Hall Has Hart: Taylor Hall Named NHL MVP

It was a great night for the New Jersey Devils at the 2018 NHL Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

First, Brian Boyle, after overcoming a form of leukemia he was diagnosed with in training camp, was named the winner of the Masterton Trophy for best exemplifying “the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

And while that would have made for a very successful night for New Jersey in and of itself, the main event was Taylor Hall being named the Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player for 2017-18.

Hall had a tremendous year, of course, the 26-game point scoring streak, but his leadership was what was highlighted by most people who talked about the award. According to Ken Daneyko on the NHL Network’s NHL Tonight show, he also became a more well-rounded player.

An interesting note by ESPN Stats & Info was that Hall’s Hart win came without him finishing in the top four in NHL scoring (he finished sixth). The last time that happened was in 1991-92 when Mark Messier won while finishing tied for fifth in scoring. Bobby Clarke finished sixth when he won the award in 1974-75 and Gordie Howe won in 1959-60 when also tied for fifth in scoring.

Hall becomes the first Devil to win the Hart Trophy in franchise history while Boyle is the first Devils recipient of the Masterton since Daneyko in 2000.

Other award winners named tonight include Connor McDavid of the Oilers winning the Ted Lindsay Award as the most outstanding player voted on by the NHLPA. Hall was also in the running for this award, but former teammate McDavid, who had a great season on his own (and would have possibly challenged for the Hart had Edmonton made the postseason) won it instead.

Victor Hedman of the Lightning was named Norris Trophy winner as best defenseman. The King Clancy Trophy for leadership and humanitarian contribution went to a pair this year: the retiring Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin of the Canucks. The Sedin twins become the first co-winners of this award in NHL history.

Matthew Barzal of the Islanders won the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year. According to Devils beat writer Amanda Stein, two Devils received votes for this trophy. Nico Hischier finished seventh in voting with 111 points (no first place votes, seven second place, six third place, six fourth place and 14 fifth place) and Will Butcher finished ninth with 37 points (no first place votes, one second, two third, five fourth and five fifth).

The hometown Vegas Golden Knights took home an amazing four awards, not surprising after their great maiden voyage of a season in 2017-18. William Karlsson was named the winner of the Lady Byng Trophy for most gentlemanly player, Gerard Gallant was Jack Adams Award winner for top coach, former Devils draft pick and longtime Las Vegas resident Deryk Engelland was given the Messier Leadership Award and George McPhee was named top General Manager.

Anze Kopitar, who came in third in the Hart Trophy voting did get some hardware. The Kings forward won the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward.

Pekka Rinne of the Predators took home his first Vezina Trophy as top goaltender in the NHL. Also at the show, Rinne’s teammate, PK Subban, was announced as the cover athlete for EA Sports’ NHL 19 video game.

And finally, a new award was given out, the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award. The first recipient was Darcy Haugan, awarded posthumously. Mr. Haugan was the coach of the Humboldt Broncos, the Saskatchewan junior team that was involved in a tragic bus accident earlier this season while traveling to a playoff game. A nice fitting tribute to a team and community that the hockey world has rallied around all year.

The Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award will be presented to those who commit to “improving lives and strengthening communities through hockey.” Christina Haughan accepted the award on behalf of her late husband.

Overall, it was a successful night for the Devils and their fans. Congratulations to Brian Boyle, Taylor Hall and all of the other NHL award winners. We will have coverage here tomorrow of the NHL schedule release, as we will know just where the Devils’ itinerary will take them in 2018-19. On Friday and Saturday, we will also have coverage of the NHL Draft. The Devils pick 17th overall in the first round.

Boyle Named Finalist for Masterton Trophy

The nominees for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, “awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey,” have been named. The Devils’ Brian Boyle is one of three finalists for the award, joining Roberto Luongo of the Florida Panthers and Jordan Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Boyle, who was diagnosed with chronic myeloid luekemia at the beginning of training camp will be up for the award on Wednesday, June 20 at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

In addition to fighting his own medical battles, Brian’s son, Declan, has been battling medical issues of his own. His bio on the NHL.com nomination page says that “(h)e worked his way back into the lineup by Nov. 1 and notched 10 goals over his first 25 games.” Noted among those goals was the goal he scored against the Canucks on the Devils’ Hockey Fights Cancer Night at The Rock on November 24.

The bio also noted that he participated in the NHL All-Star Game, substituting for an injured Taylor Hall and missed only three games after his debut with New Jersey. It also said that “(w)hile handling his own illness, his family and his career, Boyle has approached every day with the same optimistic attitude and perseverance that has inspired and lifted the Devils’ locker room.”

The 33-year-old Devils forward will see him up against two other players nominated by their local chapters of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA): Luongo, the Panthers’ 39-year-old goalie and Staal, the 29-year-old member of the Canes.

Luongo was nominated due to his comeback from an injury that nearly led to the Panthers completing a run for an Eastern Conference playoff berth. His bio notes that in a span of 13 games beginning on February 17, in the heat of the playoff battle, Luongo was 9-3-1 “with a 2.44 GAA and .928 SV%.” He also has lived in Parkland, Florida for 12 years, according to his bio and helped that community heal following the tragic events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The bio says that he gave “a heartfelt, unscripted speech to the crowd at BB&T Center prior to Florida’s game against Washington” on February 22. This was during a ceremony in which the Panthers honored the victims of the shooting at the school.

Staal was nominated due to his role with the Hurricanes as a leader (he was named co-captain prior to the season according to his bio) amidst a family tragedy. Jordan and his wife, Heather, lost their newborn daughter, Hannah in late February. His bio says that she “was delivered stillborn due to a terminal birth defect previously diagnosed by doctors.” Staal would miss only three games for Carolina after this devastating tragedy. His career accomplishments for the season saw him play in his 800th NHL game on December 27 and score his 200th NHL goal on January 12.

All three finalists are well deserving of the honor, as they showed true dedication to the sport through some horrible personal tragedies. The page on NHL.com also states that “(a) $2,500 grant from the PHWA is awarded annualy to the Bill Masterton Scholarship Fund, based in Bloomington, Minn., in the name of the Masterton Trophy winner.”

Should Boyle be chosen the winner, he would be the third player in franchise history and the second in team history to win the award named in honor of the late Minnesota North Star. Glenn “Chico” Resch won the award while a member of the Colorado Rockies in 1981-82, the season prior to the team coming east. Ken Daneyko then won in 1999-2000 as a member of the Devils.