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Who’s going to win the Maurice Richard Trophy?

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It wasn’t long ago that Alex Ovechkin looked primed for his seventh Maurice Richard Trophy.

The Great 8 was consistently notching goals and keeping a distance between himself and his nearest competitors. What would be needed from prospective challengers to close the gap was a lengthy run in the goal department.

And that’s exactly what has happened.

The last couple of weeks have thrown a mighty wrench into Ovi’s plans of seeing his name engraved Rocket’s trophy again. This isn’t to say that Ovechkin won’t claim the title this season — he’s done it more times than anyone since it was introduced in 1999 — it’s just that the race has gotten pretty exciting as the NHL heads into its final swath of games.

Let’s break down the challengers and a couple pretenders who might get a promotion over the final few weeks of the season.

THE LEADER

Alex Ovechkin:

The man the top snipers in the league have been chasing for the majority of the season. Entering Saturday’s action, Ovechkin sits on the throne when it comes to goal scoring. He’s the only man to have hit 40 this season and looks primed to add to that total over the past 15 games of the season. It’s certainly not out of the realm for Ovechkin to hit 50 this year, and he may need to do so to fend off some of those sitting very close behind him.

THE CHALLENGERS

Patrik Laine:

Laine idolized Ovechkin growing up. And now he has an opportunity to snatch the goal scoring title from his childhood hero. Just 10 games ago, Laine was sitting with a cool 25 goals. Fast forward to Thursday night, and Laine scored his 14th goal in his past 10 games, putting him one behind Ovechkin in the race. What’s even more incredible about Laine is that he’s only 19 years old, and he plays the game like he has ice in his veins. It’s unlikely he’s going to let any nerves get to him as he tries to usurp Ovi. Did I mention Laine is only 19? Yikes.

Evgeni Malkin:

Our very own Joey Alfieri wrote an excellent piece on Malkin and why people haven’t been talking about him. Malkin has 24 goals in 28 games since the beginning of 2018. It’s an insane amount, and a run that has him sitting on 38 goals on the season. Malkin is going to be in the running for the Hart this season. Winning the Rocket Richard might put him over the top.

Eric Staal:

It’s been a decade since Staal produced a 40 goal season. He’s 33 now. But father time and the odds he brings don’t seem to care too much this season — Staal has simply turned back the clock. Staal’s heater has him with 18 goals in his past 20 games, putting him just three shy of Ovechkin with 37. Staal’s shooting percentage is sitting just below 20 percent this season and he’s averaging close to three shots a game. The math suggests he’s got a few more in him this season.

Tyler Seguin:

Seguin mirrors Ovechkin in terms of his consistency. While Laine, Malkin and Staal have gone on some pretty epic goal-scoring excursions, Seguin has just scored at a nice rate throughout the year. That means Seguin will need to have some sort of streaky stretch to catch up, but his 36 goals have him right in the mix. And even a small streak could swing things in his favor if the players above him cool off.

THE PRETENDERS

William Karlsson:

No one expected this. (And it’s one of the reasons why I debated having Karlsson in as a challenger). Out of all the top goal scorers in the league, Karlsson sits at the summit with a near-24 percent shooting percentage. The jury is really out on what Karlsson can do in Vegas’ last 15 games. He’s averaging north of two shots per game but hasn’t scored in his past three. No one expects him to win this race, and that’s what makes his 35 goals so intriguing.

Nathan MacKinnon:

You could put Nikita Kucherov here. He’s got one more goal than MacKinnon’s 32. But Colorado’s playoff hopes rest on MacKinnon’s shoulders and MacKinnon has shown all season that he’s up for the task. MacKinnon has eight goals in his past 10 games after being sidelined for three weeks due to injury. The odds aren’t the best, but he’s scoring a rate this season and rivals those ahead of him.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Predators’ P.K. Subban named EA Sports NHL 19 cover athlete

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As announced during Wednesday’s NHL Awards, P.K. Subban of the Nashville Predators will be the cover athlete for EA Sports’ NHL 19 video game.

This is Subban’s first time on the cover of the series, which featured Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid last year.

More details from EA:

For the first time in franchise history, NHL® 19 allows players to journey from the pond to the pros and play on outdoor rinks in new and returning game modes. Players can create a character and express their look and playstyle with over 900 new customization items including, for the first time, lifestyle apparel inspired by pond hockey. On the ice, the cutting-edge animation technology Real Player Motion (RPM) Tech delivers explosive-edge skating with more acceleration and responsiveness that looks and feels better. NHL® 19 also lets players compete with and against over 200 of the greatest hockey legends to ever play the sport, including Wayne Gretzky.

In NHL® 19, the sport returns to the ponds where players can compete under a unified progression hub called World of CHEL that unites EA SPORTS Hockey League, NHL THREES™ Drop In and two new modes, NHL ONES™ and Pro-Am. NHL ONES™ pits three players against each other in a 1v1v1 free-for-all with no rules and no stoppages. Players can win to rank up to new outdoor locations and defend their position as king-of-the-hill. Players can also play in any World of CHEL mode to progress their online Create-A-Character, unlock rewards, and customize their look and their playstyle.

EA Sports

Here’s the full trailer:

The game is set to be released Sept. 14 for Playstation 4 and XBOX One.

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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.

Golden Knights’ William Karlsson lands Lady Byng

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William Karlsson just finished a fantastic season, so it’s nice to see him take home a trophy at the 2018 NHL Awards.

Karlsson generated 43 goals, 78 points, and just 12 penalty minutes during the 2017-18 season on his way to winning the Lady Byng Trophy. The other finalists were Aleksander Barkov and Ryan O'Reilly.

(Note: it’s unclear if Karlsson edged out his competition by way of hair flips.)

Here are the voting results. Note that this was cut off at the top 20, while 49 players received at least one vote. As a reminder, the Lady Byng is “given to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.”

This is a nifty factoid about Karlsson’s win:

Devils’ Brian Boyle receives Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

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Brian Boyle of the New Jersey Devils is the recipient of the 2018 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

The award is given to the player “who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.” The Professional Hockey Writers’ Association nominate a player from each of their 31 chapters and three finalists are named after a vote.

Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers and Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes were the other two finalists.

A $2,500 grant from the PHWA is awarded annually to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund, based in Bloomington, Minn., in the name of the Masterton Trophy winner.

Boyle was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in September and missed the opening month of the season before returning Nov. 1. One week later he scored an emotional first goal of the season. He inspired a mural in New York City and later represented the New Jersey Devils at the NHL All-Star Game in Tampa in place of teammate Taylor Hall.

The Devils forward didn’t only deal with a cancer diagnosis this season. Boyle and his wife, Lauren, also went through an ordeal where doctors believed their two-year-old son Declan was possibly dealing with Ewing sarcoma of the mandible. Turns out it was a rare condition that impacts blood flow and oxygen circulation, and after a handful of procedures the situation is under control.

Boyle’s red and white blood cell counts show little traces of CML remaining. He told Dan Rosen of NHL.com this week that he could be off medication in three to six months.

“I am in a good spot,” Boyle said. “I’m certainly not concerned.”

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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.

Islanders’ Mathew Barzal claims Calder Trophy

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Mathew Barzal became the fifth New York Islander to win the Calder Trophy, which was handed out during Wednesday’s NHL Awards show in Las Vegas. The award is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association and given “to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League.”

Denis Potvin, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Bryan Berard were the previous Islanders players to win the rookie of the year award.

“This is an amazing honor to win the Calder Trophy,” Barzal said. “The players that have won this award, within the Islanders organization and then others around the league, includes Hall of Fame players and Stanley Cup Champions. To have my name next to those guys in the record books is very humbling.”

Barzal led all rookies with 85 points and 27 power play points, and finished sixth in goals with 22. He was also the only rookie to average over a point per game (1.04). He finished the season as the Islanders leading scorer and was fourth on the team in goals.

One of the many highlights of Barzal’s rookie season was the three 5-point games he recorded, which made him him the second rookie in league history to achieve the feat. Joe Malone last did it 100 years ago during the NHL’s first season in 1917-18.

Here’s what the voting looked like as Barzal beat out the other two finalists, Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks and Clayton Keller of the Arizona Coyotes.

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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.