We're just passed the midway point of the NHL season, which means it's a good time to hand out a little mid-season hardware to the top fantasy performers of the first half.
If you've got any of these guys on your fantasy hockey team this season, you should be in relatively good shape… except if you have the recipient of our first half bust award.
Fantasy Hockey First Half NHL Awards
Hart Trophy: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
2013-14 Stats: 46 games – 25G, 42A, 67 PTS, +12
I’m going to go out on a limb and pick Crosby as the first half MVP, but there were many candidates this year – Anaheim has Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Chicago has Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, and there is young gun named John Tavares doing big things out on Long Island.
In keeping with the definition of the award – “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team” – I imagined each team without their star player and the effect his absence would have. Tampa Bay has rolled quite nicely without Steven Stamkos, as has Pittsburgh without Evgeni Malkin, while deep and strong teams like San Jose, Boston, and St. Louis did not have a single candidate that stood head and shoulders above all the rest of their teammates.
Tavares and Alexander Ovechkin made it to my final four on this merit, as their teams would be lost without them. Ovechkins's 31 goals make a strong argument, but his -17 rating and the fact that his team is in 18th place overall worked against him. Can you imagine Tavares in Chicago or San Jose? He might have won this award, but he had the steepest hill to climb. His 54 points playing on that team is incredible, but his team is 26th in the standings.
Getzlaf has turned into a beast this year, and is playing the best hockey of his career. Kane has 54 points and is a worthy candidate, but I feel that Toews’ two way game is more valuable to his team, as is his leadership. He and Crosby may be the two best leaders in the league right now, but Crosby has simply been dominant.
"Sid the Kid" leads the league in scoring, with 67 points in 46 games, 13 ahead of Kane. The Penguins lead the Metropolitan Division by a considerable margin, and Crosby is once again making everyone that plays around him significantly better. In a really fun and entertaining first half of high level hockey, none have been better than Crosby.
Honourable Mentions: Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks), Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals), John Tavares (New York Islanders).
Norris Trophy: Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks
2013-14 Stats: 46 games – 3G, 40 A, 43 PTS, +17
It came down to three finalists for this award, and neither of the last two winners – Erik Karlsson and P.K. Subban – made the list, although they are both enjoying fine seasons. The resurgence of Drew Doughty in Los Angeles made him a strong contender, but he also enjoys the comfort of a strong defensive system. Ryan Suter is playing a ridiculous 29:41 minutes per game on a less talented team, but has only recently started to kick in offensively.
Keith is a throwback.
Generously listed as 6’1” and 200 pounds, he plays a hard game with enough of an edge to punish opponents and enough guile to stay out of the penalty box. Tough? How about losing seven teeth and heading back on the ice seven minutes later? At 30-years-old, he is still in his prime, has an effortless stride, and is one of the top tape-to-tape passers in the league. He runs the 3rd best power play, easily leads the team in ice time, is a healthy +17 playing against the best players every night, and is on pace for 76 points.
Need I say more?
Honourable Mentions: Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings), Ryan Suter (Minnesota Wild)
Vezina Trophy: Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
2013-14 Stats: 32 games – 22-5, 1.86 GAA, .935 SV%
Just like last year's real life winner Sergei Bobrovsky, Bishop has emerged from obscurity to dominate the NHL so far this year.
After failing badly in letting Mike Smith leave as a free agent and overpaying for Anders Lindback, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman looks to have hit a grand slam in acquiring Bishop from Ottawa for Cory Conacher, a previous free agent signing.
Many pundits (myself included) expected the Lightning to falter badly after the serious injury to Steven Stamkos – after all, they were the third-worst team in the league last year with him. Bishop has been the main reason for their dramatic turnaround this year, as they sit ninth overall in the league, and third in the Eastern Conference.
I gave strong consideration to Tuukka Rask and Carey Price, but one factor really stood out – their backups had similar stats, indicating a commitment to defence by the team in front of the goalie.
Bishop has taken this team on his back, and is simply the best goaltender in the NHL right now.
Honourable Mentions: Tuuka Rask (Boston Bruins), Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens).
Calder Trophy: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
2013-14 Stats: 44 games – 15G, 14A, 29 PTS, +5
I am always skeptical when former players take over as an NHL coach or GM (witness Wayne Gretzky in Phoenix), but it’s starting to look like Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy know what they’re doing. The hockey world was shocked that the Avalanche would even consider passing on Seth Jones with the first pick in this year’s entry draft, but Roy coached against MacKinnon in the QMJHL and was adamant about his upside.
MacKinnon has been superb this year, taking a regular shift and scoring some timely goals for the Avalanche. His +/- mark may not impress at first sight, but he is actually tied for 6th place on his team in that area, and has not hit the rookie wall like some other first year players have lately. In fact, he is playing better than ever right now and is already becoming an integral part of a great young team.
Thomas Hertl would have garnered strong consideration before his injury, and Chris Kreider and Torey Krug have been outstanding as well, but MacKinnon has been the most consistent, and is playing his best hockey of the season right now.
Honourable Mentions: Chris Kreider (New York Rangers), Torey Krug (Boston Bruins), Tomas Hertl (San Jose Sharks).
Breakout Player: Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues
2013-14 Stats: 35 games – 24G, 14A, 36 PTS, +15
You know you’re a breakout player when you go from a personal best of 24 goals in a season to duking it out with Alexander Ovechkin for top spot in the entire league. Steen is currently sidelined with a concussion, it will be interesting to see if he picks up where he left off, but he was easily the biggest breakout of the first half.
Kyle Okposo is a serious contender for end of the year honours with his point-per-game pace and heavy game, and Ryan Johansen of Columbus has quietly chipped in 16 goals and 32 points on a weak Columbus team.
Honourable Mentions: Kyle Okposo (New York Islanders), Ryan Johansen (Columbus Blue Jackets), Jaden Schwartz (St. Louis Blues).
Surprise Contributor: Reilly Smith, Boston Bruins
2013-14 Stats: 43 games – 15G, 17A, 32 PTS, +5
Smith will no longer be mistaken for a bag of hockey pucks, otherwise known as a “throw in” as part of an NHL trade.
The big prize going to Boston from Dallas in the Tyler Seguin deal was supposed to be Loui Eriksson, an established forward and himself an underrated player. Another gem was thought to be Joe Morrow, a former first-round pick and excellent defensive prospect, but someone forgot to tell that to Smith, who scored just 9 points in 37 games last year.
Honourable Mentions: Mike Santorelli (Vancouver Canucks), Ondrej Palat (Tampa Bay Lightning), Nick Bonino (Anaheim Ducks).
BIggest Bust: Alexander Semin, Carolina Hurricanes
2013-14 Stats: 33 games – 6G, 12A, 18 PTS, -1
It’s almost too easy to paste Semin’s name on this trophy, but I’m pretty sure the FBI would typically be involved for a theft of $35 million.
Carolina has four more years at $7 million per season to look forward to, unless they buy him out. George McPhee, Washington’s GM, might be tempted to say “I told you so," except that he traded away Filip Forsberg (who starred at the World Junior Tournament) for Martin Erat, another strong contender for this distinction. Niklas Backstrom has been awful in net for Minnesota, and Rick Nash received a hall pass for his extended issues with a concussion this year.
Honourable Mentions: Martin Erat (Washington Capitals), Niklas Backstrom (Minnesota Wild).