One-half of the 2024 NHL Season is in the books. With the Grammys on tap for this weekend, in the spirit of awards, we are going to hand out some hardware for the first half of the year. There has been no shortage of storylines and surprises. Fresh off a disappointing 4th place finish in the Central Division, the Winnipeg Jets head into the all-star break red hot. The team has picked up points in seven of its last ten games to trail the Colorado Avalanche by two points for the division lead. Meanwhile, something special is brewing in Sunshine Country for Sam Reinhart. Currently riding a 13-game point streak, the former second-overall pick trails only Auston Matthews in goals with 37.
Nominees: Nathan MacKinnon, Nikita Kucherov, Auston Matthews
MacKinnon has been on a mission this season, highlighted by his five-point performance against the Washington Capitals a week ago. On pace to smash his previous career high of 111 points, the former number-one overall pick enters the all-star break on a 13-game point streak. Kucherov leads the NHL in points with 85, one clear of Mackinnon. Arguably playing the best hockey of his decorated career, he has helped the struggling Tampa Bay Lightning to remain in the playoff race. The 30-year-old has remained deadly on the power play. He has racked up 37 tallies with the man advantage. Matthews has already surpassed the 40-goal mark for the sixth time. He is on pace for just under 70 goals, which would break Alex Ovechkin's previous post-lockout record of 65 in 2007-08.
Winner: Nathan MacKinnon
In one of the strongest fields for the Hart Trophy in recent memory, the edge goes to MacKinnon. Carrying the Avalanche to victory on most nights, the Halifax, Nova Scotia native has 31 goals and 53 assists through 49 contests while playing nearly 23 minutes a night. Additionally, he's racked up 10 three-plus-point games while picking up at least a point in 31 of the team's last 32 matchups. Furthermore, MacKinnon has remained one of the best two-way players in the league while continuing to make an impact in the defensive zone. He has won 47.1 percent of his faceoffs while recording 22 takeaways.
Nominees: Connor Hellebuyck, Thatcher Demko, Jeremy Swayman
Hellebuyck has helped lead the Jets into the thick of the race for the Central Division. Over his last ten starts, the 30-year-old net-minder has gone 7-3 while allowing just ten goals. While you can make the case for multiple players as most responsible for the Cannuck's spot atop the NHL standings, no one has been more important than Demko. After an injury limited him to just 32 games a year ago, the former second-round pick is sixth among goaltenders in save percentage (.920) and second in wins (26). Looking to go back to back in capturing the Vezina Trophy after Linus Ullmark won the award last season, Swayman was recently named an All-Star for the first time in his career. The Alaska native is 5th at his position with 13.8 goals saved above expected.
Winner: Connor Hellebuyck
Fresh off a brand-new seven-year, $59.5 million contract extension, Hellebuyck has been worth every penny and more at the halfway mark. He has posted a 23-9-3 record, including six wins in seven starts from December 22nd to January 9th. He has also allowed two goals or fewer in 20 of his last 23 games despite facing the fifth-highest danger chances in the league. Moreover, of all qualified goaltenders, the Michigan native ranks second in goals against average (2.20) and save percentage (.924). The most durable player at his position across the league, Hellebuyck has already started 35 of the Jets 47 games. This would put him on pace to start over 60 games for the fifth season in a row.
Nominees: Cale Makar, Quinn Hughes, Noah Dobson
Once again, a cornerstone piece for the Avalanche, Makar has 12 goals and 46 assists through 44 games while playing nearly 25 minutes a night. On pace to outperform his award-winning 2022 season, the UMass product is riding a six-game point streak. Trying to track down the first Norris Trophy of his career, Hughes was left off the ballot last season despite finishing second in defense scoring. The 24-year-old is putting together a year to remember. He has already set a new career high in goals (12) while being on pace to shatter his previous high in points (76). Bursting onto the scene for the New York Islanders in 2024, Dobson is quickly becoming a household name around the NHL. He has 52 points through 49 games, with 20 coming on the man advantage.
Winner: Quinn Hughes
Just one year removed from Erik Karlsson eclipsing the 100-point plateau as a defenseman with the San Jose Sharks, Hughes is looking to join an elite company. The one-time All-Big Ten First Team member sits in a tie for ninth with 62 points as we head into the all-star break. This puts him on pace to become the seventh blueliner of all time to hit the mark. Helping to lead a resurgence for the Vancouver Canucks after a disastrous season for the team a year ago, Hughes has helped lead the group to a top-five rank in both goals for per game (3.8) and goals against per game (2.55). Furthermore, he leads all players with a plus-34 rating, playing over 24 minutes a night alongside his partner Filip Hronek.
Nominees: Anze Kopitar, Aleksander Barkov, Sean Couturier
Still playing at a high level in his 18th season in the NHL, Kopitar is playing on the King's first line alongside Quinton Byfield and Adrian Kempe. The 36-year-old has helped lead the team to the number one penalty kill in the league (87.3%). A former winner of the award in 2021, Barkov is averaging just 1.5 goals against at 5 on 5. Moreover, the Finland native owns a 48.7 defensive zone start percentage while winning over 56 percent of his faceoffs. Back healthy after he missed all of last season with a back injury, Couturier has helped make the Flyers one of the surprise stories at the halfway mark. He has ten goals and 21 assists through 46 games while ranking near the top of Philadelphia's lineup in every major category.
Winner: Anze Kopitar
Continuing to take on the toughest minutes every night, Kopitar is allowing just 2.2 goals against per 60 minutes. Additionally, the five-time all-star owns a 5.4 on-ice expected goal differential. He has helped lead Los Angeles to the number-one penalty kill in the NHL after the team ranked 24th last season. The former 11th overall pick is third on the Kings in scoring while ranking second in plus-minus. Furthermore, the Slovenia native leads all forwards in total ice time (19:33) and blocks (42). He's also won 56.4 percent of his faceoffs, ranking 17th among centers who have taken 100 or more draws. With Patrice Bergeron no longer reigning supreme over the Selke Trophy field, Kopitar takes home the honors in our mid-season awards.
Nominees: Luke Hughes, Adam Fantilli, Connor Bedard
Hughes has quickly established himself as one of the league's top defensemen like his older brother Quinn. Immediately thrust into a top-four role for the New Jersey Devils, he has played over 22 minutes a night on seven different occasions. The third overall pick from June's NHL Draft, Fantili will miss eight weeks due to a calf laceration he suffered against the Seattle Kraken. Still, the University of Michigan product has 12 goals and 15 assists through 49 games, putting him on pace to challenge for the Columbus Blue Jackets rookie points record of 48 set by Pierre-Luc Dubois in the 2017-18 season. Surpassing the lofty expectations surrounding him upon entering the NHL, Bedard was just under a point-per-game pace before suffering a broken jaw. The Northern Vancouver native had 33 tallies in 39 games.
Winner: Connor Bedard
The odds-on favorite to capture the Calder Trophy through the first half of the season, Bedard recorded 15 goals and 18 assists in his first 39 games while playing on a line alongside Nick Foligno and Philipp Kurashev. Moreover, the Regina Pats product also racked up eight tallies with the extra man while featuring on the Chicago Blackhawk's top powerplay unit. However, the 18-year-old phenom has been out since January 5th due to a fractured jaw. Despite this, he still leads all rookies in scoring. Furthermore, as the primary source of Chicago's offense, Bedard's impact on the franchise cannot be overstated. Since he was placed on the injured reserve list, the group has been shut out in four of its last 12 games.
Jack Adams Trophy
Nominees: Rick Bowness, Rick Tocchet, Paul Maurice
Back for his second year with the Jets, Bowness has guided the team into a race for the Central Division. Despite being forced to take a leave of absence early on due to a medical emergency, the Jets rank first in the league in goals allowed per game (2.3) under the 69-year-old bench boss. Brought in to replace Travis Green last season, Tocchet earned a 20-12-4 record in 36 games. After being given an entire offseason to prepare, the longtime Philadelphia Flyer has the Canucks atop the NHL standings at the all-star break. Furthermore, the team is on pace for its best season in franchise history. Recently surpassing Barry Trotz for second on the all-time coaching list, Maurice has the defending Eastern Conference Champion Florida Panthers on a roll as they head into the all-star break. The group has picked up a point in eight of its last ten games, including a 6-0 victory over the Arizona Coyotes.
Winner: Rick Tocchet
When Tocchet took over the job in January 2023, the team sat 27th in the league at 18-25-3. Since then, all the 59-year-old has done is win in Vancouver. Now in his first full season as the bench boss for the franchise, the Canucks sit atop the NHL standings with 71 points, putting them in position to capture their first Presidents Trophy in over a decade. Pushing the group to play fast with a heavy forechecking system, Vancouver ranks second in the league in goals per game (3.8) and first in shooting percentage (13.4). Moreover, multiple Canucks players are enjoying career years. Four of them rank inside the top 20 in the NHL in points.
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