NHL Awards: Kaprizov, McDavid headline PHT midseason winners

There are less than two months to play in the 2020-21 NHL regular season. While we don’t have an All-Star break this year to take a look back at the first half, now is as good of a time to get a gauge on the front-runners for the major NHL awards.

There’s been plenty of surprises and disappointments so far, and it’s never too early to begin discussing who could be up for the big trophies come summer time.

The PHT team was asked for their midseason winners for the following NHL awards: Hart, Norris, Vezina, Calder, Jack Adams Award, and Selke.

Let us know your winners of the midseason NHL awards in the comments.

[Your 2020-21 NHL On NBC TV Schedule]

HART TROPHY (voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association)

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Connor McDavid. Sheesh, you think McDavid spent the offseason reading about how Nathan MacKinnon was the best player in the world. Along with the huge point totals, it’s McDavid’s ability to make the extremely difficult look sublimely simple. It’s not that easy; McDavid is just that good.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Connor McDavid. His pal Leon Draisaitl has his own strong case, but the Oilers captain has been incredibly dominant this season. In over 500 minutes at 5-on-5, his expected goals (27.82) leads all forwards, per Natural Stat Trick. Also, of Edmonton’s 103 goals scored, he’s had a direct hand in 53 of them (17 goals, 36 assists).

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Connor McDavid: I thought a lot about the Canadian division and if the wild goal scoring is kind of unfair to pick an MVP out of there, but each division is kind of a mess so whatever, McDavid is the best player.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Connor McDavid. I am not really sure how it is not him at the moment. He is running away with the scoring title and could top 100 points in a 56-game season while helping to carry a flawed Oilers team to the playoffs. He is an unbelievable offensive force. The best we have seen since Mario Lemieux.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Connor McDavid. He is easily the NHL’s best player and this season he has been on fire with 53 points in 31 games. It’s hard to believe in a 56-game schedule but he has a realistic shot at 100 points.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Patrick Kane. The surprising Blackhawks are getting unexpected contributions from a few unheralded rookies, but Kane is the driving force behind Chicago’s success. Let’s be clear: this is not in any way suggesting Connor McDavid isn’t the best player in the NHL.

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NORRIS TROPHY (voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association)

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Victor Hedman. He has always been a very good defenseman defensively as well as offensively but this season he has taken his offensive game to a new level with 26 points in 27 games. He is outperforming everyone, with the surprising Jeff Petry holding down second spot in the points standing as well as the Norris race.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Victor Hedman. Honestly ,I think Hedman could win this award every year, he is that good and he never seems to slow down. Leading point man among defenseman at the halfway point and a shutdown defendere. He is the best player on the league’s best team.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Charlie McAvoy: The Bruins defense is kind of a nightmare. Who would have guessed? Luckily for them, McAvoy has progressed quickly and is absolutely carrying the load there, contributing on offense and playing on the penalty kill too. He stabilizes the rest of the mess.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Jeff Petry. With Cale Makar hurt, this field is wide open. Frankly, I expect the end-of-season pick to change, but Petry’s been a remarkable source of offense, without sacrificing defense. Wouldn’t be surprising if Charlie McAvoy overtakes Petry.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Samuel Girard. This might be Makar’s if he can stay healthy the rest of the way, but for now it’s been Girard. He’s the only defenseman with a Corsi of higher than 60% and has handled a heavier load with Makar out.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Aaron Ekblad. This may not happen purely because a defenseman usually has to work his way up intto Norris contention before he can actually win the award, but Ekblad has been that good this season for the surprising Panthers. It may be difficult to unseat some of the incumbent contenders like Victor Hedman, but an upset could be brewing.

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CALDER TROPHY (voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association)

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Kirill Kaprizov. The 23-year-old has been the best rookie to date with 24 points including 10 goals and is battling Kevin Lankinen who is 10-6-4 this season for the Blackhawks in goal. I think that Tim Stützle is the best and most exciting rookie as the 18-year-old continues to amaze for the Senators but at this point in time it is Kaprizov who is deserving of the trophy.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Kirill Kaprizov. We do not need to overthink this. He is the best rookie in the league by a wide margin and has completely transformed the Wild into a must-watch team. That alone is an accomplishment.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Kirill Kaprizov. Much like with McDavid, sometimes it’s best to take the K.I.S.S. (Keep it Simple, Stupid) approach. Complain about his age all you want, Kaprizov’s lived up to the hype — and then some.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Kirill Kaprizov: He’s also the funnest player, if that is an award. He can have that one, too.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Kirill Kaprizov. He’s going to face a battle with Stützle coming on, but the hype train is fast right now for the Wild rookie. He has 24 points in 26 games and has been an invaluable part of Minnesota’s rise this season.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Kirill Kaprizov. Unless his teammate Kaapo Kahkonen sustains his current form and steals some votes, Kaprizov is my heavy favorite.

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VEZINA TROPHY (voted on by the NHL’s general managers)

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Andrei Vasilevskiy. Speaking of the K.I.S.S. approach, I probably should’ve just gone “chalk” with my preseason Vezina pick. Vasi was impeccable last season, including during a Conn Smythe-level playoff run, and he really hasn’t stopped. He’s a workhorse who brings quality with all of that quantity.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Andrei Vasilevskiy. Three shutouts and an NHL best .944 even strength save percentage, a 13.26 goals saved above average, and a .900 high-danger save percentage make the Lightning ‘tender a clear front-runner.

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Andrei Vasilevskiy: Not to be boring but he’s been the best goalie this season and has honestly been the most reliable goalie for a long time. He plays a ton and he doesn’t really slump.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Andrei Vasilevskiy. He is the best goalie in the NHL. He is 17-3-1 with 1.85 goals-against-average and a .934 save percentage. Fleury is right behind him but Vasilevskiy’s win total gives him the edge.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Andrei Vasilevskiy. With all due respect to Marc-Andre Fleury’s fantastic start, Vasilevskiy is the best goalie on the planet and deserves the Vezina once again. It would take a serious second-half slump to remove him from my Vezina perch.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Marc-Andre Fleury. What a redemption story this is. After losing his starting job in the playoffs and looking like he was on his way out of Vegas, he has come back this season and played what is probably the best hockey of his career. He has never received much attention in Vezina voting in his career, but that is definitely going to change this year. I am not sure if he will beat Andrei Vasilevskiy, but he would get my vote at the moment.

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JACK ADAMS AWARDS (voted on by the NHL Broadcaster’s Association)

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Joel Quenneville: Almost picked Barry Trotz because the Islanders are still overlooked, but I do not believe anyone honestly thought the Panthers would be competing with literally Tampa. Real impressive stuff in South Florida.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Joel Quenneville. There are a few worthy contenders at the halfway point, but let’s give the Cats some love. Quenneville’s stamp is being put on this franchise and turning them into a competitive bunch in the Central with the third-best points percentage in the NHL (.750) and points in five of six games against Tampa and Carolina.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Joel Quenneville. Hard to ignore how good the Panthers are right now, and unlike most Jack Adams contenders he is not relying on all-world goaltending to get his wins. His team is just really good and exceeding every expectation anybody could have had for it in a pretty good division.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Dean Evason. There are always good arguments to be made for multiple coaches, so I’m not suggesting Evason is the runaway favorite. Jeremy Colliton, Todd McLellan, Rod Brind’Amour, Joel Quenneville, and Barry Trotz are also contenders in my book. But Evason gets my first-half vote because he’s taken a historically mediocre team, and turned them into legitimate contenders.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Barry Trotz. The feeling was that, eventually, the Islanders would run out of steam — possibly once their goalies regressed. Instead, this team keeps getting better. I’m not saying that’s all Trotz but … maybe, I don’t know, 90%?

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Jeremy Colliton. I think the job he has done in Chicago is tremendous. I thought the Blackhawks would be fighting it out with Detroit for the basement and possible first overall pick in the NHL Draft but lo and behold, Colliton has them in the thick of the Central playoff race and that’s without his top two centers Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach all season.

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SELKE TROPHY (voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association)

Marisa Ingemi, NHL writer: Aleksander Barkov: One of the most underlooked players in the entire league and he’s had a solid Selke reputation for a bit, but this feels like the year he gets fully recognized.

James O’Brien, NHL writer: Aleksander Barkov. For a while, Barkov’s Selke-worthy reputation overtook his recent reality as more of an offensive play-driver. This season, Barkov’s converting that perception to an all-around impressive reality.

Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Mark Stone. Wingers almost never get attention for this award unless they are Jere Lehtinen. So you have to be great to get serious consideration for it. Stone is that great. He is probably the best two-way winger in the NHL right now and you could probably even put together a strong MVP argument for him. He would be in my top-five for sure.

Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Joel Eriksson Ek. Second in the NHL in expected goals for percentage (65.14%), tops on the Wild in goals (11), and has excelled against top line competition all season. He’s been a integral part in Minnesota’s success this season.

Michael Finewax, Rotoworld Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: Patrice Bergeron. You can never go wrong with the Bruins forward, although he should get a battle from the Blues’ Ryan O'Reilly.

Jake Abrahams, Managing Editor, NHL content: Anze Kopitar. There is simply no better two-way center in the NHL. He never makes a mistake, is an elite faceoff guy, leads a top-10 penalty kill unit…and by the way, is in contention for the scoring title* (*for all players not named McDavid or Draisaitl).

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LADY BYNG TROPHY (voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association)

As a reminder, this award should be voted on by NHL referees and NHL referees only.


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.

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    Florida Panthers in familiar territory, backs to the wall once again down 0-2 in Stanley Cup Final

    panthers stanley cup
    Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sport

    SUNRISE, Fla. — The Panthers need a miracle. Again.

    Such is the story of Florida’s season, and it makes all the sense in the world that the plot has reappeared in the Stanley Cup Final. The Panthers needed a furious late-season push just to get into the playoffs as the lowest seed, then needed to win three consecutive elimination games to oust a record-setting Boston team in Round 1.

    And now, another huge challenge awaits. Down 2-0 in the title series to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Panthers return to home ice on Thursday night looking to spark one more epic turnaround and get right back in the hunt for hockey’s biggest prize.

    “Desperation and winning a game,” Florida veteran Marc Staal said. “We’ve approached every game in the playoffs the same way. We just try to take it – like everyone says – one at a time. But our backs are against the wall, obviously. We’re down by two. But we’re coming home. Love our team, love our resiliency. We’re going to go out and give our best effort and play our best game tomorrow and go from there.”

    To say the odds are stacked high against the Panthers is a bit of an understatement.

    – They’ve beaten Vegas in four of 12 all-time meetings between the franchises. And now they’ve got to beat them in four of the next five games to win the Cup.

    – They’ve been outscored 10-2 in the last four periods against Vegas.

    Matthew Tkachuk has two more misconduct penalties (three) than he has points (one, a goal) in the series.

    – Former Panthers Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith have as many goals so far in the series (four) as all the current Panthers do in the series, combined.

    – Vegas hasn’t dropped four out of five games since going 1-2-2 to start a six-game road swing that began in late January.

    – Teams that start a Stanley Cup Final with two home wins have won the Cup 38 times in 41 past instances.

    But by now, Florida’s penchant for pulling off the improbable is well-known. Almost expected, really.

    “Of course, we’ve had three really tough series,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. “Boston is a good example. We were down, we found a way, we started playing a little better, we found a way to come back and get out of there. Same thing here – we’ve just got to work a little harder, work a little smarter and find a way to win games.”

    They’ve done it before.

    There was the 6-0-1 stretch late in the season to hold off Pittsburgh for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. The winning three elimination games against a Boston team that had the best regular season in NHL history in Round 1; Game 5 there was on the road in overtime, Game 6 required a rally late in the third period to erase a 5-4 deficit and Game 7 was another road OT victory. There was a four-overtime win at Carolina in the East final, setting the table for a sweep where the Panthers got four one-goal wins and allowed only six goals.

    They’ve given up 12 goals in two games against Vegas. And it’s not all on Sergei Bobrovsky, either. Panthers coach Paul Maurice found it funny that it was considered a surprise to some that Bobrovsky – who carried Florida to the final round – will remain the starter for Game 3.

    “He was outstanding in Game 1,” Maurice said. “And he was as good as our team was in Game 2.”

    The message was simple: Everyone has to be better. The Panthers have a history of rising to those moments.

    “We never lose doubt in this room,” Florida forward Ryan Lomberg said. “Obviously, they’re a good team. They got here for a reason. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. It’s kind of the theme of our whole year is we make it tough. Whether we wanted it this way or not, it’s this way, so we’ve got to play the hand we’re dealt now.”

    NOTES: Maurice said he expects D Radko Gudas, who left Game 2 injured, to play in Game 3. Forward Eetu Luostarinen will remain out. Maurice declined to offer specifics on Luostarinen’s injury, but quipped “he’s a good human.” … Thursday will be Florida’s first Stanley Cup Final game on home ice in FLA Live Arena. The Panthers’ 1996 final appearance was at a long-demolished arena in Miami.

    Flyers trade Pride-night boycott defenseman Provorov in 3-team deal

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    Dennis Schneidler/USA TODAY Sports

    PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Flyers have traded Ivan Provorov, sending away the defenseman who boycotted the team’s Pride night as part of a three-team trade that included the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Los Angeles Kings.

    The seventh overall pick of the 2015 draft, the 26-year-old Provorov lands in Columbus and is set to enter the fifth season of a $40.5 million, six-year contract. He was the centerpiece Tuesday of the first major move under new Flyers’ leadership.

    There were plenty of moving parts in the three-team deal.

    — Philadelphia traded Provorov and forward Hayden Hodgson to Los Angeles in exchange for goalie Cal Petersen, defenseman Sean Walker, defenseman Helge Grans and the Kings’ 2024 second-round pick. The Kings lost in the first round of the playoffs.

    — Columbus acquired defenseman Kevin Connauton from Philadelphia in exchange for a 2023 first-round pick (22nd overall) and a conditional second-round pick in either the 2024 or 2025 NHL Draft. Columbus acquired Provorov from Los Angeles in exchange for Connauton.

    The Flyers already hold the No. 7 pick in this season’s draft and now also have the 23rd pick as they start accumulating key assets for long-range success in what is expected to be a deep draft.

    Flyers general manager Danny Briere had said no player was untouchable after the Flyers missed the playoffs for the third straight season and went to work with the Stanley Cup Final still underway. The Flyers named broadcaster Keith Jones team president last month and he is still working the Final for TNT. But it’s clear the overdue rebuild is underway for a franchise that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in 48 years.

    “We felt that the picks and the direction that we wanted to go in, it was really enticing, very exciting,” Briere said. “We have a chance to really start building the team the way we wanted. The right way.”

    Briere said the Flyers are “open for business” this summer and that included potentially listening to offers for No. 1 goalie Carter Hart. Coach John Tortorella, Briere and Jones have all tempered offseason expectations for any fan looking for a quick fix. The trio all insist the Flyers have a cohesive plan for the future.

    Provorov had 65 goals and 217 points in 532 career games with the Flyers. The Russian was widely criticized in January when he cited his Russian Orthodox religion as the reason he did not participate in pregame warmups when the Flyers wore Pride-themed jerseys and used sticks wrapped in rainbow Pride tape.

    “I respect everybody’s choices,” Provorov said after the game. “My choice is to stay true to myself and my religion.”

    Now, he’s traded during Pride month.

    Briere said the backlash over Pride night had nothing to do with trading Provorov.

    The Blue Jackets, who missed the playoffs this season, were ready to take a flier on a defenseman seemingly with many productive years ahead.

    “Improving our blue line has been a priority for us and acquiring Ivan gives us an established left-shot defenseman who is still a young player with his best seasons in front of him,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “He immediately improves our group on defense as he is durable, has great skill, skates well, is an excellent passer with an accurate shot and can effectively play at both ends of the ice.”

    Provorov said at the end of the season he wasn’t necessarily happy the Flyers planned to rebuild but understood the decision. Briere declined to say if Provorov wanted out of Philadelphia.

    “I wouldn’t say it’s the most positive news you can hear, but there’s a bright future here, and there’s a lot of great players that can keep growing,” Provorov said in April. “Obviously, it depends on how quick everybody gets better and how quickly the team game gets better. I think that’s what determines the length of the rebuild.”

    Turns out, the potential success out of the haul the Flyers got for Provorov just may determine the length of the rebuild.

    Golden Knights take 2-0 lead in Stanley Cup Final with 7-2 win over Panthers

    Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

    LAS VEGAS — No team in over 25 years has been more dominant than the Vegas Golden Knights through the first two games of a Stanley Cup Final.

    They have outscored the Florida Panthers by eight goals, including a 7-2 victory in Game 2 that put the Knights two wins from the first championship in the franchise’s short six-year history.

    It will take a rare rally for the Panthers to come back as the series shifts to Florida for Game 3 on Thursday. Teams that took a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final are 31-3 in the expansion era, but the Panthers opened the playoffs by storming back from 3-1 down to beat the heavily favored Boston Bruins.

    Florida will have to significantly up its level of play to beat a Vegas team that won by three goals on Saturday and then five in this game. The last team to win the first two games of a Cup Final by more than eight combined goals was the 1996 Colorado Avalanche – who outscored the Panthers by nine.

    “I think our depth has been a strength all year,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It is the biggest reason we are still here, why we beat Winnipeg, Edmonton, Dallas. I just feel that we have the best team from player one through 20.”

    Jonathan Marchessault scored twice for the Knights and started an early blitz that chased Sergei Bobrovsky, the NHL’s hottest postseason goalie.

    Marchessault also had an assist to finish with three points. His 12 postseason goals set a Golden Knights record, with all of them coming after the first round. The only player with more following the opening round was Pavel Bure, who scored 13 for Vancouver in 1994.

    “They want to set the tone with being undisciplined like Game 1 and we set the tone back,” Marchessault said. “It was scoring that first goal there. But we’re still pretty far from our goal here.”

    Brett Howden scored twice for the Knights, who also got goals from Alec Martinez, Nicolas Roy and Michael Amadio. Six players had at least two points for Vegas, all 18 Knights skaters were on the ice for even-strength goals and their nine goal scorers through the first two games are a Stanley Cup Final record. The Knights’ seven goals tied a franchise mark for a playoff game.

    It was too much for Bobrovsky, who was removed 7:10 into the second period down 4-0. It was the fifth time in 12 games the Knights have chased the opposing goalie.

    Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner, carried Florida through the Eastern Conference playoffs. Coming into the Stanley Cup Final, he had won 11 of his past 12 starts with a 1.95 goals-against average and .942 save percentage during that stretch. But he’s given up eight goals in 87 minutes against Vegas, compiling a 5.52 GAA and .826 save percentage in the series.

    “We can be a little better in front of our goaltender,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said. “I got him out to keep him rested.”

    Matthew Tkachuk and Anton Lundell scored for Florida.

    Adin Hill continued his stellar play in net with 29 saves for the Knights. Hill once again brought his feistiness as well as his A-game. He stopped Carter Verhaeghe on a breakaway in the first, and later that period hit Tkachuk, who was in his net, with his blocker and then slashed him with his stick.

    “He’s been unreal for us,” Vegas forward William Carrier said. “He’s been unbelievable.”

    A group of four fans behind one of the nets wore sweaters that spelled out his last name, and Hill has often received the loudest cheers from Knights fans, reminiscent of when Marc-Andre Fleury was in goal for Vegas in its first three seasons.

    “It’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey,” Hill said. “I’m just enjoying it, cherishing every day. It’s been awesome to be part of the journey with this team.”

    The Knights were dominant early, taking a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals from Marchessault and Martinez. It was Vegas’ third game in a row with a power-play goal, its first such stretch since Christmas week.

    The Panthers lost their biggest, toughest defenseman early in the game when Radko Gudas was injured on a hit by Vegas forward Ivan Barbashev. Gudas left 6:39 in and did not return.

    That was one of several big hits by Barbashev, the Golden Knights’ biggest trade-deadline acquisition, a Stanley Cup champion with St. Louis in 2019. Barbashev broke the sternum of Colorado defenseman Samuel Girard during the playoffs last year, also on a clean hit.

    Vegas had its own scare late in the second period when Jack Eichel was nailed in the right shoulder by Tkachuk. Eichel returned in the third and set up Marchessault’s second goal for his second assist of the game.

    “We did a good job managing momentum tonight,” Eichel said. “And we got some timely goals.”

    Ducks hire former Leafs, Islanders assistant Greg Cronin as head coach

    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

    ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Anaheim Ducks have hired veteran NHL assistant and AHL head coach Greg Cronin to be their new head coach.

    Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek announced the decision to hire the 60-year-old Cronin, who will be a first-time NHL head coach.

    Cronin has 12 years of experience as an NHL assistant with the Toronto Maple Leafs and in two stints with the New York Islanders. The Massachusetts native has been the head coach of the AHL’s Colorado Eagles since 2018, and he spent six years as a collegiate head coach at Northeastern.

    Verbeek called Cronin “the ideal fit” to take over a young, rebuilding team.

    “I felt we needed a teacher of the finer points of the game, and someone who has worked extensively over time with talented young players, helping them develop into successful NHL players,” Verbeek said. “Greg has done all that and more.”

    Cronin replaces Dallas Eakins, whose contract wasn’t renewed in April after the Ducks finished their fourth consecutive losing season of his tenure. Anaheim finished in last place in the overall NHL standings at 23-47-12.

    The Ducks never finished higher than sixth in the Pacific Division during Eakins’ four years in charge. They’ve missed the playoffs in a franchise-record five straight seasons, and Anaheim was the NHL’s worst defensive team of the 21st century by several measures during the just-completed season.

    Cronin takes over a struggling team that is still loaded with young talent, including the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft and a wealth of farm prospects seemingly ready to break into the NHL. Anaheim has a solid long-term base with playmaking center Trevor Zegras, two-time All-Star Troy Terry and promising forward Mason McTavish.

    Cronin has never led an NHL bench, but he interviewed for the Boston Bruins’ vacancy a year ago.

    He becomes only the Ducks’ fourth permanent head coach since Henry and Susan Samueli bought the franchise from Disney in 2005, joining Randy Carlyle, Bruce Boudreau and Eakins.