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Before the New Jersey Devils do their post-mortem, and the off-season starts to kick into-gear, I wanted to look back at the year that was and hand out awards to the players I feel are most deserving.
For some reason I have a feeling this is going to be dominated by Taylor Hall.
Art Ross: Taylor Hall
This one wasn't even close. Despite missing a handful of games, Hall led the team in scoring by a country mile. You could remove his 39 goals from the equation and he'd still have more points than Nico Hischier, who finished 2nd on the team in scoring with 52 points as a rookie. I expect the gap to be closer next year – and not because I think Hall will take a big step back.
Rocket Richard: Taylor Hall
Again, Hall finished a distant 1st with 39 goals. Perhaps it would have been somewhat of a race if Palmieri didn't miss 20 games but even then he only scored at a 32 goal pace. Had Hall played all 82, and scored at the same clip, he would have finished with 42. The guy lapped the field.
Hart: Taylor Hall
Hall led the team in goals by 15, points by 41, shots by 97, was one of the best chance generators in the league, and he almost single-handedly dragged the Devils into the playoffs. Without Hall, they don't even get a sniff. He has a legitimate chance at winning the Hart, as he should.
Norris: Tayl...Sami Vatanen
I liked the Vatanen trade from the word go
– he addressed a need and the Devils get an extra year of control with him – but it was met with mixed reviews from a lot of people. I think Vatanen erased any doubt the move was good, and necessary, with his play once he settled in.
Vatanen logged upwards of 23 minutes per night against stiff competition. While doing so, he still managed to make meaningful contributions offensively putting up 28 points in 57 games. That's a 40 point pace.
He also held his own against an elite top line in the playoffs and, well, the Devils looked lost in the game he didn't play. He's their horse.
Selke: Blake Coleman
This guy deserves a ton of credit for the year he had. I wasn't even sold on him making the team in camp and he proved to be one of the more important forwards on the roster. He was a relentless forechecker who made countless effort plays every night. He was a big part of one of the league's best penalty kills. Despite spending a lot of time against top offensive players, he still had some of the best shot, and chance, suppression numbers on the roster while also finishing with a positive goal differential.
Calder: Nico Hischier
The Devils had a few solid rookies this season but Hischier was definitely the best of the bunch. He put up 52 points and was one of the most efficient 5v5 point producers in the NHL. It wasn't just the offense that stood out, though. He was a tireless worker and did a great job of handling the responsibilities that come with centering a top line. He was also fantastic at drawing penalties as he finished with a +22 differential, which was good for 5th in the league.
Vezina: Keith Kinkaid
Schneider started and ended the year well. Everything in-between was a mess. He clearly needed some time to figure things out and get back on track. While he was working on his game, Kinkaid took the net, played the best hockey of his career, and helped the Devils claw their way into the playoffs. I still view Cory Schneider as the undisputed No. 1 but make no mistake: the Devils don't snap their playoff drought without Kinkaid.
Setting the table for the off-season
Eastern Conference playoff predictions: Round 1
Western Conference playoff predictions: Round 1