RALEIGH — Online betting site Bovada released its odds last Thursday on who will win the NHL’s 2018-19 Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP. It’s a not a surprise that a Carolina Hurricanes player was not among the 34 listed as having 100-1 or better odds at being named the league’s top player. Edmonton’s Connor McDavid is the favorite at 10-3, while four teams — Dallas, Pittsburgh, Washington and Winnipeg — have three players each on the board.
Last year, McDavid was the favorite as well, but noticeably missing from Bovada’s list of 24 candidates was New Jersey winger Taylor Hall. Hall, of course, guided New Jersey back to the postseason and went on to win the Hart back in June in Las Vegas.
While a Hurricanes player may be a long shot, Hall proved one can go from off-the-board to contender to favorite to winner over the course of 10 months.
Rather than limit any prognostication to just the Hart, here’s a look at five of the NHL’s major awards — the Hart, Vezina, Norris, Selke and Calder — and the possibility a Hurricanes player could be honored with one come next offseason.
Hart Trophy (MVP)
The candidates: Sebastian Aho, Scott Darling
The Hurricanes have never had a Hart Trophy winner, and odds are (as illustrated above) they won’t in 2018-19. But that doesn’t mean there’s zero chance. The top candidate is Aho, who followed up a 49-point rookie season with 65 points — including 29 goals — last season. Another 15- to 20-point jump could put him in the conversation, especially if he closes in on 40 goals. The key, of course, would be getting Carolina back to the postseason.
As for Darling, it may seem impossible to even consider a goalie who went 13-21-7 last year with an .888 save percentage and a goals-against average of more than three as the league’s best player. Further hurting his chances is the fact just two goalies have won the Hart since the flip of the century — and both were with Montreal. But one of them is former Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore, who went from having a losing season in 2000-01 (20-29-5, .909, 2.57) to a 30-win campaign the next year that earned him both the Hart and Vezina trophies. Darling would have to be both dominant enough for everyone to forget about 2017-18 and probably lead Carolina to the Metropolitan Division title to have any kind of shot. Still, other than Aho he’s the only logical possibility — regardless of how long those odds are.
Chance of winning: Aho (slim), Darling (nearly impossible)
Vezina Trophy (Top goalie)
The candidate: Darling
As mentioned above, Darling would probably need to be the story of the league in 2018-19 to win, but his odds are better at winning the Vezina than the Hart.
Chance of winning: Darling (slim)
Norris Trophy (Top defenseman)
The candidates: Justin Faulk, Dougie Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin
The three Carolina defenders have all received Norris votes in the past. Both Hamilton (14th place last year, ninth the year before) and Slavin (18th, 20th) received votes each of the last two years, while Faulk was 22nd in voting back in 2014-15. That said, the Norris has become a bit of a “paid his dues” award in recent years. Still, the last six Norris winners have been different players, and the only repeat winner in the last decade is Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson.
Hamilton, the newcomer, has the best shot. He had 44 points last season — including tying for the league-best in goals by a defenseman with 17 — despite not always being a featured weapon on the Flames power play, leading to just 12 special teams points. He’ll be a focal point on the man-advantage in Carolina — like Faulk has been in recent years — and he should log the minutes at even strength to at least match his output from last year.
Slavin is an under-the-radar pick, but he’s already a premier shutdown defender. To earn true Norris consideration, Slavin would need to put more points than the 30 he had in 2017-18, but that’s not totally out of the realm of possibility if he plays alongside Hamilton. Faulk’s reputation has taken a hit in recent years, especially after he dipped to eight goals and 31 points last season. With the addition of Hamilton, his power play time will likely drop, making the task tougher.
Chance of winning: Faulk (very slim), Hamilton (possible), Slavin (very slim)
Selke (Top defensive forward)
The candidate: Jordan Staal
Like the Norris, the Selke is often given based on career merit. Rod Brind’Amour, long considered one of the NHL’s best defensive forwards but never a finalist for the Selke, finally won the award in 2006 when the team he captained, the Hurricanes, became a league-wide force. He then won again in 2007.
Staal has had a similar path to Brind’Amour. In 10 of his 12 seasons, he’s received votes for the Selke — he was a finalist, finishing third, in 2010 with Pittsburgh — and is recognized by pundits and peers as one of the league’s best defensive stoppers. What he’ll need to finally nab his first Selke is team success and, probably a 20-goal, 50-point season. One could beget the other — which could then cement Staal’s spot as one of the game’s best defensive forwards.
Chance of winning: Staal (possible)
Calder Trophy (top rookie)
The candidates: Warren Foegele, Martin Necas, Andrei Svechnikov, Valentin Zykov
The big problem Carolina has in the Calder race is its candidates could split the vote. Svechnikov may be the overall favorite: No. 1 pick Rasmus Dahlin of Buffalo has an uphill climb as just three defensemen have been named the top rookie in the 2000s, and Svechnikov will have more name recognition than most other forwards as the second pick back in June.
That said, don’t sleep on Necas. Carolina’s top pick in 2017 looked even better than Svechnikov at prospect development camp. Another year in the Czech Republic served the center well, and he should be ready to play in the middle this season with the Hurricanes.
Zykov, the AHL’s top goal scorer last year, and Foegele both showed promise in brief stints in Raleigh, but you have to go all the way back to 1983 to find a Calder-winning forward who first spent a season in the AHL (Chicago’s Steve Larmer) before lighting up the NHL. Zykov already has three seasons of AHL experience, and Foegele spent his first pro campaign with Charlotte last year.
Chance of winning: Foegele (nearly impossible), Necas (possible), Svechnikov (very possible), Zykov (nearly impossible)