We have a big weekend coming up with the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia, but before everyone heads to the City of Brotherly Love, one of the League's other major events will be happening Tuesday in Las Vegas at the annual NHL Awards (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC).
Here is who I think will take home the hardware.
SOG: 259 | +/-: 18
Pick: Keith. These three aren't the only great defensemen in this League. Ryan McDonagh made great strides this season and P.K. Subban and Drew Doughty are right there, but I think Chara, Keith and Weber define the elite class of defensemen in the NHL. You could see these players nominated each season and it wouldn't be a surprise. Each player had a tremendous season, but I think Keith is the best. When you look at the minutes he plays, how he's always facing the top lines and how much better he makes his team, he stands out to me. That said, you easily could make a strong argument for each nominee.
Pick: Bishop. There is an argument to be made for each nominee, but I think Bishop had the best season. There were times when the Tampa Bay Lightning were outplayed badly this season and they still got wins because of Bishop's play. When he was healthy they were one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference despite an injured Steven Stamkos. Rask is great but I think Boston is a playoff team without him, and Varlamov also had a strong season but I think he had a better team in front of him. For me, Bishop's season sticks out.
SOG: 241 | +/-: 20
Pick: Kopitar. I'm going to cheat here and take the playoffs into consideration because these nominees are just so close that it's hard to find any way to split them apart. For me it's Kopitar. When you look at his body of work, his great regular season, his success playing against other teams' top lines and the fact that he got a linemate late in the season in Marian Gaborik, someone who never has been talked about as a defensive player, and made him a solid two-way forward on his wing, it's hard to say he doesn't deserve to win.
Lady Byng Trophy
Pick: St. Louis. O'Reilly is a particularly impressive player specifically because he isn't the type of player who stays on the perimeter and avoids contact and yet he almost never takes penalties. He should win this award in the future, but I'm going to give it to St. Louis. What he did without Stamkos in the lineup is unbelievable. He's such a great competitor and such a great player I have a hard time thinking anyone will beat him for this.
Jack Adams Award
Nominees: Mike Babcock, Jon Cooper, Patrick Roy
Pick: Roy. We've talked about this all year long. Roy went into an organization that had no idea how to win despite being young and talented, and completely changed the culture and made it into one of the best teams in the NHL. I think that's awfully hard to do. We've got plenty of examples of teams like the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers, which are young and talented and haven't pulled it together. Roy did that in one season. Now people are asking if the Colorado Avalanche are the next Chicago or L.A., and he is a big reason why.
GM of the Year
Pick: Lombardi. Being a GM encompasses a long-term plan and most Stanley Cup runs are years in the making, which makes this a tough award to pick. But I think Lombardi really put himself over the top when he acquired Gaborik. That move gave the Kings an offensive spark they didn't have and it put them on track to win their second championship. It's tough to boil a GM's job down to one season, but that was the kind of singular move that separates one GM from the pack.
Pick: Moore. There is no question to me that this is Moore's award. When you see what he went through and how hard he managed to play and how successful he was on the ice when he returned, there's just no comparison. Moore experienced something no man ever should when his wife became sick. He quit his livelihood for a year to take care of her and then came back after she died and managed to play at a very high level with a very heavy heart. Malhotra's return is great and Jagr's play at his age is remarkable, but no one overcame what Moore faced this season.