Who'll win the Hart, other NHL awards?

Updated: April 8, 2009, 4:00 PM ET
ESPN.com

Hart Trophy

• The Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association in all NHL cities at the end of the regular season. Past winners

SCOTT BURNSIDE
Who should make the ballot: Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin, Zach Parise, Pavel Datsyuk, Sidney Crosby.
Who should win: Malkin.
My take: This was a whole lot easier to rationalize when the Pittsburgh Penguins forward was leading Washington's Ovechkin by 11 points in the race for the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's top scorer. But even though Ovechkin has closed the gap to a handful of points, Malkin's emergence as a two-way force (he leads the NHL in takeaways as well as points) puts him a hair ahead of Ovechkin in voting for the Hart. Regardless of which Russian star ends up winning the scoring title, it will be a major surprise if anyone votes for anyone but these two for league MVP.

E.J. HRADEK
Who should make the ballot: Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Zach Parise, Steve Mason, Pavel Datsyuk.
Who should win: Ovechkin.
My take: Simply, this race is between the top two picks from the 2004 draft, Ovechkin and Malkin. Both Russian-born stars are very deserving of MVP honors. I'll give an ever-so-slight edge to Ovechkin, who seeks his second straight Hart Trophy. Despite scoring just two goals in his first 11 games, AO more than likely will be the only player to top the 50-goal mark. He'll also be the only player to record 500 shots. In fact, Ovechkin will be only player to fire more than 400 shots. He had 10 or more shots in 10 games. Think about that. And, as you know, he doesn't shy away from the physical game (he ranks in the top 10 in hits). I'll say Ovechkin by a nose over Malkin.

PIERRE LEBRUN
Who should make the ballot: Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin, Zach Parise, Sidney Crosby, Pavel Datsyuk.
Who should win: Ovechkin.
My take: To be honest, it's a flip of a coin between Malkin and Ovechkin in my mind. They are both tremendously worthy. I may change my mind several times before I tally my official vote for the award through the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. But, right now, with a few days left in the regular season, I give the nod to Ovechkin. He finished off the season strong and is the most dominant player on the ice for either team, night in and night out. Last season, he singularly guided the Caps to a surprise playoff appearance and was largely deserving of the Hart for doing so. But this season, he is the leader on a much more talented and balanced roster. Because of teammates like Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin, Ovechkin is no longer a slam dunk for this award. And that's not a bad thing for the Caps.

Vezina Trophy

• The Vezina Trophy is an annual award given to the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at this position as voted by the general managers of all NHL clubs. Past winners

SCOTT BURNSIDE
Who should be on the ballot: Tim Thomas, Evgeni Nabokov, Pekka Rinne, Steve Mason, Niklas Backstrom.
Who should win: Thomas.
My take: Yes, Thomas split time with Manny Fernandez, but he still ended up appearing in 52 games through the start of the final week of the regular season. And the numbers? Spectacular, as Thomas leads the NHL in both save percentage (.933) and goals-against average (2.07). He may not have been the virtuoso performer that Steve Mason was in Columbus or Pekka Rinne in Nashville, but the Bruins are the Eastern Conference champs thanks in large part to the unorthodox veteran between the pipes who deserves recognition after toiling for years in the minors and in Europe.

E.J. HRADEK
Who should make the ballot: Tim Thomas, Steve Mason, Niklas Backstrom, Cam Ward, Evgeni Nabokov.
Who should win: Steve Mason.
My take: When four-time Vezina winner Martin Brodeur went down with an early-season injury that would sideline him for four months, the race really opened up. I think it comes down to Mason and Thomas. Both guys stand at or near the top of each major statistical category. In the end, I just think Mason has been a hair better. The kid has put up 10 shutouts; that's the most by a rookie since Tony Esposito established the modern single-season record of 15 shutouts during the 1969-70 season.

PIERRE LEBRUN
Who should make the ballot: Tim Thomas, Steve Mason, Roberto Luongo, Miikka Kiprusoff, Cam Ward.
Who should win: Thomas.
My take: I may be in the minority again on this one because I think Mason is by and large the popular vote among my media colleagues. Of course, it doesn't matter what we think on this one because it's the NHL's 30 GMs who vote on the Vezina, not the PHWA. This will be interesting to see which way the managers go because they usually like seniority and a track record, which is why Brodeur has had a stranglehold on the award after Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek had similar support from the GMs.

But the managers can't go back to the well this season because Brodeur missed too much time. Do they turn to the former journeyman-turned-star-goalie Thomas or to the sensational rookie Mason? Or maybe they believe Luongo has played enough games (he missed 24) and is responsible for saving Vancouver's season? I like Thomas if I had a vote on this one. His goals-against average and save percentage are the best in the NHL. Sometimes statistics don't tell the full story, but in this case, I believe it's time to finally recognize Tim Thomas.

Norris Trophy

• The James Norris Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position. The winner is selected in a poll of the PHWA at the end of the regular season. Past winners

SCOTT BURNSIDE
Who should be on the ballot: Zdeno Chara, Mike Green, Dan Boyle, Shea Weber, Nicklas Lidstrom.
Who should win: Chara.
My take: The vote might have been different a month ago when the Bruins looked like they had hit the wall. But led by their captain, Chara, the Bruins will hit the playoffs in top form, not to mention the top seed in the Eastern Conference. While he does not have the pizzazz of Green, Chara simply does it all and does it exceptionally well. He logs 26:02 a night, almost all of it against opposing teams' top players. He kills penalties, works the power play; he'll fight if you need him to or drive you through the boards. Yes, Green will finish with 30 or more goals and 70 or more points and is as dynamic a blueliner as we've seen in a long time, but that's not what this award is for. It's for a guy like Chara.

E.J. HRADEK
Who should make the ballot: Zdeno Chara, Nicklas Lidstrom, Mike Green, Dan Boyle, Mark Streit.
Who should win: Green.
My take: Despite missing 14 games, Green's 30 goals are the most by a defenseman who has played fewer than 70 games (the most he can play is 68). That's some pretty heady stuff. Green, the top scoring D-man averaging more than a point per game, can control the tempo with his explosive skating skills. Chara and Lidstrom are better all-around defenders, but Green's dynamic season has been too good to overlook.

PIERRE LEBRUN
Who should make the ballot: Shea Weber, Zdeno Chara, Mike Green, Nicklas Lidstrom, Dan Boyle.
Who should win: Chara.
My take: I suspect I'm wrong here and Green will end up winning. His 30-goal season is definitely worthy of that. But call me a throwback; I just believe Chara's all-around game and season is a huge reason for Boston's remarkable campaign. Penalty killing, power play, late-game situations, physical presence and simply the NHL's best shutdown guy -- I don't understand why Chara shouldn't win his first Norris. Green will have plenty of other chances, but for my money, Chara had the most impressive, all-around season by a defenseman in the NHL this season. Maybe one day we'll split up this award into best offensive defenseman and best defensive defenseman. But that's a blog for another day!

Calder Trophy

• The Calder Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the National Hockey League. The winner is selected in a poll of the PHWA at the end of the regular season. Past winners

SCOTT BURNSIDE
Who should be on the ballot: Pekka Rinne, Steve Mason, Bobby Ryan, Drew Doughty, Kris Versteeg.
Who should win: Rinne.
My take: OK, the popular choice is Mason, who has received all kinds of press as the Blue Jackets head into the playoffs for the first time in club history. And he's full value for the praise. It's just that Rinne's numbers pretty much mirror those put up by Mason, and Rinne has played a bigger part in his team's success given the potentially crippling injuries the Predators have sustained. Rinne has a better winning percentage and played in nine fewer games than Mason, but with just four fewer wins. Rinne has seven shutouts, three short of Mason's league-best 10. Both play for teams that struggle to score, but in Rinne's case, his performance is just slightly more Calder-worthy than Mason.

E.J. HRADEK
Who should make the ballot: Steve Mason, Pekka Rinne, Bobby Ryan, Drew Doughty, Blake Wheeler.
Who should win: Mason.
My take: The 20-year-old Ontario native grabbed the Jackets' net in early November when Pascal Leclaire went down with an injury. Mason never relinquished it. He even played through mono! For me, Mason is clearly at the top of this impressive freshman class.

PIERRE LEBRUN
Who should make the ballot: Pekka Rinne, Steve Mason, Drew Doughty, Bobby Ryan, Kris Versteeg.
Who should win: Mason.
My take: I made my case for Doughty in a recent blog and Mr. Burnside has correctly pointed out that Rinne's numbers are very similar to Mason's. But I think this won't even be close when the PHWA vote is said and done. Mason will win comfortably. The Jackets are headed to their first playoff appearance and he's the No. 1 reason. He's also showed tremendous consistency for a rookie goalie. But I say it again -- don't underestimate what Doughty has done as a teenage defenseman in his first NHL season. Simply amazing.

Jack Adams Award

• The Jack Adams Award is an annual award presented by the National Hockey League Broadcasters' Association to the NHL coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success. The winner is selected in a poll among members of the NHL Broadcasters' Association at the end of the regular season. Past winners

SCOTT BURNSIDE
Who should be on the ballot: Brent Sutter, Claude Julien, Ken Hitchcock, Barry Trotz, Todd McLellan.
Who should win: Sutter.
My take: We could have named 10 coaches whom you could make a case for this season, including Peter DeBoer in Florida, Mike Babcock in Detroit, Andy Murray in St. Louis and Joel Quenneville in Chicago, but Sutter's work puts him in a class by himself. Never mind the Devils' minor wobble of the past couple of weeks; this is a team that could have very well packed it in when Brodeur went down early in the season with an elbow injury. Sutter's Devils not only didn't fold, but they also established themselves as a bona-fide Stanley Cup contender. Somehow Sutter managed to introduce a more open attack to the normally staid Devils repertoire without giving up any of the traditional defensive stinginess. In short, Sutter did yeoman work in the face of tremendous adversity.

E.J. HRADEK
Who should make the ballot: Claude Julien, Brent Sutter, Todd McLellan, Mike Babcock, Ken Hitchcock.
Who should win: Julien.
My take: There were several terrific coaching performances around the league. Washington's Bruce Boudreau, St. Louis' Andy Murray and Nashville's Barry Trotz are among my non-nominees who also merit serious consideration. I'll take Julien, who has pushed all the right buttons this season. His calm demeanor during a recent slump was important to getting his team back on track.

PIERRE LEBRUN
Who should make the ballot: Claude Julien, Andy Murray, Barry Trotz, Ken Hitchcock, Brent Sutter ... and about six other guys.
Who should win: Julien.
My take: Well, let me add a caveat to that. I think Murray should win if the Blues get into the playoffs. How his team even has a chance after the catastrophic injury woes the team has suffered is beyond me. But I think Julien will win. The Bruins went from eighth to first in the Eastern Conference, a dramatic improvement, and the coach has a big part in that. The Bruins play a disciplined, two-way game that is a testament to the players' buying into what the coach was selling. I wonder whether Julien would start by thanking Montreal and New Jersey in his acceptance speech ... oh, never mind.

Selke Trophy

• The Frank J. Selke Trophy is an annual award given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. The winner is selected in a poll of the PHWA at the end of the regular season. Past winners

SCOTT BURNSIDE
Who should be on the ballot: Pavel Datsyuk, Mike Richards, Ryan Kesler, Patrick Marleau, Jay McClement.
Who should win: Datsyuk.
My take: This is really a two-person race between Datsyuk and Richards, both of whom define what this award is about -- tenaciousness at both ends of the ice. Richards' league-leading seven short-handed goals will get lots of attention from voters, but Datsyuk has really become the heart and soul of the Red Wings' forward contingent, working tirelessly on the penalty kill, power play and at even strength. While Richards has the ability to get under opponents' skin (see: Crosby, Sidney), Datsyuk quietly yet fearlessly does his job, often in the face of far bigger opponents. His ability to turn turnovers into scoring chances in the blink of an eye is unparalleled.

E.J. HRADEK
Who should make the ballot: Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Mike Richards, David Krejci, Marian Hossa.
Who should win: Datsyuk.
My take: Datsyuk is the best two-way player in the game, period. He competes in all three zones. He plays a great positional game and takes smart angles to the puck. He uses a lightning-quick stick to win faceoffs and strip opponents of the puck. I don't think this guy gets nearly enough credit.

PIERRE LEBRUN
Who should make the ballot: Pavel Datsyuk, Mike Richards, Ryan Kesler, Maxim Lapierre, Manny Malhotra.
Who should win: Datsyuk.
My take: I know there's a strong case for Richards (and he if doesn't win it this season, he will eventually). But Datsyuk has done nothing to lose his grip on this award; his plus-minus rating was ridiculous again this season, and his vision and sense of anticipation is as dangerous in his own zone in breaking up plays as it is in the offensive zone setting up goals. I had some new names on my list there, as well, notably Lapierre from the Canadiens. He's been the unsung hero on that turbulent team this season and his relentless, two-way play is a big reason the Habs stayed afloat. But Datsyuk is the man again.

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