Our hockey section gives their picks for each of the NHL's major awards in 2023-24
By: Adam Floujeh, Jakob Kristensen, Mitchell Fox & Reid Nyenhuis
The 2023-24 NHL season is just around the corner, which means it is the perfect time for totally unreliable season predictions. Instead of peppering you with standings predictions and superlatives, we’re keeping it simple: it’s preseason awards time, ladies and gentlemen. Rather than one of us writing our picks in one of the thousands of articles along that vein, our team at Intermission Sports saw an opportunity to collaborate (and inevitably, compete and pick on each other as the season progresses).
In this article, we will provide our picks for who will win each of the NHL’s major awards. In a podcast episode to follow, we will break it all down further (stay tuned!). We encourage you to join the fun by interacting with us on social media.
Here are our preseason predictions for the 2023-24 NHL Awards. Feel free to make fun of us all you want.
Hart Memorial Trophy
The Hart Memorial Trophy is awarded to the player voted most valuable to their team by a Professional Hockey Writer’s Association (PHWA) voting committee.
Adam: Connor McDavid
The NHL is McDavid’s world and everyone else is just living in it. He’s such a phenomenon that writers need to find a reason to not give him the Hart. There is also the factor of his mindset. He’s turning 27 in January and despite the large trophy case with numerous MVP awards and scoring titles, he’s yet to win The Stanley Cup. Connor McDavid will be on a warpath this season and I will be sparing a thought for every other team in the Pacific division. Predicting any other player being MVP feels disingenuous.
Jakob: Auston Matthews
The Leafs have been a powerhouse in the regular season the last couple of years, and with Vasilevsky out the first couple of months for the Lightning and the Bruins taking a serious step back after the loss of Bergeron and Krejci, the time is now for the Leafs to be a juggernaut in the Atlantic. Matthews will be at the forefront of this, and with the distractions of the contract talks out of the way, don’t sleep on him getting back into the 60+ goal range and being a serious contender for the Hart.
Mitchell: Jason Robertson
It is incredibly difficult not to pick the best player in the world for the award associated with that title, but somehow I think Connor McDavid can be beat in this year’s Hart race. The Stars have been making their way to the top of the Western Conference but to truly compete with the Avalanche, Oilers and Golden Knights, they will need Jason Robertson to establish himself firmly in franchise player status. Robertson, on the heels of a 109-point season, seems like the best chance the Stars have at completing their steady defence with the type of scoring found among the best teams in the league.
Reid: Matthew Tkachuk
The Panthers just lost in the Stanley Cup Final and will have everything to play for. Having essentially swapped Radko Gudas and Marc Staal for Mike Reilly and Oliver Ekman-Larsson in free agency, an otherwise similar-looking Panthers squad will look to capitalize on several key teams in the Atlantic division dealing with key injuries and losses and compete right into the playoffs. Matthew Tkachuk is coming off of a personal best 109-point season and 24-point playoff (in 20 games) and is poised to have a big year and drag this team to the playoffs. If you combine Tkachuk finishing as a finalist for the Hart Trophy with a Stanley Cup Finals loss last season, you get a player who will do anything he can to win it all this year.
James Norris Memorial Trophy
The Norris Trophy is awarded to the defenceman who displays the best all-around game throughout the season.
Adam: Miro Heiskanen
This is the first of three awards I’ll be presenting to members of the Dallas Stars. If the Norris was just awarded to the best defensive defenceman, Heiskanen would have been a favourite years ago, but offence matters just as much as defence with this particular trophy *cough cough Erik Karlsson cough cough*. Last year saw Heiskanen pop offensively, scoring 11 goals and 73 points, crushing his previous career high of 36 in 2021-22. I could gush about the play of Heiskanen all day but the young Finn finishing seventh in Norris voting last season is proof that people are starting to notice just how good he is.
Jakob: Miro Heiskanen
The fact Heiskanen wasn’t a finalist for the Norris in 2022-23 is almost a robbery. The Finn’s offence finally took the leap everyone was waiting for, scoring 73 points and placing him seventh in league scoring amongst defencemen. He also finished first in average ice-time amongst skaters on a very good Dallas team for the fourth year in a row, and third in time on ice in the entire league, only beaten by Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty. At 24 years old, Heiskanen is only just entering his prime, and with the Dallas Stars lineup being among the top of the league, he should be the frontrunner for the Norris.
Mitchell: Cale Makar
Cale Makar might have missed 22 games in 2022-23 because of injury, but he still finished with over a point per game. His third-place Norris finish last year came behind a remarkable bounce-back season by Erik Karlsson and a full season of great hockey from Adam Fox, neither of which stand out as necessarily obvious choices to best Makar again this year. Makar’s complete game, from goal line to goal line and in most situations, makes him my front-runner for the award supposedly awarded to the best all-around defenceman.
Reid: Rasmus Dahlin
Rasmus Dahlin is coming off of a breakout season in which he scored 73 points in 78 games and was a +12 for a Buffalo Sabres team that just missed the playoffs. While this is an incredible showing from the 23-year-old defenseman, I don’t think he has reached his ceiling yet. Playing on a young, up-and-coming Buffalo team, Dahlin is instrumental to the team’s success. While the Sabres have not made a playoff appearance since 2011, they look like a real contender for the playoffs this season, and I believe a big year from Dahlin is incoming.
The Vezina Trophy is awarded to the best goaltender for the season, as voted by the league’s general managers.
Adam: Jake Oettinger
What’s so impressive about Oettinger (and scary for his opponents) is how good he already is at a young age. Goalies historically take more time than skaters to develop but the 2017 first-rounder is already entering his fourth season and putting up above-average numbers, holding a career .916 sv%. Oettinger’s performance in Dallas’ 2022 series versus the Calgary Flames was one of the best performances from a netminder in NHL history and even if the 2023 postseason was a disappointment from Oettinger, he’s only 24 and not even in his prime yet. I see Oettinger reaching a completely new level this season.
Jakob: Juuse Saros
This might be a risky pick, as the Nashville Predators look like they are going to have a tough time in the coming season. However, Juuse Saros has been among the most consistent goalies in the league, posting an above .914 save percentage his entire career, and having finished fourth in Vezina voting last season. On a declining Preds team, Saros will have all the opportunity in the world to show his skill and still have elite-level defencemen like Roman Josi and Ryan McDonagh to help him out.
Mitchell: Ilya Sorokin
I was very tempted to go with Saros, but I think a goalie in a similar position gets the nod. Simply put, Sorokin’s play could be the key to the Islanders’ result this season. A team built on defence and generally more “boring” hockey, they are looking poised to be right in the middle of the league, or worse considering the strength of the Eastern Conference. After looking like not only a Vezina candidate but a Hart candidate last year, I’ll take the shot at him being able to do the same thing again this year and being rewarded for it.
Reid: Filip Gustavsson
Filip Gustavsson had a massive breakout season in 2022-23, finishing 2nd place in the entire league in both save percentage (.931 through 37 starts) and goals against average (2.10). Gustavsson is also only 25 years old and has even more room to improve as a player. While he was about as good as you could ask any goaltender to be this past season, he will have to maintain these numbers while starting more games for the Wild to really be considered for the Vezina. Starting more games is the most logical next step in Gustavsson’s development, so if he can maintain these excellent numbers as I believe he can, he could solidify himself as one of the best goaltenders in the league.
Ted Lindsay Trophy
The Ted Lindsay Trophy is awarded to the player voted to be the best player by his peers. With the Hart already on our list, we did not think it would be worthwhile to include the Ted Lindsay. That is, until one of us came out with a hot take.
Adam, Jakob and Mitchell: Connor McDavid
Even though Jakob and Mitchell gave the Hart to others, we think the players will acknowledge the skill of the best player in the world and hand the Ted Lindsay to McDavid for the fifth time in his career, tying Wayne Gretzky’s record.
Reid: Jack Hughes
Jack Hughes cemented himself as a superstar in this league in 2022-23, scoring 99 points in 78 games and setting new career highs in every statistical category. Hughes is still only 22 years old, it's not out of the question that he could have an even higher ceiling than we’ve seen. The fact he's playing on a New Jersey Devils team that looks poised to make a deep cup run this season will only aid in his development and performance on the ice. Hughes is also playing with the likes of Jesper Bratt, who just put up 9 points in 4 preseason games, and Nico Hischier, who is one of the best two-way forwards in the game. Jack Hughes is already a star, playing with other stars, and I believe he will be the most outstanding player this season.
Rocket Richard Trophy
The Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy is awarded to the player who scores the most goals in an NHL regular season.
Adam: Connor McDavid
*Checks notes to find more ways to write about how nasty McDavid is*
Last season saw McDavid’s goal total rise by 20 tallies from his previous career high of 44 (read that out loud again). Scoring 60 goals has started to become normal with Auston Matthews scoring 60 in 2021-22 and David Pastrnak scoring 61 last season, but now Pastrnak has lost Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci while Matthews is a coin flip to play a full 82 games. On top of this…stopping Pastrnak and Matthews is difficult enough but stopping McDavid is nigh on impossible (just ask the LA Kings).
Jakob: Auston Matthews
If my Hart pick is going to come true, Matthews needs to have a massive year, which of course includes him doing what he does best, scoring goals. With the Leafs eyeing an opportunity to take an early advantage in the Atlantic, Matthews has the opportunity for a bounce-back year and to take home the goal-scoring title.
Mitchell: Connor McDavid
Auston Matthews and David Pastrnak are very tempting picks, but McDavid is the best player in the world and he seems to feel the need to prove it every year. Last year’s Rocket, Art Ross and Hart winning season was a showcase of not only what he can do, but what he can do with a strong team around him. The Oilers did not lose any real important players over the offseason and have some young players that could take a step up, not to mention Jack Campbell could be a bounce-back candidate in goal. McDavid is unstoppable, so this makes sense.
Reid: Auston Matthews
Thanks to injuries, Matthews is coming off of a down year points-wise, but he still put up 40 goals and 85 points. The fact 85 points is considered a down year for Matthews shows how dominant he can be, and a full season with a tougher-looking Toronto Maple Leafs team (with Ryan Reaves, Tyler Bertuzzi, and others) will give Matthews every opportunity to do what he does best: put the puck in the net. He was also signed to an extension this offseason, which eliminates another distraction. The Leafs will look to improve further in 2023-24, having won their first playoff series since 2004 this past playoffs. If Auston Matthews can stay healthy, he is a near lock for 60 goals and, in turn, for the Rocket.
Art Ross Trophy
The Art Ross Trophy is awarded to the player who finishes the regular season with the most points. We were unanimous on this one.
Adam: Connor McDavid
This season will be McDavid’s try at a sixth scoring title. In 2022-23 he finished with a 25-point lead in the scoring race with 64 goals and 153 points. There’s zero reason to think he won’t be as dominant this year, or god help the league, even better.
Jakob: Connor McDavid
Even though I have Matthews taking home the Hart and the Rocket Richard, there is no doubt in my mind that McDavid will win the scoring title. He might have another 153-point, 64-goal season (if he does, I will reserve the right to change my Hart pick), but he should win the Art Ross comfortably. Probably with a certain German teammate of his coming up second.
Mitchell: Connor McDavid
I think we have said it all. McDavid beat the next-best scorer last year by 25 points… and it was his teammate Leon Draisaitl. 100 points is seemingly a no-brainer for him (he did it in 56 games in 2020-21) and he proved he can hit 150. If he ends up in the middle somewhere, that is probably enough to take the Art Ross.
Reid: Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid is the best hockey player in the world, and it really isn’t close. He is coming off of a 153 point season, the first 150-point season since Mario Lemieux put up 161 in the 1995-96 season. McDavid and the Oilers will put everything on the line this year because as much as McDavid probably likes winning the player awards, the only award he really cares about is the Stanley Cup, which he has yet to win.
Frank J. Selke Trophy
The Frank J. Selke Trophy is awarded to the forward voted to be the best at the defensive elements of the game.
Adam: Nico Hischier
With Patrice Bergeron retiring, Anze Kopitar aging and Mark Stone having annual pit stops on LTIR, a new generation of Selke contenders is on the way. Jack Hughes’ emergence last season overshadowed the play of Hischier, but the first-overall pick from 2017 is just as important to the success of the New Jersey Devils. Being the Selke runner-up last season already puts Hishier in pole position to take home the trophy this season.
Jakob: Aleksander Barkov
One of the most consistent players in the NHL, the Florida Panthers captain is always a lock for solid offensive production combined with stellar defensive play. He has been a finalist for the award multiple times. The Panthers are gonna come out hungry after the loss in the cup finals, and if Barkov can put in yet another solid performance, this might be his year to finally win it.
Mitchell: Nico Hischier
Mark Stone and Mitch Marner were tempting picks, but the chances of a winger winning the Selke seem slim and there is no question in my mind Hischier will be a worthy winner. The former first-overall pick does not have the flashy skill of many others, but his defensive intelligence and attention to detail are assets the Devils will be glad to have for $7.25 million this season and three seasons to follow. With all the young skill around him on a team poised to contend for the Metropolitan Division, Hischier should be able to thrive as a two-way center.
Reid: Mark Stone
Mark Stone has been regarded as one of the best two-way forwards in the league since his rookie season in 2014-2015 with the Ottawa Senators, where he put up 64 points in 80 games and was very solid defensively, posting respectable defensive metrics. Stone is already 13th all-time in takeaways, having 762 in only 584 career games played ( higher than the likes of Anze Kopitar and Erik Karlsson, as well as all-time stars Daniel Alfredsson and Patrick Marleau). When Mark Stone is on the ice, your team is far more likely to score than be scored on, and even if the other team has possession, Mark Stone will take it from them. The key to Stone’s success is playing a healthy season, and if he can do that, I believe it is about time he wins a Selke trophy.
The Calder Memorial Trophy is awarded to the most proficient rookie in an NHL season. We were also unanimous on this one.
Adam: Connor Bedard
I almost want to write about possible second-place finishers because I’m willing to bet we will all say Bedard. Not since McDavid’s rookie season in 2015-16 have Calder predictions been so unanimous. Barring a freak injury (as McDavid suffered in 2015, ultimately leading to Artemi Panarin winning the Calder) it's inconceivable to think anyone else gets close to Bedard. Although preseason play is never the best evaluation period, the 2023 first-overall pick is already making highlight plays and restoring hope to a Blackhawks fan base still mourning the Kane and Toews era.
Jakob: Connor Bedard
Yeah, let’s not overthink this one, it's Connor Bedard. The stats speak for themselves – Bedard is a generational talent, and his accomplishments in the preseason only confirm this. On a bad Blackhawks team, he is a lock for a top-line center role, which will guarantee him a lot of minutes, both five-on-five and on the power play, that will help him rack up points. On top of that, the acquisitions of former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall and triple gold club member Corey Perry will give Bedard some veteran guidance to help him adjust to the big league.
Mitchell: Connor Bedard
As much as I want to be hip and pick someone else for the Calder, I cannot. Bedard’s performance in preseason already had people talking, having made the highlight reels multiple times. It is pretty fair to guess that one of the most highly-touted NHL prospects ever will have at least a good start to his career, especially in Chicago where expectations are low and he should be given lots of room to do his thing.
Reid: Connor Bedard
There are many rookies who could be key players for their teams this season and perform well (Logan Cooley, Adam Fantilli, and Matthew Corronato to name a few), but none even come close to the impact Bedard is expected to have. On a Blackhawks team with little in the way of skilled players or depth, I don’t see any scenario where Connor Bedard doesn’t end up as first-line center at some point this season. And if he is given first-line minutes, I don’t see any way he doesn’t have a Calder-worthy season.
Jack Adams Award
The Jack Adams Award is awarded to the coach voted to have contributed the most to their team’s success in an NHL season.
Adam: Peter DeBoer
I think people have forgotten just how successful a coach DeBoer is. Since the 2018-19 season, he’s been to the Western Conference finals four times, with three different teams. DeBoer’s arrival in Dallas saw the team rise as true contenders in the West after years of inconsistency, as 2022-23 saw Heiskanen and Robertson have career years, Jamie Benn seemingly turn the clock back five years and Jake Oettinger be amongst the top goalies in the league. I would put the Stars on the same level as Edmonton and Vegas and it starts with DoBoer.
Jakob: Ryan Huska
Imagine this: Ryan Huska gets the Flames back into the postseason after a tumultuous year where half the players wanted to leave. And in his first-ever season as the head coach. How is that for a Jack Adams pitch?
The Jack Adams always seems to go to the coach of the most improved team and if Huberdeau and Markstrom have bounce-back seasons and the Flames make the playoffs with Huska as the only noteworthy change during the off-season, the award could easily land in the hands of the first year head coach.
Mitchell: Don Granato
I know. I am probably insane. I was tempted to go with Ruff because I am very bullish on the Devils, but then is it him or just a great young team? I also believe Huska should win if he can turn the Flames around… but I am not confident the Flames will do that. So, I go with the coach of a promising team, but one stuck in a tough division. The Buffalo Sabres are getting a lot better and have some great young pieces, but if they can sneak their way into the playoffs, it will be a feat worth celebrating. To me, taking such a young group of players far is one of the most impressive accomplishments possible in the NHL, and the one that relies most on a coach. If Don Granato can do it, he can take home some hardware.
Reid: Lindy Ruff
The New Jersey Devils are coming off of an excellent 2022-23 season, in which they had a record of 52-22-8. The team looks just as scary this season, if not scarier, with their young core of Jack Hughes, Nico Hishcier, and Jesper Bratt all looking ready to take steps forward in production. Lindy Ruff has been a coach in the NHL since the 1997-98 season, which includes becoming the winningest coach in Buffalo Sabres history over 14 years there. Lindy Ruff knows how to win in this league, and has the experience and pedigree to prove it. An all-time great coach with a young skilled team like the Devils is a recipe for success.
We will be providing a more in-depth discussion of our predictions and thoughts on Intermission Sports’ new hockey podcast, the name and details of which will be announced this week. Stay tuned for more NHL coverage!