Andrei Vasilevskiy

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Cap crunch: The teams set up for long-term success, and the ones that are doomed

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If you were trying to project a potential 2018 Stanley Cup Final matchup at this moment two of the teams at the top of your list should probably be the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nashville Predators.

They are currently two of the best teams in the league (first and fourth in points percentage respectively) with the Lightning running away with the Presidents’ Trophy race and the Predators less than a year removed from actually being in the Stanley Cup Final.

Hopefully you enjoy watching them play because given the roster construction of both teams they both have a chance to be really good, for a really long time.

Looking at both rosters it is incredible to see not only how much talent they both have, but how much of it is already signed to long-term contracts. While the Lightning will have to deal with new contracts for restricted free agents Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov, and the Predators will have to deal with unrestricted free agencies for Pekka Rinne and Ryan Ellis, there aren’t really any other significant core players that will eligible for unrestricted free agency at any point over the next three years.

Their cores are in place for the long haul and both teams are in pretty strong shape when it comes to building within the constraints of the salary cap.

But how do they compare to the rest of the league?

Let’s take a look at some of the teams that are in the best — and worst — shape when it comes to their long-term outlook under the salary cap.

I tried to take into account how many players are signed long-term for each team, what those salary cap commitments are, the age of the players that are currently signed long-term, and what new contracts are going to need to be signed in the coming seasons.

Some of the more notable teams…

No team is in a better position than the Predators

Let’s start with the Predators, because there might not be a team in the NHL that is better set up for sustained long-term success than them.

They already have 13 players under contract for the 2019-20 season, more than any other team in the league. Eight of those players are signed through 2020-21 (tied for second most in the league) and seven of them are signed through at least 2021-22 (tied for most in the league). What’s amazing about those number isn’t just the quantity of players under contract that far in advance, but also the quality of said and how affordable they all are against the cap.

In the table below we see the teams that already have the biggest cap commitments for 2019-20, how much money they have invested in those players, how many players they have signed, how old those players will be that season, as well as the cost per player. The Predators already have more than $53 million committed to players for the 2019-20 season, which is the fifth largest number in the league at this point. Seems like a lot. But look at not only how many players they signed for that season (more than any other team in the league — and one of only five teams that has more than 10 players signed), but also the quality of those players, how little they are signed for, and how young they all still are.

That $4.14 million per player is the third lowest number of any team in the league as far as current 2019-20 commitments go(behind only the New York Islanders and Arizona Coyotes) while those players will have an average age of only 28.8 (11th youngest).

The players they have signed through at least 2019-20: Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Victor Arvidsson, Craig Smith, Kyle Turris, Nick Bonino, Calle Jarnkrok, Auston Watson, P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Yannick Weber and Matt Irwin. That is a hell of a core (three outstanding centers down the middle; three outstanding defenseman including a potential Norris Trophy winner this season) and not only leaves them with only complementary roster spots that need to be filled in the coming years, but what should be plenty of salary cap space to do it.

The only players eligible for unrestricted free agency before 2021 are Scott Hartnell, Cody McLeod, Alexei Emelin, Pekka Rinne, Ryan Ellis and Anthony Bitetto.

Rinne and Ellis are obviously the two big ones, but both are still signed through at least next season.

When you take into account the age of their core, how good it is, and how long it is locked in place it is hard to argue that there is a team in the league set up for better long-term success than the Predators.

Things look pretty good in Florida … for both teams

Seriously. Both teams.

As mentioned above Tampa Bay is in a pretty good position as well with Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Alex Killorn all signed long-term. Things are going to get tight in the very near future with some big restricted free agents, but the core guys are locked in and they are all still at an age where they can be the foundation of a great team for a long, long time.

The team that kind of a surprised me a bit was the Florida Panthers, and while it might be easy to dismiss them because of the past season-and-a-half, some of the most important pieces are already in place.

At the moment they have Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, Aaron Ekblad, Nick Bjugstad, Keith Yandle, Michael Matheson and both goalies signed for at least the next four years. Six of those players are still age 24 or younger, and there are a lot of really good players within that group.

Huberdeau, Barkov and Trocheck are all scoring at close to a point-per-game pace this season, while Barkov has blossomed into one of the best two-way centers in the league.

The results aren’t there yet on a team level, but the hardest pieces to get (top line players) are already in place.

With a few of the right tweaks around the edges this could be a pretty good team in short order. It’s just a matter of making the right moves to complement them. That is sometimes easier said than done.

Toronto, Winnipeg and the Islanders have some work to do

These teams aren’t necessarily in trouble, but their front offices have a lot of work to do in the next couple of years.

At the moment all of them are in really good shape under the salary cap in the short-term because they have minimal long-term commitments.

But look at who needs to be signed for each team in the coming years:

Toronto: James van Riemsdyk (UFA after this season), Tyler Bozak (UFA after this season), William Nylander (RFA after this season), Mitch Marner (RFA after next season), Auston Matthews (RFA after next season), Jake Gardiner (UFA after next season).

Winnipeg: Tobias Enstrom (UFA after this season), Jacob Trouba (RFA after this season), Blake Wheeler (UFA after next season), Patrik Laine (RFA after next season), Kyle Connor (RFA after next season).

New York Islanders: John Tavares, Josh Bailey, Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey, Jaroslav Halak (All UFA after this season); Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle (both UFA after next season).

Those are all major players and that salary cap space is going to disappear. Quickly. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

There is always a panic when teams have to pay big money to their star players and how much salary cap space they take up, but it’s not uncommon. Pittsburgh, Chicago and Los Angeles have shown us over the past decade that teams can win Stanley Cups (multiple Stanley Cups, too) with significant chunks of their salary cap going to a small number of players. The problem Chicago is going to run into in the future (and we discussed this here a few weeks ago) is that a lot of their core players are starting to get older. Pittsburgh will get there eventually, too. That’s a small price to pay for multiple Stanley Cups in a short window. Keep the superstars even if it it’s expensive and rebuild the depth around them. It’s a hell of a lot easier to find another third-line center or second-pairing defenseman than it is to find another Sidney Crosby or Auston Matthews.

That brings us to…

The Oilers

We’ve already concluded that the 2017-18 Edmonton Oilers are a raging inferno of a dumpster fire and there doesn’t seem to be anything that is going to put it out. They have wasted Connor McDavid‘s cheapest years and now the people that couldn’t build a winner with him on an entry level contract have to try and do so with him making $12 million per season.

Looking a few years into the future the Oilers are already the near the top of the league in terms of future financial commitments. In 2019-20, for example, the only two teams that have more financial commitments that season are the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins.

There are 13 teams that have either as many players signed (nine players) as the Oilers currently do, or more.

That means the Oilers have some massive contracts on their books.

McDavid is going to start making $12 million a year next season. Leon Draisaitl is making $8.5 million a year already. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins makes $6 million a year. They have a bunch of defensemen  of varying skill levels signed for multiple years.

The Oilers’ future issues are a lesson when it comes to roster construction in the salary cap era. It’s not the superstars that cause salary cap issues. It’s paying a combined $10 million a year to an aging Milan Lucic and Kris Russell that causes salary cap issues. Those issues are only magnified when you trade Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson and Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome so you can sign Milan Lucic and Kris Russell.

The Red Wings Are Doomed

I really don’t want to overstate things here, but the Red Wings are a mess.

Remember that table we looked at up above with the Predators for two years in advance? Well, take a look at the Red Wings on that list. They already have more than $44 million committed to eight players for 2019-20. For a team that is already in the bottom half of the league in terms of performance that is a lot of long-term commitments, and it’s even worse than it seems because all of them are old (by NHL standards).

The players signed through the end of 2019-20 in Detroit: Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Tatar, Frans Nielsen, Justin Abdelkader, Darren Helm, Danny DeKeyser, Jonathan Ericsson, and Trevor Daley.

Here is that same table sorted by average age for players under contract in 2019.

Bad, expensive, and old is no way to build a team.

Even if you remove Henrik Zetterberg from that list (he will be 39 in 2019-20) the Red Wings would still have the highest average age in terms of commitments for that season. Astonishing.

The handful of good young players on the team (Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou) will all be restricted free agents after this season. All will certainly be re-signed and get raises. But it’s the long-term deals to players in the late 20s and 30s that are going to be killer.

(All salary, salary cap data via capfriendly.com)

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Lightning lose All-Star Victor Hedman to leg injury

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When you consider All-Star voting (in actual ballots and PHT ones) and midseason award picks, the Tampa Bay Lightning hold an almost unfair edge over the rest of the NHL halfway through 2017-18. Honestly, just the other day, I wondered if injuries might be their biggest hurdle right now.

Well, about that …

Star defenseman Victor Hedman left tonight’s game against the Calgary Flames with a lower-body injury and will not return.

It’s not surprising that Hedman won’t be back, as it looked like a pretty unfortunate tweak of the leg/knee. You can see it in action in the video above this post’s headline.

As strong as the Lightning look – Tyler Johnson‘s giving them a second line to supplement that deadly top trio – just about any team can be shaken by a big injury in this salary cap era, and Hedman is a foundational piece for the Bolts. He’s an All-Star this season, and has a legitimate shot at winning a Norris Trophy after being a finalist in 2016-17.

Hedman is crucial beyond his 33 points and outstanding skill. Aside from Andrei Vasilevskiy, he might be the most painful loss simply because of how important he is.

Consider this: he’s leading all Lightning skaters with an ice-time average of 25:57 per game, almost five minutes more than second-place Anton Stralman (21 per contest). There’s no denying that Mikhail Sergachev has been a splendid addition to a blueline that sorely needed some help, but Hedman logging those huge, Hedman-sized minutes allowed head coach Jon Cooper to put Sergachev and others in sheltered situations.

If Hedman misses serious time, it will make life more difficult for their other defensemen, and it will likely force more work from forwards in transition. This comes at a time of rare struggles for Vezina frontrunner Vasilevskiy, too.

(The Flames ended up adding one more goal to beat the Lightning 5-1.)

Now, the key thing is to remember that we only know that Hedman is out for the rest of this game. It could be a minor issue. One major plus for the Lightning is that they have a bye week coming up, so if this isn’t much, then the damage could end up being minimal.

We’ll have to wait and see, as some knee injuries come from moments that look innocuous while there are other times when a nasty-looking issue ends up being a minor hiccup.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

NHL Awards: PHT hands out some midseason hardware

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Almost every team has hit the 41-game mark of the season, which means it’s time to look back at the first half and hand out some hardware. There’s plenty of change since we did our quarter-point awards post and these will most certainly change by the end of the regular season.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at who we think is deserving of the Hart, Norris, Vezina, Adams, Calder and Selke Trophies, along with some first-half surprises and disappointments.

SEAN LEAHY

HART TROPHY
1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

No player has more points since Nov. 1 than MacKinnon. He’s taken his game to another level and is a big reason why the Avalanche are threatening for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. While Nikita Kucherov was the MVP favorite early on, MacKinnon’s play, the goaltending of Vasilevskiy has caused the Lightning forward to be leap-frogged. You also can’t forget the scoring exploits of Steven Stamkos, who could draw some votes away from Kucherov.

NORRIS TROPHY
1. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
2. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators / John Klingberg, Dallas Stars

Doughty has the points (7 goals, 30 points), the ice time (27:10), the possession stats (53.4 Corsi, 6.38 Corsi-relative) to make his case for another one of these. Hedman is right there behind him and a strong second half could see the tide move his way. Just waiting on the outside is Karlsson, who should put up a strong argument after a “weird” first half, and Klingberg, who’s made big strides this season and leads all defensemen in scoring (6-33—39). He’s also plus-118 in shot attempts, which is a monster upgrade from his negative-25 last season.

VEZINA TROPHY
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
3. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

Hopefully Crawford comes back soon from his upper-body injury because he was having a wonderful. Vasilevskiy has not only been the Lightning MVP, he’s also been the best netminder in the league. He leads the NHL in shutouts (6) and even strength save percentage (.941).

JACK ADAMS AWARD
1. Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights
2. Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. John Hynes, New Jersey Devils

Whoever ends up being a finalist with Gallant for the Adams should just skip the awards show and hit up a craps table because we all know who’s going to win this.

CALDER TROPHY
1. Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
2. Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins
3. Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders

Remember the days when Clayton Keller was the big-time favorite? He’s slowed down a bit with only three goals since Nov. 6. During that time Boeser and Barzal have been on scoring tears, while McAvoy continues to be a rock on the Boston blue line averaging 22:53 a night alongside Zdeno Chara

SELKE TROPHY
1. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
2. Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers
3. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

This is going to be Bergeron’s award to lose every season until he retires or his game finally falls off a cliff. This season he’ll have some very stiff competition from Couturier and Kopitar, who is having a fantastic bounce-back season. Bergeron is once again a possession monster (58.28 Corsi, 7.39 Corsi-relative) while continuing to produce (16 goals, 32 points). Couturier has the possession numbers (54.25 Corsi, 1.28 Corsi-relative) and has already set career highs in goals (23) and points (42)

Biggest Surprise (Team): Vegas Golden Knights
Biggest Surprise (Player): William Karlsson
Biggest Disappointment (Team): Edmonton Oilers
Biggest Disappointment (Player): Scott Darling

Second half storyline to watch: Can the surprise teams — Vegas, New Jersey, Winnipeg — maintain their success to earn playoff berths?

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SCOTT BILLECK

HART TROPHY
1. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets

Stamkos has been splendid in his return to form. Kucherov is simply the best goal scorer in the NHL and Wheeler might be the most important player to any team in the NHL with his versatility and his point production.

NORRIS TROPHY
1. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
3. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Hedman’s the best defenseman in the NHL thus far this season, and it’s a runaway at this point. Doughty would probably be leading this in any other year. Karlsson is still Karlsson, and that’s had Norris written all over it before.

VEZINA TROPHY
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
3. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

Vasilevskiy has been sensational, and while Bob has done Bob things all season, he’s just not there this year. Hellebuyck deserves recognition as one of top goalies, especially if you compare him to himself last year.

JACK ADAMS AWARD
1. Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights
2. Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Paul Maurice, Winnipeg Jets

What Gallant has gotten out of his troops in Vegas is outstanding, and barring a complete flop, he’s the clear-cut winner here. Cooper leads the best team in the NHL, but also has some remarkable talent (likely four all-stars). Maurice has turned an underachieving Jets team into one of the best in the west.

CALDER TROPHY
1. Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
2. Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders
3. Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes

Boeser and Barzal are going to go back and forth for the title until the end of the season. This is really a 1 a. and 1 b. scenario. Keller has done well in a terrible situation on a very bad team.

SELKE TROPHY
1. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
2. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
3. Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets

Two perennial contenders and then there’s Scheifele, who before his injury, was on a different level, both in terms of points and how he plays the game defensively.

Biggest Surprise (Team): Vegas Golden Knights
Biggest Surprise (Player): Brayden Schenn
Biggest Disappointment (Team): Edmonton Oilers
Biggest Disappointment (Player): Matt Duchene

Second half storyline to watch: Will the Golden Knights stay the course and sell, even with their high position in the standings, or will they be buyers at the trade deadline?

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ADAM GRETZ

HART TROPHY
1. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
3. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

It’s hard to ignore the guy that is running away with the scoring title, that is on pace to finish with more points than any player has had in about seven or eight years, and is doing so for the best team in the league. So Kucherov gets my mid-season pick. Anze Kopitar isn’t far behind given the minutes he is playing and how dominant he has been all over the ice, and the fact the Colorado Avalanche are even in playoff contention at this point is largely due to MacKinnon having such a breakout year.

NORRIS TROPHY
1. P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
2. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lighting
3. John Klingberg, Dallas Stars

Subban isn’t just an exciting offensive player, he has become one of the best shutdown defenders in the league. Hedman is right there with him and John Klingberg is very quietly having a stellar season in Dallas. Tough race at this point with all three being very worthy.

VEZINA TROPHY
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
3. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

Vasilevskiy has been amazing and doesn’t seem to get a ton of attention. His save percentage at this point would be one of the best single season performances in league history. Lundqvist is once again masking a ton of flaws for the Rangers and deserves to be in the discussion. Crawford has been sidelined (and still is) but when he has been healthy has been outstanding. If he misses too much time he might be out of the discussion toward the end of the season, but we are talking about first half at this point, and for the first half he has been one of the best goalies in the league.

JACK ADAMS AWARD
1. Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights
2. John Stevens, Los Angeles Kings
3. Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lighting

How can it be anybody other than Gallant at this point? An expansion team with the second best record in the league? Yeah, it is his award at this point. The Kings look like a completely different team with largely the same roster as last season.

CALDER TROPHY
1. Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
2. Mathew Barzal, New York Islander
3. Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes

Boeser looks like the type of core player the Canucks need to be the centerpiece of their rebuild, while Barzal could be an excellent complement to John Tavares in New York for the next eight years (assuming, of course, the Islanders can re-sign Tavares).

SELKE TROPHY
1. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
2. Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers
3. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

Bergeron is the centerpiece of the NHL’s most dominant line. They don’t get scored on, he has the best possession numbers of any forward in the league. He is simply a force and the best two-way player in the league right now. Couturier has always been an outstanding defensive player and now he has the offensive numbers that will get him noticed.

Biggest Surprise (Team): Vegas Golden Knights
Biggest Surprise (Player): Nathan MacKinnon
Biggest Disappointment (Team): Edmonton Oilers
Biggest Disappointment (Player): Matt Murray

Second half storyline to watch: Will the Penguins and Blackhawks, two of the most dominant teams in the NHL over the past decade, make the playoffs?

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JAMES O’BRIEN

HART TROPHY
1. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
3. John Tavares, New York Islanders

When it comes to the Hart Trophy, I think it’s better to take the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) approach. You can tie yourself in knots trying to argue “best player” versus “most valuable” and overly penalize someone like Kucherov for (gasp) having good teammates. Kucherov is head-and-shoulders above everyone else right now, and if you ask me, his 27 goals seal the deal.

It was tough to leave Connor McDavid off this list, but hey, he won’t suffer from such a snub during many healthy seasons. Honestly, he’ll almost certainly finish as a finalist through 82, anyway.

NORRIS TROPHY
1. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
2. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

I can feel the tomatoes coming my way from Hockey Twitter right now, but this has been a rough season for Karlsson, who may still be a Martian sent to our planet to play hockey at a maximum level of efficiency.

Anyway, Doughty’s really flourishing and is an enormous part of the Kings’ transition to a modern style. He’s generating the points you’d want, is a two-way dynamo from a possession standpoint, and is checking all the boxes. That said, the field is very competitive, with John Klingberg, P.K. Subban, and Mark Giordano just a few of the guys who also deserve consideration. With Karlsson slipping – by his standards – it makes for a perplexingly deep field.

VEZINA TROPHY
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Frederik Andersen, Toronto Maple Leafs
3. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

My goodness, a .935 save percentage is approaching golden age Tim Thomas territory (without the bunker, which seems like less of a silly investment in 2018). Vasilevskiy probably benefits from a great Lightning team, but he’s reminding the hockey world why TB opted for him instead of Ben Bishop.

The rest of the pack is really close, with Connor Hellebuyck, Pekka Rinne, and Corey Crawford all deserving consideration. One thing that stands out with Andersen is degree of difficulty; he leads the league in saves with 1,133, which is 101 more than the nearest contender (Lundqvist at 1,032). When records and save percentages are that close, I’ll go with the difficulty of an assignment.

JACK ADAMS AWARD
1. Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights
2. Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Bruce Cassidy, Boston Bruins

I’m not a huge fan of making the Jack Adams the “overachiever of the year” award, but how could you not name Gallant here, at least halfway through the season? The Golden Knights aren’t just an expansion team; they’re an expansion team that plays a modern style and, while the goaltending’s often been strong, they’ve dealt with a ton of injuries at that key position.

While he has his quirks like just about any coach, this is the year where Cooper deserves some credit for ranking among the NHL’s best. Meanwhile, Cassidy and the Bruins are (darn it) overachieving.

CALDER TROPHY
1. Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
2. Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders
3. Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins

Who would have guessed that this rookie crop would follow up 2016-17 so well? Boeser’s a terrifying sniper making the Canucks less depressing, Barzal is an absolute sensation in Brooklyn, and McAvoy is playing the role of a veteran defenseman at age 20.

SELKE TROPHY
1. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
2. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
3. Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers

Bergeron is basically a mutant at this point. Casual hockey fans still probably don’t understand how great he is. Kopitar’s resurgence has been a delight to observe. Meanwhile, Couturier’s proven that he can be a first-line center in a thunderous way.

Biggest Surprise (Team): Vegas Golden Knights
Biggest Surprise (Player): Dustin Brown
Biggest Disappointment (Team): Edmonton Oilers
Biggest Disappointment (Player): Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Second half storyline to watch: Will the Oilers and/or Canadiens make the trade deadline more interesting or remain in denial?

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JOEY ALFIERI

HART TROPHY
1. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. John Tavares, New York Islanders
3. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

Kucherov has been one of the most dominant forwards in the league dating back to last year.  The Lightning forward has built up a nice lead at the top of the scoring leader’s board this season and he should continue to roll in the second half of the season. Tavares, who is a pending UFA, and Giroux have both had terrific season, but their teams need to make the playoffs to be in the conversation.

NORRIS TROPHY
1. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
3. John Klingberg, Dallas Stars

Hedman continues to be the key cog for the Bolts on the blue line. He has less points than Klingberg and less goals than Doughty, but his all-around game has been nothing short of terrific. Hedman plays almost 26 minutes and, like other top defenders, he sees the opposition’s top players on a nightly basis. It’s his Norris trophy to lose right now.

VEZINA TROPHY
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
3. Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

Yeah, I’m giving the league’s three major awards to Lightning players. Vasilevskiy’s first full season as a starting goaltender has gone incredibly well. He’s been dominant between the pipes and he’s clearly been the best goalie in the league. Hellebuyck has been a pleasant surprise and Crawford has kept the Blackhawks afloat, but they still aren’t at Vasilevskiy’s level.

JACK ADAMS AWARD
1. Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights
2. John Hynes, New Jersey Devils
3. Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning

Prior to the start of the season, nobody in the hockey world had any kind of positive expectations for Golden Knights. Not only are they in the playoff conversation, they currently lead the Pacific Division. That alone gets Gallant the award. The work Hynes has done in New Jersey is also very impressive. Cooper deserves plenty of credit for everything the Bolts have accomplished in the first half of the season. But nothing tops an expansion team leading their division at the midway point of the season.

CALDER TROPHY
1. Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
2. Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders
3. Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa Bay Lightning

Boeser is rolling at a point-per-game pace, which is impressive considering he’s a rookie and he’s playing on a mediocre Canucks team. Barzal and Sergachev have both been impressive during their first full seasons in the NHL, but Boeser is clearly the leader in the clubhouse as of right now.

SELKE TROPHY
1. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
2. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
3. Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers

Anyone who follows hockey knows that Bergeron is the top two-way forward in the game right now. Up until last week, Bergeron’s line hadn’t given up an even-strength goal all season. Kopitar and Couturier are both in the running, too. The Kings forward is having a terrific bounce-back year, while Couturier, who has always been a strong two-way player, has come into his own offensively.

Biggest Surprise (Team): Vegas Golden Knights (too easy). Honorable mention: New Jersey Devils.
Biggest Surprise (Player): Josh Bailey
Biggest Disappointment (Team): Ottawa Senators were a goal away from going to the Stanley Cup Final last year. They’re near the bottom of the East now.
Biggest Disappointment (Player): Jonathan Drouin

Second half storyline to watch: Can the Golden Knights make a long playoff run?

***

Who are your favorites for the major awards at the midpoint of the 2017-18 NHL season?

NHL reveals 2018 All-Star Game rosters; who missed out?

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The NHL revealed on Wednesday the full rosters for the 2018 NHL All-Star Game, which will take place Jan. 27-28 at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

It will be the second time the city has hosted the event and first time under the 3-on-3 tournament format. Last week, the league announced the four division captains who will represent the Atlantic, Metropolitan, Central and Pacific Divisions and be in charge of filling out the participants in the Skills Competition.

[Pass or Fail: 2018 NHL All-Star Game jerseys]

Here’s who will will be joining Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, P.K. Subban and Connor McDavid in sunny Tampa, Florida. Keep in mind that you can be sure there will be some injury replacements between now and All-Star Weekend.

ATLANTIC DIVISION
Head coach: Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning (C)
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
F Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
F Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

• You knew this team was going to be stacked with some host city boys, and four Lightning players plus the head coach will dominate the love of the Amalie Arena crowd. There’s also a 100 percent chance that Stamkos, Kucherov, Hedman and Vasilevskiy will start the first semifinal.

Potential injury replacements: Patrice Bergeron, Mark Stone, Morgan Rielly, Mikhail Sergachev, Charlie McAvoy, Frederik Andersen, Tuukka Rask

METROPOLITAN DIVISION
Head coach: Barry Trotz, Washington Capitals
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (C)
F Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
F Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
F Josh Bailey, New York Islanders
F John Tavares, New York Islanders
F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
D Noah Hanifin, Carolina Hurricanes
D Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
G Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals

• So much for Crosby saying he’s not having an All-Star season. Should he end up going, it will be only the Penguins captain’s third appearance in the event. Good to see the Islanders finally having someone for Tavares to tag along with during All-Star Weekend.

Potential injury replacements: Anders Lee, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Phil Kessel, John Carlson, Shayne Gostisbehere, Sergei Bobrovsky, Cory Schneider

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CENTRAL DIVISION
Head coach: Peter Laviolette, Nashville Predators
F Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
F Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
D P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators (C)
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
D John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
G Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
G Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

• Great to see Schenn rep the Blues with the season he’s having. Also great to see Staal in an All-Star Game for the first time since 2011 when he captained Team Staal in Carolina.

Potential injury replacements: Vladimir Tarasenko,  Jamie Benn, Patrik Laine, Ryan Suter, Roman Josi, Ben Bishop, Corey Crawford (if healthy by then)

PACIFC DIVISION
Head coach: Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (C)
F Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
F Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
F James Neal, Vegas Golden Knights
F Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
D Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
G Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

• Really surprised by the two Vegas picks. Only Boeser has has many goals among Pacific Division players as William Karlsson (22). Then you have Jonathan Marchessault, who’s tied for fourth-best in the division with Boeser in points (40).

Potential injury replacements: Marchessault, Karlsson, Sean Monahan, Mark Giordano, Jake MuzzinMike Smith, John Gibson

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy

NHL All-Star Game: PHT picks the rosters

NHL
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The 2018 NHL All-Star rosters will be revealed on Wednesday. Last week, the league announced that Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, P.K. Subban and Connor McDavid will captain their respective divisions during the 3-on-3 tournament later this month at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

While we wait and see who will be enjoying a sunny, warm weekend in late January, we here at PHT have picked our own All-Star rosters. Keep in mind, of course, that the NHL likes to have every team represented, so there are going to be some pretty decent snubs on these rosters while picking six forwards, three defensemen and two goalie for every division.

SEAN LEAHY

ATLANTIC
F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
F Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

Toughest snubs: David Pastrnak, Frederik Andersen

METROPOLITAN
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
F Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins
F John Tavares, New York Islanders
F Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
F Anders Lee, New York Islanders
D Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers
D Noah Hanifin, Carolina Hurricanes
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

Toughest snubs: Josh Bailey, Sean Couturier

CENTRAL
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
F Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild
F Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
D P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
D John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
G Connor Hellebuyuck, Winnipeg Jets
G Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Toughest snubs: Jamie Benn, Roman Josi

PACIFIC
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
F Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
F Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
F Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights
F William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights
D Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
G John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

Toughest snubs: Dustin Brown, Clayton Keller

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JAMES O’BRIEN

ATLANTIC
F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
F Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
F Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

Toughest snubs: Patrice Bergeron, Mark Stone, Charlie McAvoy, Morgan Rielly, Tuukka Rask, Frederik Andersen

METROPOLITAN
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
F Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
F John Tavares, New York Islanders
F Josh Bailey, New York Islanders
F Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
D Noah Hanifin, Carolina Hurricanes
G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Toughest snubs: Sidney Crosby, Jakub Voracek, Jaccob Slavin, Zach Werenski, Braden Holtby, Cory Schneider

CENTRAL
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
F Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
F Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild
D P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
D John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
G Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
G Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

Toughest snubs: Patrick Kane, Jamie Benn, Tyson Barrie, Ryan Suter, Pekka Rinne

PACIFIC
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
F Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
F Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
F Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes
F Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights
D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
D Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
D Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
G John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

Toughest snubs: William Karlsson, Sean Monahan, Jake Muzzin, Mike Smith

Getty Images

SCOTT BILLECK

ATLANTIC
F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
F Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
F Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings
D Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Toughest snubs: Brad Marchand, Mark Stone, Charlie McAvoy, Morgan Rielly

METROPOLITAN
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
F Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
F Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
F John Tavares, New York Islanders
F Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
D Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers
G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Toughest snubs: Phil Kessel, Josh Bailey, Jaccob Slavin, Zach Werenski, Braden Holtby, Cory Schneider

CENTRAL
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
F Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
F Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild
D P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
D John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
G Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
G Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks

Toughest snubs: Patrick Kane, Vladimir Tarasenko, Patrik Laine, Ryan Suter, Pekka Rinne

PACIFIC
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
F Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
F Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
F Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks
F Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights
D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
D Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
G Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

Toughest snubs: Clayton Keller, William Karlsson, Josh Manson, Mike Smith, John Gibson

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JOEY ALFIERI

ATLANTIC
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
F Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
F Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Toughest snubs: Mark Stone, Evander Kane, Jonathan Huberdeau, David Pastrnak, Morgan Rielly

METROPOLITAN
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
F John Tavares, New York Islanders
F Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
F Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
F Josh Bailey, New York Islanders
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
D Noah Hanifin, Carolina Hurricanes
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

Toughest snubs: Jakub Voracek, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, Braden Holtby

CENTRAL
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
F Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
F Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild
D P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
D John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
D Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
G Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks
G Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

Toughest snubs: Vladimir Tarasenko, Mikko Rantanen, Jamie Benn, Pekka Rinne

PACIFIC
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
F Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
F Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
F Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights
F Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
D Drew Droughty, Los Angeles Kings
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
G Mike Smith, Calgary Flames

Toughest snubs: Sean Monahan, William Karlsson, Jake Muzzin

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ADAM GRETZ

ATLANTIC
F Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
F Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
F Mark Stone, Ottawa Senators
F Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
F Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
D Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
G Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lighting
G Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

Toughest snubs: Patrice Bergeron, Jack Eichel

METROPOLITAN
F Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
F John Tavares, New York Islanders
F Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
F Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins
F Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
F Josh Bailey, New York Islanders
D John Carlson, Washington Capitals
D Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
D Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers
G Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Toughest snubs: Jakub Voracek, Sidney Crosby

CENTRAL
F Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
F Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
F Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
F Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
F Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
F Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues
D P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
D John Klingberg, Dallas Stars
D Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
G Connor Hellebucyk, Winnipeg Jets
G Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators

Toughest snubs: Jamie Benn, Patrik Laine

PACIFIC
F Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
F Johnny Gaudreau, Clgary Flames
F Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
F Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights
F Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes
D Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
D Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
D Josh Manson, Anaheim Ducks
G Jonathan Quick, Los Angles Kings
G John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

Toughest snubs: William Karlsson, Logan Couture