Avalanche overcome Kuemper, beat Coyotes in Game 1

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For much of Game 1, it looked like Darcy Kuemper would steal a win for the Coyotes, but the Avalanche eventually broke through. The Avs exploded in the third period to win 3-0 against the Coyotes, giving Colorado a 1-0 series lead.

Avalanche dominated — but the Game 1 score is misleading in some ways for Coyotes

If you look at the final score, you’d get a mixed reading on Game 1 between the Avalanche and Coyotes.

On one hand, the Avalanche dominated possession throughout Game 1. The Avs managed a lopsided 28-7 shots on goal advantage through the first two periods of Game 1, but Kuemper allowed nothing, keeping the Coyotes tied 0-0.

That 0-0 tie lasted quite a while through the third period, too.

As it seemed increasingly likely that another Game 1 would enter overtime, Nazem Kadri came up big for the Avalanche once again. Kadri connected on the power play with 6:55 remaining in the third. Then, just 10 seconds later, J.T. Compher increased that lead to 2-0.

Gabriel Landeskog took a hit to make a play, then Nathan MacKinnon sent a nice pass to Mikko Rantanen, who adjusted nicely for the 3-0 goal.

If you merely decided to walk your dog or make a restroom break at the wrong time, you might have missed Avalanche – Coyotes Game 1 breaking wide open. Colorado scored three goals against Kuemper in less than 90 seconds. It was a reminder that, as well as Kuemper played, the Avalanche can threaten with quick-strike offense as much as any team in the NHL.

Rick Tocchet must consider some tweaks. After all, you’re not going to win many games while being outshot 39-14 overall (you also won’t enjoy many easier playoff shutouts than Philipp Grubauer did in Game 1).

Yes, you want to contain that deadly Avalanche offense. And, yes, Kuemper’s been outstanding. But you also have to do something to try to score some goals, right? Then again, trying to win with defense, Kuemper, and some counter-punching might just have to be the way for the Coyotes. (Frankly, it’s generally how they beat the Predators, as they relied upon Kuemper a ton during the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers.)

No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 7 Arizona Coyotes (Avs lead series 1-0)

Wednesday, Aug. 12: Colorado 3, Arizona 0
Friday, Aug. 14: Arizona at Colorado, 2 p.m. ET – NBCSN
Saturday, Aug. 15: Colorado at Arizona, 3 p.m. ET – CNBC
Monday, Aug. 17: Colorado at Arizona, 5:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Wednesday, Aug. 19: Arizona at Colorado – TBD
*Friday, Aug. 21: Colorado at Arizona – TBD
*Sunday, Aug. 23: Arizona at Colorado – TBD

*if necessary

MORE:
• Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round schedule

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.

Predators remain confident despite early postseason exit

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Nashville Predators are pretty confident considering their season came to its earliest end since missing the 2014 postseason when Barry Trotz was allowed to leave.

The Predators insist they liked how they played despite losing their best-of-five qualifying series to Arizona in four games. They have been on a downward spiral: losing the Stanley Cup Final in 2017, slipping to a second-round loss in 2018, a first-round loss in 2019 and now unable to reach the first round after the NHL’s pandemic restart.

Foward Filip Forsberg said they earned their first-round exit a year ago but played well enough to win against Arizona.

”We’ve got to find the way to win these close games …,” Forsberg said. ”Everybody came ready to play for this short season, whatever comeback, and we got to find a way to win. But we definitely did enough good things for it to fall our side.”

The Predators have some contract and roster decisions to make before the next season starts. Their early loss also gave them a 12.5% chance at the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft, a pick this franchise has never had. The chance at Alexis Lafreniere would make some moves easier.

”I love our core, love my teammates,” captain Roman Josi said. ”There’s a lot of belief in our room.”

At least Nashville won’t be dealing with another coaching change with John Hynes hired in January.

DAVID POILE IN CHARGE

The only general manager this franchise has ever known faces his biggest challenge after building this team from its expansion start to Western Conference champ in 2017. The NHL’s winningest GM has several players signed to long-term contracts.

The last was Josi, who’s under contract through June 2028. Goalie Pekka Rinne, who lost his net in March and never got it back, is under contract for another season at $5 million. Combined with what’s expected to be a very short offseason, Poile will be limited in the moves he can make.

GOALIE CHANGE

Juuse Saros appears to be the Predators’ goalie moving forward after starting every game against Arizona. He will be a restricted free agent after next season. Nashville also must decide if Rinne, who turns 38 in November, should continue as the backup another season.

BIG MONEY, BIGGER EXPECTATIONS

Poile gave Matt Duchene a seven-year deal worth $56 million last July, finally landing a center the Predators had been linked to for a couple years. But Duchene followed a disappointing season with an underwhelming performance in the qualifying series. He had one goal and an assist with a minus-4 rating. He also was caught offside erasing a go-ahead goal by Kyle Turris in the Game 3 loss.

Duchene has company. Turris, who also hit a post in Game 3, also was a minus-4 with no points. He’s under contract through 2023-24 at $6 million a year. Craig Smith and Mikael Granlund, who combined for one assist, will be free agents.

DEFENSIVE WOES

The Predators fixed at least one area. Shut out on the man advantage in their first-round playoff loss to Dallas a year ago, they ranked fourth through the qualifying and round-robin rounds scoring an average of 28.6% on the power play.

But they gave up 3.5 goals a game to Arizona after being 20th during the regular season allowing 3.1 goals a game. That’s a high number for a franchise originally built on defense from the net out.

COACHING COMFORT

The Predators all agreed they are much closer to playing how Hynes wants. He took over Jan. 7 after Poile fired Peter Laviolette, and the NHL’s restart gave Hynes the training camp he missed as a midseason replacement. He reunited the JOFA line, and Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson came through with 13 points in the series loss to Arizona.

Defenseman Ryan Ellis believes the Predators are mentally tougher under Hynes than they used to be.

”We were our own worst enemy at times,” Ellis said. ”If it was the old team, and a lot of the situations we were put in, we wouldn’t have played as hard as we do.”

How 2020 NHL playoffs will work: Format, seeding, locations, more for Stanley Cup playoffs

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The NHL’s 24-team playoff begins Saturday. But there could be questions about how the 2020 NHL playoffs will work. We’re here with answers, schedules and more.

Qualifiers begin August 1. See a full schedule here and below.

For more on how they settled on everything, including the CBA and Return to Play agreement, click here.

How the 24-team playoff format works

The NHL shared the “competitive format” for the 24-team playoff setup for how the 2020 NHL playoffs will work. The “round robin” pertains to the seeding for the top four teams in each conference. The “qualifying round” has previously been referred to as a “play-in” round. Toronto will host the  Eastern Conference teams at Scotiabank Arena, while Edmonton will have the Western Conference teams at Rogers Place.

Competitive Format

In each Conference, teams seeded by points percentage.

Round Robin: The top 4 teams play for First Round seeding (regular-season overtime rules in effect)

Qualifying Round: The remaining 8 teams play best-of-5 series to advance to the First Round (playoff overtime rules in effect)

First Round and Second Round: Format (seeding vs. bracket) and series lengths will be best-of-seven.

Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final: Best-of-7 series will take place at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

* The winners from the Qualifying Round play the top 4 seeds in the First Round. Individual First Round series matchups remain to be determined.

RELATED: Final standings, draft lottery results

Stanley Cup playoffs schedule

EASTERN CONFERENCE (Scotiabank Arena)

Round-robin

Sunday, Aug. 2: Flyers 4, Bruins 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3
: Lightning 3, Capitals 2 (SO) (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Lightning 3, Bruins 2 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Flyers 3, Capitals 1 (recap)
Saturday, Aug. 8: Flyers 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Sunday, Aug. 9: Capitals 2, Bruins 1 (recap)

First Round matchups
• Flyers vs. Canadiens
• Capitals vs. Islanders
• Bruins vs. Hurricanes
• Lightning vs. Blue Jackets

(5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (12) Montreal Canadiens (MTL won series 3-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Canadiens 3, Penguins 2 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Penguins 3, Canadiens 1 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Canadiens 4, Penguins 3 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Canadiens 2, Penguins 0 (recap)

(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (11) New York Rangers (CAR won series 3-0)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Hurricanes 3, Rangers 2 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Hurricanes 4, Rangers 1 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes 4, Rangers 1 (recap)

(7) New York Islanders vs. (10) Florida Panthers (NYI won series 3-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Islanders 2, Panthers 1 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Islanders 4, Panthers 2 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Panthers 3, Islanders 2 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Islanders 5, Panthers 1 (recap)

(8) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (9) Columbus Blue Jackets (CBJ won series 3-2)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Blue Jackets 2, Maple Leafs 0 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Maple Leafs 3, Blue Jackets 0 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Blue Jackets 4, Maple Leafs 3 (OT) (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Maple Leafs 4, Blue Jackets 3 (OT) (recap)
Sunday, Aug. 9: Blue Jackets 3, Maple Leafs 0 (recap)

[CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL FIRST ROUND SCHEDULE]

WESTERN CONFERENCE (Rogers Place)

Round-robin

Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0, 6 points)
Colorado Avalanche (2-1-0, 4 points)
Dallas Stars (1-2-0, 2 points)
St. Louis Blues (0-2-1, 1 point)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Avalanche 2, Blues 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Golden Knights 4, Stars 3 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Avalanche 4, Stars 0
Thursday, Aug. 6: Golden Knights 6, Blues 4 (recap)
Saturday, Aug. 8: Golden Knights 4, Avalanche 3 (OT) (recap)
Sunday, Aug. 9: Stars 2, Blues 1 (SO) (recap)

First Round matchups
• Golden Knights vs. Blackhawks
• Avalanche vs. Coyotes
• Stars vs. Flames
• Blues vs. Canucks

(5) Edmonton Oilers vs. (12) Chicago Blackhawks (CHI won series 3-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Blackhawks 6, Oilers 4 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Oilers 6, Blackhawks 3 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Blackhawks 4, Oilers 3 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Blackhawks 3, Oilers 2 (recap)

(6) Nashville Predators vs. (11) Arizona Coyotes (ARZ won series 3-1)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Coyotes 4, Predators 3 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Predators 4, Coyotes 2 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Coyotes 4, Predators 1 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Coyotes 4, Predators 3 (OT) (recap)

(7) Vancouver Canucks vs. (10) Minnesota Wild (VAN won series 3-1)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Wild 3, Canucks 0 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Canucks 4, Wild 3 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Canucks 3, Wild 0 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Canucks 5, Wild 4 (OT) (recap)

(8) Calgary Flames vs. (9) Winnipeg Jets (CGY won series 3-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Flames 4, Jets 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Jets 3, Flames 2 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Flames 6, Jets 2 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Flames 4, Jets 0 (recap)

Key Dates for 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, NHL Free Agency, Draft

So, we just covered how the 2020 NHL playoffs will work and the “where” for the NHL’s playoff return to award a 2020 Stanley Cup. Let’s cover the “when.”

Aug 10: Phase 2 of NHL Draft Lottery to determine No. 1 overall pick
Aug 11: First Round begins
Aug 25: Second Round begins
Sept. 8: Conference Finals begin
Sept. 22: Stanley Cup Final begins
Oct 4: Last possible date for Stanley Cup to be awarded
Oct. 9-10: 2020 NHL Draft (must follow end of Cup Final and take place before free agency)
Mid-Oct.: free agent period opens
Nov. 17: Training camps open for 2020-21 season
Dec. 1: 2020-21 NHL season begins

Top players push Coyotes into next playoff round

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The Arizona Coyotes needed their top players to be at their best to have a chance of advancing in the postseason for the first time in eight years.

Darcy Kuemper has been superb, one of the best goalies in the bubble. Taylor Hall is playing like the Coyotes hoped when they traded for him. Same thing for Phil Kessel.

Captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson has been steady in his own end, chipped in offensively and been the kind of leader a team needs in the postseason. Clayton Keller has picked up his scoring pace since the postseason started.

With their best players at their best, the Coyotes are headed to the next round after knocking off Nashville in four games.

”It’s about being in pressure situations and embracing them,” Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet said.

The Coyotes have seen their share of adversity.

The franchise was operated by the NHL for four years after the previous owner took the team into bankruptcy and has faced an uncertain future in the desert even before the City of Glendale backed out of a multi-million dollar lease agreement in 2015.

Arizona struggled on the ice since reaching the 2012 Western Conference finals and at the box office, annually drawing some of the NHL’s smallest crowds.

The Coyotes had been building toward the reaching the playoffs in recent years with solid drafts and high-profile acquisitions, but an injury to Kuemper this season dropped them to 11th in the Western Conference standings when the season was halted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Arizona earned a reprieve when the NHL expanded the postseason to 12 teams in each conference for the restart and the Coyotes took advantage.

Behind Kuemper’s stellar play and timely goals throughout the lineup, 11th-seeded Arizona wrapped up its first postseason series in eight years by beating the Predators 4-3 in overtime on Friday.

The win, which clinched the series 3-1, puts Arizona into the next round against Colorado.

”We’ve been through a lot of crap here and some teams that needed to mature and grow,” said Coyotes forward Brad Richardson, who scored the winning goal in the clincher. ”It feels like a lot of work came to fruition there. We’ve got a long way to go, but that was a big hurdle for our team and it feels really good.”

Kuemper had a lot to do with it.

He thrived as the No. 1 goalie after Antti Raanta was injured last season, earning an All-Star Game nod despite not being able to play because of an injury. Kuemper got this season off to another solid start before a lower-body injury in December limited him to 29 games.

The NHL’s break allowed Kuemper time to heal and he thrived under the spotlight of the postseason, starting with a 40-save game in the opener against Nashville. Kuemper was superb again in Games 3 and 4, turning away a combined 88 shots, including 49 in the clincher.

Kuemper’s 152 saves are 24 more than the next closest goalie.

”He’s unbelievable,” Kessel said. ”You watch him out there; he makes every save he should. He’s why we’re moving on.”

Kessel, Arizona’s big offseason acquisition, has been his usual productive postseason self after a regular season full of injuries, notching a goal and three assists against Nashville.

The Coyotes traded for Hall midseason in an attempt to boost their scoring and, after an up-and-down regular season, he’s also produced a goal and three assists.

Ekman-Larsson has repeatedly stepped in to rough up opposing players when they get a little too frisky and he has a goal and three assists to go with his steady blue-line play.

Keller has two goals, two assists and leveraged his 5-foot-10, 170-pound frame into a few tone-setting hits.

The others have stepped up, too. Christian Dvorak has two goals and so does Michael Grabner, including a short-handed one in Game 3. Defenseman Jordan Oesterle scored a third-period, go-ahead goal in Game 4 and Richardson scored the overtime winner after the Predators tied it with 32 seconds left in regulation.

”It’s the Stanley Cup playoffs, that’s what it is,” Tocchet said. ”It’s all about the guys being able to stay with it and at any time when we call your number, whether you’re dressed or not, you come.”

And now the Coyotes are moving ahead.

NHL 2019-20 Final standings, playoff schedule, draft lottery results

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The NHL seeks to hand out the 2020 Stanley Cup despite the COVID-19 pandemic, so with that, Tuesday ranks as a big day as we spotlight the NHL 2019-20 Final standings, among other topics.

Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league’s return-to-play plan, which includes a 24-team playoff format involving two “hub cities.” Plenty of dates still need to be determined, but there are key windows, such as “early June” for resuming skating in small groups, and “no earlier than the first half of July” for formal training camps.

NHL 2019-20 Final standings

Eastern Conference standings (top 12 make cut for NHL 24-team format)

East final NHL standings 2019-20
rankings based on points percentage, via NHL.com

EASTERN CONFERENCE (Scotiabank Arena)

Round-robin

Philadelphia Flyers (3-0-0, 6 points)
Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0, 4 points)
Washington Capitals (1-1-1, 3 points)
Boston Bruins (0-3-0, 0 points)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Flyers 4, Bruins 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3
: Lightning 3, Capitals 2 (SO) (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Lightning 3, Bruins 2 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Flyers 3, Capitals 1 (recap)
Saturday, Aug. 8: Flyers 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Sunday, Aug. 9: Capitals 2, Bruins 1 (recap)

First Round matchups
• Flyers vs. Canadiens
• Capitals vs. Islanders
• Bruins vs. Hurricanes
• Lightning vs. Blue Jackets

(5) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (12) Montreal Canadiens (MTL won series 3-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Canadiens 3, Penguins 2 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Penguins 3, Canadiens 1 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Canadiens 4, Penguins 3 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Canadiens 2, Penguins 0 (recap)

(6) Carolina Hurricanes vs. (11) New York Rangers (CAR won series 3-0)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Hurricanes 3, Rangers 2 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Hurricanes 4, Rangers 1 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Hurricanes 4, Rangers 1 (recap)

(7) New York Islanders vs. (10) Florida Panthers (NYI won series 3-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Islanders 2, Panthers 1 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Islanders 4, Panthers 2 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Panthers 3, Islanders 2 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Islanders 5, Panthers 1 (recap)

(8) Toronto Maple Leafs vs. (9) Columbus Blue Jackets (CBJ won series 3-2)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Blue Jackets 2, Maple Leafs 0 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Maple Leafs 3, Blue Jackets 0 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Blue Jackets 4, Maple Leafs 3 (OT) (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Maple Leafs 4, Blue Jackets 3 (OT) (recap)
Sunday, Aug. 9: Blue Jackets 3, Maple Leafs 0 (recap)

[CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL FIRST ROUND SCHEDULE]

Western Conference standings (top 12 make cut for NHL 24-team format)

West final NHL standings 2019-20
rankings based on points percentage, via NHL.com

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

WESTERN CONFERENCE (Rogers Place)

Round-robin

Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0, 6 points)
Colorado Avalanche (2-1-0, 4 points)
Dallas Stars (1-2-0, 2 points)
St. Louis Blues (0-2-1, 1 point)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Avalanche 2, Blues 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Golden Knights 4, Stars 3 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Avalanche 4, Stars 0
Thursday, Aug. 6: Golden Knights 6, Blues 4 (recap)
Saturday, Aug. 8: Golden Knights 4, Avalanche 3 (OT) (recap)
Sunday, Aug. 9: Stars 2, Blues 1 (SO) (recap)

First Round matchups
• Golden Knights vs. Blackhawks
• Avalanche vs. Coyotes
• Stars vs. Flames
• Blues vs. Canucks

(5) Edmonton Oilers vs. (12) Chicago Blackhawks (CHI won series 3-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Blackhawks 6, Oilers 4 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Oilers 6, Blackhawks 3 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Blackhawks 4, Oilers 3 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Blackhawks 3, Oilers 2 (recap)

(6) Nashville Predators vs. (11) Arizona Coyotes (ARZ won series 3-1)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Coyotes 4, Predators 3 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Predators 4, Coyotes 2 (recap)
Wednesday, Aug. 5: Coyotes 4, Predators 1 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Coyotes 4, Predators 3 (OT) (recap)

(7) Vancouver Canucks vs. (10) Minnesota Wild (VAN won series 3-1)

Sunday, Aug. 2: Wild 3, Canucks 0 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Canucks 4, Wild 3 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Canucks 3, Wild 0 (recap)
Friday, Aug. 7: Canucks 5, Wild 4 (OT) (recap)

(8) Calgary Flames vs. (9) Winnipeg Jets (CGY won series 3-1)

Saturday, Aug. 1: Flames 4, Jets 1 (recap)
Monday, Aug. 3: Jets 3, Flames 2 (recap)
Tuesday, Aug. 4: Flames 6, Jets 2 (recap)
Thursday, Aug. 6: Flames 4, Jets 0 (recap)

2020 NHL Draft Lottery Results

The New York Rangers were the winners of Phase 2 of the 2020 NHL Draft Lottery on Monday night and now own the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

ROUND 1 ORDER
1. New York Rangers
2. Los Angeles Kings
3. Ottawa Senators (via San Jose)
4. Detroit Red Wings
5. Ottawa Senators
6. Anaheim Ducks
7. New Jersey Devils
8. Buffalo Sabres
========================
9. Minnesota Wild
10. Winnipeg Jets
11. Nashville Predators
12. Florida Panthers
13. Carolina Hurricanes (via Toronto)
14. Edmonton Oilers
15. Pittsburgh Penguins (Or Minnesota Wild)

NHL AWARD FINALISTS
Ted Lindsay Award: Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon, Artemi Panarin
Calder Trophy: Quinn Hughes, Cale Makar, Dominik Kubalik
Jack Adams Award: Bruce Cassidy, John Tortorella, Alain Vigneault
• Masterton Trophy: Stephen Johns, Oskar Lindblom, Bobby Ryan

Lady Byng Trophy: Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews, Ryan O’Reilly
Vezina Trophy: Connor Hellebuyck, Tuukka Rask, Andrei Vasilevskiy
Selke Trophy: Patrice Bergeron, Sean Couturier, Ryan O’Reilly
Norris Trophy: John Carlson, Victor Hedman, Roman Josi
Hart Trophy: Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon, Artemi Panarin