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Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov takes top honor as hockey writers give out midseason awards | TribLIVE.com
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Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov takes top honor as hockey writers give out midseason awards

Jonathan Bombulie
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Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Ducks goaltender John Gibson makes a save on the Penguins’ Jake Guentzel in the first period Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017 at PPG Paints Arena.

Being the best player on the best team isn’t a bad way to win a Hart Trophy as the NHL’s regular-season MVP.

That’s where Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov finds himself as the league hits its all-star break.

Kucherov, who leads the league with 78 points in 49 games, was the leading vote-getter in MVP balloting as the Professional Hockey Writers Association released its midseason awards Thursday.

Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid rounded out the top three in MVP voting.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has the respect of his peers for the all-around game he’s been playing this season, but that didn’t translate into votes from the writers. Awards were voted on by 125 PHWA members from around the league.

Here is a look at the other nine awards handed out.

Norris Trophy: Calgary’s Mark Giordano is the favorite to win defenseman of the year honors, ranking second among NHL defenseman with 52 points and first with a plus-29 rating. Toronto’s Morgan Rielly and San Jose’s Brent Burns were second and third in the voting. Penguins defenseman Kris Letang is a candidate.

Vezina Trophy: Can a goalie on a mediocre team win a Vezina? This year could be a good test case. Whitehall native John Gibson is the winner of the midseason award despite going 17-16-8 for the struggling Anaheim Ducks. Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury, who leads the league in wins with 27, was second and has a good chance to claim his first Vezina.

Calder Trophy: Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson is the league’s top rookie by a large margin.

Jack Adams Award: If Pettersson for Calder isn’t the biggest lock for a postseason award, then it’s Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders for coach of the year honors. The improvement his first-place team has shown after losing John Tavares to free agency is nothing short of remarkable.

General manager of the year: Brad Treliving has the Calgary Flames contending in the Western Conference.

Selke Trophy: Boston’s Patrice Bergeron will be tough to dethrone for league’s best defensive forward honors. Florida’s Aleksander Barkov and Ottawa’s Mark Stone rounded out the top three. Crosby is a candidate.

Lady Byng Trophy: Voters were impressed with the gentlemanly play of Barkov, who has two penalty minutes in 48 games.

Rod Langway Award: Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm was voted best defensive defenseman, ahead of Giordano and Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman.

Comeback player of the year: Islanders goalie Robin Lehner has an .931 save percentage after battling alcohol and mental health problems.

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.