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Central Intelligence: Handing Out Some Hardware

With the regular season nearly complete, a look back at some of the best performances from around the division in 2016-17

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

With one week remaining in the 2016-17 NHL regular season, this week's Central Intelligence looks back at the campaign so far and hands out some divisional "awards."

Most Valuable Forward: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

After a relatively slow start to the season, at least by Patrick Kane's standards, the 28-year old sniper got hot just before Christmas and hasn't cooled off since. 

In 45 games since Dec. 17 (entering the day Friday), Kane has 26 goals and chipped in 29 assists. Seven of those goals have come on the power play while three others have been game winners. 

While his first 32 games were nothing to sneeze at -- he scored 29 points during that stretch -- he had just eight goals two months into the season. Now, with one week remaining, Kane is eighth in the NHL in goals and is second behind Connor McDavid in overall points.

Chicago has been red-hot over the past six weeks, erasing a seven-point deficit in the division standings and building a seven-point advantage of its own. Kane's red-hot second half has been as big a reason for that as any other.

Most Valuable Defenseman: Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues

When longtime Blues captain David Backes signed as a free agent with the Boston Bruins last summer, St. Louis was in the market for a new man to wear the "C."

Pietrangelo was an easy choice, and in his first season as captain, he's posted one of the best seasons of his career.

The ninth-year pro has already tied a career high with 12 goals and matched his season total of 30 assists while surpassing 40 points for the fifth time in his NHL career.

Perhaps more impressively, he's led a defensive corps that has locked things down since an early February coaching chance led to the firing of Ken Hitchcock and the promotion of Mike Yeo. During that span, the Blues have been one of the stingiest teams in the League, while also dealing away defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk at the trade deadline.

Even losing Shattenkirk to the Capitals hasn't diminished what the Blues have been able to accomplish, as St. Louis will make one final push over the final week to catch Minnesota for second place in the Central.

Most Valuable Goaltender: Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild

While the past month has been a struggle for Dubnyk -- and the Wild as a whole -- you can't dismiss the first four months of the season, when Dubnyk was among the NHL's leaders in nearly all the major categories.

Despite a rough month of March, Dubnyk still ranks among the top five League-wide in his position group in goals-against average (2.23), save percentage (.924) and wins (37). His five shutouts are sixth-most.

Dubnyk's 37 victories are a single-season career high and tied for the most in a season in franchise history.


Since his first game with Minnesota on Jan. 15, 2015, Dubnyk is 96-54-13 with a 2.16 goals-against average, a .924 save percentage and 15 shutouts in 168 games -- leading the NHL in games, ranking second in wins and shutouts, third in save percentage, and tying for third in goals-against during that span.

Rookie of the Year: Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets

The second overall pick in last summer's NHL Draft, Laine has been one of the most exciting players in the League this season.

The 6-foot-5, 210-pound winger has folks in Winnipeg dreaming about the last time a Finnish rookie swept into town and took the NHL by storm: Teemu Selanne, who scored 76 goals in his first pro season back in 1993.

While Laine won't approach those gaudy numbers, he'll likely crack 35 goals -- not a bad season for someone who won't turn 19 years old until a couple weeks after the conclusion of the season. 

A shoe-in to win rookie of the year honors in almost any other season, Laine's freshman campaign in the NHL has been overshadowed by Toronto's Auston Matthews. Regardless, Laine is primed to be a force for the Jets for years to come.

Breakout Player of the Year: Viktor Arvidsson, Nashville Predators

A fourth-round pick of the Predators in the 2014 NHL Draft, Arvidsson had a mostly nondescript first two seasons in the League. After making his debut in 2014-15, skating in six games, Arvidsson scored eight goals and added eight assists in 56 games last season.

This year has been a completely different story.

Put on Nashville's top line with Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen, the trio has formed one of the most deadly lines in the NHL. Johansen is among the League leaders in assists, while Forsberg has surpassed 30 goals for the second time in as many seasons.

With one more goal, Arvidsson will reach 30, to go along with 28 assists. A 30-30 season is within reach for the 23-year-old Swede, who has gone from Nashville's bottom six to a major part of its future in the span of a few months.

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