Awards time! McDavid deserves first MVP, Karlsson another Norris, Matthews for Calder

Takeaways: A weekly spin around the NHL

If he didn’t catch Sidney Crosby as the best player in hockey, then Connor McDavid certainly made it close.

McDavid’s ascension defined the 2016-17 NHL regular season, but he was hardly alone in making a lasting impression. Erik Karlsson had maybe his finest all-around campaign with the Ottawa Senators. Auston Matthews set records galore. And Sergei Bobrovsky bumped Carey Price and Braden Holtby for the title of top goalie.

Here are our picks for the NHL’s top awards:

CALDER (TOP ROOKIE)

1. Auston Matthews

2. Patrik Laine

3. Zach Werenski

Start to finish, no rookie was better this season than Matthews, from a historic four-goal NHL debut to the most even-strength goals in the league and most by a rookie since Teemu Selanne more than two decades ago. He became only the 19th rookie ever to score 40 goals, shattering the Leafs franchise rookie mark as well as the one for points (69). Winnipeg’s Laine was nearly as spectacular, topping all NHL players with three hat tricks while piling up 36 goals. Let’s not forget that he was the youngest regular in the league, due to finally turn 19 later this month. Werenski, meanwhile, already looks like a No. 1 defender, excelling in a big role a rookie for the Blue Jackets, one of the NHL’s top teams.

JACK ADAMS (TOP COACH) 

1. Mike Sullivan

2. Mike Babcock

3. Joel Quenneville

This award, voted on by broadcasters, typically goes to the coach who exceeds expectations and that’s why most will probably vote for Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella. But how about Sullivan? He kept the Stanley Cup champions right near the top of the league despite a rash of injuries to almost every key player. Crosby missed six games. Evgeni Malkin missed 20. Matt Murray sat out the start of the season. Connor Sheary missed time. Kris Letang sat out half the year. The Penguins iced a minor-league lineup some nights as 14 different defencemen suited up in gold and black this year. And yet the Pens hardly missed a beat, finishing with the second-best record in the league. Babcock is a very close second here for guiding the Leafs into the playoffs while dressing at least seven rookies every night and Quenneville is owed a nod for keeping the Blackhawks perpetually great despite a revolving cast of supporting players. Their efforts top Tortorella given the Jackets leap was tied primarily to Bobrovsky’s resurgence.

NORRIS (TOP DEFENCEMAN) 

1. Erik Karlsson

2. Victor Hedman

3. Brent Burns

A difficult choice, but not because of Burns, who dropped off in the second half (two goals, 10 points in the last 20 games), but Hedman, who was a year-long force for the plucky Lightning. The 26-year-old actually topped even Karlsson with a career-high 72 points while playing an especially critical role for a Tampa squad that was battered by one injury after another. Hedman does it all and does it well — superb on the power play, penalty kill and as the primary force against opposing top lines. Underlying numbers suggest he significantly lifts up his partners, including rookie Jake Dotchin for much of the year. But as good as Hedman was, Karlsson remains the gold standard. The Senators captain excelled under a more challenging all-around workload, embracing the extreme defensive stance of head coach Guy Boucher. Karlsson remained an offensive juggernaut from the back end (71 points), but also proved excellent on the penalty kill and as a shot blocker — his 201 blocks were second overall in the league. The 26-year-old deserves to become only the ninth three-time Norris winner.

VEZINA (TOP GOALIE) 

1. Sergei Bobrovsky

2. Braden Holtby

3. Cam Talbot

Perhaps the easiest of the awards to sort out with Bobrovsky most deserving of a second Vezina. The Jackets made a 32-point improvement from last year and the 28-year-old Russian is the big reason. His .931 save percentage led the league by a wide margin. Holtby was second at .925 among those who played at least 50 games. Bobrovsky also topped his class with a .938 even-strength save percentage and finished behind only Price, among regular starters, on the percentage of saves on high-danger chances. If just a touch below Bobrovsky, Holtby did nothing but maintain his excellence from last year’s Vezina win. Talbot earns the third spot for his consistency, under a heavy workload, in the Edmonton crease.

HART (MVP)

1. Connor McDavid

2. Sidney Crosby

3. Sergei Bobrovsky

McDavid should equal Crosby’s 2006-07 sophomore feats in winning both the Art Ross Trophy, as the league’s leading scorer, and Hart for MVP. The first-year Oilers captain led the NHL with 100 points, 70 assists, 42 primary assists, 45 even-strength assists, and 1.22 points per-game. A blur of speed and skill, the 20-year-old McDavid is the engine of everything Edmonton and it’s his importance to the Oilers, who ended a decade-long playoff drought, that gets him the nod over Crosby. McDavid had a hand in 41 per cent of Edmonton’s 243 goals. Crosby captured his second Rocket Richard Trophy in scoring 44 goals and it can’t be forgotten that he started the season almost two weeks late. But McDavid was just too good to ignore, Bobrovsky a not-so-distant third for his efforts in reviving the Blue Jackets.

Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press

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