The Colorado Avalanche continue to surprise everyone with their performance this season, and it is not without several standouts. With this in mind, let’s look at the prospects of different awards that could be coming to various Avalanche personnel following this season.
Calder Trophy (NHL’s rookie of the year) – Nathan MacKinnon
Last offseason, the Colorado Avalanche had a new front management team that was facing its first big decision: they had the first overall selection in the upcoming NHL draft. Sitting at the top of the charts was Seth Jones, a defenseman for the Portland Winterhawks, who actually had ties to the Denver community as his father played for the Denver Nuggets. It seemed like a perfect fit, both on the ice and off. Jones fit the biggest need of the NHL roster (defense) and had the ties to the community as well.
Even with all of that going for Jones, Avalanche management came out and boldly stated that they would be drafting a forward first overall. From there, all attention turned to a pair of players from the Halifax Mooseheads: Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin. MacKinnon was touted as the all-around player, while Drouin was his playmaker that would set him up to make plays.
Looking back, the Avs made the right call in drafting MacKinnon. Jones has been decent for the Nashville Predators this year, Drouin is playing in the QMJHL with the Mooseheads again, but MacKinnon is leading all rookies in the NHL in points, goals and assists, and is third in plus/minus. On his own team, he is third in goals, third in assists, fourth in points, and second in plus/minus. MacKinnon has the ability to stretch the ice with his speed, and frequently catches defensemen, who appear to be in good position, out of position.
Chance of winning Calder: 95%
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy – Ryan O’Reilly
This is one that some people aren’t exactly sure what it means. According to NHL.com, this award is given to the player who has exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct, combined with a high standard of playing ability. By those standards, it would be difficult to find a more suited candidate than Ryan O’Reilly.
O’Reilly has played in all but two games for the Avalanche this season. During that time, he is leading the team in goals and is tied for fourth in assists. He leads the team in power play goals and game winning goals, but that is not his most impressive stat.
O’Reilly has only taken one minor penalty this season, meaning he has two penalty minutes in 77 games. And, in all fairness, the penalty he was called on was questionable at best. It came after he’d played 70 games without a penalty. He was called for playing the puck with a broken stick, after it had been chipped off the faceoff. If the requirement for this award is being gentlemanly and putting forth good sportsmanship, O’Reilly has to be at the forefront.
Chance of winning Lady Byng: 75%
Vezina Trophy – Semyon Varlamov
By far, this season’s MVP has been Semyon Varlamov on this Avalanche squad. To put it simply, he has risen to the occasion to save this Avs squad more than once. Sure, Varlamov may not stand up to the guys like Tuukka Rask in GAA or in save percentage, but he has been more dominant in many other ways.
Varlamov leads the league in wins with 40. He also leads the league, currently, in saves, with 1,829 on the season. The next closest goaltender to that mark is Kari Lehtonen of the Dallas Stars with 1,713. Varlamov has also faced 100 more shots than any other goalie in the league. But even those aren’t his most impressive stats.
Pessimists may argue that Varlamov only has 2 shutouts on the year, and a true premier goalie would have more than that. This is true, but Varlamov also has had 10 games in which he has allowed only one goal, including a couple in which that goal came within the last minute of garbage time.
The most impressive statistic to me on Varlamov’s season has got to be this: he has faced 30 or more shots in 39 of the games he has played in. During those games, he has a record of 31-4-4. If there is another goalie in the league that can boast a record like that, please point him out. Varlamov should be, hands down, the Vezina Trophy winner at the end of the season.
Chance of winning Vezina: 95%
Jack Adams Award – Patrick Roy
Now we come to the coach who has turned the ship around. Patrick Roy has been everything that Josh Kroenke could have asked for and then some when he appointed him as the head coach and vice president of hockey operations last June.
Roy has stepped right into his place on the bench this season and turned a team that was bad enough last year to earn the first overall selection in the draft into a team that still has a chance to be the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs this season with only three games remaining.
How fitting would it be for the Avs, and Roy, to take the first seed in the Western Conference by defeating the Anaheim Ducks in the final game on the season? Anaheim was the first team this Avalanche club faced this season, and they walked right into a buzz saw on opening night, falling to the Avalanche 6-1 at the Pepsi Center. More importantly, Roy made his presence felt that night, by shoving over the glass divider between the benches onto Bruce Boudreau, head coach of the Anaheim Ducks.
Since that lightning rod of a start to the season, Roy has not had another moment like that, but has rather become a very good player’s coach. The players love him and know that he will have their backs, no matter the situation. If the Avs are able to complete this amazing turnaround, there will only be one man to point to for the change.
Chance of winning Jack Adams: 90%