It wasn’t a great season for the Vancouver Canucks, as the team finished near the bottom of the NHL standings, securing the seventh overall pick in Friday’s draft.
But, if you look really hard, there were some performances that stood out among the drudge of a third straight non-playoff season for Vancouver.
With the NHL Awards tonight, let’s hand out honours for the best Canuck in each category.
Hart Trophy (most valuable player)
Winner: Brock Boeser
While there’s a solid case to be made for Bo Horvat, Boeser led the Canucks in points despite missing 20 games (mostly to injury, but also never forget he was benched for the first two contests of the year).
The rookie was an absolute pleasure to watch on a team that wasn’t all that enjoyable otherwise. He’s also the best reason to have even a dash of hope that the Canucks have a bright future somewhere on the horizon.
Runner-up: Bo Horvat
He’s not as flashy as Boeser, but Horvat had another extremely solid season and went a long way towards establishing himself as a number one centre in the league. He will almost certainly be named Vancouver’s next captain and it’s a fully deserved designation.
Norris Trophy (best defenceman)
Winner: Alex Edler
It’s not particularly close. Edler was easily the Canucks’ best rearguard as the veteran Swede enjoyed something of a resurgence. The 32-year-old paced all Canuck defenders in points (34) and average ice time (24:17) while providing the team with some much-needed physicality and a solidifying presence on the blueline.
It was a great season for Edler, who put up his best season points-wise since 2011-12, when he registered 49.
Runner-up: Troy Stecher
It’s tempting to hand this to Chris Tanev, even as the veteran only got into 42 contests this year. As usual, Tanev was solid whenever he got into the lineup and reminded Canucks fans why he’s often talked about as a valuable trade chip on a rebuilding club.
But just over half the season wasn’t quite enough to make the mark that Stecher did, as the 24-year-old brought intensity into the rink every single night.
Did he make mistakes? Yes, of course. He was also easily the most impressive of Vancouver’s young defencemen and showed flashes of the puck-moving brilliance that was evident in his rookie season.
Vezina Trophy (best goalie)
Winner: Jacob Markstrom
There’s a reason Markstrom won the team’s three-star award (for being named one of the ‘stars of the game’ more often than any other Canuck). It’s because he frequently gave the team a chance in games where he got barraged with the puck.
Say what you will about Markstrom’s consistency, but his critics are forgetting how many times he bailed out the Canucks.
Runner-up: Anders Nilsson
An obvious one, though Thatcher Demko’s one game in a Canucks uniform did turn some heads.
Nilsson had a productive offseason, winning a World Championship title with Team Sweden, so maybe he can take the number one spot next year.
The much more likely scenario? He gets traded (or moved to the minors) to make room for Demko.
Calder Trophy (best rookie)
Winner: Brock Boeser
He’s nominated for best rookie in the entire NHL. And he might have won too, if not for that meddling Barzal.
Runner-up: Brendan Leipsic
We’re as shocked as you are. Yes, Leipsic qualified as a rookie this year, having only played six NHL games previously.
And yes, he was the team’s second-best freshman, as his surprising nine points in 14 games easily surpassed anything that the only other candidates—Ashton Sautner, Adam Gaudette and the guy Leipsic was traded for, Philip Holm—did.
Selke Trophy (defensive forward)
Winner: Brandon Sutter
It wouldn’t be fair to put anyone but Sutter here. The veteran forward played the hardest minutes of any Canuck forward as he was routinely rolled out against the opposition’s top lines.
And though he ended up producing some pretty rough underlying numbers, he also finished the season a plus-8. Say what you will about plus/minus—and it is an arcane stat—but Sutter obviously prides himself on winning more battles than he loses, and he can make the case that he did just that.
Runner-up: Loui Eriksson
Eriksson is a favourite whipping boy of Canucks fans, and while he certainly doesn’t do nearly enough offensively to justify that massive contract, the former Boston Bruin had a decent campaign on the defensive side of things.
He was one of the only Canucks to post a positive Relative Corsi (2.9, higher than any Canuck forward not named Sedin) while starting the majority of his shifts in the defensive zone.
Vancouver fans will need a lot more out of the Swede in order to fully appreciate him, but at the very least he wasn’t a liability when on the ice. That’s not something you can say for everyone on the team.
Lady Byng Trophy (most gentlemanly player)
Winner: Bo Horvat
In the NHL, this usually goes to a forward (it’s only been rewarded to three defencemen in history) who racked up a ton of points while barely spending any time in the penalty box. The Canucks have more than a few nominees in the latter category, as Derek Dorsett led the team in penalty minutes despite missing 60 games.
Horvat is a good fit for the category, as he put up 44 points against only 10 penalty minutes. It’s not like anyone could call him soft, either, as the Canucks’ heart and soul regularly battled against the other teams’ most defensively inclined blueliners.
Runner-up: Chris Tanev
Even though he only played 42 games, eight penalty minutes is a remarkably small amount for a defensive rearguard who doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff.
Mark Messier NHL Leadership Trophy (player who best exemplifies leadership qualities to his team)
Winner: Henrik and Daniel Sedin
First off, we refuse to acknowledge the actual name of this horrid trophy. Secondly, though it would be easy to just hand it over to the captain in Henrik, it’s hard to separate how much both Sedins meant to the Canucks' locker room this year.
Always leaders both on and off the ice, no one on the team deserves the honour more than these two. In fact, we’d love to petition the league to change the name of the award from its current unsightly moniker to “The Sedin NHL Leadership Trophy.” Much, much better.
Runner-up: Bo Horvat
As we mentioned, Horvat is a lock to be named Vancouver’s next captain.