NHL Awards 2020: SN’s Jackie Spiegel explains her ballot

While there was a little less glitz and fanfare this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, awards for the 2019-20 NHL regular season were still handed out.

Members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association voted on six awards: the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, Frank J. Selke Trophy, Lady Byng Memorial, Calder Memorial Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy and James Norris Memorial Trophy and submitted names for the NHL’s All-Star and All-Rookie Teams.

As a rookie member of the PHWA, it was an absolute honor to be among the 170 members selected to vote for the 2020 awards. It was not something I took lightly and, after poring over data from sites such as Natural Stat Trick and NHL.com, reading articles from my fellow scribes and speaking with a few of my most trusted colleagues for hours on the phone, I devised my list.

NHL awards tracker 2020: Full list of finalists, winners for Hart, Vezina, Norris and more

Below is the 2019-20 NHL Awards Ballot I submitted followed by an explanation.

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy

Awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey.

Finalists: Stephen Johns (Dallas Stars), Oskar Lindblom (Philadelphia Flyers), Bobby Ryan (Ottawa Senators)

Winner: Bobby Ryan

My take: When the voting was submitted in June, no one knew Oskar Lindblom would participate in training camp, let alone suit up for a playoff game. The award is given for the regular season and, when we voted, Linblom had not returned yet. But I was already inking him in for 2020-21.

The Stars’ Stephen Johns earned my No. 1 spot because post-concussion syndrome can be crushing, debilitating and life-altering, not only physically, but also mentally. The road back to the game was long and arduous, as detailed by The Athletics Sean Shapiro. When Johns did return after 22 months away, it was moving, inspiring and encouraging for others who have been impacted by PCS.

Frank J. Selke Trophy

Given to the NHL’s best defensive forward.

Finalists: Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins), Sean Couturier (Philadelphia Flyers), Ryan O’Reilly (St. Louis Blues)

Winner: Sean Couturier

My take: Couturier was far and away the best 200-foot player during the 2019-20 season. He finished with 22 goals, 37 assists and an NHL-best 59.6 percent efficiency in the faceoff dot in 69 games. In the defensive zone, he won 59.5 percent of draws along with 59.1 percent in the offensive zone and 60.4 percent in the neutral zone — which, by the way, made him the only NHL player to top 58 percent in all three zones.

A finalist two years ago, Couturier also led Philadelphia in Corsi For percentage (56.25) and Shots For percentage (55.30) and was third in Scoring Chances For percentage (54.43) at 5v5, per Natural Stat Trick, in 2019-20. Couturier logged a ton of ice time (19:50, most among Flyers forwards), including key time while shorthanded. He often faced the opposition’s best line.

The one thing I’d probably tweak if I had the chance for a do-over would be to give Mark Stone a vote.

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy

Awarded to the player who combines sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct with a high level of play, as voted on by the PHWA.

Finalists: Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche), Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs), Ryan O’Reilly (St. Louis Blues)

Winner: Nathan MacKinnon

My take: While I don’t necessarily agree with the fact that writers vote on this award — it should be the referees or players — the award generally goes to a player with the most points and the fewest penalty minutes. Slavin sat atop my ballot because he only had 10 penalty minutes — four minutes were for shooting the puck over the glass — despite playing a Hurricanes-most 23:24 TOI/GP and usually against the top players in the league. MacKinnon (93 points, 12 PIM), Zibanejad (75 points, 14 PIM), O’Reilly (61 points, 10 PIM) and Suter (48 points, 12 PIM) all played at a high level with low penalty minutes. And yes, I left Auston Matthews off the ballot due to his off-ice actions.

Calder Memorial Trophy

Awarded to the NHL’s best rookie.

Finalists: Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks), Dominik Kubalik (Chicago Blackhawks), Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche)

Winner: Cale Makar

My take: This was a tough one that I debated for quite a while. In the end, I went with Hughes, who is not only a stud offensively (53 points, 25 on the power play and both an NHL-best among rookies) but also played big minutes in key moments in the defensive end for Travis Green’s team. When you look at the analytics, per Natural Stat Trick, it was tight: Hughes had a better Corsi For percentage at 5v5 (52.64 to 52.33) and Fenwick For percentage (59.09 to 58.93) at all strengths and, yes, Makar’s numbers were better in things like Expected Goals For and Scoring Chances For. But what pushed my vote to Hughes was the impact he had on the Canucks roster as a whole. He gave the offense a boost with his ability to carry the puck up the ice and quarterback the power play. Hughes was a key cog for this team that was battling for a postseason spot before the pandemic hit.

Hart Memorial Trophy

Awarded to the player deemed most valuable to their team.

Finalists: Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers), Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche), Artemi Panarin (New York Rangers)

Winner: Leon Draisaitl

My take: MacKinnon had a strong year. Pasta won the Rocket Richard Trophy (with Ovechkin) and Draisaitl was fourth on my list because he plays with Connor McDavid and had a CF% under 50 (48.18). I was actually considering putting Hellebuyck first on my ballot. Without his stellar season (and what we know now, Vezina Trophy-worthy play) between the pipes, there was no way the Jets were making the playoffs — and they were the first wild card on March 12.

But what sold me on Panarin was the fact he sped up the Rangers rebuild single-handedly — along with the analytics — and this:

Basically, the Rangers were two points back of the wild card (both teams in the wild card spots were tied at 81) on the day the NHL was paused. Panarin turned his game up when it was needed (see: 50 points after Christmas) and was the most valuable at 5v5 in the NHL.

James Norris Memorial Trophy

Given to the NHL’s top defenseman.

Finalists: John Carlson (Washington Capitals), Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning), Roman Josi (Nashville Predators)

Winner: Roman Josi

My take: All around, Josi was the best defenseman in the league. He posted 65 points in 69 games and a 53.4 Corsi For percentage, a 54.25 Scoring Chances For percentage, an expected Goals For percentage of 54.50 and a 93.27 Save Percentage at 5v5 (per Natural Stat Trick). From Jan. 1 to the end of the season, Josi led all defensemen in points (26) while logging more than 26 minutes per game, most among defensemen. Carlson will get his Norris, but I do think this award doesn’t take into account the defensive game as much as it has, which is why Slavin was high on my ballot as he was a stud on the backend in Carolina.

NHL All-Star Team

Center

First team: Leon Draisaitl
Second team: Nathan MacKinnon

Right Wing

First team: David Pastrnak
Second team: Nikita Kucherov

Left Wing

First team: Artemiy Panarin
Second team: Brad Marchand

Defense

First team: John Carlson, Roman Josi
Second team: Victor Hedman, Alex Pietrangelo

Goaltender

First team: Connor Hellebucyk
Second team: Tuukka Rask

My take: The forwards were the top points guys of their position outside of Ovechkin, who potted an NHL-best (tied with Pastrnak) 48 goals for the Rocket Richard Trophy. Before his injury in February, Markstrom was having a standout season, but you couldn’t argue with what Hellebuyck and Rask (who won the William M. Jennings Trophy with Jaroslav Halak) were doing. On defense, I kept my top-5 and added Shea Theodore, who had a standout year with 46 points in 71 games in addition to a 58.50 CF%, 57.86 FF% and 58.36 SF% at 5v5 (per Natural Stat Trick).

NHL All-Rookie Team

Forward

Named to team: Dominik Kubalik, Victor Olofsson, Nick Suzuki

Defense

Named to team: Quinn Hughes, Cale Makar

Goaltender

Named to team: Elvis Merzlikins

My take: I chose Blackwood over Elvis as he had 22 wins in 47 games (43 starts) to Elvis’ 13 wins in 33 games (31 starts). The Blue Jackets netminder did have a better save percentage (.923 to .915) and more shutouts (five to three) but Blackwood played behind a porous Devils defense (faced 533 more shots) and anemic offense — and still managed decent numbers including a 4.96 GSAA and .870 HDSV% while facing an xG of 84.74 at 5v5 (according to Natural Stat Trick).

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