Charlie McAvoy, Patrice Bergeron firmly in early NHL awards discussion

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It’s probably a little early to be having serious discussions about NHL end-of-season awards given that we’re not even halfway through the regular season yet, but it’s still fun to think about and discuss.

ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski posted the latest edition of his monthly Awards Watch column on Tuesday morning, and after his discussions with voters, he has a couple Bruins tracking towards finalist nominations.

Most notably, he has Charlie McAvoy as one of the three finalists for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league’s top defenseman. It might be time for all that talk about McAvoy potentially putting himself in the Norris conversation in a year or two to adjust to the reality that he is already in the conversation right now.

Here is what Wyshynski writes about his candidacy:

We think McAvoy might have the most buzz for the third Norris spot at the moment. He has 15 points in 19 games. He has skated a career high 23:48 on average. He has a 57.12 expected goals percentage at 5-on-5, and the Bruins get 56% of the scoring chances when he's on the ice. McAvoy "taking the next step" after Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara walk away from the Bruins is a compelling narrative.

Wyshynski has Colorado’s Cale Makar as the Norris leader right now, which is hard to argue given how dominant he is at both ends of the ice and how exciting he is to watch with his skating and footwork. If Makar were to win, it would add a third major trophy to his shelf in the last three years -- from the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in college hockey at UMass in 2019, to the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie last year, and now the Norris.

The other Bruin Wyshynski has a finalist should be no surprise: Patrice Bergeron for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s best defensive forward. It would be Bergeron’s 10th straight nomination, extending his own record.

He’s still looking for his fifth win to break his tie with Bob Gainey for the all-time record, but Wyshynski doesn’t have him getting it as of now. Instead he has the Selke going to Florida center Aleksander Barkov. Again, this would be hard to argue against -- Barkov has been one of the best defensive forwards in the league for years, is having a great season for the resurgent Panthers, and could get the “this is his year” boost, a la the Flyers’ Sean Couturier last year.

Elsewhere, Wyshynski has Brad Marchand as a “name to watch” for the Hart Trophy (MVP), but that’s really just a battle for the third finalist spot as Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Toronto’s Auston Matthews duke it out for the win.

He also has Bruce Cassidy as an honorable mention for the Jack Adams Award (best coach). Cassidy won the award last year and could certainly have a case this year if the Bruins start to surge again, as his work with this younger, inexperienced defense corps will deserve attention.

You can read Wyshynski’s full column here (ESPN+ subscription required).