Too early awards predictions by the new guy.

Award predictions around the 15% mark.
by Ryan Borau | December 10, 2023, 10:47 PM ET

We're approximately 15% of the way through the season (10% when I started writing this), and while I have approximately 5% of the experience of most owners, I'm going to throw some early season awards race analysis out there anyway, small sample size be damned.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR (Most Valuable Rookie)

Current Favourite: Jack Hughes FRE

Yet to make it past a cup of coffee for the Express the last two seasons despite scoring 201 (!!!!!) points in his last 104 GHA games, he looks like he'll finally stick around this season. Skating on a line with another elite offensive force in Pastrnak and an ever responsible Killorn to let them do their thing, no rookie is setup better for success this season. He has by far the best offensive ratings of all rookies and he's starting to pull away already with a 5 point lead over the third place rookies. If he gets the bump to PP1 this race is over. 

Contenders: Andrei Kuzmenko RYK, Matthew Beniers HBG, Jake Sanderson HAM

Kuzmeko has the next strongest group of linemates in Cirelli and Verhaeghe, plays on PP1, and is playing the most mins of the bunch.  Beniers benefits from posting solid all-around numbers with 4-4-8, 14 hits, +3, and leads all rookies in shots with 42. Sanderson is off to a hot start leaading all rookie D in scoring with 9 points while still being a plus player in his own end so far and 10 blocks.

Honourable Mentions: Lukas Reichel STK, Spencer Knight LV, Lucas Raymond HBG, Juuso Parssinen STL, Calen Addison JAX, Karel Vejmelka EDM, Martin Fehervary CHI, Tim Berni STK, Nick Blankenburg OKA

 

DAVE SCHULTZ AWARD (Most Penalties in Minutes)

Current Favourite: Jacob Trouba ACA

6th in PIMs last year, Trouba is on a mission to kick his illegal play up a notch this season as he currently has over 42% more PIMs than the next closest player despite playing less games less than most of the other contenders. His on-ice douchery is truly next level and he actually has an outside chance at catching the Express' team total in PIMs.

Contenders: Tom Wilson EDM, Brady Tkachuk SEA

Tom "smiles-when-he-breaks-your-jaw" Wilson, the preseson favourite, may have fallen behind Trouba so far, but underestimate him at your peril. In fact, be near him at your peril as he is not a good human. Brady Tkachuk, the loveable one of the bunch and the 2021-22 Schultzy winner, has a punchers chance as well. With teammate Hakanpaa getting into more trouble than usual Brady's dance card could have extra partners this year

 

MARIO LEMIEUX AWARD (Most Assists)

Current Favourite: Quinn Hughes WHI

Huskies can score and Quinn leads the pack attack with a strong PP that he absolutely controls. Likely the most talented playmaker on the back end in the entire league he has one of the longest lists of players he can pass to who can put it in the net at an elite level: Nate, Tage, Chuky, Willie, and Zach are all elite finishers. It'll take an extra special season from someone to pass him at this point.

Contenders: Elias Pettersson NS, Sidney Crosby VAN, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins MTL, Aleksander Barkov BNF, Erik Karlsson OTT, Roman Josi NS, Connor McDavid HAV, J.T. Miller POR

Petey is the engine that drives the Schooner's... schooner (Does one even drive a schooner? Mark, help!)? He's got the early lead and the skills and teammates to back it up. Crosby has the pedigree and is the centerpiece of one of the league's top offenses despite a work in progress PP. Nuge is on fire for the league's top offense and their PP runs through him. Perennial contender Barkov nearly won it last year and Banff has even more firepower this year; imagine him on PP1. Slammers' PP is currently running at nearly 35% and Karlsson's been within 2 apples of this trophy before. Josi's topped 50 assists 3 times already, was 3rd overall last year, and is currently sitting in 2nd and now has zero competition on the back end. McDavid is potentially the best player on the planet, finally showed it last season, and he's on pace for a similar year in spite of an 8.7% PP so look out. J.T. Miller is the rating maker's dream crush and the SICHL Super Skrull, so you can never count him out.

Honourable Mentions: Vladimir Tarasenko VAN, Leon Draisaitl HAV, Brady Tkachuk SEA, Alex Pietrangelo BNF, John Carlson OKA

 

RAYMOND BOURQUE AWARD (Highest Plus/Minus)

Current Favourite: Sidney Crosby VAN

Highly influenced by your teammates and teamplay, the winner's likely coming from one of MTL, HAV, VAN, or CHI who all play solid at both ends with stacked rosters and elite goaltending. Crosby looks better than he has in a decade, really gelling with Kempe and Tank. I think he's finally poised for that monster year.

Contenders: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins MTL, Connor McDavid HAV, Devon Toews CHI, Nathan MacKinnon WHI

Mostly the players with the best chance to lead their teams on what early returns have looking like the strongest plus/minus teams. I like MacKinnon as a dark horse by being on an absolutely dominant 5v5 line with the more punchable Tkachuk and Nylander, getting fed the puck by Hedman and Hughes.

 

MIKE BOSSY AWARD (Most Goals)

Current Favourite: Connor McDavid HAV

Last year's winner currently sits tied for 4th and is leading the league in shots per game (2nd overall). He looks even better than last year, his offensive ratings are at all-time great levels, and maybe the second best offensive player in the league is riding shotgun on his line. What more could he even need? 80's goalies? Hmmm I suppose a goalie durability epidemic is a close second...

Contenders: Tim Stuetzle BOS, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins MTL, Auston Matthews BNF, Sidney Crosby VAN, Leon Draisaitl HAV, Tage Thompson WHI

A breakout year for Timmy has him generating shots at near-McDavid levels with a sustainable shooting percent to boot, since everything goes through him for the Colonials with a bit of luck he might just stay ahead of Connor. Absolutely on fire to start the year, Nuge, who's never even topped 32 goals in a non-asterix season, seems to be the trigger man for a stacked Millionaire offense leading to a massive spike in shots generated and if things stay that way he'll challenge for the Bossy right to the end. Matthews never hitting 40 goals with his ridiculous scoring rating is one of the great mysteries of the SICHL, but a trade to the preseason cup favourite Rockies has him skating with elite linemates on an elite power play meaning he should crush last season's career high of 37 goals. 3 time 40 goal kid, Sid is flanked by great talent that seems to be clicking, there's still room to improve on the PP, he's off to a hot start and with his ratings he always finishes the year strong. Leon's nearly won this a few seasons ago and is right up there with the league leaders right now, it'll come down to a bit of luck between him and Connor who finishes with more for Havana. Tage is coming off a strong 35 goal rookie campaign, albeit as a 24yo, and Whitehorse looks poised to play run and gun hockey night in and night out with a noticeably improved Tage leading the way and on pace for around 100 more shots this season.

Honourable Mentions: Bo Horvat EDM, Nathan MacKinnon WHI, Jake Guentzel VAV, Alex Tuch EDM

 

KEN DRYDEN AWARD (Most Valuable Goalie)

Current Favourite: Ilya Sorokin VAN

Of the preseason favourites, he's the one off to the best start. He can be slightly more erratic than some of the other elite goalies, but he's as athletic as anyone not named Ullmark and doesn't give up rebounds. The Norsemen are a stingy team to play behind, so Ilya should be contending right to the wire.

Contenders: Alexandar Georgiev CHI, Linus Ullmark BNF, Andrei Vasilevskiy FRE, Darcy Kuemper PHI, Connor Hellebuyck HAV, Jeremy Swayman HBG

Right now it's a two horse race. With the Tigers their usual solid defensive selves Georgiev is neck and neck with Sorokin in both stats and ratings, but with the Tigers' injuries on the back end I think Sorokin is in the driver's seat. Ullmark's ratings make 2022-23 Shesterkin look like a shooter tutor and he's playing for one of the most stacked teams in league history, so I'm saying there's a chance and it almost feels wrong to have him this low. Vasi is as consistent as they come, but his ratings have finally started to slip a bit and Fredericton is merely good but not great in their own end. Kuemper has good but not elite ratings, and the Fire Ants have some defensive players, but not a lot, yet both look to be more than the sum of their parts. Last year's winner, Hellebuyck, has started slow by his standards, but the Revolution are still a revelation in their own end so he'll come around. Sway benefits this season from a Hamburg team that's turned the corner faster than Pat on the racetrack, having gone from worst to 4th best in shots allowed.

Honourable Mentions: Juuse Saros CZE, Akira Schmid STK, Antti Raanta OTT, Vitek Vanecek SEA

 

BOBBY ORR AWARD (Most Valuable Defenseman)

Current Favourite: John Carlson OKA

A spot originally reserved for Makar, his injury opened up the race this season. No longer shackled by the weight of playing for the Evil Empire, Carlson had the ratings coming into the season, but he's been even more than advertised for the quality-foward-challenged Sun Devils, managing to outperform his ridiculous $20M AAV contract. While playing over 26 minutes a night he's excelling in every facet of the game with nearly double the next highest D in goals, 3rd in D assists, 1st in D points, all while being a plus player on a mediocre team who still manages to hit guys (17) and block a ton of shots (21). The only question mark is if he can keep this up all year (and stay healthy).

Contenders: Roman Josi NS, Alex Pietrangelo BNF, Devon Toews CHI, Charlie McAvoy HBG, Quinn Hughes WHI

Last year's runner up, Josi, is looking just a good as last year in spite of some team talent turnover, and has a better shot this year with Makar out of the picture. Pietrangelo has bounced back nicely and an elite defensive player with the ratings and the stats to be in contention. Toews, another elite defensive player, doesn't quite have the stats or situation as Pietrangelo offensively, but he was nearly a point per game last season so the potential is there. When healthy McAvoy is good in his own end and if he can stay around 3rd in D scoring in spite of a healthy Dahlin stealing some opportunity, he could still win it. Tied for the D scoring lead, Hughes will have to put some scoring distance between him and the guys ahead of him on the list if he wants to make up ground.

Honourable Mentions: Jaccob Slavin MTL, Rasmus Dahlin HBG, Erik Karlsson OTT, Adam Fox VAN

 

WAYNE GRETZKY AWARD (Most Valuable Player)

Current Favourite: J.T. Miller POR

Let me start by addressing the common debate about the semantics of "most valuable", especially since it's often worded as "most valuable to their team". Some people attach team accomplishment to the individual award, such as making playoffs or being on the best team. Other people give advantage to good players on weaker teams in that those teams "value" them more. I think the spirit of the award, to name who the best damned player is, is lost in both of these interpretations. I interpret it as who got the best results relative to their personal situation, not their team situation, as it's an individual award. If the team you're on has two other great lines that score a ton 50 goals doesn't have the same value to that team's success as it does a weaker team, but I don't believe that changes the actual value of scoring 50 goals. Where I believe adjusting should come in is how much of your 50 goals was due to you and how much was the effect of your linemates. Now onto the award:

When the best defensive star forward in the league is sitting 3 points back in the scoring race, 6th in hits, and leads his team in plus/minus, he's the most valuable player. Right now it's an easy, slam dunk pick. Unless his production falls off it'll be his race to lose, but he has great linemates, a solid power play, and the Bucks have actually been a bit unlucky shooting-wise so far, so that seems unlikely.

Contenders:

Anze Kopitar STL - Close to his 2nd place 115 pt pace last year, and still one of the best star defensive forwards. He doesn't have the supporting cast that Barkov does, but still seems to produce.

Aleksander Barkov BNF - Not quite as elite defensively as in years past Barkov's still on pace to match his 3rd place scoring finish last year. Barky has the defensive chops to sway voters if he can pull away from JT.

John Carlson OKA - Might end up in triple digit points dragging a mediocre team with basically no forwards into the playoffs while being a plus player in his own end. No matter how you interpret MVP he's right up there.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins MTL - His last season in the other league was a bit of a shocker and produced somewhat shocking SICHL ratings. Consequently he is yet another star defensive forward in contention for the scoring title and if he can keep up the pace it'll be hard to choose between him, Barkov, and Kopitar.

Tim Stuetzle BOS - Finally, someone who cares more about scoring than defense! What Little Timmy is doing for the Colonials would be impressive even for the strongest sherpa. He's generating shots at near McDavid levels so it looks like what he's doing is sustainable in spite of his dearth of talented linemates.

Leon Draisaitl HAV / Connor McDavid HAV - The luckier of the two should win the scoring title. MVP or not probably just depends on by how much and how much voters penalize them for playing with each other.

Elias Pettersson NS - Kopitar/Barkov/Nuge 4.0. Suffers from better linemates than Kopitar and lower production than all three at the moment.

Brady Tkachuk SEA - The toughest guy on this list, he's got a shot at being close to the scoring title despite sitting out more minutes than any other star forward. For those voters that Miller isn't tough enough for (and don't care about defensive play), he'll be the guy.

Honourable Mentions: Sidney Crosby VAN, David Pastrnak FRE, Roman Josi NS, Ilya Sorokin VAN, Sebastian Aho LON, Nico Hischier TOR

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