Roman Josi

NHL Awards: PHT hands out hardware at the All-Star Break

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It’s the NHL All-Star break, which means it’s a good time to reflect on what’s happened during the first four months of the 2019-20 season. 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 the major awards in June.

The PHT staff was polled for their top three choices for the Hart, Norris, Vezina, Jack Adams, and Calder. Below are our selections and our reasons behind our No. 1 selections.

Let us know your winners in the comments.

SEAN: The problem for the super duos in Boston and Edmonton is there are arguments to be made for McDavid and Draisaitl and Marchand and Pastrnak for MVP. All are worthy, but right now the top spot has to go to MacKinnon for what he’s done this season with the Avs. His 70 points puts him top three in NHL scoring and he kept on scoring as Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog missed time with injuries. How important has been for Colorado? The second leading scorer on the team — Cale Makar — is 35! points behind him.

JAMES: Woof, this is a tough one. MacKinnon gets the edge for two reasons: First, his defensive impact is stronger than guys like McDavid (in a granular way) and secondly, MacKinnon generated big offense and huge shot totals even with key linemates out. He didn’t have the luxury of Mikko Rantanen as often as McDavid had Leon Draisaitl or Pastrnak had Brad Marchand (who’s just as worthy of consideration as Pastrnak).

ADAM: The Oilers’ roster still isn’t very good outside of the top-two or-three players, and McDavid is single-handedly putting that team on his back and carrying it. He is simply the most dominant player in hockey. He should be going for his third or fourth MVP at this point in his career.

JOEY: This may be the obvious pick, but the Oilers are so thin behind McDavid and Leon Draisaitl that it’s hard not to consider their captain the frontrunner to be MVP. McDavid is currently on pace to pick up 127 points, which is one point fewer than last year’s Hart Trophy winner, Nikita Kucherov, finished the season with in 2018-19.

SCOTT: Whether he wins the award or not, McDavid is by far the most valuable player in the National Hockey League

SEAN: A leg injury will likely derail Hamilton’s chances in June, but for now he’s been top for the class this season. He’s got the points (40), the possession stats (58% Corsi, via Natural Stat Trick), and is top five in goals above replacement (13.4) and wins above replacement (2.3), via Evolving Hockey.

JAMES: If Carlson’s scoring lead shrinks, I’d lean toward someone like Pietrangelo, who scores and also shines more in underlying metrics. Carlson’s still mostly … fine, though, really, and his offense has been impossible to ignore. Not just 13 goals and 60 points, but also six game-winners. Sorry, I can only ignore so many shiny points. Hamilton would be in the top three if not for his unfortunate injury — I assume we’ll sadly have to forget about him here.

ADAM: I say this knowing Hamilton is almost certainly not going to win at the end of the season because of his injury (and because Carlson’s point total will get most of the votes) but we are talking strictly first half performance here, and I think Hamilton was the best all-around defenseman in the first half before his injury given his dominance at both ends of the rink and his ability to control the pace of the game. He has always been underappreciated and a legit No. 1 defender, and this is his best performance to date.

JOEY: How can you argue with the Carlson pick? The 30-year-old is top 10 in league scoring, which is shocking at this point, and he’s on pace to surpass the 100-point mark. His overall game isn’t terrible either. What a year.

SCOTT: The offensive part of his game this season has been outstanding but Carlson’s play on both ends of the ice is a huge reason why the Capitals are atop the NHL standings.

SEAN: Hellebuyck is as important player to his team as anyone this season. As the Jets continue to struggle, the netminder has stood out keeping them above water and in the playoff race. He sports a .926 even strength save percentage, is top five in goals saved above average (10.75, per Natural Stat Trick), and leads all goalies in goals above replacement (16.3), wins above replacement (2.8), and standings points above replacement (5.5), as tracked by Evolving Wild.

JAMES: Hellebuyck deserves legitimate MVP consideration. The Jets would be lost without them, as they’re getting swamped and basically asking Hellebuyck to save the day. He’s doing so to a staggering extent. Bishop’s been incredible for Dallas, though, and is even impressive in certain stat categories. Sheer workload wins it for Hellebuyck.

ADAM: Bishop does not get enough attention for being one of the league’s best goalies. He has already been a Vezina finalist three different times in his career and should be there again this season. The Stars have a good team, but no one person is driving their success more than him.

JOEY: Hellebuyck might not have the best numbers of the three candidates on this list, but he’s done a relatively good job playing behind a less-than-stellar defense. The Jets lost Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers and Jacob Trouba in the off-season, so being the goaltender on that team was never going to be easy.

SCOTT: Binnington busted on the scene last season but has proven that it was not a fluke with excellent play between the pipes.

Tortorella
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SEAN: The Blue Jackets are in a playoff spot, just as we all predicted back in July… Despite all of the departures in free agency Tortorella has gotten the best out of his charges, with a special thanks to the recent play of goaltender Elvis Merzlikins. As Cam Atkinson said before the season, Columbus came in with chips on their shoulders and have proved doubters wrong through the first half.

JAMES: Let’s be honest; “keeping your job” is the real Jack Adams Award for coaches in 2019-20. There are some great choices — including Barry Trotz, who didn’t make the top three — but Sullivan’s Penguins haven’t just rolled with huge injury punches. They’ve also managed to be a top team, not just a team clinging to wild-card contention. Sullivan’s versatility as a coach has really impressed me since he joined the Penguins.

ADAM: Sullivan. The Penguins not only lead the league in man-games lost due to injury, but the quality of players that have been sidelined is far and away above what any other team has had to deal with. They are still one of the league’s best defensive teams, one of the league’s best teams overall, and are playing like they did during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons when they won the Stanley Cup.

JOEY: Tortorella has had to make serious adjustments heading into this season. Losing Panarin and Bobrovsky is something most coaches wouldn’t be able to overcome. Whether they make the playoffs or not, Tortorella needs to be in the conversation for the Jack Adams.

SCOTT: With all the injuries that have ravaged the Penguins, they are still in prime position in the Eastern Conference and Sullivan has done a great job of integrating call-ups up and down the lineup.

SEAN: Makar and Hughes will be the top two finalists and so far it’s an incredibly close race. They’re tight in points (Makar leads with a 0.88 points per game average) and close in minutes played (Hughes is ahead by over a minute per night), but Makar gets the slight edge here with his impact offensively for the Avs. The only question come awards season is if Ilya Samsonov came play his way in being the third finalist.

JAMES: Hughes vs. Makar remains a tough choice, and picking third is tough, with Adam Fox and forwards like Victor Olofsson (injured) and Dominik Kubalik knocking on the door. The three defensemen above are bringing offense, but are also carrying significant workloads — and not just “for rookies.” Hughes strikes me as the most impressive from an all-around standpoint, while Makar’s offensive brilliance cannot be ignored. It’s a strong, strong year for rookie defensemen, and Marino’s a hidden gem. All three defensemen are averaging more than 20 minutes per night on playoff teams.

ADAM: Makar looks like he is going to be a superstar. While the forward trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog is the foundation of the Avalanche roster, a player like Makar is what really takes them to another level as Stanley Cup contenders. An impact defenseman that can move the puck, play those minutes, and help drive the offense the way he does is a cornerstone player and the type of defenseman that has Norris Trophies in his future.

JOEY: Makar has averaged over 20 minutes of ice time in his first full year in the NHL and he’s managed to pick up 11 goals and 35 points in 40 games this season. The 21-year-old looks like he’s going to be a huge factor in Colorado for many years to come. He’s definitely the rookie of the year if he stays healthy.

SCOTT: The transition to the NHL shouldn’t be this easy but Makar has been a force on the Avalanche blueline.

PHT Morning Skate: 20 trade candidates; Can Josi win Norris?

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 Leafs are about to face a stiff test without Jake Muzzin and Morgan Rielly. (The Hockey News)

• To overcome those injuries, the Leafs will have to rally together. (TSN)

• Sportsnet has 20 trade deadline candidates that you’ll hear about between now and the end of February. (Sportsnet)

• The department of player safety couldn’t have handled the Kassian – Tkachuk situation much worse. (Vancourier)

P.K. Subban isn’t planning on asking for a trade out of New Jersey. (NHL.com)

• Canadiens rookie Nick Suzuki is adapting to life as an NHLer. (Montreal Gazette)

• Mile High Hockey provides us with a 2020 Mock Draft. No surprises at the top of this list. (Mile High Hockey)

• With Tuukka Rask injured, who will the Bruins call up in his place? (Stanley Cup of Chowder)

• The Leafs can and should acquire Alexandar Georgiev from the Rangers. (Leafs Nation)

• Can Roman Josi win the Norris Trophy this season? (On the Forecheck)

• It looks like the Sharks are starting to turn things around. (NBC Sports Bay Area)

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.

Why Hurricanes’ Hamilton is NHL’s best defenseman right now

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Let’s start with a quick question.

Who is your mid-season pick for the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman?

Washington’s John Carlson is no doubt at the top of many lists due to the historically good offensive season he is having.

Montreal’s Shea Weber will get a lot recognition as he shows he can still be a high-level player, and there will probably a push to try to get him a Norris Trophy before he retires (he has not yet won it). Victor Hedman, Alex Pietrangelo, and Roman Josi are all big names having their usual big years.

But if we are talking about the absolute best defenseman in the NHL this season, and the player that should have the best claim on being the Norris Trophy frontrunner at the halfway point of the season, it almost has to be Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton.

He has been excelling in every area of the game and playing at a level that almost no other player in the league has matched across the board.

First, let’s look at some numbers.

We will break this down into three different categories: Raw offensive numbers, possession numbers, and defensive metrics. League rank among defenseman with a minimum of 500 minutes played will be in parenthesis. Those rankings are out of 144 players.

The raw offensive numbers

Goals: 13 (2nd)
Total points: 37 (4th)
Even-strength points: 24 (4th)
Points per game: 0.88 (5th)
Shots on goal: 157 (1st)

Just looking at his production, he is among the league’s elite in his ability to provide offense. Not quite as good as Carlson offensively, but in the top-five in every major offensive category for defensemen.

For as good as he is when it comes to providing goals and points, it is his ability to drive possession and control the pace of games where he starts to set himself apart from everyone else.

The possession numbers (5-on-5 play)

Shot attempt share: 58.3 percent (1st)
Expected goal differential: 59.1 percent (1st)
Scoring chance share: 59.8 percent (1st)
High-danger scoring chance share: 58.8 percent (4th)
Shots on goal for per 60 minutes: 37.3 (4th)
Scoring chances for per 60 minutes: 31.7 (4th)
High-danger scoring chances for per 60 minutes: 13.1 (4th)
Expected goals for per 60 minutes: 2.80 (3rd)

Basically, when Hamilton is on the ice during 5-on-5 play the Hurricanes are dominating the puck. They have been a top possession team in the league for a couple of years now, but their dominance goes to an entirely different level of elite when Hamilton is on the ice. There is not one other defenseman in the league that ranks in the top-four in every single one of these categories.

What really drives home Hamilton’s value is that his performance here is not just about offense.

The Hurricanes shut teams down when he is on the ice, too.

The defensive numbers (5-on-5 play)

Shots on goal against per 60 minutes: 26.1 (3rd)
Shot attempts against per 60 minutes: 47.2 (2nd)
Scoring chances against per 60 minutes: 21.3 (4th)
Expected goals against per 60 minutes: 1.93 (14th)
Goals against per 60 minutes: 1.81 (8th)

They simply do not give up shots on goal or scoring chances (or goals) with Hamilton on the ice. These are shutdown defensive numbers combined with elite offensive production.

Oh, and his penalty kill numbers? Mostly outstanding as well. The only negative number is the actual goals against, but when you look at how good the Hurricanes are at suppressing shots and attempts with Hamilton on the ice in PK situations, some blame has to go to the goalies for that number.

The shorthanded numbers

Shots on goal against: 41.2 (6th)
Shot attempts against: 81.3 (16th)
Expected goals against: 5.45 (18th)
Goals against: 9.4 (104th)

One of the most underrated players in the NHL

Probably the most shocking thing about Hamilton is the fact he is a 26-year-old, right-handed defenseman that has consistently been among the best in the league at his position, and he not only slides under the radar for his play, but has also somehow already been traded by two different teams (Boston and Calgary) in his career.

This is the type of player teams should be looking to build their defense around, and the type of player that traditionally does not get traded under any circumstances.

Especially when — as is the case with Hamilton — their contract is probably a steal under the salary cap.

He is everything you look for in a No. 1 defenseman. He can skate, he can move the puck, he can jump into the play and join the rush, he scores, he drives possession, and he does all of that without giving up or sacrificing anything in the defensive end.

That is sometimes a delicate line to balance for players (and especially defensemen), and right now no one is doing it better than Hamilton.

(Data in this post via Natural Stat Trick)

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.

The Buzzer: Lightning look elite with streak; Killer goal by Akil Thomas

Lightning streak Buzzer three stars
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Three Stars

1.  Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks

The Sharks coughed up a stunner by squandering a 4-2 lead late on Sunday, but don’t blame Kane.

Kane generated his second hat trick of 2019-20, scoring all three of his goals during the second period. Kane is delivering where many Sharks teammates are disappointing. The power forward bumped his season goals total to 18, giving him 32 points in 41 games.

Many of Sharks GM Doug Wilson’s moves look worse with each letdown — in a lot of cases, San Jose is just stuck — but Kane is doing some of his career-best work since joining this team. It just hasn’t been enough (not this season, and not on Sunday).

2. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks

Ducks fans could definitely argue that Getzlaf deserves the top spot.

The big center loomed large over Sunday’s game, generating three assists to end an unsettling eight-game pointless streak. Getzlaf also scored the shootout-deciding goal.

3. Adam Henrique, Anaheim Ducks

Actually, some might place Henrique ahead of Getzlaf. These three stars stand out on a night where others settled for two points or less (and goalies had nice nights, but not outstanding performances). Two of Henrique’s three points were goals, so some might consider that better than Getzlaf’s output. Henrique fired an impressive nine shots on goal and went 10-3 on faceoffs, too.

Highlights of the Night

How can it not be Akil Thomas’ gold-medal winning beauty for Canada during a roaring World Junior comeback win against RussiaGoodness that was pretty, and so, so clutch:

The Los Angeles Kings selected Thomas, 20, with the 51st pick of the 2018 NHL Draft, in case you’re wondering.

***

For most of Sunday, Juuse Saros was, well, John Gibson-ing John Gibson. Saros kept the Predators in a lopsided game the Ducks mostly dominated. Gibson reminded the world of his brilliance with this dazzling overtime save, though, and Anaheim ultimately won:

Factoids

  • The Wild congratulated Devan Dubnyk on his 500th game played. Considering how low things sank during the end of his run with the Oilers and that aborted Predators stay, Dubnyk must be proud to cross 500 GP.
  • The Lightning won their seventh game in a row on Sunday, cementing the notion that they’re “back.” NHL PR explains that Tampa Bay managed five different winning streaks of at least seven games since 2018-19. The 1983-84 and 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers stand as the only team with more such streaks at six. The Lightning are tied with the Canucks for the longest active winning streak in the NHL at seven victories apiece.
  • Another one from NHL PR: the Capitals are just the seventh team to overcome a multi-goal deficit in the last minute of a game and then win.
  • The Blackhawks won for the fourth time in five games by rallying against Detroit. Chicago has also scored four goals or more in six of its last eight.
  • Roman Josi extended his point streak to 10 games, the longest streak for any defenseman in the defensemen-rich history of the Predators.

Scores

WSH 5 – SJS 4 (OT)
FLA 4 – PIT 1
TBL 3 – CAR 1
CGY 5 – MIN 4 (SO)
CHI 4 – DET 2
ANA 5 – NSH 4 (SO)

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.

The Buzzer: Hat trick for Rantanen; Hutchinson shines for Maple Leafs

NHL Scores
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Three Stars

1. Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche. After routing the St. Louis Blues in their most recent, the Avalanche have now won back-to-back games thanks to their 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. Mikko Rantanen shined in this one with three goals on three shots in the win. He has 15 goals and 31 total points in only 26 games this season. That is a 47-goal pace over 82 games.

2. Michael Hutchinson, Toronto Maple Leafs. Hutchinson has been having a miserable season for the Maple Leafs and has struggled to find his game from the very start. He has now won three consecutive decisions for and stopped all 33 shots he faced on Saturday against the New York Islanders to record his first shutout of the season. The Maple Leafs are now on a 9-0-1 over the past 10 games and are 15-4-1 in their first 20 games under new coach Sheldon Keefe. In Hutchinson’s first six starts this season he went 0-5-1, only once had a save percentage higher than .875 (never higher than .897), and allowed at least four goals in every game, including four games where he allowed five goals. He has allowed just five total goals in his past three starts.

3. Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks. Markstrom found out he is going to the All-Star game on Friday to replace Marc-Andre Fleury (read more about that here). He played like an All-Star on Saturday against the New York Rangers. Markstrom’s 36 saves helped the Canucks steal a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers to maintain their hold on a top-three spot in the Pacific Division and keep pace with the Vegas Golden Knights and Arizona Coyotes. He has been one of the Canucks’ best players this season and really solidified their goaltending spot as he continues to play for a big contract this summer.

Other notable performances from Saturday

  • The San Jose Sharks won their second game in a row and snapped the Columbus Blue Jackets’ point streak with a 3-2 win.
  • Eric Staal scored a controversial goal in overtime to lift the Minnesota Wild to a big win over the Winnipeg Jets. Read more about that play here.
  • The Edmonton Oilers scored four consecutive goals to stun the Boston Bruins. David Pastrnak scored his league-leading 31st goal of the season for the Bruins.
  • Chandler Stephenson continued his strong play for the Vegas Golden Knights since being acquired in a trade from the Washington Capitals, recording two points in a come-from-behind overtime win against the defending Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues. His goal, the overtime winner, is already his fifth goal in 16 games with the Golden Knights. Before this season he never scored more than six goals in a single season.
  • Sam Reinhart had a big game for the Buffalo Sabres as they chased Sergei Bobrovsky early in a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers. Read more about Bobrovsky’s struggles here.
  • Matt Murray had a strong game for the Pittsburgh Penguins to help them get a 3-2 overtime win against the Montreal Canadiens.
  • Tyler Johnson scored a late third period goal to help the Tampa Bay Lightning extend their winning streak to six consecutive games.
  • Clayton Keller scored two goals for the Arizona Coyotes in a big 6-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. The Coyotes did lose starting goalie Antti Raanta to a lower-body injury in the win. Read more about that here.
  • Rocco Grimaldi‘s two points and Pekka Rinne‘s 23 saves helped the Nashville Predators snap what had been a three-game losing streak in a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings.

Highlights of the Night

Kasperi Kapanen helped get things rolling for the Maple Leafs on Saturday with this slick assist.

Cale Makar makes it look easy as he enters the offensive zone and finds Rantanen for one of his three goals for the Avalanche.

Roman Josi had the play of the night for the Predators as they get a much-needed win against Kings.

Blooper of the Night

Ottawa Senators forward Colin White found you can not head-butt the puck in the net. Read more about it here.

Factoids

  • The Maple Leafs are now on a 10-game point streak (9-0-1) for the first time since the 2005-06 season. [NHL PR]
  • The Golden Knights’ come-from-behind win on Saturday was the first three-goal comeback win in franchise history. [Vegas Golden Knights]
  • With the Sharks’ win against Columbus on Saturday general manager Doug Wilson became the 19th general manager in NHL history to reach 700 wins. [San Jose Sharks]
  • Leon Draisaitl has recorded at least one point in all but eight games this season for the Oilers. [NHL PR]
  • Thanks to his two goals on Saturday Zach Werenski is the first defender in Blue Jackets franchise history to score 50 goals for the team. [NHL PR]
  • Canucks rookie defenseman Quinn Hughes needed just 41 games to record his 30th point this season. That is faster than any rookie Canucks defenseman in franchise history. [NHL PR]
  • Roman Josi is on a nine-game point streak for the Predators, tied with Shea Weber for the longest run by a Predators defender. [NHL PR]

Scores

Edmonton Oilers 4, Boston Bruins 1
San Jose Sharks 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 2
Buffalo Sabres 3, Florida Panthers 2
Minnesota Wild 3, Winnipeg Jets 2 (OT)
Vegas Golden Knights 5, St. Louis Blues 4 (OT)
Toronto Maple Leafs 3, New York Islanders 0
Pittsburgh Penguins 3, Montreal Canadiens 2 (OT)
Tampa Bay Lightning 5, Ottawa Senators 3
Colorado Avalanche 5, New Jersey Devils 2
Arizona Coyotes 6, Philadelphia Flyers 2
Vancouver Canucks 2, New York Rangers 1
Nashville Predators 4, Los Angeles Kings 1

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.