Charlie McAvoy

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NHL awards: Handing out hardware at the season’s quarter mark

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Almost every NHL team has hit the 20-game mark, which means it’s time to look back at the first month and a half of the season and see who’s ahead of the pack for some of the league’s top hardware.

A lot will change between now and June, but certainly some of the players named below will still be in the mix come awards season while others will tail off after hot starts.

HART TROPHY

Who is the most valuable to their team? That’s a tough choice as you look at some of the performances so far this season. Nikita Kucherov (17-16—33) can’t stop scoring and Steven Stamkos (10-25—35) is averaging 1.75 points per night for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Jaden Schwartz (10-16—26) is powering the St. Louis Blues. Johnny Gaudreau (10-21—31) is leading the Calgary Flames. Meanwhile, Sergei Bobrovsky it tops among all goaltenders with a .941 even strength save percentage.

There are a number of strong candidates for the Hart at the quarter mark. If voting took place now, how many votes would Kucherov and Stamkos split? And would that allow Bobrovsky to sneak in and steal it? Or does Bob have enough love right now to surpass the Lightning duo?

Our vote:
1. Bobrovsky

2. Kucherov
3. Schwartz

NORRIS TROPHY

Alex Pietrangelo and John Klingberg are all tied for the scoring lead among blue liners with 19 points, but lookie here, it’s Erik Karlsson, he of five games missed this season, lurking behind them at 17. He also has the best Corsi (56 percent, via Corsica) out of the top scoring defensemen and is averaging 1.21 points per game. Victor Hedman is also just behind with 15 points and 25:18 of ice time a night.

Our vote:
1. Karlsson

2. Pietrangelo
3. Hedman

VEZINA TROPHY

Outside of Bob, you have Andrei Vasilievskiy’s play helping the Lightning to a ridiculous start. He has a .931 ESSV and has played the seventh-most minutes (1,024:24). There’s also Connor Hellebuyck (.938) and Corey Crawford (.932) to consider; both have been key reasons for why their teams currently reside in playoff positions.

But in the end it’s hard to top what Bobrovsky is doing in Columbus. And it goes to show, as we’ve seen the last few years, just how good he is when healthy.

Our vote:
1. Bobrovsky

2. Hellebuyck
3. Crawford

CALDER TROPHY

In October, Clayton Keller (11-9—20) of the Arizona Coyotes appeared to have one hand on the rookie of the year award. But then a few other names entered the picture, like Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders, who sits second in rookie scoring with 4 goals and 19 points. Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks (7-10—17) is a bright ray of hope for the franchise. New Jersey Devils blue liner Will Butcher has been an assist machine with 14 of his 16 points recorded as helpers.

Speaking of rookie defensemen, Charlie McAvoy has 10 points for the Boston Bruins, but just as impressive is the fact that he’s averaging 23:16 a night next to Zdeno Chara. No other freshman skater is over 20 minutes a night.

One goaltender of note is Charlie Lindgren (.929), who has played well filling in for Carey Price. But that’s not going to last once the Montreal Canadiens get their franchise goaltender back from injury very soon.

Our vote:
1. Keller

2. Barzal
3. McAvoy

JACK ADAMS AWARD

Who had the Vegas Golden Knights sitting in a playoff spot and not a lottery spot this season? Well, through the quarter mark, Gerard Gallant’s men have used a strong home record (8-1-0) to get off to an historic start.

There’s also plenty of praise for the jobs that Jon Cooper and Mike Yeo are doing in Tampa and St. Louis, respectively, but typically this award ends up going to a team that exceeded expectations or made a huge turnaround from either the current season or previous year. That’s why if they keep up the pace, John Hynes of the New Jersey Devils and Paul Maurice of the Winnipeg Jets will find themselves getting some coach of the year love in June.

Our vote:
1. Gallant

2. Cooper
3. Hynes

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BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT – TEAM

The Edmonton Oilers were a trendy Stanley Cup pick before the season after a nice playoff run last spring. But it’s all come crashing back down to earth as they sit out of the Western Conference playoff picture and three points ahead of the league-worst Arizona Coyotes. The Montreal Canadiens have been an interesting mess and we’re waiting on the Philadelphia Flyers to take that next step with some exciting young players. The Dallas Stars seem to have issues living up expectations, while Bruce Boudreau’s penchant for winning division titles could take a hit for a second straight season with the Minnesota Wild.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT – PLAYER

It took until game No. 18 for Ryan Johansen, owner of a new $8 million cap hit, to score his first goal of the season for the Nashville Predators. Steve Mason (.879 ESSV) was handed a nice $8.2 million deal over the summer but has watched as Hellebuyck has taken the No. 1 job for the Jets. Martin Hanzal was given a three-year, $14.25 million deal by the Stars and has one goal through 17 games. Ben Bishop also hasn’t quite lit it up for the Stars with a .904 ESSV. Carey Price is injured, but sure wasn’t playing like his old self before he left the Canadiens lineup. His .877 ESSV is downright ugly.

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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.

PHT Morning Skate: Top 5 moments from Auston Matthews’ first 100 NHL games

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

–The Dallas Stars have been hit hard by injuries lately. On Monday, they announced that Marc Methot and Martin Hanzal would both miss some time. Also, Kari Lehtonen is away from the team after he and his wife welcomed a baby boy into the world. (Wrongsideoftheredline.com)

Jay Bouwmeester, who has been out since the third day of training camp, is expected to return to St. Louis’ lineup tonight. “It’s been a long time, especially at the start of the year when you miss training camp. I’m excited and hopefully and I’ll just jump in and not interfere with what’s going on here.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

–Sabres coach Phil Housley is trying to find solutions to help his team get back on track. Right now that includes mixing up the lines. Jack Eichel finds himself with Zegmus Girgensons and Jason Pominville, which seems like a bit of a demotion. (Buffalohockeybeat)

–Anton Rodin’s time with the Vancouver Canucks has officially come to an end, as he’s been placed on waivers with the purpose of terminating his contract. “Anton asked to be released from his contract,” said Jim Benning. “We value the skill and depth he adds to our team but ultimately it was important to respect Anton’s request to move on.” (Vancourier.com)

–Yes, the Edmonton Oilers are struggling this season. Some people want to blame Connor McDavid for that, but according to NHLNumbers.com, GM Peter Chiarelli should be the one taking the heat. (NHLNumbers.com)

–The swap Mike Cammalleri-for-Jussi Jokinen swap between the Kings and Oilers was nothing more than a weak attempt for both teams to try to get back on track. Don’t expect the move to help either side. (Fanragsports.com)

–Hall-of-famers Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne were honored prior to the game between the Ducks and Panthers on Sunday night. “It was just a perfect way to end a great week and a half,” Kariya said. “Just the most memorable time, certainly in my life and both of our lives. To spend it with Teemu and his family, it was icing on the cake. I’ll always remember the ovation.” (OC Register)

–Like all of us, Jets winger Patrik Laine is impressed by Selanne’s 76-goal rookie record he set in 1993. Laine can’t imagine anyone will ever touch that one. “Thirty-six, that was hard,” Laine said of his own rookie total. “So imagine if I had to score 40 more on top of the 36 I scored. I would say it’s pretty hard.” (NHL.com)

–Jets prospect Jack Roslovic is ripping it up in the AHL, but Winnipeg shouldn’t recall him yet. He needs more time to grow in the minors. (Jetsnation.ca)

–Preds forward Craig Smith had been doing all the right things on paper last season, he just couldn’t buy a goal for long stretches. Now, Smith’s hard work has paid off, as he’s finally starting to produce with a little more regularity. (Ontheforecheck.com)

–The pairing of Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy has worked out well for Boston because there’s a terrific teacher and a willing student. What does Chara like best about his defense partner? “That he’s quickly able to adapt to our system and our game. We saw it in the playoffs [last season]. He stepped in and gave us a contribution right away. He didn’t seem to be nervous, or caught in a situation where he’d be distracted.” (ESPN.com)

–Filmmaker Damon Kwame Mason believes Willie O’Ree (first black player to play in the NHL) and Herb Carnegie (Jean Beliveau said that he was one of the best players to never play in the NHL) should both be in the Hockey Hall of Fame. (Colorofhockey.com)

–Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is the top prospect available for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. How we he help every one of the struggling teams in the NHL? The Hockey News breaks it down for you. (The Hockey News)

–Canadiens goaltender Antti Niemi is already on his third team this season. Since he’s been on the move a lot, he’s decided to go with the plain white goalie mask. He should embrace the simple mask. (Puckjunk.com)

–How can the NHL spice up some of the stale rivalries in the league? Scottywazz.com believes that handing out a trophy could help. (Scottywazz.com)

Auston Matthews suited up in his 100th NHL game, so The Score breaks down the top 5 moments from his young career. To no ones surprise, the top moment came in his first game. (The Score)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Learning from Chara has set up Bruins’ Charlie McAvoy to excel

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NEW YORK — Adapt and survive. That’s what Charlie McAvoy had to do after making his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins last season.

Forty-eight hours after his first practice, the defenseman was thrown into the fire during their opening round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators. He impressed well enough that with the score tied 1-1 late in the third period of Game 1, the 19-year-old was paired with Zdeno Chara during a shift that hemmed the Senators in their zone, leading to Brad Marchand’s game-winning goal.

Now 20 games into his NHL career, the 19-year-old McAvoy is still turning heads and playing himself into the Calder Trophy discussion.

The trust from the Bruins coaching staff and his ability to handle heavy minutes has brought McAvoy to where he is now. His 22:55 of ice time a night leads all rookie skaters. In fact, no other NHL freshman is averaging over 20 minutes. Playing against opponents’ top lines hasn’t caused too many problems either, as his 56 percent Corsi, per Corsica, places him eighth among defensemen who have logged at least 200 minutes.

“He’s able to adapt very quickly and make contributions right away. We saw that last year in the playoffs when he stepped in and was giving us big minutes in big situations,” Chara told PHT on Wednesday. “I would say he’s able to make those quick adjustments and contributions.”

Chara is used to being anchored with a young partner. The last few seasons have seen him working alongside players like Dougie Hamilton and Brandon Carlo, all of whom share similar qualities to McAvoy. They’re tall, right-hand shots who see the ice well and are able to move the puck.

“You’ve got in Z an established shutdown guy who can play against anybody, relishes that role. He’ll bring that to Charlie’s mentality,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “Charlie can play against anybody. Charlie likes to make plays up the ice, joins the attack; so you get kind of a two-pronged pair. Charlie’s good at getting back on pucks, helps them break them out.”

For Chara, focus and consistency were important for him he was developing during his first few NHL seasons with the New York Islanders. Once he landed in Ottawa, that’s when his game really took off and he became the monster shutdown defenseman we’ve been able to watch for well over a decade. That advice has been relayed to his new partner.

As with all defense partners, Chara and McAvoy talk regularly in order to stay on the same page. And while it’s only been a short while, the young blue liner has learned even more just by watching what the 40-year-old future Hockey Hall of Famer handles himself on the ice.

“The way he controls the game is just awesome. There’s not many people I think can do it like that,” McAvoy said. “When he gets the puck, it’s kind of like a calm factor to him. He’s so strong defensively, I know when he’s going to win his battles.”

The life of a developing young NHL defenseman comes with its share of ups and downs. That’s why it’s been a boon for McAvoy to be partnered with someone who has nearly 1,400 games in the league. It’s a continuous education.

“I learned how to manage a game better, decisions with the puck,” said McAvoy. “He’s very good about not forcing plays. He’s makes the right plays at the right time.”

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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.

WATCH LIVE: Bruins – Rangers, Wednesday Night Rivalry

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Heading into November, things were looking pretty glum for the New York Rangers. Now things are looking up, as they host the Boston Bruins while on a four-game winning streak.

It began on Halloween as the Rangers rallied for a flawed-but-fun win against the Vegas Golden Knights. They also beat the Lightning and Panthers in overtime and the Blue Jackets, so it’s not like the Rangers are merely taking advantage of a “cupcake” schedule.

The Bruins are often a formidable opponent, but you could argue that the Rangers should make it five in a row; Boston is busted-up by injuries with Brad Marchand, David Backes, and David Krejci all sidelined. Patrice Bergeron is expected to play tonight, yet he’s dealt with issues of his own.

That said, it’s rarely wise to count out Bergeron and David Pastrnak, not to mention Tuukka Rask and Charlie McAvoy (who must be jazzed to play at Madison Square Garden for the first time as an NHL player).

You can watch on NBCSN, online, and via the NBC Sports App.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Also, for an extended preview, check out this post.

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.

Bruins’ David Backes out 8 weeks after surgery to remove part of colon

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David Backes missed the start of the 2017-18 NHL season after undergoing treatment for diverticulitis. He returned to play five games for the Boston Bruins but will now miss an another eight weeks, the team announced on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Backes will have surgery to remove a portion of his colon to help manage his diverticulitis.

From Bruins Team Internist Dr. David Finn:

“The decision to have surgery was made in consultation with team physicians as well as outside specialists in the management of diverticulitis. David’s episode of diverticulitis at the beginning of the season was his second episode in two months and was complicated with an abscess (collection of infection adjacent to the colon) that required drainage. Repeated episodes, like what David experienced, have a very high likelihood of recurrence in the near term, which is why he was advised to have surgery to remove the area of colon causing the problem. It was determined that attempting to delay the surgery until after the season was an unacceptable risk to his health.

“David was cleared to play in the team’s games on October 19 while waiting for his colon to properly heal from the most recent episode of diverticulitis which sidelined him for the first five games of the 2017-18 season. David was at no additional risk while playing during this period, and he is having the surgery as soon as the medical team felt comfortable moving forward with the operation.”

While this may put a big bump into the 33-year-old Backes’ season, this is certainly the best direction to take for his long-term health.

Given that Backes, who has three years left on a deal signed last summer, will be sidelined for a couple of months, does this mean more yardwork ahead for Charlie McAvoy?

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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.