NHL Post Season Awards: The Lightning have plenty of candidates to bring home the hardware.

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Stamkos And Lightning Defeat Blue Jackets
Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates with the bench after his goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov, Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Toronto’s Auston Matthews are all in the running to win the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP.

MacKinnon has carried the top-heavy Avalanche into the playoffs, Kucherov has played a role in half the Lightning’s goals, McDavid got the Oilers back in it after a horrid start and Matthews is on the verge of becoming the first to player to hit 70 goals in a season in more than 30 years.

McDavid also became just the fourth player to record 100 assists in a season, and Kucherov is one away with a game left.

“There’s a lot,” Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman said. “These kind of numbers have not been reached in a long time. … It’s going to be close, but you obviously know who has my vote.”

Here is who AP’s hockey writers think will take home the hardware on these regular-season awards in June (all stats through Monday):

HART (MVP)

Lage: MacKinnon. It’s time for the superstar to win the award. Five times he has finished in the top six, and he has crushed his career highs in goals, assists and points for one of the NHL’s best teams.

Wawrow: Matthews. There have been only 14 times a player has scored 70 goals in a season, and none since Alexander Mogilny and Teemu Selanne had 76 apiece in 1992-93. Matthews simply approaching that number and representing 24% of his team’s goal total is too hard to overlook.

Whyno: Kucherov. While MacKinnon winning would add an important honor to his career, Kucherov has 53 more points than his next-closest teammate.

NORRIS (best defenseman)

Lage: Quinn Hughes. Vancouver has had a stunning turnaround and the 24-year-old has had a lot to do with it. The Canucks have been able to count on the durable defenseman being in the lineup and producing, more than doubling his previous career high in goals.

Wawrow: Hughes. Sure, the Predators don’t come close to making the playoffs without Roman Josi. But, the Canucks don’t go from missing the playoffs by 12 points last year to leading the Pacific Division without Hughes.

Whyno: Roman Josi. The Predators’ late 16-0-2 run was a reflection of Josi’s monster play as a point-a-game player. Nashville’s captain also has the most goals among defensemen with 23.

CALDER (top rookie)

Lage: Connor Bedard. The No. 1 overall pick in the draft lived up to the hype, averaging roughly a point a game despite teams trying to shut him down while playing for Chicago, one of the worst teams in the league.

Wawrow: Bedard. Whatever questions faced the 5-foot-10, 185-pound, 18-year-old forward were answered in a season he led all rookies in points despite missing six weeks with a broken jaw.

Whyno: Brock Faber. While Bedard has yet to play a meaningful game because the Blackhawks are far from contention, Faber skated 25 minutes a night for Minnesota as the Wild tried to make the playoffs. That’s sixth among all players, and he has 46 points.

SELKE (best defensive forward)

Lage: Aleksander Barkov. The 2021 winner has finished among the top eight in voting six times. The two-way player was among league leaders in plus-minus and averaged more than a point per game for Florida, suiting up in 70-plus games.

Wawrow: Jordan Staal. Carolina has overcome a rash of goaltender injuries, and Staal’s defensive-minded play contributed to the Hurricanes ranking among the NHL’s top five in goals against.

Whyno: Staal. The Hurricanes captain has yet to win the Selke, and no better time than now given his central role in anchoring Carolina’s shutdown line and winning 58% of his faceoffs.

VEZINA (best goalie)

Lage: Connor Hellebuyck. The 2020 winner has been spectacular this season. Hellebuyck gave up fewer than 2.50 goals a game to lift Winnipeg to a 100-point season for the first time since 2018, when the Jets reached the conference final for the first and only time in franchise history.

Wawrow: Hellebuyck. The 30-year-old from Michigan gets the nod ahead of Florida’s Sergei Bobrovsky for a few reasons, including enjoying 36 starts in which he allowed two or fewer goals. Bobrovsky did so in 32 starts and on a Panthers team regarded for being defensively responsible.

Whyno: Hellebuyck. His save percentage is best in the NHL among goalies with 50 or more starts, and his goals-against average is second only to Bobrovsky’s. Just give him the trophy.

JACK ADAMS (best coach)

Lage: Rick Tocchet. He took over in Vancouver when Bruce Boudreau was fired midway through last season and made the most of the opportunity. The Canucks were considered a middle-of-the-pack team at best before the season started and ended up earning more points than any season for more than a decade.

Wawrow: Tocchet. The 60-year-old showed potential in making the Arizona Coyotes competitive during his four-year stint in the desert. And that’s carried over in the Pacific Northwest where he’s getting the best out of a talented team that underachieved last season.

Whyno: Peter Laviolette. In his first year coaching the Rangers, the 2006 Stanley Cup champion got the most out of his roster and got everyone from Artemi Panarin to Matt Rempe to buy in.

LADY BYNG (sportsmanship)

Lage: Patrick Kane. The 35-year-old winger revived his career with Detroit, bouncing back from hip surgery. The three-time Cup champion and 2016 MVP was kind with everyone he crossed paths with, though goaltenders didn’t love that he still has quick hands and a slick shot.

Wawrow: Jaccob Slavin. The Hurricanes defenseman has single-digit penalty minutes despite logging nearly 21 minutes of ice time per game and in a rough-and-tumble division.

Why not: Slavin previously won this award in 2021, and he deserves it again based on the defensive matchups he is tasked with.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl

LARRY LAGE