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Trophy Tracker: Hart, Richard, Vezina after 20

by Phil Coffey /
With the 2009-10 NHL season reaching roughly the quarter-mark, is pausing to take a snapshot of the League, looking at who has excelled, surprised or disappointed over the first 20 games.

As part of this process, we are looking at six of the NHL's major annual awards and selecting who we consider the winners 20 games into the season.

Here is a Trophy Tracker glimpse at the Hart, Richard and Vezina Trophies roughly 20 games into the season.

Hart Trophy (Most valuable player) -- Alex Ovechkin is more than just this whirling dervish on the ice that we all have come to love watching. He sets the tone and the swagger for the Washington Capitals, who sit in first place in the Southeast Division and the Eastern Conference a quarter of the way in. It's a testament to the Capitals that they were able to go 4-2 while Ovi sat out with an upper-body strain, but a lot of that confidence was built by his teammates taking on the persona of their top player.


Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings --
Talk about a tough decision in not giving Kopitar the nod for Hart honors for the first quarter. He has been a dynamic, powerful presence for the rejuvenated Kings, a consistent scoring threat and playmaker. Kopitar is a player to keep a close watch on the rest of the way.

Marian Gaborik, New York Rangers -- Scoring has been a problem for the Rangers this season, so the contributions of Gaborik -- 15 goals and 12 assists in 19 games -- have been huge, to say the least. Injuries conspired to make Gaborik something of an afterthought in recent seasons, but a run of good health has seen Gaborik soar back into prominence.

Honorable mention -- Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets; Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks; Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks; Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings; Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins; Chris Pronger, Philadelphia Flyers.

How 2009 Finalists are faring -- Ovechkin obviously is faring quite well, sitting atop the heap after the season's first quarter. Evgeni Malkin is averaging over a point-per-game, but an injury knocked him out for a couple of weeks, setting him back from the pack a bit. Ditto for Pavel Datsyuk, who also has averaged a point-per-game, but has not yet taken his game into the next gear.

Rocket Richard Trophy (Most goals) --
At the first quarter, it's Alex Ovechkin and Marian Gaborik tied with 15 goals each. Gaborik reached his total in 19 games, while Ovechkin got there in 15, so perhaps that's the tie-breaker. No matter -- both players have proven to be critical to the fortunes of their teams.


Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings --
Kopitar is on pace to break his personal best in goals, 32, established in 2007-08. He also figures to surpass his career points total as well.

Dany Heatley, San Jose Sharks -- After a controversial summer, it sure appears Heatley has found a home after asking to be traded from Ottawa. He has added another dynamic offensive element to a San Jose team that doesn't lack for star power.

Honorable mention -- Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks; Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets; Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks; Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning; Dustin Penner, Edmonton Oilers; Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks; Ryan Malone, Tampa Bay Lightning; Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta Thrashers; Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames.

How 2009 Finalists are faring -- A run of good health the rest of the way and Ovechkin could surpass the 56 goals he scored last season. The Flyers' Jeff Carter will be hard pressed to repeat the 46 goals he scored last season, although he is averaging better than a point per game. New Jersey's Zach Parise has 11 goals in 19 games, so he figures to finish with around the 45 goals he scored last season.

Vezina Trophy (Top goalie) -- Ryan Miller has been "the man" for the Buffalo Sabres this season and is tied for the lead in wins (12), is tops goals-against average (1.77) and tied for the lead in save percentage (.939) at the quarter mark. One more shutout and he would be tied for the top of that category, too. Miller's great first quarter also will make him hard to resist at the top goalie for the United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Craig Anderson, Colorado Avalanche --
The NHL's Player of the Month for October is a huge reason why the Avalanche, acknowledged to be in rebuilding mode, have looked more like they are reloading. Anderson's dozen wins tied him with the likes of Miller, San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov, New Jersey's Martin Brodeur and Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick.

Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks --
The Sharks are among the NHL's elite for a lot of reasons, not the least of which has been Nabokov's strong play. In 20 games, Nabokov is 12-3-4 with a .927 save percentage and a 2.16 GAA.

Honorable mention --
Antero Niittymaki, Tampa Bay Lightning; Ray Emery, Philadelphia Flyers; Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary Flames; Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils; Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes; Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins.

How 2009 Finalists are faring --
It's been a slow start for Niklas Backstrom and the Minnesota Wild. In 17 games, Backstrom is 7-8-2 with a 2.67 GAA. In Columbus, Steve Mason has a 7-5-2 record, but a 3.67 GAA in 14 games. The Bruins' Tim Thomas has a 5-6-3 mark, 2.33 GAA and .918 save percentage in 14 games.
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