The 2017-2018 NHL season has been amazing so far. Story lines everywhere you look. From expansion Vegas to the hot starts of the LA Kings and New Jersey Devils, there has been no shortage of excitement. As we approach the halfway point, the Squares decided to brainstorm and hand out our mid season awards. Agree or disagree? Feel free to comment on our Social Media accounts:
Obviously this one is not an opinion trophy but more of a prediction by us.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Currently the points leader in the NHL with 50, Tampa Bay will look to remain status quo with their routine. The return of Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan back from their 2016 injuries has sparked this offense, along with players like Alex Killorn and Vladislov Namestnikov having career best starts. Nikita Kucherov Kucherov is a clear leader for the Hart trophy, he’s currently tied for the lead in goals and leads the league in points. The additions of Dan Girardi and Chris Kunitz have been felt immediately and it looks like Stevie Y is winning the Jonathan Drouin trade thus far with Mikhail Sergachev’s great start.
Vegas Golden Knights – What can you say about this team, other than Holy Cow?!?!?!? I understand that the new expansion rules were altered to ensure that Vegas is competitive right out of the chute, but nobody saw this coming. Currently with 46 points, the Golden Knights lead the Western Conference and would secure the #1 overall seed in the west if the season ended today. When Marc-Andre Fleury went down with a concussion in game four of the season, fans and critics alike both said that times were going to be tough, but the goalie combination of Malcolm Subban, Oscar Dansk and Maxime Legace all stepped up and earned their stripes on the fly, keeping Vegas atop the Pacific division standings. 12 of the 18 primary skaters, including guys like James Neal and Jonathan Marchessault, are on pace for career years. Just guys no one wanted who were looking for an opportunity to play.
Nashville Predators – The Predators currently sit atop the Central division with 46 points. The addition of Kyle Turris has been a huge spark plug for the Preds, who have proven that their Stanley Cup finals run was no fluke. They are 8th in the league in goals and 6th in goals against. They have an awesome Powerplay (26.8%) and never seen to be in the box (last in NHL in PIM) and an amazing Penalty Kill (84%) when they do commit infractions. Pekka Rinne has seemed to be a fantastic backstop that not many people give the credit for. Filip Forsberg is leading the team with 33 points. They are currently tied with the Blues with 46 points with Winnipeg hot on their trail with 45.
Washington Capitals – The Caps are a familiar face amongst President’s Cup contenders year in and year out and this season is no exception. With 45 points, they lead the Metropolitan division. Alex Ovechkin is having a typical Ovi-type year with 23 goals and 14 assists to this point including 4 game winning goals. Evgeny Kuznetsov and John Carlson have also gotten off to fast starts. The losses of Nate Schmidt and Karl Alzner has hurt the Capitals a bit on the back end, but the forward talent on this team, once again, coupled with Vezina candidate Braden Holtby is enough to propel this team into the playoffs and potentially capture ANOTHER President’s Cup. But Caps fans would trade all these President’s Cups for just one Lord Stanley.
Squares Pick: Tampa Bay
Nikita Kucherov – “Kuuuuuuch” as he is so affectionately known in Tampa Bay, is leading the NHL in points with 48 and tied for the league with 23 goals. He is the lifeblood and main sniper of a Powerplay unit that ranks 1st in the league (29%). Kucherov is also one of the fastest skaters and most dynamic puckhandlers in the NHL. Right now, he is making it look easy on the ice. It definitely helps that his captain and running mate Steven Stamkos is back from injury.
Steven Stamkos – Speaking of Stamkos, the Lightning captain finds himself on this list as well. Coming back from a major knee injury, his 50 goal seasons are probably a thing of the past. But Stamkos does have 45 points, mostly through assists, and 9 of his 13 goals have been on the powerplay(2nd in the league). He’s on pace for over 100 points this season although he may lose votes in this race to his own teammate, Nikita Kucherov.
John Tavares – With 19 goals and 23 assists, the Isles captain is tied with Josh Bailey for the team lead in points. The main cog in the ‘BLT’ line at Barclay’s, Tavares leads Islander forwards in ice time with 20 minutes a game. In a contract year, it’s very important that Tavares stay at this pace for both himself and the team. A Hart trophy would definitely be a huge leverage piece when John and his agent come to the table this offseason.
Patrick Laine – After narrowly missing the Calder trophy last year, Patrick Laine is determined to get the bigger prize, the Hart and the Cup. Laine is tied for the team lead with 17 goals, but leads the NHL with 10 powerplay goals. He’s a key centerpiece to the Winnipeg Jets team and figures to be in this discussion for the next several years
Anze Kopitar – Anze has had a resurgence of sorts this season for LA. With 17 goals and 22 assists he leads the Kings in both categories. He also has 4 game winning goals to help Los Angeles and their surprising first half start. He has also been a huge influence in developing the younger guys like Andy Andreoff and Tanner Pearson.
Squares Pick: Kucherov
Andrei Vasilevskiy – Ever since becoming the #1 guy in Tampa Bay, following Ben Bishop’s departure, Andrei Vasilevskiy has embraced his role. Despite only being 23 years old, Andrei has plenty of big game experience having already played against the Blackhawks in the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals and against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016. This year Vasilevskiy is flourishing as the main guy in the Bay, posting a 21-5-1 record with a .933% save percentage and a 2.18 Goals Against Average with 3 shutouts. He gives his team a huge edge each night he is in the net.
Braden Holtby – Year in, year out Braden Holtby finds himself on this list for most columnists. Holtby has posted a 20-7 record with a 2.64 GAA and .919% Save percentage. He has won 40 games each of the last three seasons and is already on pace to make it a 4th straight. His save pct is down slightly from his career average but he’s still a top flight goalie in the NHL.
Pekka Rinne – Many people would point to the Kyle Turris trade as the catalyst and sparkplug for the Predators this. I’m not saying they’re wrong, but they’re not correct. It’s been the man in net for Nashville and it has been the foundation for their success for the last several seasons. Rinne has won 30+ games in each of the last 6 seasons that he has been healthy and looks to eclipse that number again this year. The 8th round pick in 2005 has posted an 18-5-3 record with a 2.36 GAA and a .927% save percentage. Good enough for Nashville to be leading the Central division at the halfway point.
Squares Pick: Pekka Rinne
Brock Boeser – His 18 goals are good enough for 5th in the league and 32 points is good enough for the Canuck team lead. He has 6 powerplay goals and has been a shining light for Vancouver in an otherwise dull season. He and Bo Horvat are the future in British Columbia and the future is now… once Horvat comes back from injury.
Mathew Barzal – Barzal has reached the 30 point in his last outing, which is usually a good barometer for rookies at this point in their first season. Barzal has 8 goals and 22 assists this year playing behind the ‘BLT’ line and has been instrumental in the success of the Islanders this season. He is only going to get stronger from here and could potentially be the replacement to John Tavares should the day come that he is no longer a New York Islander.
Mikhail Sergachev – When Jonathon Drouin was sent packing from the Lightning and not many fans in Tampa knew anything about Mikhail Sergachev, people began to question Steve Yzerman’s direction for the team. Well I would say those doubts have subsided. In his rookie season Sergachev has compiled 8 goals and 23 points while Drouin hasn’t lived up to expectations so far in Montreal (5 goals, 18 points). Mikhail has grown quickly with this team as it blazes out of the gate, and he has held his own. He still has some maturing to do on the defensive side but he has shown that he will be a Norris contender for years to come.
Squares Pick: Brock Boeser
Drew Doughty – It seems like Doughty is engraved onto this list, but that’s what happens when you’re a consistently competent defenseman who also gets the luxury of playing in front of Johnathan Quick. Doughty leads Kings defensemen in points with 25 and leads LA in ice time with nearly 27 minutes per game.
Victor Hedman – Another Norris Trophy candidate stalwart, Hedman is 5th on the Bolts with 24 points and anchors a powerplay unit that is #1 in the NHL. His 20 assists ranked 2nd behind Stamkos and he leads the Bolts in ice time at 25:43 per game. His success on the ice is also coupled with his ability to mentor the young defensemen like Jake Dotchin, Slater Koekkoek and Mikhail Sergachev.
John Klingberg – Does anyone feel that Brent Burns was the best overall defensemen last year? Probably not, but being an offensive defenseman in todays NHL will definitely help plead your case. Klingberg leads all D-men in points with 28 and his 23 minutes per game is leading Dallas currently.
Squares Pick: Victor Hedman
Jack Adams Award:
John Stevens –
Kings 21-10-4 46 points
2nd in NHL in GAA
1st in PK %
Gerard Gallant –
Golden Knights 22-9-2 46 points
5th in NHL in Goals and Assists
6th in Shooting %
Jon Cooper –
Lightning 24-7-2 50 points
1st in NHL in Goals and Assists
1st in shooting %
1st in Powerplay %
3rd in Goals against
Squares Pick: Gerard Gallant