The first 25 games of the 2017-18 NHL season have been anything but predictable. A year after missing the playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning lead the Eastern Conference. And the Anaheim Ducks are currently bottom-dwellers months after participating in the Western Conference Finals. Here is a peek at some NHL quarter season awards.
MVP: Steven Stamkos
Tampa’s Steven Stamkos could be in for an absolute historic year. The Lighting look poised for another cup run, while Stamkos could seemingly walk away from the NHL Awards with Hart, Richard, and Comeback Player of The Year honors. The 27-year-old’s lingering health issues caused him to miss all but 17 games last season. So far this year, Stamkos is certainly making up for lost time. He currently leads the league with 37 points and is on pace for a career-high 121 points for the year, which would be the second-highest total since the lockout in 2005. Tampa currently sits atop the Eastern Conference thanks to an unstoppable offensive duo of Stamkos and RW Nikita Kucherov.
Other candidates: Nikita Kucherov, Alex Ovechkin, Johnny Gaudreau
Best Team: St. Louis Blues
Last season’s dismissal of Head Coach Ken Hitchcock might have been the wakeup call this team needed. Under Mike Yeo’s supervision, the Blues turned things around in 2016-17 and have yet to take their foot off the gas this season. St. Louis’ 35 points lead the Western Conference. The team is fourth in the league with 86 GF, thanks to Brayden Schenn, who is finally showing the potential that made him one of the NHL’s top prospects years ago. The Center has 30 points (the same number as Connor McDavid) and Vladimir Tarasenko is among the league-leaders with 12 goals. Solid play from both goalies, Jake Allen and Carter Hutton, has the Blues thinking Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.
Other candidates: Tampa Bay Lightning, Columbus Blue Jackets, Vegas Golden Knights
Biggest Surprise: Vegas Golden Knights
Expectations were low for the expansion Golden Knights. When the team started the year 6-1, fans called it beginner’s luck. But 25 games into the season, the Knights currently cling to the top spot in the Pacific Division with 31 points. It’s the way the Knights keep winning that is truly dazzling fans in the Las Vegas area. The team has already used four goaltenders due to injuries. Marc-Andre Fleury started the year strong with a 3-1 record. The real surprise is Oscar Dansk, who is 3-0 with a terrific 1.78 GAA. C William Karlsson is having a breakout year, while James Neal has embraced his role as a leader on the young team. The Knights are currently on pace to become the first ever expansion team to win more than 33 games in their inaugural season.
Other candidates: New Jersey Devils, Winnipeg Jets, Dustin Brown
Biggest Disappointment: Edmonton Oilers
After getting within a game of the Western Conference Finals in Connor McDavid’s first full season, NHL experts proclaimed the sky the limit for the 2017-18 Edmonton Oilers. But 25 games into the year, the Oilers are still circling the league’s drain with a disappointing 10-13-2 record. McDavid’s play has not been the issue (30 pts on the year), it’s his surrounding cast that has let him down. What was such a deep unit last year – no appears incredibly weak after the top line. Milan Lucic has lost a step and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ name continues to be linked with trade rumors. But as bad as the offense has been, the defense continues to be Edmonton’s backbreaker. G Cam Talbot has a 3.00 GAA a year after posting an incredible 2.39 GAA in his second season as a starter. Will the Oilers continue to struggle or will GM Peter Chiarelli look to deal some young talent?
Other candidates: Minnesota Wild, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins