The NHL Awards are a chance to pause, once again, and reflect on how impressive a season some players had -- from Conn Smythe-winning center Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins to silky-smooth Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson to new-on-the-scene center Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It's clear that 2016-17 was a great season for teams, especially for the Stanley Cup champion Penguins, but it was an equally great year for individuals on the ice and off it.
Crosby looks like the favorite for the Hart Trophy, given to the player most valuable to his team, for the third time; he also won in 2007 and 2014. After missing the first six games of the season with a concussion, Crosby returned and led the NHL with 44 goals to help the Penguins finish with the second-best record in the League (50-21-11, 111 points). He was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after the Penguins defeated the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup Final in six games.
The other finalists are Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid and Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. McDavid, 20, led the NHL in scoring with 100 points (30 goals, 70 assists) in 82 games, his first full NHL season. Bobrovsky sparked the Blue Jackets to a surprising season by leading the League with a 2.06 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
Video: SJS@EDM, Gm2: McDavid pots first playoff goal in win
Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals is bidding to become a repeat winner of the Vezina Trophy, given to the NHL's best goaltender. But the competition is stiff; it includes Hart-finalist Bobrovsky and Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens. All three have won the Vezina previously.
Holtby led the NHL with nine shutouts, tied for the League lead in wins with 42, and had a 2.07 GAA and .925 save percentage. Bobrovsky, who won in 2013, had a 14-game winning streak that tied for the second-longest in NHL history. Price, the 2015 winner, had a 2.23 GAA and .923 save percentage. He also started the season with 10 consecutive wins.
Video: Bobrovsky, Price, Holtby: Who will win the Vezina?
It's almost impossible to pick between the top three candidates for the Norris Trophy, which goes to the NHL's best defenseman: Karlsson, Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks and Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Karlsson, a two-time Norris winner (2012, 2015), helped the Senators get within one game of the Stanley Cup Final after finishing with 71 points (17 goals, 54 assists) in 77 games. Burns is a finalist for the second consecutive season after leading all defensemen in goals (29) and points (76). Hedman led all defensemen with 56 assists, finished with 72 points and excelled on the power play.
Video: OTT@NYR, Gm6: Karlsson buries Ryan's slick dish
This was an all-time great season for rookies. It began on opening night when Matthews, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft by the Maple Leafs, scored four goals in his NHL debut. He and a number of other newcomers exceeded expectations night after night, though three -- Matthews, Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine and Blue Jackets defenseman Zach Werenski -- are finalists for the Calder Trophy, given to the NHL's top rookie.
Matthews, the likely favorite, was tied for second behind Crosby with 40 goals and led all rookies with 69 points. He's the first rookie since Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin in 2005-06 to score at least 40 goals. Laine wasn't far behind with 64 points (36 goals, 28 assists) in 73 games. Werenski had 47 points (11 goals, 36 assists) in 78 games, the second-highest total by a defenseman in Blue Jackets history.
Video: PIT@WSH, Gm1: Ovechkin picks the corner with rocket
JACK ADAMS AWARD
None of the three finalists for the Jack Adams Award, given to the NHL's best coach, were favored to be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season. But Mike Babcock of the Maple Leafs, Todd McLellan of the Oilers and John Tortorella of the Blue Jackets each got his team to the postseason.
Babcock led the rookie-laden Maple Leafs to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and at least a year ahead of many expectations. The Maple Leafs won 40 games, their highest total in a decade. The Oilers hadn't been to the playoffs since 2006, but McLellan guided them to a second-place finish in the Pacific Division. Tortorella, the only one of the three who has won the award previously (2004), had the Blue Jackets at or near the top of the tough Metropolitan Division all season. Columbus also won 16 consecutive games, one shy of the NHL record set by the Penguins in 1992-93.
Video: Babcock, McLellan, Tortorella up for Jack Adams Award
GENERAL MANAGER OF THE YEAR
The finalists for GM of the year, voted after the second round of the playoffs by a panel of League executives, print and broadcast media, are David Poile of the Predators, Peter Chiarelli of the Oilers and Pierre Dorion of the Senators.
The Predators made the playoffs for the 10th time in 13 seasons after acquiring defenseman P.K. Subban in a trade with the Canadiens for defenseman Shea Weber on June 29. Nashville had the fewest points among the 16 playoff qualifiers and was the second wild card from the Western Conference, but swept the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference First Round and earned its first trip to the Stanley Cup Final since entering the NHL in 1998.
The Oilers also pulled off a big trade on June 29 when they acquired defenseman Adam Larsson from the New Jersey Devils for forward Taylor Hall. Edmonton made the playoffs for the first time since 2006 after earning 103 points in Chiarelli's second season.
The Senators' biggest move might have been hiring coach Guy Boucher on May 8, 2016. Dorion helped build a team that made the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2007.
TED LINDSAY AWARD
Offense or defense? That was the question for the members of the NHL Players' Association, who voted Burns, Crosby and McDavid as the three finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award, given to the most outstanding player in the NHL. Though in reality, it's all about the offense, no matter who wins.
Burns led all defensemen with 29 goals and 76 points. He also was first in the NHL with 320 shots on goal, making him the first defenseman to lead the League in that category since Ray Bourque in 1994-95. He's also the first defenseman to be a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award since Chris Pronger in 2000, but he'll have a tough time winning it after Crosby led the League in goals and McDavid was No. 1 in points.
There should be no surprise about the first name on the list of finalists for the Selke Trophy. This is the sixth time that Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron has been up for the award, given to the NHL's best defensive forward. He's won it three times (2012, 2014, 2015). A fourth would tie Hockey Hall of Famer Bob Gainey for the most by any player; Gainey won in the first four seasons the Selke was awarded beginning in 1977-78.
The other finalists are Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler and Minnesota Wild center Mikko Koivu. Kesler won the Selke in 2011 and has been a finalist five times. Koivu is a finalist for the first time.
Video: NSH@BOS: Chara earns 600th point on Bergeron's tally
LADY BYNG TROPHY
There will be a first-time winner of the Lady Byng Trophy, given to the NHL player who best combines sportsmanship, gentlemanly conduct and ability. Forwards Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames, Mikael Granlund of the Wild and Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues are the finalists.
Gaudreau finished with 61 points (18 goals, 43 assists) and took two minor penalties. Granlund had 69 points (26 goals, 43 assists), finished plus-23 and was assessed 12 penalty minutes. Tarasenko finished with 75 points (39 goals, 36 assists) with 12 penalty minutes in 82 games.
Video: CEN@PAC: Gaudreau handles in close, picks top corner
BILL MASTERTON MEMORIAL TROPHY
Three players rose above the rest in terms of their perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey, the qualifications for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy: Senators goaltender Craig Anderson, Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano and Carolina Hurricanes forward Derek Ryan.
For Anderson, it was a trying year that ended on a positive note. It started with his wife, Nicholle, being diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer in October. He took two leaves of absence to be with her, then returned to help the Senators qualify for the playoffs and get within one win of the Final -- just as Nicholle Anderson found out she was cancer free.
Cogliano a four-time finalist, owns the fourth-longest consecutive games streak in NHL history (786). He hasn't missed a game since making his NHL debut in 2007.
Ryan earned a regular spot with the Hurricanes after an odyssey that included four years at the University of Alberta and four more playing in Europe before signing with Carolina on June 15, 2015. He finished with 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists) in 67 games after being recalled from Charlotte of the American Hockey League.