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We’re at the NHL all-star break, so let’s talk trophies

David Pastrnak of the Bruins leads the NHL in goals. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The NHL’s all-star break offers a chance to assess which players and coaches are leading the races for postseason awards. Here are three midseason finalists (listed in order of how the Professional Hockey Writers Association voted Thursday) for each major award and a case for one of those to earn the individual honor.

Hart Trophy (MVP)

Candidates: Connor McDavid (Oilers), Nathan MacKinnon (Avalanche) and David Pastrnak (Bruins)

Most deserving: Pastrnak

At first glance, Pastrnak’s case looks flimsy compared to McDavid and MacKinnon. Pastrnak trails both in point, and much of his production could be attributed to sharing a lot of ice time with Brad Marchand, the league’s No. 6 point producer. But Pastrnak leads the NHL in goals (37) and doesn’t get the scoring boost McDavid and MacKinnon do from secondary assists, which can be handed out arbitrarily. Pastrnak has an edge on both players in primary points (goals plus primary assists).

Plus, Pastrnak leads all skaters in point shares (9.6), a metric similar to baseball’s wins above replacement that seeks to distill everything a player does for his team into one number. Last year’s leader in point shares, Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov, won the Hart, as did seven of the past 12 skaters to lead the league in the category.

Player (2019-20)
Primary assists
Primary points
Point shares
David Pastrnak
60 (1st)
9.6 (1st)
Connor McDavid
57 (3rd)
8.6 (4th)
Nathan MacKinnon
56 (4th)
8.5 (5th)

Norris Trophy (top defenseman)

Candidates: John Carlson (Capitals), Roman Josi (Predators) and Dougie Hamilton (Hurricanes)

Most deserving: Carlson

It’s hard to keep up with the records Carlson is breaking this season. He is the first defenseman to reach the 40-point mark in 29 or fewer games since Al MacInnis in 1990-91. Carlson tied MacInnis and Denis Potvin (1975-76) for the most points by a defenseman in the first 30 games of a season (42) since Bobby Orr amassed 56 at the start of the 1974-75 campaign. (Potvin and Orr won the Norris in those years.) In addition, Carlson’s 60 points rank 10th among all players and are 12 points more than Josi’s total, which ranks second among defensemen. And before pointing to Carlson’s power-play production as a reason for his robust scoring, consider that he would still lead defensemen in scoring if points with the man advantage weren’t included.

Defensively, the Capitals have seen more than half of all even-strength scoring chances generated go in their favor with Carlson on the ice.

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Vezina Trophy (top goaltender)

Candidates: Connor Hellebuyck (Jets), Ben Bishop (Stars) and Darcy Kuemper (Coyotes)

Most deserving: Bishop

Bishop is 16-10-3 and has stopped 862 of 930 shots, giving him the fifth-highest save percentage (.927). More importantly, his .855 save rate against high-danger chances, those originating in the slot or the crease, is the fourth highest among netminders who have played at least 1,500 minutes. Kuemper (.823) and Hellebuyck (.812) rank 11th and 29th against high-danger chances.

Bishop also leads the league in goals saved above average (17.1), which is the number of goals saved above and beyond that of an average netminder.

Most goals saved above average in 2019-20 -- The number of goals saved above and beyond that of an average netminder. Higher is better.

Calder Trophy (rookie of the year)

Candidates: Cale Makar (Avalanche), Quinn Hughes (Canucks) and Victor Olofsson (Sabres)

Most deserving: Makar

Makar leads all rookies with 37 points in 41 games, and when he has been on the ice, the Avalanche has outscored opponents 47-37 at even strength with a 129-100 edge in high-danger scoring chances. The Canucks have been outscored 48-43 with Hughes on the ice, and the Sabres don’t tilt the ice as much with Olofsson skating (plus-3 goal differential, plus-3 high-danger chance differential) as the Avalanche does with Makar.

Jack Adams Award (coach of the year)

Candidates: Mike Sullivan (Penguins), John Tortorella (Blue Jackets) and Craig Berube (Blues)

Most deserving: Todd Reirden (Capitals)

Reirden oddly wasn’t listed among the midseason finalists, but he deserves consideration. Expectations for Washington entering the season were not sky high. Oddsmakers in the preseason set the over/under on their point total at 97½, tied for the fifth highest, and the Capitals were given the seventh-best odds to win the Stanley Cup.

Yet Washington is leading the league in points percentage (.724, no other team is above .694) with the fourth-highest goal differential (plus-33) and the second-best penalty kill (84.2 percent). Hockey Reference projects the Capitals to finish the season with 111 points, which would give them the highest delta between preseason expectations and end-of-season results, and the oddsmakers have now made them a co-favorite for this year’s championship.

Carlson is having a historic season under Reirden’s watch; rookie backup goaltender Ilya Samsonov is outplaying No. 1 Braden Holtby; and Alex Ovechkin, at 34, is en route to his ninth 50-goal season. There is even reason to expect improvement: The Capitals’ power play, typically one of the best in the NHL, is 14th, indicating we might not have seen how good this team can be.