Expect a lotta this.

Yesterday we took a look at my predictions for the Eastern and Western Conferences, in which I claimed the Florida Panthers are going to make the playoffs, while the Lightning, Rangers and Devils will not. I also dropped the Coyotes from their 6th place finish last year to 13th, and promoted St. Louis from 11th to 6th.

Well, let’s bust out one last predictions column before we drop the puck on a fantastic schedule of opening night games.

Coming into this season, here’s who I see poised to take home the individual hardware:

HART: Steven Stamkos

Stamkos finished with 91 points last year, including 45 goals. That was good for fifth in league scoring. The year before, he finished with 51 goals, tying Sidney Crosby for the Rocket Richard Trophy. And now, your reminder: He’s twenty-freaking-one.

Teams have come to expect and defend his one-bomb from the circles on the powerplay, but that doesn’t mean they can stop it. Hell, it opens up other guys so he can grab more assists. On top of that, most guys continue to improve into their mid-20s, and superstars that enter the league young start to put up insane numbers around this stage of their development. With his terrific linemates, he’ll be in the conversation at the end of the season.

NORRIS: Kris Letang

I realize that there a handful of defensemen you’d rather have on your team than Letang – maybe Shea Weber, or Drew Doughty, or even Keith Yandle (who I would have picked to win it if it weren’t for the fact that it’s tough to get assists on a team where no one scores).

But Letang is a young, crazy-talented player who’s going to be on a team with a healthy Malkin and (hopefully) Crosby, and he’ll be carrying the mail on the powerplay. He could put up some gaudy numbers if he’s improved as most young guns his age do, and Sid the Kid is back and rockin’ again.

VEZINA: Ryan Miller

Miller has been keeping a not-that-great but not-that-bad team afloat for years now – it’s his time.

The Sabres made headlines by adding a good puck moving defenseman in Christian Erhoff, as well as yet another good forward in Ville Leino. That’s going to translate into more wins, and better stats for Buffalo’s goalie.

Pegula repaid Miller’s greatness (and patience) by finally putting a good team in front of him. I think Miller will cash in on that with a Vezina.

CALDER Zac Dalpe

By all accounts the kid looks sick so far, and is apparently threatening for Jeff Skinner’s job on the top line. If he ends up with that roster spot, the numbers could pile up pretty quick.

LADY BYNG Nick Lidstrom

What, like they’re not going to find a way to give him some award in his final season?

SELKE Ryan Kesler

Kesler is the most glamorous pick to win (and repeat as) defensive forward of the year, being that he can pour pucks in at the other end too. I’d love to have picked Frans Nielsen, but Kesler took it last year, and isn’t likely to have gotten anything but better at what he does. He goes back-to-back.

JACK ADAMS Alain Vigneault

If the Canucks find a way to take last year’s crushing game 7 defeat, then turn around and take another President’s Cup, he’d deserve to have his name etched on that thing.

Random thought: Watch Taylor Hall this year.

Last year he reminded me of the kid who just had the huge growth spurt in high school trying to coordinate his limbs so he could execute a layup in basketball practice. It’s awkward, but if it comes together for the guy, he can end up being your best player. I think Hall’s got it dialed in now.

After a quick discussion with a friend last night, I tweeted “I’ll call Taylor Hall to finish in the top-20 in scoring this year. Probably top-15. Possibly top-10.”

I’ll stand by that.

Comments (11)

  1. Weber’s got to win the Norris this year…

    … but I think that if Lidstrom plays anything close to a full season at his usual level, the voters will find it too hard to pass up the touchy-feely ending of him tying Orr’s record.

    • Lidstrom’s “usual level” is Norris, so voters won’t have to feel touchy-feely when they give him another Norris.

  2. I agree with Stephen and it just seems Lidstrom never regresses!

    I like your thinking on the other cats but Alain for Jack Adams could be tough as they usually give it to a coach who handles an upstart team that does better than expected or leads a drastic turn around from last year.

    Taylor Hall is going to be a machien this year.. I just missed drafting him in FL and I am going to regret it… Although I did get Crosby in the 4th round!

  3. I find it odd that Ryan Kesler won’t win the Selke this season, and it will not because of his defensive play, but the fact that he scores 10-15 fewer goals.

  4. Yeah, the Selke’s an odd award. I’m sure there’s some better shot-blocking PKer who plays 15 mins a game somewhere out there.

    As for the Norris, Weber, likely, Lidstrom, no chance. And on Vigneault, I thought that too. I almost pick Davis Payne.

  5. I like Ryan Kesler, but he’s likely to miss the first month of the season and that will create a bit of an uphill climb for him to win. He is a great player though and he does have the advantage of being last year’s winner. I love Kris Letang (he ears my favourite number), but i think there are better two way defensemen than him, such as Drew Doughty and Weber (he gets around 50 points a year on a team that lacks offense year in and year out). But a lot can happen throughout the course of the season and most predictions all look silly come april and june

  6. Until the day he retires, Datsyuk should always be the “glamorous” pick for the Selke.

    Of course, if they’ve included head snaps and diving in the Selke considerations then yes, Kesler is the favorite. By far.

  7. Can’t see the Hart winner coming from a team that doesn’t make the playoffs.

  8. You have the panthers making the playoffs ahead of tampa? are you insane? the leafs will also make the playoffs. i believe that by default.

  9. Davis Payne will win Jack Adams, because of Doug Armstrong’s depth acquistions. Blues finish 1st in the Central!

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