This year in the NHL, the Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP) and the Norris will be very competitive among players for the chance to be NHL award winners in 2021. Last year, Leon Draisaitl beat out Artemi Panarin for the Hart. Draisaitl excelled while Oilers captain Connor McDavid was out due to injury. Panarin tore up the league in his first campaign as a Ranger. I’m expecting the breadman to make another big run at the award this year. He was in a similar situation to Draisaitl as he continued to put up points in the absence of Mika Zibanejad.
The passing of the torch between top players in the league will be on full display this year. Hockey in the 21st century has been dominated by two guys in a league of their own: Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. Both players have continued to have success in the league but their spots as the 2 top dogs have been taken. Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon have stepped into their roles. They’ve clearly shown that they play at a different level than the rest of the league. My predictions for the 2021 NHL Award Winners are:
2021 NHL Award Winners: Hart Trophy Top Candidates: Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon
Connor McDavid: The only fault with Mcjesus is that he’s had a few injuries throughout his career. In the seasons he played a full 82 or at least 78, he was good first least 100 points. He’s always able to put up points and it doesn’t hurt that he can blow by any defenseman with his speed. He and Draisaitl are deadly on the powerplay and the newly acquired Tyson Barrie will be a big boost to the first unit. If he plays the full 56, he could easily put up 80+ points. It’s going to be tough to compete with him for any award. On the other hand, no chance two Edmonton guys win this award back to back.
Nathan MacKinnon really established himself as a dominant force in the league last postseason. When he cuts through the middle of the ice with the puck, he’s the most dangerous player in the league. He’ll skate by you on the outside and fire a rifle, or just dangle in front and roof a backhander. The center’s two potential all-stars so putting up points hasn’t been and should remain a non-issue. Nate has tendencies to go on hot and cold streaks so the start of this season will be very important. He should be buzzing with confidence after leading the Avs on a run last year. At +500, he’s my pick to win the 2021 Hart Memorial.
Wild Cards: Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews
Jack Eichel has been quietly dominating in Buffalo but his team’s poor play overshadows his skill and dominance. Last year Eichel finished 10th in points and that was without newly acquired Taylor Hall on his wing. After multiple seasons of new line combinations, Jack will finally get to play with another top tier player in the league. I think that this is going to take his game to the next level. Their power play has a ton of skill on it other than Eichel and Hall: They have Victor Olofsson, Rasmus Dahlin, and Sam Reinhart. Olofsson was a top rookie forward last season and blasts one-timers on his off-wing every time the puck comes his way. If the Sabres can find success as a team, Eichel will end up being a finalist for the Hart.
Auston Matthews has to take the Leafs to the next level this year or one of the four guys making 10 million dollars are gone. The big surprise is that the third winger on Matthews’s line with Mitch Marner is San Jose legend Joe Thornton. Thornton may not be as talented as he once was, but he still brings tons of experience and leadership. The Leafs’ d-core was shaken up in the offseason with Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci leaving. Tyson couldn’t hang with other team’s top units and Ceci couldn’t get a shot on the net if his life depended on it. As a replacement, They signed T. J. Brodie for four years, $20 million. Overall, the Leafs and Matthews have the tools to be very successful and it doesn’t hurt that they won’t have to go up against the Bruins this year.
2021 NHL Award Winners: Norris Predictions: Victor Hedman, Roman Josi
Victor Hedman showed how dominant he was in last year’s cup run. He’s so big and fast defensively that he is so confident in the d zone. Offensively, he can launch rockets from the point and can move the puck well through the neutral zone. He’s the projected favorite right now to win at +550. Hopefully, the Lightning can survive without Kucherov and Hedman can go for his 2nd career Norris.
Roman Josi won the award last year and is trying to become the 1st defenseman to win back to back Norris trophies since Nicklas Lidström. Nashville’s cup window seems to have closed quicker than any other team that’s made it to a cup final. Josi led the team in points last year and if he can do this again and the team has some success, he could go back to back.
Norris Bold Predictions: Quinn Hughes, Cale Makar
Quinn Hughes is no doubt going to be at the top of the defenseman points list. When he’s on the ice they basically play with four forwards and he’s got a new partner this year, veteran Tyler Myers who is also almost a full foot taller than Hughes. The top power-play unit of Vancouver is going to be the top 7 in the league for sure. Playing up top with Hughes will be Elias Pettersson. The skill combined between the 2 will lead to Vancouver has one of the best power plays in the league. Hughes is going to be a top defenseman in the league for a while, it’s only a matter of time until he’s a Norris winner.
Cale Makar is in a very similar spot to Hughes. Last year’s rookie of the year has been electric ever since joining the Avalanche for their 2019 playoff run. Colorado’s power play is now the best in the league with Nikita Kucherov out for the season, the Avs have more weapons all around. I expect to see Makar and Mackinnon snapping it around very smoothly and making everything look way too easy. Makar can easily go from rookie of the year to Norris in a single offseason. When Bowen Byram comes to play for Colorado, he and Makar will a top NHL defensive duo for a long time.