The NHL recently announced the finalists for each major individual player award.

The winners are announced at the NHL Awards Ceremony after the Stanley Cup playoffs are over, though the awards are based only on regular season performance.

Here are the three finalists for each trophy, along with our winners.

Hart Memorial Trophy | Most Valuable Player

Winner: Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Other finalists: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins; John Tavares, New York Islanders

Alex Ovechkin was the most valuable player to his team this year. What separates him from Sidney Crosby in the race for the Hart is the ability to carry his team on his back. 

The Capitals were the worst team in the Eastern Conference during Ovie’s slow start, but they have looked like a real Stanley Cup contender since he turned his game on. 

Crosby was the best player in the league this year, but he did miss significant time due to his broken jaw, and his team maintained a winning record and first place during that time.

During Ovechkin’s prolonged slump, the Caps were rooted at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, and had very little chance of making the playoffs near the midway point of the season. In early March, it was as if somebody lit a fire under Ovechkin. 

His level of play from then on was as high as it was earlier in his career, which many critics said he might not be able to reach again. Ovechkin ended up being the league’s only player to top 30 goals. He ended up with 32, and miraculously led his team to the Southeast Division title and a playoff berth.

Vezina Trophy | Top Goaltender

Winner: Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
Other Finalists: Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks; Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

Bobrovsky moved to Columbus last summer from the Philadelphia Flyers, and it may be hard to find a more impactful offseason move from last summer. The Blue Jackets finished the 2011-2012 season in dead last, and by a wide margin. 

When Bobrovsky first arrived in Columbus, he was in a battle with Steve Mason for the role of starting goaltender, but that changed quickly.

Bobrovsky was a vital reason that Columbus was one of this season’s great storylines. 

The Blue Jackets finished this season as close to a playoff spot without getting one as a team can, tied with the Minnesota Wild on points but losing on a tiebreaker. Bobrovsky turned in one phenomenal performance after another down the stretch, finishing with a .932 save percentage, which was the best of any goaltender that played thirty or more games. 

Columbus did not make the playoffs, but Bobrovsky did everything he could to put them in position to succeed. 

Norris Trophy | Top Defenseman

Winner: Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
Other finalists: P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens; Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins

Ryan Suter was the league’s best all-around defenseman. Suter was an absolute horse on the back-end in his first year in Minnesota. The 28-year-old American racked up 32 points, slightly less than Subban or Letang, but led the NHL in average ice time with a whopping 27:16 per game.

The statistics alone do not show what Suter accomplished in his first year since moving from Nashville last summer. Entering this season, many experts questioned whether Suter would be as valuable without his long-time defensive partner Shea Weber, but he was arguably even better.

Suter was more important to the Minnesota defence than any other player was to theirs. 

The majority of the Wild’s other blue-liners are young and inexperienced. Suter made the most playing with youngsters like Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin. Suter’s leadership was invaluable to his team as he drove them into the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Calder Memorial Trophy | Top Rookie

Winner: Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks
Other Finalists: Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers; Brendan Gallagher, Montreal Canadiens

Brandon Saad deserves the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie for much more than his point production. The 20-year-old finished with 27 points, the least of the three Calder finalists, but he played a major role on the NHL’s top team, the Chicago Blackhawks.

Saad played wing on one of the best lines in all of hockey this season. Some may argue that his production may not be the same had he not played with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa all season, but the fact that Chicago Head Coach Joel Quenneville kept Saad on the top line alongside the two world-class players says it all. Quennville also utilized Saad on the penalty kill, a situation that coaches often do not trust inexperienced rookies in. 

Saad only got better as the season played out, and he will be a legitimate X-factor as the Blackhawks make a run at the Stanley Cup. 

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