With NHL return uncertain, let’s pick Flyers, league awards now

Sean Couturier

There’s no telling when or even if a National Hockey League season will be completed, so the uncertainty affects everything, including awards.

Had things been different, the 2019-20 honors for excellence by various Flyers over the past six months would have been decided back on April 2 before the home finale against Nashville.

That, as we are well aware, did not happen due to the pandemic.

So hockey, like all professional sports, sits in limbo, hoping for a possible restart this summer but conceding everything depends on what the health experts tell us.

In the meantime, with only 13 games left on the schedule, we might as well disclose the way we would have voted on awards, both with the Flyers and around the NHL.

After all, 69 games should be a large enough body of work to determine worthy recipients.

First, our Flyers picks:

>*BOBBY CLARKE TROPHY** (most valuable player): 1. Sean Couturier, 2. Travis Konecny, 3. Carter Hart.

Couturier won his first Clarke Trophy last season and continued his excellent two-way play this campaign, leading the Flyers with a plus-21. He tied for the NHL lead in game-deciding shootout goals with three. In just 66 games, Konecny has already tied a career high for goals (24) and new standards for assists (37) and points (61). Hart, teaming with Brian Elliott, has brought the Flyers all the way up to seventh in goals-against average. At home, the sophomore is a brilliant 20-3-2, 1.63 GAA, .943 save percentage.

>**BARRY ASHBEE TROPHY** (most outstanding defenseman): 1. Ivan Provorov, 2. Matt Niskanen, 3. Travis Sanheim.

Provorov has bounced back from a bit of an off year to put up impressive numbers, thanks in part to his new partnership with savvy veteran Niskanen. The Russian stood eighth in the NHL in ice time (24:51 average per game), putting him ahead of such stars as Washington’s John Carlson, Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman and Montreal’s Shea Weber. Niskanen has been a revelation, both on the ice and in the locker room as a soft-spoken leader. Sanheim did not miss a game for a second straight season.

>**PELLE LINDBERGH MEMORIAL TROPHY** (most improved player): 1. Scott Laughton, 2. Kevin Hayes, 3. Tyler Pitlick.

Laughton has set a career high for goals (13) and his plus-13 was third among forwards behind only Couturier and Jake Voracek (plus-14), this despite dealing with lengthy groin and finger injuries. Hayes got off to a slow start but then came on strong, tying for the NHL lead in shorthanded goals (four). His five game-winning goals (two in overtime) were second only to Claude Giroux’s six. Pitlick rebounded from an injury-plagued, 47-game season with Dallas last year to post a plus-11.

>**YANICK DUPRE CLASS GUY MEMORIAL AWARD** (presented to the Flyer who best illustrates character, dignity and respect for the sport both on and off the ice): 1. Niskanen, 2. Laughton, 3. Hayes.

Niskanen’s calm presence and Stanley Cup winning experience with Washington have helped get the Flyers to completely buy into coach Alain Vigneault’s system. Niskanen is nothing short of brilliant in post-game analysis with the media. Laughton understands and respects the media’s role in reporting and promoting the sport. Hayes, like Niskanen, can break down a game in just a few insightful sentences. A player’s character can be measured by how he behaves after a loss and Hayes is among the best, providing valuable insight in what decided a game.


>And now our NHL awards ballot:


>**HART MEMORIAL TROPHY** (most valuable player): 1. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton; 2. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado; 3. David Pastrnak, Boston.

Generally, this award goes by formula, meaning the NHL’s leading scorer gets strong consideration. Draisaitl had a 14-point lead over Oiler teammate Connor McDavid at the break. Forget the minus-5, Draisaitl posted 67 assists in 70 games and added 10 game-winning goals. McKinnon might be the quickest skill player in the NHL and his league-leading 318 shots strike fear in goalies. Pastrnak’s 48 goals tied Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead. His other numbers are fabulous: 20 power-play goals, 10 game-winners and a plus-21.

>**NORRIS MEMORIAL TROPHY** (outstanding defenseman): 1. John Carlson, Washington; 2. Roman Josi, Nashville; 3. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay.

There’s more to Carlson than meets the eye. When the Caps won the Cup a few years back, Carlson was the trigger man on the vaunted Washington power play. His 60 assists lead all defensemen and are fourth overall. He’s posted six game-winning goals, no other D-man has more than four. Josi’s plus-22 on a Nashville team that’s a collective minus-2 jumps out at you. Hedman just keeps getting better. He won the Norris in 2018 and shows no signs of slowing down, as his plus-27 and 44 assists will attest.

>**CALDER TROPHY** (rookie of the year): 1. Cale Makar, Colorado; 2. Quinn Hughes, Vancouver; 3. Dominik Kubalik, Chicago.

Makar and Hughes are both defensemen and yet they lead all rookies in scoring. Makar gets the edge, based on four game-winning goals and a plus-11 to Hughes’ minus-10. Kubalik has 29 goals, could be a darkhorse.

>**FRANK J. SELKE TROPHY** (best defensive forward): 1. Sean Couturier, FLYERS; 2. Patrice Bergeron, Boston; 3. Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis.

We’ve already listed most of Couturier’s attributes. He was a finalist a couple years back and has a good chance of winning this year. Bergeron has won this trinket four times. O’Reilly won last year.


>Other award picks:


>**LADY BYNG TROPHY** (sportsmanship): 1. MacKinnon, Colorado; 2. O’Reilly, St. Louis; 3. Auston Matthews, Toronto.

>**VEZINA TROPHY** (top goalie): 1. Tuukka Rask, Boston; 2. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay; 3. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg.

>**JACK ADAMS TROPHY** (coach of the year): 1. John Tortorella, Columbus; 2. Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh; 3. Craig Berube, St. Louis.



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About Wayne Fish 2446 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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