Our 2018 NHL Awards ballots

On an emotional night at the 2018 NHL Awards, Taylor Hall won the Hart Trophy as league MVP. How did our PHWA voters cast their ballots? Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

Being an NHL Awards voter is a bit like playing God, if God were less interested in running the totality of the universe than in the zone-start ratios of defensive forwards. Also if God knew there were more than 100 other gods whose opinions carried just as much weight and who therefore could invalidate any and all declarations or decisions with majority rule. But the whole "defining guidelines through one's own dogma or philosophy rather than a literal reading" thing with the NHL Awards seems pretty God-like, to be honest -- as is possessing the ego to have written the preceding sentences.

Anyway, here are our ballots. It's an honor to have an opportunity to cast our votes on an annual basis as members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and an honor on which we spend far too many hours researching and revising -- because it's not something to dash off in 10 minutes, especially with the data now available to us through analytics sites such as Corsica and Natural Stat Trick. Unless we're talking about the Jack Adams. That probably took about 30 seconds.

Hart Trophy

Awarded to the player judged most valuable to his team.

Winner: Taylor Hall

Greg's ballot

1. Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
2. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
3. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
4. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
5. Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets

You'll note there wasn't a player on my ballot whose team didn't qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Hart Trophy winner is "the player judged most valuable to his team." Value is a malleable concept. In my interpretation, seasons in which teams make the postseason cut are valuable, while seasons in which teams miss the playoffs are disappointments (unless it was losing with purpose). But value's definition has also been established within the context of the Hart: No player in the past 50 years whose team missed the playoffs by, just to throw out a number here, 17 points got a sniff of the award. Which is to say that value, as defined here, is relative to team success and always has been -- hence a player such as Connor McDavid wins the MVP last season and misses the cut with a statistically stronger season in 2017-18 because the Oilers were also-rans. Don't like it? Change the wording of the award.

As for my ballot, Taylor Hall had a transformative effect on the Devils this season, finally actualizing into the complete, 200-foot player he has promised to become while carrying the battle flag in the dressing room. He had 39 goals and 93 points, which were 41 better than the team's second-leading scorer, Nico Hischier. And while your cries of "recency bias!" will echo, I'm sorry: 19 points in 11 games during the Devils' frantic push for a wild-card spot to end the season have to be acknowledged as heavy lifting at a critical time.

Even without McDavid, it was an incredible field for the award. MacKinnon had the numbers argument (1.31 points per game in 74 games). Kopitar was everything for the Kings, including 31 points better than second-leading scorer Dustin Brown, whose point output was thanks to Kopitar. Giroux was great and great in playing a different position for the Flyers. Wheeler did much the same when injuries forced him to fill in at center, and the Jets players credited him with being the foundation on which they built their stellar season.

So many good choices, provided their contributions went to consequential seasons for their teams rather than 36-win flops that immediately entered the trash bin of hockey history.

Emily's ballot

1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
2. Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
3. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
4. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
5. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

The "player judged to be the most valuable to his team"? Nathan MacKinnon practically willed the Colorado Avalanche to the playoffs himself -- as the team nearly doubled its point total from 2016-17 -- by scoring 39 goals and tallying 97 points. Yes, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen were fine complements, but MacKinnon was the glue of that line. When he missed time -- an eight-game layoff in February because of an upper-body injury -- the Avalanche were pedestrian, averaging 2.1 goals per game in those contests compared to their season average of 3.1.

MacKinnon had 77 primary points, two shy of Art Ross leader Connor McDavid, despite playing in eight fewer games. Regarding McDavid, I'm not in the camp that a team absolutely must make the playoffs for a player to win the Hart, but in one of the most crowded fields in recent memory, I had a hard time justifying McDavid over so many quality candidates.

It was a close call over Taylor Hall. Neither the Avalanche nor Devils had a standout goalie, and both Hall and MacKinnon were surrounded by a group of youngsters. Alex Ovechkin doesn't get the credit he deserves as the true pulse of the Capitals. Of course he led the league in goals (49), and remember this was after the team parted with two top-six forwards last offseason. But consider: Ovechkin accounted for 19.1 percent of the Capitals' goal this season. Anze Kopitar had 31 more points than his next closest teammate while providing strong defensive play. Giroux, too, was spectacular in all facets of his game as the Flyers outperformed expectations.

Norris Trophy

Awarded to the defense player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the position.

Winner: Victor Hedman

Emily's ballot

1. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
3. Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
4. P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
5. John Carlson, Washington Capitals

The Norris tends to skew toward offensive defensemen, and yes, Hedman tied for the league lead among defensemen with 17 goals and finished fifth in points (63). He quarterbacked a power play that ranked third in the league and was just as important on the penalty kill, shouldering 2:35 short-handed minutes per game. He was the No. 1 shutdown guy on a team that limited other teams to fewer than 30 shots per game. In my mind, Hedman did just about everything well, and that's why he's No. 1 on my list.

Doughty led the league in ice time (26:50) and was the star of the stingiest defensive team in the league. He has slightly better Corsi for percentage and relative Corsi numbers than Hedman, and to be frank, I flip-flopped a few times on whom to choose for the top slot. I loved watching Jones this season and felt his offensive numbers were a great complement to his rugged defensive play; he rarely gets beaten. John Klingberg was atop my radar to begin the season, but a second-half tail-off (coinciding with an utter collapse by the Stars) bumped him out of the top five.

Greg's ballot

1. P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
2. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
4. Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
5. John Carlson, Washington Capitals

Context, context, context. Subban was eighth in points among defensemen with 59, but 33 of them came at even strength, and Subban started only 42.5 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. He was 21st in ice time with 24:07 per game, but the vast majority of it was spent dragging around Alexei Emelin like the anchor. He was an elite shutdown defenseman whose impact went far beyond traditional measurements. In some ways, his nomination as a finalist was a victory in itself for voters screaming for a more nuanced approach to the award.

To that end: The numbers didn't always support Hedman's seemingly predestined candidacy this season, but his second-half metrics were fantastic, and his impact in all facets of the game aced the eye test, too. His plus-25 goals-for at even-strength was best among the finalists. Doughty led the league in ice (26:50) and was a possession monster again (52.76 corsi rating) against the toughest competition, but I put him just a notch below these two. Jones was stellar, and Carlson's incredible (walk year) season nudged him ahead of John Klingberg, who unfortunately played himself off the ballot after an incredible first half.

Vezina Trophy

Awarded to the goalie who is judged to be the best at this position. Please note that the NHL general managers vote on this, so this is just what our ballots would look like.

Winner: Pekka Rinne

Greg's ballot

1. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
2. John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
3. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
4. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
5. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

Luckily for Rinne, the postseason doesn't factor into this award, so his playoff self-destructions are an issue separate from his stellar regular season. Rinne finished with an NHL-best .939 save percentage in 59 appearances and led all goaltenders with a quality starts percentage of 67.8 (minimum 45 games). He was absolutely outstanding and deserved this award -- again, in the regular season.

Gibson was robbed, to be honest. He started 60 games and posted a .927 even-strength save percentage beyond a leaky Ducks defense (33.1 shots against per game, sixth highest in the NHL), with 65 percent of them quality starts. He was phenomenal. Bobrovsky started strong, slumped a bit in December and then roared to the finish with a 9-2-0 March (.933 save percentage). Vasilevskiy, meanwhile, was knocked down a slot on my ballot for the late-season stumble he had. I have no problem with Hellebuyck as a finalist, since Marc-Andre Fleury just didn't have the work rate (46 games) to warrant a spot on the ballot.

Emily's ballot

1. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
2. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
3. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
4. John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
5. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

I had no qualms whatsoever putting Rinne as No. 1. He paced the NHL with eight shutouts, and his .927 save percentage led all goalies who played a minimum 50 games. He was mostly terrific down the stretch and lights-out over his final 25 games (.931 save percentage, five shutouts, 19 wins). Conversely, Vasilevskiy was my runaway favorite for the first half of the season; he had seven shutouts by the All-Star break. He didn't necessarily unravel in the second half -- his regression was probably fatigue in his first full year as a starter -- but other goaltenders were better.

Hellebuyck led all goaltenders in minutes (3,965:54) and tied Vasilevskiy with 44 wins. The Jets' goaltender was by far the most consistent all season -- he didn't have a bad month -- but some of his stats gave me pause, such as his adjusted save percentage ranking only sixth among goalies with at least 3,000 minutes or his low save percentage in low-danger situations.

Gibson could have challenged for the top three. For a team hobbled by injuries and allowing a whopping 33.1 shots per game, Gibson kept the ship afloat. Bobrovsky had some rough stretches but finished with the second-best even-strength shooting percentage to Rinne. Marc-Andre Fleury (46 starts) and maybe even Antti Raanta (47) would have received consideration had they played more.

Calder Trophy

Awarded to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition.

Winner: Mathew Barzal

Emily's ballot

1. Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders
2. Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins
3. Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets
4. Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
5. Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks

I'm bothered that Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy is not a Calder Trophy finalist. McAvoy shouldered big responsibilities in Boston, and did so with ease. Among rookies with 50 or more games, McAvoy's 22:09 minutes per game should hold significance; the next closest challengers (Ryan Pulock and Robert Hagg) didn't crack 18:30.

In the past 25 years, only four defensemen have won the Calder. This, to me, is nothing more than a positional bias. That said, Barzal (the only rookie who finished with higher than a point-per-game pace) is my runaway leader. Connor's late push won me over. Not only was he playing on Winnipeg's top line -- for a team that broke franchise records and finished with the second-best record in the league -- but he also had 22 points in his final 25 games. His 31 goals led all rookies. He should have been top three.

Greg's ballot

1. Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders
2. Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins
3. Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks
4. Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets
5. Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes

Or "The Sample Size Referendum." Barzal was the season's best rookie, full stop, with 85 points in 82 games for the Islanders despite not playing with John Tavares, which is remarkable. He played 82 games. So did Clayton Keller.

The problem for many voters is that both Brock Boeser (62 games) and Charlie McAvoy (63 games) did not. This was not a problem for me: McAvoy was the second-best rookie of the season and the best at his position, leading all rookies with 22:09 average ice time (min. 30 games); Boeser was second in points per game (0.89) and in goals (29), playing with a variety of linemates because of injury. Connor led all rookies in goals (31), and Keller rallied with 13 points in 14 games to end the season, as long as we're talking about recency bias.

Lady Byng Trophy

Awarded to the player judged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.

Winner: William Karlsson

Greg's ballot

1. Ryan O'Reilly, Buffalo Sabres
2. William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights
3. Jared Spurgeon, Minnesota Wild
4. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
5. Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues

As demonstrated here, PHWA voters are complete know-it-alls who would never concede that they're ill-equipped to judge any of these NHL awards. Except for the Lady Byng. We have no business voting for this award. The NHL Officials Association, the ones with an intimate view of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct on a nightly basis, are far more qualified and should be handed the reins of this award going forward.

All that said: O'Reilly had one minor penalty in 81 regular-season games, playing tough minutes and managing not to take out his simmering frustration with the Sabres' fortunes on an unsuspecting peer. That's Lady Byng material, right there.

Emily's ballot

1. William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights
2. Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
3. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
4. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
5. Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues

William Karlsson scored 43 goals and 78 points this season, led all Vegas forwards skating 18:43 per game, played in all 82 games and totaled just 12 minutes of penalties for the season.

I'm with Greg, in that I'm not sure we as hockey reporters are fully qualified to vote for this award. I'd love to have on-ice referees submit nominations in which they list concrete examples of when players demonstrated good sportsmanship. But until then, we'll have to go off the criteria we know.

If you think the Calder has a positional bias, I present to you the Lady Byng: Brian Campbell is the only defenseman to win since the 1950s. Pietrangelo, the Blues captain, got my vote at five.

Selke Trophy

Awarded to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.

Winner: Anze Kopitar

Emily's ballot

1. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
2. Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers
3. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
4. Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
5. Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild

This one was tricky. Bergeron missed 18 games, but he had the league's best Corsi for percentage (minimum 600 minutes played) at 57.68 percent and stood out in a few other categories, such as faceoff percentage while short-handed (58.3 percent). If he plays a full season, he gets my top vote.

Instead, it's Kopitar, who was a strong consideration for Hart after scoring a career-high 35 goals and leading all forwards in ice time (22:05 per game) and was one of the league's most responsible forwards and penalty killers -- for the league's best penalty kill, I might add. He took a whopping 37 percent of the Kings' faceoffs.

Couturier, like Kopitar, logged a lot of minutes and put up a career-best goal total. His Corsi was slightly better than Kopitar's, actually. Barkov had a few things going for him, including ranking second in the league in defensive zone faceoff wins (371).

Greg's ballot

1. Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild
2. Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers
3. Radek Faksa, Dallas Stars
4. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
5. Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers

The Selke Trophy is wide-open for a number of interpretations, and clearly my interpretation of Koivu's incredible season didn't sync up with how others chose to interpret it. But if we're talking about the league's best defensive forward in 2017-18, I think it's Koivu.

This wasn't an easy vote. At the start of April, I thought Bergeron would sit atop my ballot. But the more I looked at Koivu, the more I liked his case. His Corsi for percentage was 3.5 percentage points higher than that of his teammates, despite his starting 42.5 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone. (Bergeron started 59.4 percent in the O-zone, the highest of his career.) He had a demonstrable advantage over Bergeron in high-danger shot attempts, at 61.61 percent to 48.29 percent. His expected goals plus/minus was plus-13.51, higher than anyone else's on this ballot. He was a more than respectable 51.4 percent on faceoffs, with the acknowledgement that Bergeron is a faceoff deity (57.3 percent.) Koivu also led all Wild forwards in short-handed ice time. He had only 45 points in 82 games, and for whatever reason, the Selke has become an award that values point totals as much as goal suppression. Andrew Berkshire of Sportsnet goes a bit more in depth on that notion here.

Why Bergeron fourth? Again, I was more impressed with Couturier (his two-way game and faceoff wins drove the Flyers at both ends) and the unheralded Faksa, who was plus-17 in goals for/against at even strength, despite starting just 33.4 percent of his shifts in the attacking zone. Daniel Day-Lewis can't win every Oscar, and Bergeron shouldn't win every Selke. Barkov, who's going to get one of these at some point, gets in over Kopitar, who ended up being a finalist, because the Selke is the awards equivalent of the shoulder shrug emoji.

Jack Adams

Awarded to the coach judged to have contributed the most to his team's success. Please note that the NHL Broadcasters Association votes on this, so this is just what our ballots would look like.

Winner: Gerard Gallant

Greg's ballot

1. Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights
2. Jared Bednar, Colorado Avalanche
3. John Hynes, New Jersey Devils
4. Bruce Cassidy, Boston Bruins
5. Peter Laviolette, Nashville Predators

Can someone win an award by the end of October? Because Gallant basically did. Bednar and Hynes both found vindication en route to getting their teams back into the postseason, and Cassidy oversaw a collection of veterans and young talent through an early season malaise before everything clicked.

Emily's ballot

1. Gerard Gallant, Vegas Golden Knights
2. Jared Bednar, Colorado Avalanche
3. John Hynes, New Jersey Devils
4. John Stevens, Los Angeles Kings
5. Bruce Cassidy, Boston Bruins

Gerard Gallant deserves this. He is a clear-cut winner for obvious reasons, boiled down to this: He took a team that had 500-to-1 Cup odds last summer to the Stanley Cup Final.

In any other year, Bednar would be recognized. He nearly doubled his team's win total -- and did most of the damage this season after management traded one of his best players, Matt Duchene. Likewise, Hynes galvanized a bunch of youngsters who had no business competing for a playoff spot.

As impressive as the Bruins' season was, I have John Stevens slotted above Cassidy. Everyone in the league pitted the Kings as too old and too slow. With virtually the same roster the team had last season, the Kings appeared like a brand new (much quicker) team. Dustin Brown's career was revived. Anze Kopitar set a career high in goals. Bottom line: Stevens had everyone buying in. And that's what makes a good coach.

NHL All-Star Team

Emily's ballot

Center: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche; Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings; Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Right wing: Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets; Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning; Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins

Left wing: Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils; Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals; Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

Defense: Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings; Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning; Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets; P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators; John Carlson, Washington Capitals; Brent Burns San Jose Sharks

Goaltender: Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators; Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning; Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

Greg's ballot

Center: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers; Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche; Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Right wing: Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning; Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins; Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets

Left wing: Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils; Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals; Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

Defense: P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators; Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning; Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings; Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets; John Carlson, Washington Capitals; John Klingberg, Dallas Stars.

Goaltender: Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators; Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets; John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks

NHL All-Rookie Team

Greg's ballot

Forward: Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders; Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks; Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets

Defense: Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins; Will Butcher, New Jersey Devils

Goaltender: Juuse Saros, Nashville Predators

Emily's ballot

Forward: Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders; Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks; Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets

Defense: Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins; Will Butcher New Jersey Devils

Goaltender: Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh Penguins