Sidney Crosby edges Connor McDavid in mid-season award picks
Matthews, Doughty and Dubnyk early winners as well
Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid will finally turn 20 on Friday, ending his spectacular run as a teen.
And while McDavid has indeed given Sidney Crosby a run for his money as the best player in hockey, the Penguins captain still reigns supreme at the midway point of the 2016-17 season.
Here are The Canadian Press' mid-season picks for the top NHL awards, beginning with an MVP race that comes down to McDavid versus Crosby.
The case: It bears repeating that Crosby started his season about two weeks after McDavid and everyone else and still leads the league in goals.
The Penguins captain got to 20 goals faster (22 games) than at any point in his career and has mustered three separate scoring streaks of at least three games. He's on pace for a career-high of almost 60 goals, remaining the game's best player following unmatched showings in the Stanley Cup playoffs and World Cup of Hockey.
McDavid has certainly made it a race, but Crosby has the edge, topping his 19-year-old counterpart in points per-game, five-on-five points per-60-minutes, puck possession and the percentage of scoring chances his team gets when he's on the ice.
Winner: Devan Dubnyk
The case: There's a wide range of contenders for this award, especially in Columbus where Sergei Bobrovsky, a former Vezina winner, has re-emerged following a down year. But Dubynk is the guy at this point with a save percentage around .940 more than three months into the season (he leads the league).
The former Edmonton Oilers first rounder also has a goals-against average well under two and five shutouts. It took until the end of December for the 30-year-old to give up more than three goals in a game.
He's been consistent too, boasting a .952 save percentage in October, a .942 mark in November and .934 in December.
Runners-up: Bobrovsky; Braden Holtby; Tuukka Rask; Carey Price
Winner: Drew Doughty
The case: Another hard choice, but Doughty earns the top defenceman honour both for the quantity and difficulty of his minutes for a Kings squad that has wobbled without No. 1 Jonathan Quick.
Doughty is putting together about the same kind of year as the one that delivered him last season's Norris Trophy. Just like last year, the 27-year-old is propping up a lesser partner — rookie Derek Forbort in this case — all while continuing to log big minutes and the most shifts of any player in the league on a nightly basis.
He also rates statistically as one of the more effective penalty killers at his position for a Los Angeles penalty kill that lands as one of the NHL's best.
Runners-up: Brent Burns; Victor Hedman; Duncan Keith; Shea Weber; Erik Karlsson
Winner: Auston Matthews
The case: The Maple Leafs emerging top centre is putting together one of the greatest seasons ever for a rookie, on pace for more than 40 goals and 70 points at age 19.
Unlike Laine, who's been equally as potent with respect to scoring, Matthews is thriving at the more demanding centre position against increasingly difficult competition with head coach Mike Babcock matching him against top lines in recent weeks.
He's also scored almost all of his goals at even-strength, nestled there with Crosby among the league leaders. Laine has scored a lot too, never going more than six games without a goal. This year's Calder class is strong, but it's Matthews' award to lose.
Runners-up: Laine; Zach Werenski; Mitch Marner; Matthew Tkachuk; William Nylander; Matt Murray
Jack Adams Trophy
Winner: Mike Sullivan
The case: The Penguins have sort of slipped under the radar amid the Blue Jackets' stunning success, but the reigning Stanley Cup champs have remained superb this season, especially since the beginning of December.
In fact, Pittsburgh entered a challenging Wednesday tilt in Washington with just one regulation loss in that stretch (13-1-2), badly outscoring the opposition while boasting elite special teams. The Penguins haven't lost at home (where they sport an 18-2-2 record) since the middle of November.
Unlike John Tortorella's Jackets, Sullivan's goaltending has been good not great and he's been forced to confront a host of injuries on defence, including those to Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin and Trevor Daley.The American-born Pittsburgh head coach has also expertly shuffled around his forward combinations when needed. Tortorella has obviously done a fine job steering Columbus to an unlikely place atop the league, but Sullivan has managed to keep the Pens right near the top after a Cup win, a challenging proposition.
Runners-up: Tortorella; Barry Trotz; Bruce Boudreau; Joel Quenneville