After a year away from the NHL’s awards-show stage, Connor McDavid came back with a vengeance.
Monday night in Nashville, the Edmonton Oilers’ 26-year-old captain picked up the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player as well as the Ted Lindsay Award, voted most outstanding player by his peers in the NHL Players’ Association.
McDavid also captured his fifth scoring title in his eight-year NHL career and his third-straight Art Ross Trophy thanks to a career-high 153 points, the most since Mario Lemieux put up 161 points in the 1995-96 season. And hitting a new career high with 64 goals, the most since Alex Ovechkin’s 65-goal campaign in 2007-08, McDavid also won his first-ever Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL’s top goal scorer.
The normally stoic McDavid became emotional as the Hart Trophy was presented to him by the family of Ben Stelter, the young Oilers superfan who was close to McDavid and his teammates and played the role of good-luck charm for the team before losing his battle with cancer in August of 2022 at six years old.
After sweeping the first-place votes last time he won, in 2021, McDavid garnered 195 out of 196 first-place votes this time around. The lone dissenter backed second-place David Pastrnak of the Bruins, while Matthew Tkachuk of the Florida Panthers finished third overall in the voting.
Late last week, McDavid and his longtime girlfriend Lauren Kyle also announced their engagement.
In his acceptance speech, McDavid made a point of thanking the Oilers’ ownership and management groups for the work they’ve done to make Edmonton a desired destination for hockey players — no small feat for the NHL’s northernmost franchise, playing in a relatively small but storied and hockey-mad market in northern Alberta. It has now been 30 years since a Canadian team last won the Stanley Cup (Montreal Canadiens, 1993). The Oilers were the last Canadian team standing this spring, taking the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Vegas Golden Knights to six games in a hard-fought second-round series.
After a historic regular season saw them finish with 65 wins and 135 points, members of the Boston Bruins were also well-represented on the awards stage. In his first year behind the bench in Boston, Jim Montgomery was named the winner of the Jack Adams Award as the NHL coach of the year, beating out fellow finalists Lindy Ruff of the New Jersey Devils and Dave Hakstol of the Seattle Kraken. Goaltender Linus Ullmark was also named a first-time winner of the Vezina Trophy as the top player at his position, beating out Ilya Sorokin of the New York Islanders and Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets. And while he wasn’t on hand to collect his hardware, bruins captain Patrice Bergeron was named the winner of the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the NHL’s best defensive forward for a record-setting sixth-time. As a testimony to his consistency, this also marks the 11th-straight season that the soon-to-be 38-year-old has finished in the top 3 in awards voting.
Set to hit unrestricted free agency on July 1 after signing a bonus-laden one-year deal last summer, it’s unclear whether Bergeron will return to the Bruins this fall, or if he will choose to retire — a decision which could set the course for Boston in the offseason.
Other notable winners on Monday included Erik Karlsson of the San Jose Sharks taking home the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman for the third time in his career, a second Lady Byng Trophy win for Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar as the NHL’s most gentlemanly player, and Matty Beniers becoming the first-ever member of the Seattle Kraken to win a major award as he took home the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
And even among NHL greats, hockey’s next can’t-miss prospect held his own under the bright lights of Bridgestone Arena.
With his draft day now just two days away, Connor Bedard took to the stage to accept the E.J. McGuire Award of Excellence as the top prospect who best embodies the “commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness and athleticism,” as selected by NHL Central Scouting.
In a show that embraced its locale in Music City, country superstar Dierks Bentley served as host for the evening, assisted by his young son Knox. The emotional heartbeat of the evening was Kris Letang’s acceptance speech for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, awarded “to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.” Letang returned to the ice for the Pittsburgh Penguins after suffering the second stroke of his career midway through the season and also dealt with the passing of his father, all within a four-week period.
Mikael Backlund of the Calgary Flames also made an impassioned speech about the importance of giving back after being named the recipient of the King Clancy Memorial Trophy for philanthrophy, a token of recognition for his involvement with causes including the ALS Society of Alberta, Kids Cancer Care and Special Olympics Calgary. And Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was selected as this year’s winner of the Mark Messier Leadership Award.
One final award has yet to be announced. Jim Nill of the Dallas Stars, Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins and Bill Zito of the Florida Panthers are the three finalists for the Jim Gregory general manager of the year award. The winner will be named on Wednesday during Day 1 of the draft.
This year marks the first time that the NHL has ever held its awards ceremony and the draft in the same venue. After a run of more than a decade in Vegas for the awards show, it’s also the first time that the two events have been held in the same city since 2006, in Vancouver.