A.K.A. 7 Awards the NHL Needs Right Now!
Every year, the NHL gives its superstars awards to celebrate their talents — from Cale Makar winning the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman, to Auston Matthews winning the Rocket Richard Trophy for leading the league in goals.
But what about the other guys who contribute to their teams in less obvious, but still important, ways? Why not give out an award to the player who can fight and score goals, or the least-likely goalie to appear in an NHL game?
Thus, back in 2018, I created the annual Puck Junk Awards to give due the the NHL’s toughest mofo, the most hated player, and heck, even the most-traded player, among others. Special thanks to Puck Junk Podcast cohost Tim Parish for helping with the voting process.
So here are the 2022 Puck Junk Award Winners!
The Chris Kontos Trophy
For the player you never heard of that came out of nowhere and surprised everyone — like the way Chris Kontos did when he scored four goals for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the team’s first-ever game back in 1992.
And the winner is…Joe Snively of the Washington Capitals!
Why? It took a global pandemic, but Joe Snively finally got his shot — in the NHL, that is. He was a standout at Yale University for four seasons, then put up decent numbers in the AHL for the next two. But Snively did not get a chance to play in the NHL until December 19, 2021, when Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, and T.J. Oshie were put in COVID protocol. Snively registered one assist and two shots on net in his NHL debut. A month later, Snively got a longer stint with the Capitals, appearing in 11 games, scoring four goals and two assists. Not exactly Alex Ovechkin numbers here, but Snively did have a three-point (2G, 1A) performance against Montreal, and later scored goals in back-to-back games. Not bad for a guy who averaged only around 11 minutes of ice time per game. Making his story even more cool is that Snively was a Caps fan who grew up about 25 miles away from Washington D.C. and skated in the team’s “Little Caps” hockey program.
Alex Nedeljkovic, Carolina Hurricanes (2021)
Dominik Kubalik, Chicago Blackhawks (2020)
Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues (2019)
William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights (2018)
The Boomerang of the Year Award
For the player that went away, and then came back. Had this award existed a decade ago, past recipients would have included Peter Forsberg and Claude Lemieux.
And the winner is…Brian Boyle of the Pittsburgh Penguins!
Why? Brian Boyle did not have a team to play for in 2020-21, but that didn’t stop him from making his way back to the NHL. He captained Team USA in the 2021 IIHF World Championships and helped the U.S. squad win the bronze medal. After that, he was signed to a professional tryout with the Penguins and did well enough to earn a one-year contract. Boyle scored 11 goals and 10 assists in 66 games for the Pens, which is quite respectable for the 37-year-old center who sat out a full season.
Joe Thornton, Toronto Maple Leafs (2021)
Justin Williams, Carolina Hurricanes (2020)
Ilya Kovalchuk, Los Angeles Kings (2019)
Mike Fisher, Nashville Predators (2018)
The Len Broderick Trophy
For the goalie least likely to play in an NHL game, but actually got to play in an NHL game. The award is named after Len Broderick, who was a “standby” goalie that suited up for the Montreal Canadiens for one game in 1957 to fill in for Jacques Plante.
And the winner is…Tom Hodges of the Anaheim Ducks!
Why? It took until the penultimate day of the 2021-22 regular season, but we finally got to see an Emergency Backup Goaltender (EBUG) don the pads and step between the pipes for an NHL team. Tom Hodges, the EBUG on duty for the Dallas Stars, was called into action for the Anaheim Ducks when both John Gibson and Anthony Stolarz were injured on April 29. Playing the entire third period, Hodges made one save and allowed one goal in a 3-2 loss. Unfortunately, that goal was the game-winner, meaning that his NHL record is 0-1. Fortunately, Hodges — who is blind in one eye — got to live his dream of being an NHL goalie for a night.
Michael Houser, Buffalo Sabres (2021)
David Ayres, Carolina Hurricanes (2020)
Hunter Miska, Arizona Coyotes (2019)
Scott Foster, Chicago Blackhawks (2018)
The Bob Probert Punchbowl
For being a tough mofo that can fight and contribute offensively.
And the winner is…Tanner Jeannot of the Nashville Predators!
Why? 25-year old rookie Tanner Jeannot led the league with 14 fighting majors during the 2021-22 season. Interestingly seven fights were in road games and the other seven were in home games. Some of Jeannot’s opponents were also more than willing to drop the gloves, including Sam Carrick (11 fights in 2021-22) and Keegan Kolesar (eight fights in 2021-22), so it wasn’t like he went after lightweights. Yet, Jeannot contributed offensively, too. His 24 goals and 17 assists for 41 points put him at 5th-overall in scoring for the Predators and 8th-overall in scoring among rookies.
Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators (2021)
Ryan Reaves, Las Vegas Golden Knights (2020)
Michael Ferland, Carolina Hurricanes (2019)
Tom Wilson, Washington Capitals (2018)
The Kessel Kup
For being the Stanley Cup MVP who was not given Stanley Cup MVP award because his more-popular teammate was voted as Stanley Cup MVP. Named in honor of Penguins’ forward Phil Kessel, who should have won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2016 as the playoff MVP, only to lose to Sidney Crosby.
And the winner is…for the third year in a row, there will be no winner of the Kessel Kup.
Why? The Kessel Kup is only awarded if a player who should have won MVP honors did not. However, for the third year in a row, awarding this trophy is not necessary. Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. It was a no-brainer, as he led the Avs in assists and points during the postseason — and he’s a defenseman! There was no more deserving player to be named playoff MVP, so the Kessel Kup is once again not necessary. Should this trend continue, this award may need to be retired, like the Emery Edge Award or the O’Brien Trophy.
Not Awarded in 2021
Not Awarded in 2020
Jordan Binnington, St. Louis Blues (2019)
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals (2018)
The Claude Lemieux Award
For being the guy that everyone wants to punch in the face.
And the winner is…Nazem Kadri of the Colorado Avalanche!
Why? Heading into the 2021-22 seson, Nazem Kadri was already a polarizing figure. He was suspended for eight games during the 2021 playoffs for an illegal check to the head of Blues’ defenseman Justin Falk. That was his 6th suspension during his career, which had many fans brand Kadri as a dirty player. During the 2022 playoffs, Kadri collided with Blues’ goalie Jordan Binnington, who was injured for the rest of the playoffs. Binnington allegedly threw a water bottle at Kadri while Kadri was doing a postgame interview. Being involved in Binnington’s injury — whether he was responsible or not — already made those who disliked Kadri dislike him even more. Regardless of whether Kadri is a dirty player or if he just “plays on the edge,” he was effective during the playoffs for the Avs and a large part of their Stanley Cup Championship.
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning (2021)
Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames (2020)
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins (2019)
Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins (2018)
The McLlwain Medal of Merit
Named in honor of NHL journeyman Dave McLlwain, who suited up for four different NHL teams in one season, this award honors the guy who changed teams the most in 2021-22.
And the winner is…Riley Nash of the Winnipeg Jets, then of the Tampa Bay Lightning, then of of the Arizona Coyotes, and then AGAIN of the Tampa Bay Lightning!
Why? Both center Riley Nash and goaltender Scott Wedgewood played for three different NHL teams this season. But Nash gets the nod for this year’s McLlwain Medal of Merit because he changed teams four times — five if you count his stint in the AHL. Nash signed with the Jets as a free agent on July 31, 2021, but had a slow start and was put on waivers. The Lightning claimed Nash on December 7, 2021. Less than a month later, the Lightning put him on waivers and he was claimed by the lowly Coyotes on January 6, 2022. The Lightning reacquired Nash on March 21 in a trade and assigned him to its AHL team, the Syracuse Crunch. However, he was later recalled by the Lightning for the playoffs. In summary, Nash played 52 games (regular season and playoff combined) between three different NHL teams. But in the previous season, he played with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs — meaning that in one calendar year, Nash has played with five different NHL teams and one AHL team.
Greg Pateryn, Wild / Avalanche / Sharks (2021)
Ilya Kovalchuk, Kings / Canadiens / Capitals (2020)
What player would you like to see win one of these awards? Or what new award should replace the Kessel Kup? Leave a suggestion below, or hit me up on Twitter.
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk. ■