NHL awards predictions 2017: With playoffs nearing, who's in line to win hardware?

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When the Stanley Cup playoffs come and go, some of the NHL's top players will take home some major hardware in June.

As the NHL regular season windsdown, here's a look at the how the major award races are shaking out.

Hart Memorial Trophy —Most Valuable Player

Candidates:Sidney Crosby, F, Penguins; Connor McDavid, F, Oilers; Brad Marchand, F, Bruins; Patrick Kane, F, Blackhawks; Brent Burns, D, Sharks; Erik Karlsson, D, Senators; Devan Dubnyk, G, Wild; Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Blue Jackets.

Prediction: McDavid.

No player is more important to his team's success than McDavid. After missing37 games with a broken collarbone last season, he has developed into not only the top young player in the NHL, but maybe even the game's best player.

McDavid leads the league in points (91) and assists (63). He'sis in the middle of everything the Oilers do.He has been involved in aleague-leading40.4 percent of Oilers' goals this season.

Edmonton clinched a playoff berth Tuesday, snapping its 11-year drought since appearing the Stanley Cup Final in 2006.Take McDavid away, and the Oilers would be back in the basement of the NHL. Sure, McDavid's supporting cast, led by forwardsLeon Draisaitl and JordanEberle and goalie Cam Talbot, is solid — those players just don'tmeasure up with the sidekicksother candidates have.

MORE:Ovechkin reaches 30 goals for 12th straight season

Crosby is arguably McDavid's closest competitor for the Hart, but we've seen the Penguins hum without Crosby before. The Oilers without McDavid would be a mess.

No disrespect to Burns and Karlsson, but besidesChris Pronger in 2000, a defenseman hasn't won the Hart since Bobby Orr in 1972.This race willcomedown to Crosby and McDavid

MORE:Postseason scenarios as the NHL regular season winds down

Art Ross Trophy —Most points

Candidates: McDavid; Crosby; Kane; Marchand; Nicklas Backstrom, F, Capitals; Nikita Kucherov, F, Lightning.


At 20 years old,McDavid could become the second-youngest player to win the scoring race. Who's the youngest? That Crosby guy with whom McDavid is neck-and-neck. Crosby was 19 when hescored 120 points to win the Art Ross in 2006-07.

Through Thursday's games, McDavid has a seven-point lead overKane and a six-point lead over Marchand. With how good those three are, that lead could vanish in two games' time.

Here's how it looks right now.

McDavid, 91 points
Kane, 84points
Marchand,83 points
Crosby, 82 points
Backstrom,82 points
Kucherov,81 points

McDavid's game-breaking speed creates so many scoring chances, and he has the finishing ability to back it up. Just look at the goal he scored Thursday night.

I'm taking McDavid.

Norris Trophy —NHL's best defenseman

Candidates:Burns; Karlsson; Duncan Keith, Blackhawks; Victor Hedman, Lightning; Ryan Suter, Wild; Kevin Shattenkirk,Capitals.

Prediction: Karlsson.

This is clearly a two-man race between Burns andKarlsson,who are putting together absurd offensive numbers we haven't seen from defensemen in a long time.

At one point this month, they were both on pace to finish in the top 10 in league's scoring race. Two defensemenhaven't finished in the top 10since 1973-74, when Orr and the Rangers' Brad Park did it.

The Burns-Karlssondebate is a polarizing one.

Burns, a former power forwardwho transitioned to the blue line, is leaned on to lead, not just contribute to, the Sharks' offense. Burns leads all NHL defensemen in points (73) and goals (28). Hehad been hovering around the NHL's lead in points until a recent dry spell that has left him 15points back of McDavid.

Karlsson'soffensivenumbers aren't far behind. He leadsdefensemen in assists (53) and is second to Burns in points (68).

The debate comes down to the each player's main priority.

Burns is tasked with shouldering the Sharks' offense — defending is secondary. He leads the NHL with a whopping 301shots, 70 more than the next closest defenseman, the Jets' Dustin Byfuglien.

Karlsson makes things happen on offense, but at the end of the day, his best work comes in Ottawa's end.

Karlsson has an edge on Burns inevery key defensive category.He leads the league with 201 blocked shots, compared to Burns'133. He has more takeaways and fewer giveaways and averages nearly two more minutes of ice time.

Karlssonwas snubbed in the Norris voting last year despiteleading NHL defensemen in nearly every offensive stas. The Kings' DrewDoughty took home the award because of his defensive skills.

With BurnsandKarlsson so close in offensive production,Karlsson gets the edge here because he's a betterall-around defenseman.

Vezina Trophy — Best goalie

Candidates: Dubnyk; Bobrovsky; Talbot; Braden Holtby, Capitals;Carey Price, Canadiens.

Prediction: Bobrovsky.

Had you asked me a month ago, I would have saidDubnyk without hesitation, but Bobrovsky has been red-hot of late andDubnyk has been lousy.

Bobrovskyhasn't had a regulation loss since February, a stretch of 13 games. That run includes a seven-game winning streak and three straight shutouts. Dubnykhas just one win in his last nine games and is 3-9-2 in March. He has allowed two goals or more in nine straight games.

Voters won't forget how dominantDubnyk was earlier this season, but this brutal stretch could really cost him.

From a numbers standpoint,Bobrovsky leads the league with 41 wins, a .935 save percentage and a 1.97 goals-against average.

Calder Memorial Trophy— Rookie of the Year

Candidates:Auston Matthews, F, Maple Leafs; Mitchell Marner, F, Maple Leafs; Patrik Laine, F, Jets; Matt Murray, G, Penguins; Zach Werenski, D, Blue Jackets; William Nylander, F, Maple Leafs; Matthew Tkachuk, F, Flames.

Prediction: Matthews.

Toronto's youth headlines a loaded rookie class that features just about everything: a generational playmaker in Matthews, an elite scorer in Laine, a puck-moving defenseman inWerenski,a talented goaltender in Murray and a do-it-all, two-way forward inMarner.

It hasbeen fun to watch these kids come ofage.

Matthewsleads all rookies with 63points and 36goals, but the scoring race is tight asLaine(61),Nylander(58) andMarner(58) are all within five points.

It comes down toMatthews andLaine to me.

Lainehas shown a goal-scoring ability not often displayed by rookies. This season he becamethe first rookie with threehat tricks in a season since Teemu Selanne and Eric Lindros in 1992-93.

Matthews, meanwhile, is leading the Maple Leafs on a tremendous turnaround. Toronto finished last in the NHL a year ago; now it's in striking distance of clinching a playoff berth.

It's close, but I'm leaning towardMatthews because he has his team in the playoffs.Laine and the Jets will miss.

MORE:Tkachuk in middle as tempers flare between Flames, Kings

Jack Adams Award — Coach of the Year

Candidates:John Tortorella, Blue Jackets; Barry Trotz, Capitals; Mike Babcock, Maple Leafs; Bruce Boudreau, Wild; Todd McLellan, Oilers; Joel Quenneville, Blachkawks; Glen Gulutzan, Flames.

Prediction: Babcock.

Babcock is widely regarded as the best coach in the league, yet he has never been named Coach of the Year.That may change this year.

MORE:Red Wings' historic 25-season playoff streak meets bitter end

Babcockspent much of his coaching career leading insanely good Red Wings teams; now he's leading one of the NHL's youngest teams towardthe playoffs.

Not many expectedyoung starsMatthews, Marner and Nylander to be contributing so much this early. Babcockhas them playing like vets.

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