The last night where we can officially celebrate everything that happened in the 2016-17 season is nearly here and so are my predictions for the biggest awards to be handed out that night.
Some of these may have more clear winners than others, especially categories that were discussed here more frequently than others, while others are tougher to decipher. Thankfully, we do not have to make the decisions ourselves (yet!).
Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year)
My Pick: Mike Babcock, Toronto
Why: Babcock gets my pick because in his second year with the team, he took them to the playoffs. Tortorella did that too but here's the difference: Babcock's team was the Maple Leafs. The Leafs are a running joke in the NHL (I don't think they are a joke, but others do) and the Blue Jackets need more decades to even get to their level of ridicule.
This season, excitement and hope came back to Toronto and it was not for baseball and basketball this time. Now one man could not have made that all possible but he had a big hand in helping his players perform to their potential and beyond.
His team went from winning only 29 games to only losing 27 games. It definitely helped to get the highest draft pick but it also helped that the talent was not wasted due to his great direction.
Also, other great prospects were able to become young stars for this team with his guidance and the climate that he created with his veteran players.
My Pick: Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus
Why: I picked Bobrovsky over Holtby due to the fact that he's also nominated for the Hart Trophy. Being considered as one of the best players in the entire league, regardless of position, is a good indicator on why he's special.
Bobrovsky barely edged out Holtby for better numbers in Goals Against Average (2.06) and Save Percentage (0.931). He also had a great December where he went 12-0 and had a GAA of 1.75 with a SV % of 0.939. That run shocked the hockey world and made them realize that Columbus had changed for the better. It also once again reminded us how great their goalie really is.
My Pick: Erik Karlsson, Ottawa
Why: Here's what Karlsson has over the other two: time on ice. His presence is definitely felt with his team because he's there almost the entire time. Karlsson's time on ice per game played is at 26:50, two minutes and one second more than Burns and two minutes and twenty seconds more than Hedman.
While he has the least amount of points between the two, 71 compared to 76 from Burns and 72 from Hedman, he beats them in other categories like penalty minutes and shifts per game.
Karlsson is such a disciplined player that he has only 28 penalty minutes while the other two have 40 and 47. With all that wasted time in the box, the team could be put in a bad situation that could lose the game for them and that is why that is important.
Also, he averages 31.5 shifts per game and those shifts are all important in doing what is best for his team and that is simply being out there on the ice. His +10 and 54 assists can definitely back that up as well.
Ted Lindsay Award
My Pick: Connor McDavid, Edmonton
Why: It's his second year in the league and his first full season and he already gets 100 points. He is just getting started too since he's only 20 years old and his team around him is only getting better.
Being the youngest captain in history (100 years worth, too!) for a franchise like the Oilers is a huge deal and McDavid took that role and made it a great choice by the Oilers by taking them from having a last place finish last season to a second place finish and spot in the second round of the playoffs. A big reason why they would be last in their division for the past season was most likely because they lost McDavid for 37 games.
Hart Memorial Trophy
My Pick: Connor McDavid, Edmonton
Why: If you win the Ted Lindsay, what stops you from winning the Hart? McDavid deserves both awards after having 70 assists in one season. With those assists, his team would not have scored 70 goals and where would they be without those? Maybe back to last place like they were last year when they had limited time with McDavid.
His 30 goals are also a decent amount, especially since McDavid is more a team-oriented player who focuses on making those around him even better while doing great himself. He is needed on this team not only for his scoring abilities but for his abilities to connect with teammates and be the best player on the ice.
My Pick: Auston Matthews, Toronto
Why: From the moment that he made his debut with FOUR goals, Toronto knew that he was the one. The one to bring hope to a franchise searching for a star to guide them out of the dark. His debut led to even better things, like winning the Centennial Classic on an OT winner or breaking the record for rookie goals and points in Toronto's 100 year history or becoming the best U.S. born rookie goalscorer in history or helping his team reach the playoffs after finishing with the worst record in the NHL last season.
It could go on and on what Matthews has done for his team in one season but here's the deal: Matthews had some quiet moments in the season where he could not register a point but when he came back from those, he came back in a big way and always worked to reclaim his spot as the rookie leader in goals. His competition is tough for this one but somehow he looks like an obvious winner. Scoring 40 goals in your first season is no joke and he is going to be a star for team that needs him.
It's a lot of pressure to be the One to save Toronto but he dealt with the pressure just fine.
My Pick: Ryan Kesler, Anaheim
Why: Kesler is a player you would love on your team and hate against you (just ask Edmonton, Los Angeles, Nashville, etc...). His 146 hits blew his competition out of the water (or off the ice), as did his 75 blocks. He also beat them out with more time on ice for each game and that is great news for Anaheim.
His line was most likely the best and most effective line for the Ducks, with teammates Jakob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano rebounding after last year. Silfverberg had a career-high 23 goals while Cogliano scored 7 more goals than the season before. Kesler contributed to their success by having 36 assists, the second most in his career.
Whenever Kesler was on the ice, he was feared because of his offensive power but also his ability to play defensively so well and intimidate others on the ice. His powerful presence in both aspects is what this award was made for.
One century of this game and League is a wonderful milestone to celebrate. Let's hope to do this in the next century!