NHL Predictions: 2023 NHL Awards – Art Ross, Rocket Richard, Jennings, Selke Trophies

Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid

Welcome back to another day of NHL Predictions. Each day, Last Word on Hockey takes a look at the games that are happening and gives our predictions for each one, breaking down head-to-head and other factors that may play in. We also have a featured game of the day, which is considered must-watch TV. Today’s featured topic are the NHL awards. Namely, the Art Ross, Rocket Richard, Jennings and Selke Trophies.

NHL Predictions: Art Ross, Rocket Richard, Jennings, Selke Trophies

Before the 2023 season begins, some bold NHL predictions must be laid out. That goes beyond just the typical “who will win the Cup”, or “who will make playoffs”. The NHL Awards get dolled out after each year, and after predicting half of these yesterday, the rest line up for today. Today, the Art Ross, Rocket Richard, Jennings and Selke Trophies take centre focus in our prediction series.

Art Ross Trophy

Last Year’s Winner: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Every season, the Art Ross goes to the player who leads the league in scoring at the season’s end. Unsurprisingly, Edmonton Oilers phenom Connor McDavid took it home last season. That marked the fourth time in his career in which he won the award, too. With eight seasons and already 697 points under his belt, McDavid remains the odds-on favourite to win it again. He potted an unthinkable 123 points in 80 contests in 2021-22.

The Oilers continue trending in the right direction, too. Still, McDavid remains the force behind their entire franchise. As he goes, so does Edmonton. Luckily for the team, McDavid looks as strong as ever entering 2022-23. Maybe Nathan MacKinnon or Kirill Kaprizov will give him a run for his money. However, if McDavid stays healthy, the award stays his to lose.

Predicted Winner: Connor McDavid

Rocket Richard Trophy

Last Year’s Winner: Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

Auston Matthews went full scorched-earth in his 2021-22 campaign, reaching the 60-goal plateau for the first time in his career. The last time someone hit 60? That came back in 2011-12 when Steven Stamkos won the Richard trophy with 60 goals of his own. No one has exceeded 60 goals since Alexander Ovechkin potted 65 (and won the Richard, obviously) in 2007-08.

In the modern NHL, 60-goal seasons remain an ultimate rarity. The three instances mentioned above stand as the only occurrences in the lockout era. So even repeating Matthews’ 2021-22 season looks highly unlikely. But if anyone can do it, it’s the Toronto Maple Leafs centre. He netted 41 in the shortened 2020-21 season, as well as 47 in the shortened 2019-20 season. Unless Kaprizov takes another mammoth leap forward in his scoring prowess, this too is Matthews’ award to lose.

Predicted Winner: Auston Matthews

Jennings Trophy

Last Year’s Winner: Frederik Andersen / Antti Raanta, Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes goaltending tandem only gave up 202 goals across 82 games in 2021-22. The next closest team enters as our predicted winners for 2022-23. That team? The New York Rangers, backstopped by rising star Igor Shesterkin. He won the Vezina trophy last year, and they added veteran backup Jaroslav Halak to replace Alexandar Georgiev.

If Shesterkin comes anywhere close to his astronomical .935 save percentage and 2.07 goals against average, the Jennings and Vezina both sit in his reach. New York lost the Jennings not due to his performance at all.

It was Georgiev’s .898 save percentage that was their undoing. He only contributed a .464 quality start percentage, a far cry from Shesterkin’s .731. By comparison, Halak posted a respectable .571 quality start percentage last year. However, his other stats (.903 save percentage and 2.94 goals against average) stood only marginally better than Georgiev’s. That should theoretically improve for Halak, as he leaves a weaker Vancouver Canucks roster in favour of this up-and-coming Rangers squad. He’ll surely enjoy playing behind Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba, and K’Andre Miller significantly more than their counterparts in Vancouver.

Predicted Winner: Igor Shesterkin / Jaroslav Halak, New York Rangers

Selke Trophy

Last Year’s Winner: Patrice Bergeron

Every year, the Selke goes to the forward who best excels on the defensive side of the game. That said, there’s a general consensus from recent years that the award goes to a player who “deserves” at least one Selke in their career. Some felt Aleksander Barkov taking home the award in 2020-21 belonged to Mark Stone (or Patrice Bergeron, but he already has so many!). But, Barkov arguably deserved it in years prior.

If that truly is the case, then maybe in 2022-23 it’ll go to Mark Stone. Obviously, he’ll need to remain a top defensive forward to at least be amongst the top of the crop for consideration. All of that said, the fact that Bergeron snagged the award last year for an NHL-record fifth time suggests the opposite of some of these theories.

The winner of the trophy needs to be the best defensive forward in 2022-23. That’s the only way the award should be doled out, anyways. In the 2022-23 season, our prediction goes to Barkov to take home his second Selke. With Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar departing the Florida Panthers, a lot more responsibility falls on his shoulders. Huberdeau became a staple in their penalty kill, while Weegar anchored the team on their top defensive pair alongside Aaron Ekblad. With a thin defence group, Barkov needs to excel at both ends of the ice now more than ever. And with his skill set, he certainly should rise to the occasion.

Predicted Winner: Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers

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