Awarding NHL Awards in the NWHL
Who would win which NHL Award if the NWHL gave them out?
Finalists for major NHL awards are beginning to roll out, which means the hockey community is engaged in discussions and debates. So, we figured it was a good time to campaign for more NWHL awards and look at which players and staff would have won an NHL Award for their accomplishments in the 2019-20 season.
First, let’s look at the pre-existing NWHL awards that overlap with NHL awards as well as the players who won them:
MVP | Hart Trophy
- Jillian Dempsey
- Allie Thunstrom/
Goaltender of the Year | Vezina Trophy
- Lovisa Selander/
Defender of the Year | Norris Trophy
- Kaleigh Fratkin/
Rookie/Newcomer of the Year | Calder Trophy
- Kate Leary/
Leading Scorer | Art Ross Trophy
- Jillian Dempsey/
NWHL Foundation Award | King Clancy Trophy
- Lexi Bender
- Jordan Brickner
- Rebecca Morse
- Emma Ruggiero
- Allie Thunstrom/
Now let’s look at the NHL awards that don’t have an analog in the NWHL and discuss which players deserve to bring home the fictitious hardware.
Maurice Richard Trophy (Top Goal Scorer)
This is one of those awards that doesn’t require any voting because we know the winner at the end of the regular season.
Allie Thunstrom scored 24 goals in 24 games, which would make her the NWHL’s Richard Trophy winner. She absolutely conquered the goaltenders and defenders of the other four teams with her speed and finishing ability. McKenna Brand finished a distant second with 19 goals.
William M. Jennings Trophy (Fewest Goals Scored Against)
Like the Maurice Richard and the Art Ross, we know the winner(s) of this award the moment the regular season is over. The Jennings Trophy is often criticized because goals against and GAA (goals against average) are less-than-ideal ways to measure the efficiency of a goaltender. But, interestingly enough, the 2019-20 Jennings Trophy winners in the NWHL would go to two of the best goalies in the league.
Boston allowed 43 goals in the 2019-20 season, which means the Jennings would be shared by Lovisa Selander (1.71 GAA) and Victoria Hanson (1.97 GAA).
Did you know that last season the @SelanderLovisa & @vics_33 tandem had a combined 23 wins together?— NWHL (@NWHL) July 9, 2020
Did you also know that they’ll both be back between the pipes next season for #ThePack🦁? #NWHLSigned // @TheBostonPride pic.twitter.com/1fmpQcLh37
Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward)
In truth, this award could go to Jillian Dempsey every year. It should also be noted that Spencer Fascetta recently wrote a great piece detailing just how exceptional Lexie Laing’s two-way game was in the 2019-20 season. Like Dempsey, she would also be a finalist for the Best Defensive Forward award, if the NWHL had it.
With all of that being said, my pick for the award goes to the Connecticut Whale’s Hanna Beattie. Beattie played both center and defense for the Whale this year, who had a huge hole to fill after Jordan Brickner went down with an injury early in the season. She finished tied for second in the league in takeaways (25). but this has less to do with stats and more to do with the eye test.
Beattie was an indispensable player for the Whale all year. There’s not a lot of razzle-dazzle to her game. On a team with an abundance of defensive forwards, she always stood out to me. She just works her tail off and gets the job done. She kills penalties, battles for pucks, and can play all over the lineup.
Lady Byng Trophy (Most Gentlemanly Player)
In the NHL, the Lady Byng is typically given to a exceptional players who play a squeaky clean game with very few trips to the penalty box. So, the NWHL’s Lady Byng winner is pretty easy to select.
Marie-Jo Pelletier played 24 games without taking a penalty in her rookie season. Doing that as a forward would be a tremendous feat, but Pelletier did it as a top-pair defender on a team that spent a lot of time battling in its own zone. That’s amazing. MJP also has a well-earned reputation for being a class act on and off the ice which is all the more reason to give her the nod here.
Jack Adams Trophy (Coach of the Year)
This is a tough one. Do you give the NWHL’s Jack Adams to Ivo Mocek for turning the Riveters fortunes around and getting them back on track or to Paul Mara for leading a team that went 23-1-0? Let’s just say they can split it.
Under Mocek, the Riveters earned points in 54.17 percent of their games in 2019-20. In 2018-19, under head coach Randy Velischek, the Riveters earned points in just 25.0 percent of their games. That is a huge turnaround in a year’s time and a tremendous accomplishment for a first-year coach. His popularity among his players, fans, and the media is also well-documented, which earns him plenty of extra points.
Mara shattered almost every single-season team record worth mentioning, which makes it impossible not to give him the hardware here. While it’s true that he had the best roster to work with in the league, he and his coaching staff undoubtedly got the most out of every player, every line, and every pairing. The Pride’s run in 2019-20 should go down as one of the most impressive seasons of hockey by any team at any level. So, maybe Mara gets most of the trophy or gets to pick which “half” is his after it’s broken in half.
General Manager of the Year
The Whale finished with a record of 2-20-2, but my pick for the GM of the Year goes to Bray Ketchum.
Heading into the 2019-20 season, the deck was stacked against Connecticut and Ketchum. The Whale were the league underdogs who had to wait over a month for their new head coach to join the team. They lost four of their five All-Stars from the previous season (including Meeri Raisanen who did not play in the All-Star game due to injury), so little was expected of them.
What Whale fans got was a young, tireless team filled with potential led by All-Star and captain Shannon Doyle. In a word, they were fun. And fun is something that the Whale desperately needed to be in 2019-20.
Ketchum was busy throughout the season trying to improve and build her team. She and Mandy Cronin, then with the Beauts, were the only general managers to cap out at 25 players signed. Furthermore, Ketchum and Riveters’ general manager Kate Whitman-Annis were the only general managers to use five PTOs during the 2019-20 season.
A strong case could be made for every general manager in the league because of how much work is expected of them in their roles. But, in my opinion, Ketchum deserves some extra recognition for keeping the Whale afloat this year.