At the beginning of each month, I plan to give a quick rundown of the awards races to date. With the NHL Premiere fast approaching, today, the October edition of Awards Watch 2011. Here's who I'm watching right now:
(and before you grill me, keep in mind that it's tough to leave off a reigning winner or finalist. That's why the Sedins show up so frequently though I expect them to return to their 80 point ways)
Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin--these should be self explanatory
Nicklas Backstrom--God forbid, if Ovechkin should sustain a serious LTIR-type injury, Backstrom instantly becomes one of the favorites
Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin--I think it's highly unlikely he repeats but I guess I can't leave off the reigning Hart winner, and I can't put on one brother without the other
Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty--I think Los Angeles is going to be really, really good next season, and someone from that team should get Hart consideration
Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews--a guy who could enter the Ross conversation and the best player on the reigning Cup winner, as well as a terrific two way forward who could put himself in contention with a monster offensive season
Steven Stamkos--if he can go 50-100, he could be the favorite
Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk--The two best offensive players, by far, on the Devils
Joe Thornton--the best MVP-type player for San Jose (I think Marleau is better, but not in ways that get you Hart votes)
Ryan Miller, Ilya Bryzgalov, Roberto Luongo--the first two goalies, whether or not by fluke, had great 2009-2010 seasons that saw them finish near the top in Hart Trophy voting, and I think Luongo will get much more appreciation for what he does in Vancouver since Vancouver's offense is suddenly going to become average, I think
Marian Gaborik, Jonathan Tavares--if their teams are to return to the playoffs, these guys you can bet will be at the center of their teams' success
Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg--both are due for bounce-back seasons, I think. With 90+ point and Selke upside each, along with a Nicklas Lidstrom that isn't as good as a few years ago, both could get recognized for the fantastic job they actually do
Duncan Keith, Mike Green, Drew Doughty--the reigning finalists
Nicklas Lidstrom--because he's Nicklas Lidstrom
Zdeno Chara--the 2009 Norris winner in a contract year, due for a bounce back (as is his team)
Andrei Markov--criminally underrated, he's a terrific defenseman and racks up the helpers
Mark Streit--he's also very underrated, but has been terrific on Long Island. If the Islanders have a good season, people will take notice
Dan Boyle--the big point producer on a very good San Jose Sharks team
Chris Pronger--the question is not whether he'll take a step back, it's when. Next season? Maybe, maybe not.
Marc Staal--the guy had over 25 ES points in 2009-2010, which is right within a huge clump of defensemen after 40+ Green and Keith. He's already an elite shutdown defenseman, and if he gets good power play time he will put up the points needed to get into the conversation.
Martin Brodeur, Ryan Miller, Ilya Bryzgalov--the reigning finalists
Tomas Vokoun--he's always one of the best. If he gets traded to a bigger market contender, then he'll finally get due recognition
Tuukka Rask--if he can repeat what he did last season, but as a full-time starter, he's a lock
Antero Niitymaki, Antti Niemi--San Jose made Evgeni Nabokov look world-class. Can they continue the trend of making average goalies look elite?
Carey Price--I think he's due for a bounce-back season with much, much less bad luck than he had last season. In Montreal, where all eyes are watching, he'll get much more attention in the mainstream media than, say, Jonas Hiller or Jaroslav Halak.
Jonas Hiller--have you seen this guy? A really good season from Anaheim will put him on the map in a big way
Jay McClement--he's just amazing
Mikko Koivu--elite defensive forward, point-per-game on a better offensive team than the Wild
Mike Richards--check out his epic battles with Alexander Ovechkin
Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg--it's not too out of the box to suggest both could be finalists, as they were a few years ago
Ryan Kesler--a two-time finalist
Nicklas Backstrom--he got on the map last year to tenth, and is only reaching offensive prime, let alone defensive prime
Jonathan Toews--if he gets tougher matchups and puts up a strong offensive season, he'll get consideration a la Kesler
Jordan Staal--the only things holding him back are faceoffs, youth (not enough time to build up a reputation), and his current foot injury
Jonathan Bernier, Michal Neuvirth--two great young goalie prospects who will likely be hurt by having to unseat a young incumbent starting goalie
Oliver Ekman-Larsson--I really like OEL's chances. He'll step into Phoenix's lineup and will have less competition compared to the others for power play time, which is important in being able to put up big point totals
John Carlson--he might be better than the other rookies I've listed, but he almost certainly won't get the power play time he needs to have the flashy point totals.
PK Subban--he's in the same boat as Carlson, but behind Andrei Markov and under Jacques Martin rather than behind Mike Green and under Bruce Boudreau. I think Subban will get more PP time than Carlson, but maybe not enough.
Taylor Hall--first overall pick should step right into the lineup for Edmonton. How big of an impact he will make remains to be seen.
Tyler Seguin--I won't leave off the second overall pick, but he'll have a tough time getting enough ice time, seeing as he's currently fourth on Boston's depth chart at center.
Jeff Skinner--Carolina is going to need scoring, and from what I hear and read Skinner is big and strong enough to handle NHL competition. Durability and time on ice may be issues, though.
Magnus Paarjavi--I like Paarjavi's chances as well. He's probably the best rookie stepping into Edmonton's lineup--his rapid development thus far has been comparable to Nicklas Backstrom, but at left wing instead of center--and Edmonton will need one of their rookies to contribute in a big way. While he may not have the upside of Taylor Hall, Paarjavi is older and looks the most ready right now. He's the favorite.
Jamie McBain--the guy in short sample in Carolina has already been tested as a second-pairing shutdown D and excelled
Alex Pietrangelo--I can't believe I forgot him initially. He's been terrific in juniors and the World Junior Championships and both Hockey's Future and The Hockey News have him as the #1 prospect in hockey. On a relatively weak St. Louis team, he and Erik Johnson should rack up the points.
Jack Adams Award:
This is so unpredictable that everyone is in the running on the first day of the season. I'll still give it a shot, though.
Bruce Boudreau--Good coach coaching a good team
Joel Quenneville--Good coach coaching a good team, and people will take notice once the Hawks start playing very well again in 2010-2011 after having seemingly loss their entire Cup roster (if you take the attitude of much of the mainstream media)
Alain Vigneault--Good coach coaching a good team
Guy Boucher--the best place to find Adams candidates are behind the benches of bounce-back teams, and I expect this highly-touted coach to take Tampa Bay back to the playoffs
Claude Julien--Boston will be much better this season, I think
Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby, Dany Heatley, Ilya Kovalchuk, Marian Gaborik
Art Ross Trophy:
Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Patrick Kane, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin
Drop anybody I missed in the comments.