2019 NHL Awards Upset Picks

Defensive Forward Mark Stone, Coach Barry Trotz and Goaltender Ben Bishop

Bodog and Bovada have released their NHL Awards odds, and there is little to no value in the favorites.

Elias Pettersson is as good as a lock to win the Calder Trophy as the league’s rookie of the year, but at -5000 odds there is simply no value in making that bet.

Another example is Robin Lehner to win the Bill Masterton Trophy, given annually to the player that best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the game of hockey. Lehner’s previous mental health issues have been well documented and he has become a leader in the drive to speak up about mental health while posting Vezina-type numbers as well. Lehner is listed as a -3333 favorites to win the award and is also a candidate to win the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender.

While the above examples are locks, there’s also some awards where we can search for value and pick an upset.

Let’s look for that value pick and see if we can make some money on the NHL Awards, held in Las Vegas on June 19th.

NHL Awards Upset Watch

Selke Trophy – Best Defensive Forward


O’Reilly is a perennial Selke Trophy candidate thanks to his elite 200-foot game, something that was on display during the Blues’ run to the Stanley Cup Final.

However, I’m not sure this one is a slam dunk.

Patrice Bergeron, another annual candidate, had another fabulous season despite missing 17 more games due to injury. While the award is based on defense, offense is also very much a factor and Bergeron posted 79 points in those 65 games and a +23 rating, numbers that bested O’Reilly’s 77 points and +22 rating despite playing in all 82 games and 17 more than Bergeron.

I’m not so sure that Bergeron is the only threat to win this award either.

Mark Stone had himself a dandy of a season and was the most talked about name at the trade deadline as he moved on from Ottawa to the Vegas Golden Knights. Stone managed to score 62 points in 59 games with the Senators before the deal, but the more impressive mark was the +13 rating on what was a dismal Senators team, and more specifically, defense.

Ottawa finished the season as the league’s worst defensive team by a notable margin with 3.67 goals against per game. On the day Stone as dealt – February 25th – the Senators had a -41 total goal differential, making Stone’s +13 rating a thing of beauty.

He posted a 54.4% Corsi For % in all situations while with the Senators and a huge 60.3% mark with the Golden Knights in 18 games for a blended rate of 55.5%.

He edged O’Reilly who posted a 55% Corsi For%, although Bergeron had a stout 59.5% mark himself. Keep in mind Bergeron had the advantage over Stone playing with the likes of David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand compared to Stone’s linemates with the Senators.

Stone finished with 73 points in 77 games, falling behind both O’Reilly and Bergeron in that category.

Still, if there was a weighted formula here based on linemates, team and performance, I’d have a tough time giving this away to anyone but Stone.

These awards are supposed to be based on regular season play only, but there’s little doubt that O’Reilly’s postseason run gives him another leg up on the competition despite Stone averaging almost two points per game in two rounds with 12 points in seven games.

Still, a sprinkle on Stone or Bergeron makes sense here. This award is not a lock and my bet is there is going to be some form of an upset on June 19th. This one could very well be the first.

My Pick

Jack Adams Award – Coach of the Year


This one is a dandy.

First, we have the favorite Cooper who led a star-studded Tampa Bay team to a 128-point regular season, 21 more points than any other club and exactly twice as many points as a team in the same league, the 64-point Ottawa Senators.

The mark came just four points shy of tying the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens for the most regular season points of all-time and is the most points in a regular season since the Canadiens of 1977-78 posted 129.

Cooper doesn’t have to apologize for having a wealth of talent on his roster. We’ve seen loaded rosters falter in the past and Cooper deserves to be the odds-on favorite to win the coach of the year.

Second, we have Trotz who turned a team that missed the playoffs by 12 points in the 2017-18 season – with franchise player John Tavares on board – to a team that finished fourth in the Eastern Conference with 103 regular season points, without Tavares.

It’s hard to know what’s more impressive: the 23-point year-over-year turnaround or the fact that the team went from last in the league with 3.57 goals against per game in 2017-18 to number one in the league with just 2.33 goals against per game under Trotz in 2018-19.

Let’s keep in mind there weren’t sweeping changes to the back end of this team. Yes, Jaroslav Halak left and Lehner entered, but the blueline was very much the same group save for Calvin de Haan leaving for Carolina in free agency.

Consider this: Thomas Greiss posted a ghastly 3.82 GAA and .892 Sv% in a timeshare with Halak in 2017-18, then posted a stout 2.28 GAA and .927 Sv% in a timeshare with Lehner in 2018-19. I mean, those are Vezina Trophy-type numbers as well and almost identical to the ones Lehner posted.

Did Greiss player better? Absolutely. However, you don’t post numbers likle that without a stout defensive team in front of you. And that’s all on Trotz and the system he implemented to a team that was laughable on defense just months earlier.

Trotz is a real threat to win this award.

Then there’s Berube. The Blues fired head coach Mike Yeo 19 games into the season with the Blues sitting at 7-9-3 and coming off a loss to the worst team in the NHL at the time, the Los Angeles Kings.

Berube was handed the head coaching gig on an interim basis, and the rest is history. Berube went on to coach the team to a 38-19-6 mark the rest of the way. The Blues were tied for dead last in the NHL on January 1st and went on to tie the Winnipeg Jets for second spot in the Central Division, making up 22 points on their rival since the flip of the calendar.

The arrival of Jordan Binnington helped and combined with his 63 games of coaching compared to the 82 that both Cooper and Trotz coached, his long shot odds make complete sense.

Still, St. Louis’ meteoric rise up the regular season standings, not to mention their playoff success, will very much be in the minds of voters leading up to June 19th.

Still, I can realistically see an upset here, and I think this award goes to Trotz on Long Island.

My Pick

Vezina Trophy – Top Goaltender


Vasilevskiy was a Vezina nominee last season as well, ultimately losing out to Nashville’s Pekka Rinne.

This season, he is the easy front-runner for the award after posting a 2.40 GAA and .925 Sv% while leading the league with 39 wins.

Don’t get me wrong, Vasilevskiy was real good this season, as evidenced by the aforementioned numbers, but he’s not the only goaltender in this league that would have paced the league in wins behind that Tampa Bay 128-point team.

Of qualified goaltenders, Vasilevskiy’s 2.40 GAA ranked ninth, one point back of Petr Mrazek, for instance. His .925 Sv% checked in at fifth, behind the likes of Bishop, Lehner, Jack Campbell, Binnington and Greiss.

His six shutouts ranked fourth behind Sergei Bobrovsky, Marc-Andre Fleury and Bishop.

The only category that he was even close to the top was wins, however that’s been the most important category for this award in recent seasons.

Nonetheless, Bishop is a real threat.

Going by a blend of pure numbers, Bishop was the best goaltender in the NHL this season.

Ben Bishop 2018-19

Stat Number League Rank
GAA .934 1st
Sv% 1.98 2nd
Shutouts 7 3rd

The one thing that could very well hold Bishop back is the fact he missed time with injury and started just 45 games, tying him with Jake Allen and Tuukka Rask for 22nd in the league. His 46 games played ranked in a tie for 21st.

This is where Bishop certainly has the edge of Lehner who played in exactly the same number of games as Bishop with 46 while posting numbers slightly worse than Bishop, albeit still excellent.

As a result, we have a two man race.

Also of note should be Bishop’s work down the stretch as the Stars battled for a postseason spot. While Vasilevskiy and the Lightning were lapping the rest of the league in the east, Bishop posted an eye-popping 1.24 GAA and .959 Sv% over his final 14 starts in the west to get the Stars into the playoffs. This has to be a factor.

Does Vasilevskiy deserve credit for leading the league in wins while posting very good numbers? Absolutely. That said, keep in mind Vasilevskiy only started eight more games than Bishop with 53 as he missed more than a month from Mid-November through Mid-December with a broken foot.

Is eight more starts and more wins going to win it? Or are the superior numbers in three of four major goaltender categories with eight fewer starts and a flat-out dominant stretch run with the season on the line going to be enough to pull the upset?

If I’m the sole voter for this award, I’m giving it to Bishop. At these odds, I’m certainly liking his value.

My Pick
Brenton Kemp / Author

Brenton is a lifelong sports fan who resides in Ontario, Canada. Brenton is a fan of most all sports but specializes in hockey, baseball, football, basketball, and golf. He’s a fierce researcher with a strong appetite to deliver accurate and relevant facts that in turn have led to past success with picks and DFS advice across the board. Brenton’s biggest goal is to deliver readers with the picks and advice that can build their bankroll. He takes great pride in his success and loves nothing more than to share that success for the benefit of everyone involved.