Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 1/27/12

PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 20: Center Evgeni Malkin #71 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates with the puck against the St. Louis Blues on October 20, 2009 at Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Every other week, we’ll bring you an updated look at the candidates for the major awards around the NHL…

Tracker archive:
Nov. 17
Dec. 2
Dec. 16
Dec. 30
Jan. 15

1. Evgeni Malkin, PIT
Stats: 42 GP, 26 G, 32 A, 58 Pts, +12
Two weeks ago I took Malkin off the top three here. I have a pretty good feeling he is here to stay. It goes without saying, but ‘Geno has been magnificent this season. He battled through injury in the first quarter, but has turned it on ever since Sidney Crosby re-exited the lineup, putting the Penguins on his back during their current seven-game win streak. Malkin leads the NHL in points at the All-Star break and has been downright dominant in the last 21 games (17 goals, 34 points); of late, every goal or assist seems to be coming at a key time in the game. There isn’t a better player in the world right now.
2. Jonathan Toews, CHI
Stats: 49 GP, 27 G, 23 A, 50 Pts, +17
As valuable as Malkin has been to the Pens, Toews is just as important to Chicago. Toews, currently on IR with an upper-body injury, is on pace for a career-high 44 goals, but he’s bring a lot more to the table than just goal-scoring. He is the most important offensive and defensive forward for the Blackhawks, who are in contention for the Central Division at the break. He won’t lead the league in points, but Toews is the straw that stirs the drink for the ‘Hawks.
3. Claude Giroux, PHI
Stats: 44 GP, 18 G, 37 A, 55 Pts, +0
You could make an argument that no player has meant more to his team than Giroux to the Flyers. The 23-year-old budding star is Mr. Everything for the Flyers and is elite in many facets of the game. Giroux, who is tied for second in the NHL in points, has been clutch for his team all year. His production has slowed a bit, though, with zero goals since the Winter Classic. Expect him to turn it around, but his stock has dropped a tad in the MVP race.

1. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR
Stats: 22-10-4, 1.87 GAA, .937 SV%, 5 SO
Lundqvist continues to be a stalwart and has been lights-out since Dec. 11 (1.55 GAA, .946 SV%). He’s a big reason why the Blueshirts are playing their best hockey of the year and have taken the lead in the Eastern Conference. ‘King Henrik’ is also arguably playing the best of his career. If he continues to put up these numbers, he’ll be near the top of the Vezina discussion the rest of the way.
2. Tim Thomas, BOS
Stats: 20-9-0, 2.12 GAA, .933 SV%, 4 SO
Like Giroux, Thomas has seen his stock for a major award drop this month. Thomas has a 4-3-2 record in January, with a 2.70 GAA and .914 save percentage. He had a similar stretch last season, but bounced back in a big way towards the end of the year. The thing going against Thomas in this year’s Vezina race is that his offense has given him so much goal support; the Bruins have scored five goals or more in 10 of Thomas’ starts.
3. Jonathan Quick, LA
Stats: 21-12-9, 1.93 GAA, .934 SV%, 6 SO
Quick gets the nod over the likes of Jimmy Howard and Pekka Rinne for the third slot here. Playing on the west coast, not the entire hockey world gets to see Quick go to work every game. But Quick has been the catalyst for a Kings team that has (a) been inconsistent through the first four months and (b) had a hard time scoring goals. He is ranked in the top five in shutouts (1st), GAA (4th) and save percentage (4th).

1. Shea Weber, NSH
Stats: 46 GP, 10 G, 24 A, 34 Pts, +16
There isn’t much separating the top three, but Weber means everything to the Preds and is unquestionably among the elite on the blueline. He is second on the Preds in points (34), first in plus/minus (+16) and is a big reason why the power play is ranked second in the NHL. He has shown on many occasions this season why he’s an all-around dominant defenseman with countless Norris-like performances.
2. Zdeno Chara, BOS
Stats: 45 GP, 7 G, 20 A, 27 Pts, +26
Chara has been his dominant self during the Bruins’ amazing three-month stretch, racking up 23 points and a plus-25 rating in 35 games. He leads all defensemen with his plus-26 rating this season and is averaging 25:01 of ice time. ‘Big Z’, who is always in the Norris discussion, has been invaluable to the Bruins’ success in recent years. 2011-12 is no different.
3. Erik Karlsson, OTT
Stats: 51 GP, 7 G, 40 A, 47 Pts, +5
Ottawa has proved many doubters wrong by sitting six points outside of the conference lead at the All-Star break – and Karlsson has a lot to do with that. There isn’t much offensive depth for the Senators up front, so Karlsson’s league-leading production from the back end (40 assists, 47 points) has been crucial. The 21-year-old, on pace for 76 points, has arguably been Ottawa’s MVP this season.

1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, EDM
Stats: 38 GP, 13 G, 22 A, 35 Pts, +0
This was a no-brainer before going down with a shoulder injury. The top overall pick from this past summer exceeded expectations through the first half, and has looked better than other recent No. 1 picks in their rookie seasons. He also leads the Oilers in points as a part of the dynamic trio with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. But ‘RNH’ now has company atop the Calder race.
2. Adam Henrique, NJ
Stats: 43 GP, 13 G, 21 A, 34 Pts, +6
To say Henrique has been a pleasant surprise in New Jersey would be an understatement. Henrique is fourth on the Devils in points and was a point-per-game player since the start of November before a recent drop-off. He may not have the flashiness like Nugent-Hopkins, but you better believe Henrique is one of the few favorites for this award.
3. Cody Hodgson, VAN
Stats: 49 GP, 13 G, 16 A, 29 Pts, +7
There are more than a few players you could put in this spot, but Hodgson has been a nice full-time addition to Vancouver’s lineup this season. He brings balance to a lineup that is loaded on the top two lines, and has scored a handful of big goals recently. Hodgson has been a consistent producer since Dec. 19, racking up 14 points in 17 games.

1. Ken Hitchcock, STL
Record: 29-13-7, 4th Western Conference
The before and after results of Hitchcock’s arrival in St. Louis is staggering. When Davis Payne was fired, the Blues were 6-7-0; since Hitchcock stepped behind the bench they are 23-6-7. Hitchcock has given the Blues the proper wake-up call, and they are now fulfilling their potential. If this success keeps up, he has to be Jack Adams favorite, no?
2. Barry Trotz, NSH
Record: 30-16-4, 5th Western Conference
Trotz is doing it again. The Predators aren’t just competing for a playoff spot, though, as they are on a mission to hunt down the division-leading Red Wings. Trotz’s gang has won 12 of their last 14 games, and 18 of 23, as they continue to surge in the West. The Preds have faced adversity a few times this season, but Trotz has kept the team going in the right direction.
3. John Tortorella, NYR
Record: 31-12-4, 1st Eastern Conference
One of the season’s biggest surprises has been the New York Rangers. Aside from the Brad Richards signing, there isn’t much difference between this year’s Rangers and last year’s version. But Tortorella is pushing all of the right buttons as his team leads the entire NHL with 60 points. Aside from Boston, the Blueshirts have been the league’s most consistent team since the start of November.

*Stats through Wednesday, January 25
Photo credit: Getty Images
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