The NFL and NBA both have the MIP award given during their annual award shows. This is given to the Most Improved Player of each season. I’ve been saying for years that this is something they should bring into the NHL. For that reason, I’m going to go over who each team’s representative would be if they brought this award into the league.
Anaheim Ducks: Troy Terry
This is a hard one to choose from, with options in Troy Terry, Ryan Getzlaf, Sonny Milano, and John Gibson. Ultimately, I decided on going with Terry.
Last season, Terry was healthy scratched multiple times, was in rumours as a potential trade chip for the Ducks, and finished the season with just seven goals.
Now, Terry leads the Ducks in goals (25), points (41), goals above replacement, and wins above replacement, and was one of the team’s two representatives at the NHL All-Star Game in Las Vegas.
His 41 points is a single-season career-high, and he still has 39 games to go. He’d definitely be a top candidate if this was an actual award.
Arizona Coyotes: Travis Boyd
If you would’ve asked this question last season, who would have expected Travis Boyd to be up there as a potential candidate?
After being in and out of the lineup in Toronto, and a waiver claim in Vancouver, where he finished the season with just 10 points through 39 games played, Boyd has seemingly found a home in the Valley, with 10 goals and 21 points through 39 games played.
Boyd has been one of the Coyotes’ hardest workers all season long, and that’s displayed in the analytics and the eye-test. He’s going to be a valuable depth add to any contending team at the trade deadline this season.
Boston Bruins: Taylor Hall
After a nightmarish season with the Buffalo Sabres last season, Taylor Hall is finally rising up to the potential that has been expected from a player of his caliber.
While Hall isn’t a majorly improved player, and would be pretty low on the league-wide voting if this were an award, he’s got just two less points than last season through eight less games, and has already matched his goal total at 10.
He’s holding a 7.80 goals above replacement thanks to his great results in the offensive and defensive zone, and has been a crucial part to the Bruins offensive core.
Buffalo Sabres: Tage Thompson
Just as he was being labelled as a bust by many NHL fans, Tage Thompson is finally showing himself off as a true first-round talent, and finally easing his way towards making the Ryan O’Reilly trade not as bad for the Buffalo Sabres.
Thompson leads the Sabres in points, with 32, and is second in goals with 14. He’s played just four more games than last season and has six more goals and 18 more points.
At just 24 years old, this is a major breakthrough for Thompson, and it’s especially good that he’s able to do this on a bottom-feeding team in Buffalo. He’d definitely be one of the favorites leaguewide for this award.
Carolina Hurricanes: Frederik Andersen
After being run out of Toronto by fans after back-to-back horrendous years and countless playoff disappointments, Frederik Andersen is finally finding his prime form again in Raleigh with the Hurricanes.
Last season, he had a 60.4 point percentage (PT%) in terms of earning his team a point in the standings. This season, he’s up to a 79.6%. His save percentage has also risen from an abysmal .895, to a .930, and he leads the league in goals saved above expected (GSAx) with a 23.69.
Originally, Andersen was brought in as a hopeful tandem goaltender, expected to share the crease with Antti Raanta. However, he’s proven himself as a bonafide number-one starting goaltender again, and is among the top of the league in practically every stat.
It’s good to see Andersen back.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Boone Jenner
Boone Jenner has been a pretty average player over the course of his career in the NHL. However, since being named as the captain in Columbus, his play has hit a different level, and it’s been a massive boost to the Blue Jackets’ offense.
Jenner is up to 19 goals, his single-season highest since hitting 30 in 2015-16, and has 33 points through just 45 games played. He leads the team in both categories. Let’s keep in mind that last season he had just eight goals and 17 points through 41 games played…
He’s on pace for 60 points in a full 82-game campaign, which would shatter his previous single-season high of 49.
Calgary Flames: Oliver Kylington
Another player who was slowly being labeled as a bust, Oliver Kylington is finally reaching his full potential at the age of 24.
Kylington played just eight games last season and spent most of his time on the taxi squad. Through those eight games he had recorded just one assist, and hadn’t scored a professional hockey goal since prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, Kylington has six goals and 23 points through 43 games played. He leads all Flames defensemen in goals and points, and is fifth on the entire team in points.
Kylington is no slouch analytically either, with 11.30 GAR and 2.00 WAR due to his elite even-strength offense and efficient defensive work as well, he’s quietly been one of the better “non-star” defensemen among the league.
Chicago Blackhawks: Brandon Hagel
Brandon Hagel has been a pleasant emergence to the Blackhawks’ top-nine this season, becoming a very valuable piece to the team, believe it or not.
Hagel has already topped his points from last season by two through 11 less games played, and has four more goals as well. Not to mention he leads the entire team in GAR and WAR.
The former sixth-round pick is doing this all at just 23 years-old, which is nice to see if you’re a Blackhawks fan worried about the post-Kane/Toews era.
Colorado Avalanche: Nazem Kadri
I feel like this doesn’t need explaining, but I’ll do it anyways. This season, Nazem Kadri has gone from a solid second-line centre to a top-15 player in the entire league.
Kadri is tied for third LEAGUE-WIDE in points, with 61. He’s tied with this guy named Connor McDavid, and trails Jonathan Huberdeau and Leon Draisaitl by three.
Kadri, who is entering the unrestricted free agent market this offseason, has already tied his career-high in points with 61, has registered 29 more points than he did last season in 14 less games, and still has 40 more games to go…
Kadri is second in the entire league in GAR and WAR, as he trails just his teammate in Colorado, Mikko Rantanen with a whopping 17.2 GAR and 3.00 WAR.
Dallas Stars: Braden Holtby
I honestly struggled with this one because of the fact that Dallas has been so “meh” this season. Not good, not bad, just kind of chilling there, which seems to be status quo for them year after year after year. After a while of trying to find somebody I thought fit the MIP criteria, I decided to go with goaltender Braden Holtby.
Holtby went from being the backup for the Canucks last season (and struggling, badly) to splitting the net in Dallas. His save percentage has also gone up from an .889 save percentage to a .913, but he still holds a -2.57 GSAx.
I don’t think Holtby would stand a chance at this award, but Dallas needed a representative, and he was the most worthy of that spot.
Detroit Red Wings: Vladislav Namestnikov
Vladislav Namestnikov has come a long way since his Tampa Bay days. Since then, he’s had stops in New York, Ottawa, Colorado, and now Detroit, where he’s finally seeming to settle into his role.
Admittedly, Namestnikov hasn’t had a major jump in production, with just six more points in just four less games, but he’s taken a bigger role in Detroit than he has anywhere else in his NHL career.
There’s not much to write on Namestnikov, as he wouldn’t be a massive contender for the entire league, but he’s my pick for the Red Wings.
Edmonton Oilers: Jesse Puljujarvi
Afrter fleeing back to Finland, many fans didn’t think we’d see Jesse Puljujarvi play with the Edmonton Oilers again. However, since returning to North America, he’s suited up for two season with the Oilers, and is already improved from last season.
Puljujarvi’s production has jumped by one point in 12 less games played, as he’s taken a more prominent role in the team’s top-six. Additionally, his analytics have been great, with a 7.80 GAR and 1.70 WAR.
Again, like Namestnikov, he wouldn’t be a top contender for this award league-wide, but he’d be my pick in Edmonton.
Florida Panthers: Sergei Bobrovsky
Now on this note, Sergei Bobrovsky would be a serious contender for this award.
The Russian-born goaltender was beginning to look like the worst contract in the league after back-to-back abysmal regular season and playoff performances. However, he’s shifted back into his prime gear this season, and has been a crucial part to the Panthers’ success.
His earned point percentage has gone from a 68.9% to an 81.6%, and his save percentage has gone up from a .906 to a .920 as well. Not to mention his GSAx of 11.78, which ranks seventh league-wide.
It’s great to see Bobrovsky, one of the greatest goalies in the last decade, back into his prime form, and he’d definitely be a contender for this award.
Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Quick didn’t care that the Kings signed Cal Petersen to a three-year extension worth $15 million this offseason, he was determined to earn the crease back in the City of Angels, and that’s exactly what he has done.
After three straights seasons of a below .905 save percentage, Quick has battled his way back to a .912 save percentage this season, along with a 10.43 GSAx. All this on a struggling defensive team, mind you.
The 36-year-old would be on my top-five ballot for this award for sure, and it’s admirable to see how he’s been able to bounce back after some horrible seasons to help the Kings win hockey games.
Minnesota Wild: Ryan Hartman
It’s been fun to watch Ryan Hartman’s progression from an AHLer, to a depth piece, to a massive scoring chip for the Wild’s top-six.
This season, Hartman has taken his game to the next level and been crucial for the Wild’s production offensively. He has 11 more goals and 11 more points from last season through nine less games played.
The Wild have a ton of options to choose from. You could go with Hartman, or Mats Zuccarello, even Alex Goligoski. Personally, I went with Hartman just due to the fact that he was a depth player just a couple of years ago, and now he’s a big part of the culture that is being built in Minnesota.
Montreal Canadiens: Artturi Lehkonen
I’m proud of myself for even being able to put somebody on this list, because quite frankly, nothing is improved about the Canadiens this season. They went from Stanley Cup finalists to dead-last in the NHL. Ultimately though, I decided on Lehkonen.
Lehkonen has slowly become a highly touted trade chip as the trade deadline approaches, as teams are allegedly “begging” the Canadiens to move him. Production-wise, we haven’t seen much growth, with just six more points through three less games.
Where the improvement comes from is the defensive-end. Lehkonen is analytically the best defensive player in hockey this year. Obviously, when you factor the fact that he plays third-line and doesn’t have to go up against the best of the best, you realize he isn’t the BEST defensive player in the league, but the analytics to back his defensive work ethic are really impressive.
Overall, Lehkonen would probably be last in voting if we lined up all 32 of these players, but he’s definitely impressed in the defensive-end, and is going to be a valuable depth addition wherever he goes.
New Jersey Devils: Jesper Bratt
This was a hard one between Bratt and Jack Hughes, but I opted to go with Bratt because of how less of a “big name” he is for the Devils, and how he has played more games this season as well.
Bratt has 13 more points through one less game this season, as he is up to 43 points through 45 games played. It’s his first time breaking the 40-point plateau in his five-season career at the NHL level. He also leads all Devils players in points by 14.
Nashville Predators: Matt Duchene
This one makes me happy, the resurrection of Matt Duchene’s career.
Since being traded out of Ottawa, Duchene has struggled to find his form. He cashed in on a massive seven-year deal worth $8 million annually back in 2019, and has struggled immensely.
Duchene had just six goals and 13 points through 34 games played last season. He was exposed to Seattle in the expansion draft, shopped around the league multiple times and in rumours almost every single day. Now, he’s got 22 goals (his most since 2018-19), 42 points (most since 2019-20 and in 23 less games played) and is second in Predators scoring behind just Roman Josi.
Duchene would be among the top of the candidates league-wide.
New York Islanders: Ilya Sorokin
Not many players have improved for the Islanders this season, but I’ll go with Sorokin.
Sorokin split the net with Semyon Varlamov in his rookie season last year, going 13-6-3 with a .918 save percentage. While this isn’t bad, his underlying numbers show that he was being carried by the trap system in New York.
This has been the opposite of the case this season. Sorokin has a .924 save percentage through 28 games played, ranks 12th in the NHL in GSAx with 10.12, and has fully taken over the starting crease with the Islanders.
New York Rangers: Chris Kreider
Along with Nazem Kadri in Colorado, this may have been one of the easiest choices for me.
Chris Kreider quite literally leads the NHL in goals at the half-way point, tied with Leon Draisaitl at 33. To put this into perspective, he had just 30 POINTS last season through three more games played…
This season, he has a career-high in goals (33), and is just five points away from his career-high in points, with 47 in 28 less games played.
Ottawa Senators: Matt Murray
We all know how I feel about Matt Murray, so it is with great pleasure that I am putting him on this list.
Murray was sent down to the AHL on November 28th, and it looked like his NHL career may have been over as we knew it. I mean, he had come off of two straight years with a below .900 save percentage, and had an .880 this season at the time.
Well, since being called back up, Murray has brought his overall save percentage to a .922, and holds a 7.72 GSAx. He’s first in the entire league in save percentage since Jan. 10 (min. 10 GP).
It may be too early to say it, but is Matt Murray back…?
Philadelphia Flyers: Cam Atkinson
It was hard to pick somebody on the Flyers, because… well they’re awful.
I finally decided on Cam Atkinson, however. He has already surpassed his goal and point total from last season in nine less games, and is tied with Claude Giroux for leading scorer in Philadelphia.
As I said, it was hard to choose a player for the Flyers just because of how awful they have been.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Tristan Jarry
We had our fun chirping Tristan Jarry after that horrendous playoff outing last May, and I bet he’s having fun proving us all wrong this season as he has completely turned it around and has become one of the best goaltenders in the entire league.
Jarry had an average regular season last season, kind of being carried by an elite Penguins team as he posted just a .909 save percentage and negative GSAx. This season, he’s up to a .925 save percentage and is sixth in the NHL in GSAx with an 11.88.
If Jarry plays this way in the playoffs, we may have a chance at seeing Crosby, Malkin, and Letang push for one more championship.
San Jose Sharks: Timo Meier
Last season wasn’t necessarily fun for Timo Meier. The Sharks were awful, and he was in Bob Boughner’s doghouse, being healthy scratched and glued to the fourth-line several times.
However, he’s bounced back mightily this season, and has been one of the bright spots to an otherwise dull Sharks offensive group this season.
Meier is up to 21 goals and 47 points through just 41 games played this season, with just eight of those coming off of the power play. He’s also 12th in the entire NHL in GAR and WAR, and he’s done all of this while averaging under 19:00 per game.
Seattle Kraken: Jaden Schwartz
After a rough season due to his fathers passing last year, Jaden Schwartz has gotten back on track to the level we all knew he could play at, as he’s been one of the Kraken’s best forwards in the team’s inaugural season.
Schwartz had just 21 points through 40 games played last season, he’s up to 20 now, and in 11 less games. He’s also been a two-way threat, contributing in the defensive zone.
St. Louis Blues: Ville Husso
Why goaltending is the most random position in sports history, part 2,788: Ville Husso.
Husso went from being one of the worst goaltenders in the NHL last season, to one of the best, and potentially their saviour as Jordan Binnington has had a really rough season.
Husso has the same amount of wins as last season with three less losses, and his save percentage has gone up from an .893 to a .941. His GSAx of 17.90 puts him at third in the entire league.
I’ve always been a massive Binnington fan, but it may be time to start wondering if it’s Husso time in St. Louis. What do you do with that big contract though…
Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos
Steven Stamkos is back to putting the league on notice just in time for a Tampa Bay Lightning three-peat attempt… great.
Stamkos’ 54 points puts him up by 20 more than last season. His PPG rate has jumped from 0.89 to 1.14 as well.
It’s great to see Stamkos back after dealing with all these injuries through the years, and he’s definitely deserving of this nomination for Tampa Bay. Although, had to consider Anthony Cirelli there for a little bit.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Morgan Rielly
It’s that new contract type of performance for Morgan Rielly, as he’s definitely making sure that the Maple Leafs get their bang for their buck.
Rielly has been massive on the Maple Leafs’ blue line this season, with his production and analytics pointing towards him being a top-10 defenseman this season.
He’s tied his goal total from last season and has five more points through 11 less games. He’s also on pace for 74 points through a full 82-game season, which would be similar to that amazing season he had in 2018-19.
Vancouver Canucks: Quinn Hughes
Speaking of new contracts for defensemen, that contract for Quinn Hughes isn’t looking so bad anymore.
Hughes production hasn’t improved, in fact he’s on pace for around the same PPG rate as last season, however his defense has taken a step to the next level, while not elite, it’s not as horrendous as it was last year.
Hughes is up to a 5.10 GAR and 0.90 WAR, and looks to continue to be a big part to the Canucks’ blue line going forward.
Vegas Golden Knights: Chandler Stephenson
In a season where injuries have been the main story for the Golden Knights, Chandler Stephenson has been the knight in shining armour for this team.
Stephenson has assumed first-line centre roles as the team waits for Jack Eichel’s soon-to-come season debut, and he has done a great job at it.
Stephenson is up three points through six less games this season, as he has 12 goals and 38 points through 45 games played.
Stephenson has been without Max Pacioretty, and Mark Stone through various parts of the season, which makes this even more impressive.
Washington Capitals: Evgeny Kuznetsov
Kuznetsov came off of a rough season last year, where he was rumoured to be a bad teammate and not as motivated to win.
He has shut all of those down, as he’s had a tremendous season with the Capitals.
Kuznetsov has 15 goals and 48 points through 46 games played, which is over a point-per-game. That’s 19 more points than last season through just five more games played.
Winnipeg Jets: Pierre-Luc Dubois
While the Jets have been disappointing this season, Pierre-Luc Dubois has not.
After struggling following the move to Winnipeg last season, where he had just eight goals and 20 points through 41 games played, Dubois is up to 19 goals and 34 points through 43 games this season.
Dubois trails just Kyle Connor in points on the Jets, and it’s nice to see him finally fitting in with the team. He’s going to be a big part of the team’s success, whenever it ends up coming…