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The Hockey News Awards: 2019 edition

They wowed us with their talent, inspired with their stories and defined the season with their play. They are our picks for the NHL’s best and brightest of 2018-19.

They wowed us with their talent, inspired with their stories and defined the season with their play. These are our picks for the NHL’s best and brightest of 2018-19:

MARIO LEMIEUX AWARD
Best Player

Winner: Connor McDavid, Edmonton
The team around him crumbled enough to require a mid-season GM change, yet McDavid still achieved career highs in assists (75) and points (116). He couldn’t catch Nikita Kucherov in the scoring race, but imagine what McDavid could do with a supporting cast to rival Kucherov’s. New Oilers GM Ken Holland’s mission is to provide that.

Runners-up:
2. Nikita Kucherov, TB
3. Sidney Crosby, PIT
4. Patrick Kane, CHI
5. Nathan MacKinnon, COL

WAYNE GRETZKY AWARD
Most Valuable Player

Winner: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh
Crosby’s most common linemates: Jake Guentzel and a revolving door of Bryan Rust, Jared McCann and Dominik Simon. That pales in comparison to what other elite scorers had for help, yet Crosby still managed 100 points while playing the best defensive hockey of his career. He carried the Penguins more than ever.

Runners-up:
2. Nikita Kucherov, TB
3. Connor McDavid, EDM
4. Nathan MacKinnon, COL
5. Mark Giordano, CGY

BOBBY ORR AWARD
Best Defenseman

Winner: Mark Giordano, Calgary
At 35, Giordano is getting better with age. He earned every first-place vote from our panel of nine staffers thanks to his magical blend of elite offense and defense this season. His 74 points were a career high, while he also ranked near the top of the league in suppressing shot attempts despite playing tough minutes against other teams’ top forwards.

Runners-up:
2. Brent Burns, SJ
3. John Carlson, WSH
4. Victor Hedman, TB
5. Morgan Rielly, TOR

ROD LANGWAY AWARD
Best Defensive Defenseman

Winner: Mattias Ekholm, Nashville
He’s 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, with a wingspan for days and the engine to play 23-plus minutes a night. He ranked among the league leaders in defensive-zone starts per 60 minutes yet his team still placed near the top in fewest shots and shot attempts against per 60 when he was on the ice at 5-on-5.

Runners-up:

2. Mark Giordano, CGY
3. Seth Jones, CLB
4. Victor Hedman, TB
5. Roman Josi, NSH

PATRICK ROY AWARD
Best Goalie

Winner: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay
‘Vasy’ led the NHL in victories for a second straight year despite starting 11 fewer games than he did last season. The key to his dominance was consistency. He posted a .925 SP before the all-star break and .926 SP after it, with an SP of .915 or better in six of seven months. Still just 24, he’s on an early Hall of Fame trajectory.

Runners-up:
2. Ben Bishop, Dal
3. Jordan Binnington, STL
4. Robin Lehner, NYI
5. Frederik Andersen, TOR

SAKU KOIVU AWARD
Comeback Player

Winner: Robin Lehner, NY Islanders
Coming to terms with bipolar disorder and becoming a viable starting NHL goalie again were courageous accomplishments, but Lehner didn’t stop there. He wasn’t merely relevant again. He was elite, ranking at or near the top of most major goaltending categories. The remarkable rebirth made him a unanimous winner.

Runners-up:
2. Max Domi, MTL
3. Zach Parise, MIN
4. Carey Price, MTL
5. Jeff Skinner, BUF

CAM NEELY AWARD
Breakout Player

Winner: Elias Lindholm, Calgary
Lindholm always had breakout pedigree as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 draft. It was a matter of opportunity. Acquired by the Flames and placed on a line with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, Lindholm racked up 78 points, obliterating his previous high of 45. He slumped in the second half but nevertheless established himself as a front-line talent.

Runners-up:
2. Erik Gustafsson, CHI
3. Dylan Strome, CHI
4. Alex DeBrincat, CHI
5. Thomas Chabot, OTT

BOB PROBERT AWARD
Toughest Player

Winner: Tom Wilson, Washington
Does he play on the right or wrong side of the line? Whatever the answer is, he’s the most dangerous player on the ice every game. He pancakes opponents with his hits. Anyone who takes exception has to eat his fists. And he’s skilled enough to skate with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Wilson scored 22 goals in 63 games. Now that’s scary.

Runners-up:
2. Ryan Reaves, VEG
3. Zdeno Chara, BOS
4. Dustin Byfuglien, WPG
5. Matthew Tkachuk, CGY

CAM NEELY AWARD
Breakout Player

Winner: Elias Lindholm, Carolina
Lindholm always had breakout pedigree as the No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 draft. It was a matter of opportunity. Acquired by the Flames and placed on a line with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, Lindholm racked up 78 points, obliterating his previous high of 45. He slumped in the second half but nevertheless established himself as a front-line talent.

Runners-up:
2. Erik Gustafsson, CHI
3. Dylan Strome, CHI
4. Alex DeBrincat, CHI
5. Thomas Chabot, OTT

TEEMU SELANNE AWARD
Best Rookie

Winner: Elias Pettersson, Vancouver
Pettersson’s scintillating debut, which included 10 goals in his first 10 games, called to mind Teemu Selanne’s magical 1992-93 rookie season. Pettersson’s jaw-dropping dangles and laser shot instantly made him appointment viewing. He endured a concussion and knee sprain but looked like a future superstar for the Canucks across his 71 healthy games.

Runners-up:
2. Jordan Binnington, STL
3. Miro Heiskanen, DAL
4. Rasmus Dahlin, BUF
5. Brady Tkachuk, OTT

GUY CARBONNEAU AWARD
Top Penalty-Killer

Winner: Andy Greene, New Jersey

The Devils boasted the NHL’s No. 4 penalty kill, and no player in the league averaged more shorthanded minutes per game than Greene. The Devils also took the fourth-most minor penalties, so Greene had the best possible shorthanded performance despite one of the largest possible sample sizes. His 208 blocked shots were 21 more than anyone else.

Runners-up:
2. Anthony Cirelli, TB
3. Michael Grabner, ARI
4. Andrei Vasilevskiy, TB
5. Mark Jankowski, CGY

SCOTTY BOWMAN AWARD
Best Coach

Winner: Barry Trotz, NY Islanders
Allow the most goals in NHL, lose John Tavares and Calvin de Haan, then allow the fewest goals the next season? Trotz’s imprint on the shockingly successful Isles was crystal clear. Including his time with Washington, his teams have ranked in the top two in GAA in three of the past four seasons.

Runners-up:
2. Craig Berube, STL
3. Jon Cooper, TB
4. Rod Brind’Amour, CAR
5. Bill Peters, CGY

SAM POLLOCK AWARD
Best GM

Winner: Doug Wilson
The year’s biggest trade came when Wilson went all-in to nab Erik Karlsson from Ottawa. Karlsson and trade-deadline grab Gustav Nyquist helped a deep Sharks team reach the Western Conference final. They fell short, but injuries were partly to blame. Wilson iced the best lineup he could.

2. Doug Armstrong, STL
3. Don Sweeney, BOS
4. Jarmo Kekalainen, CLB
5. Lou Lamoriello, NYI

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