Joe Skipper/Associated Press
Since the Washington Capitals won their first championship in franchise history, the focus of the hockey world has been on wherever the Stanley Cup ended up.
After being trotted around every nook and cranny of Washington, D.C., the Stanley Cup is back in Las Vegas, where the Capitals clinched the Stanley Cup Final, for the NHL awards Wednesday night.
Hockey’s top players, coaches and front office personnel will be honored during the ceremony in which the storied trophies of the sport will gain another owner.
Twelve awards, each with three nominees, will be handed out during the ceremony, which will officially close the book on the 2017-18 season.
NHL Awards Information
Date: Wednesday, June 20
Start Time: 8 p.m. ET
Award Candidates and Predictions
Vezina Trophy (Best Goaltender)
Candidates: Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg), Pekka Rinne (Nashville), Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay)
The Vezina Trophy should come down to Connor Hellebuyck and Andrei Vasilevskiy, who tied for the league lead with 44 regular-season victories.
Vasilevskiy tied Pekka Rinne for the most shutouts in the NHL with eight while leading the Tampa Bay Lightning to home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference.
Chris O’Meara/Associated Press
Hellebuyck helped the Winnipeg Jets improve their win total by 12 games and advanced to the Western Conference final before falling to the Vegas Golden Knights.
Rinne didn’t have a bad season by any stretch of the imagination, but it appears he’s on the outside looking in when it comes to the collection of finalists.
Frank J. Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward)
Candidates: Patrice Bergeron (Boston), Sean Couturier (Philadelphia), Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles)
Patrice Bergeron and Anze Kopitar won the Selke Trophy in five of the last six years, with Bergeron winning four and Kopitar taking his lone honor in 2016.
Bergeron’s presence in the group of three finalists is impressive since he missed a chunk of the regular season with an injury.
Kopitar is consistently one of the top defensive forwards in the league, while Sean Couturier stood out on a young Philadelphia team.
The statistical requirements for the Selke are harder to quantify than most of the other awards, and it usually favors the experienced players.
Since the turn of the century, 10 players left the awards stage with the Selke Trophy, with Bergeron, Kopitar, Rod Brind’Amour and Pavel Datsyuk being multiple winners.
Norris Trophy (Best Defenseman)
Candidates: Drew Doughty (Los Angeles), Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay), P.K. Subban (Nashville)
P.K. Subban and Drew Doughty are the established candidates for the Norris Trophy, as both players were awarded the honor of best defenseman in the past.
However, the Norris Trophy should end up in the hands of Victor Hedman, who had a terrific season in all aspects of the game for the Lightning.
Julie Jacobson/Associated Press
Not only did Hedman help Tampa Bay clinch the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference by producing the best goal difference in the NHL, he led defensemen with 17 goals alongside Calgary’s Dougie Hamilton.
You could make a legitimate case for each player to win, but the 27-year-old Swede is the most deserving candidate following one of the most successful seasons of his career.
Lady Byng Trophy (Most Gentlemanly Player)
Candidates: Aleksander Barkov (Florida), William Karlsson (Vegas), Ryan O’Reilly (Buffalo)
Ryan O’Reilly is the only previous winner of the Lady Byng Trophy up for the honor Wednesday, and he presents a strong case to earn his second award.
The Buffalo Sabres center sat in the penalty box for an astonishingly low two minutes while averaging 20 minutes and 49 seconds on the ice over 81 games.
O’Reilly recorded the same total in penalty minutes during the 2013-14 season with the Colorado Avalanche on the way to his first Lady Byng Trophy.
William Karlsson isn’t a bad option for the Lady Byng either, as he was a leader on and off the ice during Vegas’ expansion season, while Aleksander Barkov continued to prove his worth as one of the game’s top young players with the Florida Panthers.
Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (Dedication To Hockey)
Candidates: Brian Boyle (New Jersey), Roberto Luongo (Florida), Jordan Staal (Carolina)
Brian Boyle persevered through chronic myeloid leukemia to take the ice for the New Jersey Devils and lead them back into the postseason.
In addition to dealing with his own personal health issues, Boyle was in the hospital with his son Declan, who had numerous surgeries because of an arteriovenous malformation of the jaw, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen.
While Roberto Luongo and Jordan Staal went through hardships of their own this season, Boyle is more than deserving of the Masterton Trophy for pushing past the difficult times in his life over the last year.
Calder Memorial Trophy (Best Rookie)
Candidates: Mathew Barzal (New York Islanders), Brock Boeser (Vancouver), Clayton Keller (Arizona)
Mathew Barzal should join a long list of superstars who won the Calder Trophy that includes Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane and last year’s honoree Auston Matthews.
The 21-year-old Canadian center took the league by storm in his rookie season with the New York Islanders, as he produced 85 points by way of 22 goals and 63 assists.
Matt Slocum/Associated Press
Barzal’s point total was the 13th best in the NHL, as he outperformed plenty of high-profile forwards like Brad Marchand, Nicklas Backstorm, Artemi Panarin and Kane.
Although Brock Boeser was named to the 2018 NHL All-Star Game and Clayton Keller shined on one of the worst teams in the league, Barzal outplayed them from start to finish and is deserving of the Rookie of the Year designation.
Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award
Candidates: Deryk Engelland (Vegas), Wayne Simmonds (Philadelphia), Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg)
The Mark Messier Leadership Award is given to the individual who leads his team through a positive example on and off the ice.
During Vegas’ incredible run to the Stanley Cup Final, Deryk Engelland rallied the team in tough times on the ice and helped bring the community together to form a bond that won’t be broken.
While he acted like a captain on the ice, Engelland was one of six alternate captains on the Golden Knights roster, as the team opted not to choose a captain for its inaugural campaign.
Given the success of hockey in Las Vegas, and being able to create a community around the game, Engelland seems like a good choice for the Mark Messier Leadership Award.
Jack Adams Award (Best Coach)
Candidates: Jared Bednar (Colorado), Bruce Cassidy (Boston), Gerard Gallant (Vegas)
At first glance, Gerard Gallant seems to be an easy pick for the Jack Adams Award for best coach in the NHL because of the success of the Golden Knights.
But when you dig deeper into the seasons each of the three finalists had, it’s hard not to reward Jared Bednar for the turnaround he helped engineer in Colorado.
Bednar’s Avalanche came one point shy of doubling the total from his first year in charge, and in the process of improving by 47 points, they earned a playoff berth for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
Although Colorado didn’t get out of the first round of the playoffs, Bednar deserves recognition for rescuing a franchise that languished at the bottom of the NHL for three seasons.
Ted Lindsay Award (Best Player Voted by NHLPA)
Candidates: Taylor Hall (New Jersey), Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado), Connor McDavid (Edmonton)
The Ted Lindsay Award could show us which player will win the Hart Trophy, as Taylor Hall and Nathan MacKinnon are nominated for both.
Although Connor McDavid led the NHL with 108 points, he failed to bring the Edmonton Oilers into the postseason, while Hall and MacKinnon helped their respective sides end playoff droughts.
Alex Gallardo/Associated Press
While McDavid’s candidacy is discredited a bit by his team’s poor performance, he still forced his way into the discussion with a remarkable season.
The 23-year-old MacKinnon took the next step up in his game with the Avalanche, as he bested his career high in points by 34.
Hall was one of the best stories in hockey, as he eclipsed the 90-point mark for the first time in his career after struggling to gain traction with the Oilers and New Jersey Devils over the last few seasons.
Hart Trophy (MVP)
Candidates: Taylor Hall (New Jersey), Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles), Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado)
Since McDavid isn’t a Hart Trophy finalist, the decision should come down to Hall and MacKinnon, but don’t count out Kopitar.
Kopitar was an all-around force for the Kings, as he produced the best offensive season of his career, but an argument can be made that Los Angeles would’ve still qualified for the postseason without the 30-year-old Slovenian in the lineup.
The same can’t be said about Hall and MacKinnon, who were the superstars that provided an extra boost to their respective teams every night they stepped foot on the ice.
MacKinnon’s been one of the rising stars of the game for a few years, and the elevated level he played at helped the Avalanche reverse their poor fortunes.
Hall’s numbers came out of nowhere, as he wasn’t expected by many to break out with 93 points while qualifying the Devils for the postseason.
King Clancy Memorial Trophy (Humanitarian of the Year)
Candidates P.K. Subban (Nashville), Daniel and Henrik Sedin (Vancouver), Jason Zucker (Minnesota)
Daniel and Henrik Sedin made a lasting impact on Vancouver during their playing time with the Canucks, and now that they’re retiring, it feels right to honor their impact on the community one more time.
Henrik Sedin won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy in 2016 for the contributions he made alongside his brother to the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation.
The Sedins are nominated for the same charitable work with the hospital, as well as a litany of other community endeavors, including helping the Canucks raise $42 million since the 2000-01 season for the Canucks for Kids Fund, per NHL.com.
Recognizing the off-ice contributions of the Sedin brothers feels like the right thing to do before they exit the NHL awards stage for one final time.
Prediction: Sedin and Sedin
General Manager of the Year
Candidates: Kevin Cheveldayoff (Winnipeg), George McPhee (Vegas), Steve Yzerman (Tampa Bay)
Vegas might not win the Jack Adams Award, but it should own the General Manager of the Year in George McPhee.
McPhee, who helped build the foundation for the Capitals’ Stanley Cup-winning team, used all the resources at his disposal to build an expansion team into an immediate contender.
The collection of hungry veterans, star players and up-and-coming faces of the game molded themselves into a formidable foe few teams could stop.
Although the Golden Knights fell short of the ultimate goal, they exceeded expectations and set a new standard for first-year teams.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
Statistics obtained from Hockey Reference.