This NHL season is winding down to a close and it has been one truly like no other. Lots of things have happened this season that no one saw coming and today we’re going to look at 5 of those surprises from the 2017-2018 NHL season.
5. Crowded Calder Trophy Race
Just as the Hart race is super crowded this season, the Calder Trophy race has many players vying for the spot on top of all rookies. Mathew Barzal, of the New York Islanders, who has compiled 80 points this season and is the first rookie to reach this milestone since Evgeni Malkin, seems to be leading the charge. Brock Boeser, of the Vancouver Canucks, was the mid-season favorite and is right there behind Barzal. Also, deserving of mentions are Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins, Yanni Gourde of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Alex Debrincat of the Chicago Blackhawks.
However, McAvoy has only played in 59 games this season and logged seven goals. Gourde, an undrafted player, now has 61 points on the year. Lastly, Debrincat, despite his three hat tricks on the season which is a remarkable feat for a rookie, may be overshadowed because of the poor play of his team.
4. MacKinnon’s Superhuman Surge Forward
Nathan MacKinnon won the Calder trophy by racking up 63 points in his rookie season in 2013-2014. He never scored more points than that in his career until now where he currently sits fifth in the race for the Art Ross trophy at 94 points. The Colorado Avalanche forward is also receiving buzz as a potential Hart Trophy candidate. MacKinnon along with Mikko Rantanen have propelled the Avalanche back into relevancy and a shot at the team’s first playoff berth since 2014.
3. Hall Emerges as a Hart Candidate
In June 2016, the Edmonton Oilers traded Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson. In Hall’s first season in New Jersey, he compiled 20 goals and 33 assists. This season Hall put up a point streak of 26 games, joining Patrick Kane as the only player to do so in the last 20 years. Hall sits at seventh in the NHL in points with 89, but that doesn’t change the impact he’s made on the Devils as well as the career year he’s had this season. He definitely deserves a spot in the overly complicated MVP race this season.
2. Chicago Falls from Grace
The Chicago Blackhawks went from a team that was holding the Stanley Cup in 2015 to a team that can’t even hold a lead. It doesn’t help that they lost goalie Corey Crawford to injury who had been playing like a Vezina Trophy candidate when on the ice for the two months prior.
The hope was that he would come back shortly after the All-Star break, but that never happened and the Blackhawks continued to fall in the standings. They now sit at the bottom of the Central Division with 74 points, 14 points behind the Dallas Stars.
The loss of Marian Hossa has hurt the team. They’ve been searching for a top line right wing all year. Defenseman Brent Seabrook has taken a step back and not lived up to expectations and they lack a top four defenseman. Lastly, the goalie position has been a revolving door between Anton Forsberg, Jeff Glass, JF Berube, Collin Delia and even an accountant named Scott Foster for a fraction of a game throughout the season.
1. The Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights have made history in their inaugural season in the NHL. This is the team’s first season being in the league and they have made their mark as the best expansion team in pro sports history by a wide margin. They are currently ranked fourth in the league with 109 points behind only the Nashville Predators, Boston Bruins, and Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Golden Knights point leaders this season, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, and David Perron, all combined for 122 points in 2016-2017. This year they’ve combined for a total of 216 points. That’s not to mention goalie Marc-Andre Fleury who the Pittsburgh Penguins cast aside and now leads the league in save percentage. General manager George McPhee came into this season and put together a roster full of misfits and other teams’ throwaways and managed to make a Stanley Cup contender out of it, to the shock of NHL fans around the country.
This NHL season has been nothing short of fantastic and it’s going to be amazing to watch how these surprises end up as the season draws to a close.