NHL midseason review

The NHL is just about to the halfway point this season, and things are starting to take shape. Stanley Cup favorites have begun to make their mark in the standings, and Hart contenders have begun to separate themselves from the pretenders. 

The Boston Bruins currently hold the most points in the league with 68. With a stellar record of 32-4-4, the Bruins are currently the front runners to win the Stanley Cup at the midway point of the season. Other top contenders at this point in the season are the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers, Dallas Stars, and Vegas Golden Knights. As far as the eye test goes, these teams are just on another level from the rest of the league. 

The defending champion Colorado Avalanche is experiencing a Stanley Cup hangover thus far but is still very deadly as much of the same roster returned this season. Other clubs that could be dark horse cup contenders at this point in the season are the New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, Los Angeles Kings, Seattle Kraken, Calgary Flames, and Edmonton Oilers. Most of these squads either have veteran experience or young talent that could help see them succeed in the playoffs. 

While there is always a race for the league’s top spot, a different sort of race is taking place in the league this season. Generational talent Connor Bedard will be available in the 2023 NHL Draft and is sure to go first overall. He’s the type of player that could potentially change a franchise, so teams are tanking to have the best shot at winning the draft lottery and getting the first overall pick. The Chicago Blackhawks, Phoenix Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, and Columbus Blue Jackets currently have the best shot to win the top pick. 

As far as the individual awards go, a few players have separated themselves from the pack as favorites for their respective awards while a couple of awards are still very much up for grabs. The Hart trophy seems to be pretty much under wraps at the midway point of the season barring an injury from Connor McDavid. The Oilers forward has been dominant this season, currently with 77 points which are 15 more than the next closest skater. Also having noteworthy seasons are Jason Robertson, Nikita Kucherov, Leon Draisaitl, David Pastrnak, and Tage Thompson. These guys all deserve recognition for the seasons they are having. 

The Norris trophy awards the best defenseman in the league. Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson is having a career resurgence this season, putting up 55 points in just 42 games played. Rasmus Dahlin of the Buffalo Sabers and Josh Morrissey of the Winnipeg Jets both have 46 points and are the closest competition to Karlsson in winning the Norris.

The best goaltender throughout the league is awarded the Vezina trophy. Linus Ullmark of the Boston Bruins appears to be the frontrunner to this point. The Swede currently leads the NHL in save percentage and goals against average. Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin and former Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck are also having phenomenal seasons and could be in contention for the award if Ullmark falls off.

Lastly, the Calder trophy is the award given to the best rookie of the season. Matty Berniers of the Seattle Kraken is the front-runner by a good margin at the moment. The American has put up 34 points so far and has helped lead the Kraken to a playoff spot midway through the season. Also having nice rookie seasons are Mason McTavish, Matias Maccelli, Cole Perfetti, and Hurricanes rookie goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov, who has helped lead the Canes to the top spot in the Metropolitan Division while starting goaltender Fredrick Andersen has been out.