x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Three clear contenders for individual honours in the NHL this season

There are three clear choices for individual honours in the NHL this season: Evgeni Malkin of Pittsburgh, Erik Karlsson of Ottawa and Henrik Lundqvist of the NY Rangers.

Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins is the clear favourite for the Hart Trophy at the end of the season.
Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins is the clear favourite for the Hart Trophy at the end of the season.

The end of the NHL's regular season is near, so it is time to hand out the hardware.

Here's who we see winning the three major trophies.

The Hart Trophy (most valuable player): Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin will not be denied. He is leading the league in scoring and could reach 50 goals with a big finish. More significantly, he stepped up for the Penguins in Sidney Crosby's absence. Nobody else was more dominant night-in and night-out. Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos and Philadelphia's Claude Giroux will get some support, but Malkin has been the NHL's most dangerous player.

The Norris Trophy (best defenceman): the Ottawa Senators blueliner Erik Karlsson is just 21, but what's really impressive is his lead in defencemen scoring. He is within sight of 80 points and might score 30 points more than the next-best blueliner. His defensive play has been questioned, but it is good enough and his offensive exploits should tip the scales in his favour. Nashville's Shea Weber and St Louis' Alex Pietrangelo should also get votes.

The Vezina Trophy (best goaltender): the New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been a perennial nominee since arriving in the NHL in 2005, but he's never won. It's time for that to change. Lundqvist is the most important player for the East-leading Rangers, and New York's defence-first, shot-blocking style of play is built around him. Others in contention are the St Louis tandem of Brian Elliott and Jaroslav Halak - but which one? - and Jonathan Quick of Los Angeles.