterkin over Huberdeau, but I would not place the Rangers netminder and Vezina Trophy winner any higher for one simple reason: I don't believe a load-managed goaltender should be named the league's most valuable player.
Fifty-two starts isn't enough for me.
Auston Matthews scored a decisive win by attracting 119 first-place votes and 49 second-place tallies among the 195 ballots cast by @ThePHWA. #NHLAwards #NHLStats: https://t.co/gMUuQjy2dM pic.twitter.com/K2jf0ze1jQ
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) June 22, 2022
Winner: Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche
My Ballot: Cale Makar, Roman Josi, Victor Hedman, Charlie McAvoy, Devon Toews
This was a two-horse race, as well. In fact, the analogy is pretty close to perfect with Makar taking the lead very early in the season, and only narrowly holding off the charge from behind from Josi. That is, at least in my opinion.
Josi made it extremely close with his form through the middle months of the season. He was flirting with a 100-point pace, and a benchmark that likely would have been impossible to ignore, falling just four points short. His 96 points was still the most from a defenseman in more than a quarter century. But while the points were there, I don't think Josi had quite as strong of a final month to the season, which ultimately had me revert back to the the incredible goal-scoring and puck-dominant 82 games from Makar.
Interestingly enough, I was slightly in the minority, despite Makar winning anyway.
Cale Makar (@Cmakar8) edged Roman Josi by a razor-thin margin in voting points (25), the closest Norris Trophy vote since Ottawa's Erik Karlsson shaded Nashville's Shea Weber in 2011-12 (12). #NHLAwards #NHLStats: https://t.co/TO15cjNV5J pic.twitter.com/Lv22RjorGT
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) June 21, 2022
McAvoy and Toews were absent from many ballots. McAvoy had an extraordinary season from an underlying perspective and, like Draisaitl, Toews shouldn't be ruled out just because he shares the ice with a superior player.
Winner: Moritz Seider, Detroit Red Wings
My Ballot: Moritz Seider, Trevor Zegras, Michael Bunting, Tanner Jeannot, Lucas Raymond
This one didn't take as much consideration. Logging big minutes in all situations for the Detroit Red Wings, I think Seider pretty clearly had the most impressive rookie season in the NHL in 2021-22. He had the fourth-most points and more assists than any other rookie, and while his underlying data doesn't dazzle, it's important to consider the context of both environment and role. No first-year professional took on more responsibility, or grew more dramatically within their role.
Zegras's innovation was worth more than the rookie-best point totals Bunting managed while clinging to rookie eligibility on a line with Matthews and Mitch Marner.
Moritz Seider was a resounding winner, collecting 170 first-place votes among the 195 ballots cast for 1,853 voting points from @ThePHWA. #NHLAwards #NHLStats: https://t.co/KQO1M4nTnB pic.twitter.com/HL09pOGEKQ
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) June 21, 2022
*Note: The PHWA does not vote on the Vezina Trophy
Patrice Bergeron, Elias Lindholm, Aleksander Barkov, Auston Matthews, Joel Eriksson Ek
Jack Hughes, Kyle Connor, Jaccob Slavin, Mitch Marner, Ryan Pulock
Centre: Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl
Left wing: Johnny Gaudreau, Jonathan Huberdeau, Kirill Kaprizov
Right wing: Mitch Marner, Matthew Tkachuk, Mikko Rantanen
Defence: Cale Makar, Roman Josi, Victor Hedman, Charlie McAvoy, Devon Toews, Jaccob Slavin
Goalie: Igor Shesterkin, Jacob Markstrom, Frederik Andersen
Trevor Zegras, Michael Bunting, Tanner Jeannot, Moritz Seider, Sean Durzi, Jeremy Swayman
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