Diesel May 15, 2019

With the Stanley Cup field narrowed to four teams, the World Championship still in its round robin stage and the draft and free agency several still weeks away, mid-May has proven to be one of the slowest periods of the season. But the NHL is taking advantage of the lull in hockey-related content by opening up balloting for the NHL Fan Choice Awards.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Fan Choice Awards, and you may well be, that’s not without reason. The entire thing is fairly new. It was just last season that the NHL first introduced the end-of-year awards, which focused as much, if not more, on what the game’s best and brightest did off the ice as what they accomplished on it. For instance, Erik Karlsson was voted the Fan Choice winner for Best Instagram for his portrayal of Princess Leia for Halloween. Former Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa played an integral part in Anaheim winning Best Team Video for his undercover operation inside Honda Center. And Taylor Hall won Top Player Tweet for, well, this.

Some of last season’s categories make their returns this year, such as Best Beard, Best Hockey Smile and GIF of the Year. Also returning? Best Dog, and it’s joined this year by Best Team Dog, which is one of 10 new categories that have been added to the ballot.

Voting opened Wednesday and continues on through mid-June on the NHL’s website. But in order to save you the hassle of going through each award, we’ve gone ahead and picked the winners for you. Surely, you’ll agree with all of our choices:

Best Bromance: To the players who are linemates in life.
Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn (DAL)
Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and Patrick Marleau (TOR)
Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider (NYR)
Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat (CHI)

Based entirely on the clips and images provided by the league, the winner is the Maple Leafs’ trio, if only because this isn’t so much a bromance between Matthews, Marner and Marleau as it is one between Marleau’s children, Matthews and Marner.

Best Mascot: To the mascot who never takes a shift off.
Hunter (EDM)
Gritty (PHI)
Bailey (LA)
Bernie (COL)

This was over before it started. It could have been Gritty-versus-The Field and Gritty would still win. He’s a cultural sensation.

Best Follow: To the player who nails every post.
P.K. Subban (NSH)
Erik Karlsson (SJ)
Matt Duchene (CBJ)
Brad Marchand (BOS)

If we’re talking Instagram, which it appears we are given the material the NHL provided, this one is Subban’s to lose. The USA bathing suit alone wins him this one.

Best Handshake: To the duo that rehearses more than a Broadway play.
P.K. Subban and Ryan Johansen (NSH)
Alex Pietrangelo and Jaden Schwartz (STL)
Adam Lowry and Patrik Laine (WPG)
Keith Yandle and Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA)

There’s a lot of nonsense happening here, especially with Lowry and Laine and Yandle and Huberdeau. If anyone can identify exactly what in the world is happening with either, feel free to explain. The nod goes to Yandle and Huberdeau, who made…pterodactyl sounds? Big dinosaur buffs.

Best Dog: To the hockey pup that loves a healthy scratch.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (SJ)
Artemi Panarin (CBJ)
Jaccob Slavin (CAR)
Alex DeBrincat (CHI)

This is a trick question. They’re all the best dogs. If we must choose, though, Panarin’s pup pulls ahead because the furry friend is also a training partner.

GIF of the Year: To the player who took this GIF one frame at a time.
Artemi Panarin (CBJ)
Calgary Flames
Brady Tkachuk (OTT)
Mackenzie Blackwood (NJD)

Everyone loves a good water bottle explosion, but come on, there’s only one possible winner here: Panarin. While the other GIFs are great, Panarin’s can be used over and over. It’s a victory dance worthy of reposting.

Best Dressed: To the player with the most style points.
Henrik Lundqvist (NYR)
P.K. Subban (NSH)
Evander Kane (SJ)
Matt Dumba (MIN)

Lundqvist is an all-timer, and we’re going to go with the NHL Players Association on this one. More than one-quarter of the players polled in the 2019 Player Poll picked Lundqvist as the best-dressed player, so Lundqvist it is.

Best Goalie Mask: To the goalie who wears his heart on his head.
Robin Lehner (NYI)
Anton Khudobin (DAL)
Antti Raanta (ARI)
Ryan Miller (ANA)

Lehner is a frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy, and he should also get the Fan Choice Award for best mask. He told the story of his off-ice battles with his mask. Plus, you know, the Islanders fisherman makes an appearance. Bonus points for that.

Best Hockey Smile: To the player most likely to send the tooth fairy into bankruptcy.
Jason Demers (ARI)
Jeff Carter (LA)
Alex Ovechkin (WSH)
Dustin Byfuglien (WPG)

Carter in a landslide. He has the kind of toothless grin that Hollywood casting agents would pick out of a lineup to play the part of Hockey Player #1. It’s quintessential hockey smile stuff.

Best Beard: To the player that’s always in a hairy situation.
Brent Burns (SJ)
Ryan Ellis (NSH)
Aaron Ekblad (FLA)
Luke Witkowski (DET)

The beard is to Burns what luscious locks were to the NFL’s Troy Polamalu. Burns needs to find someone to insure his beard for $1 million.

Best Celly: To the player who doesn’t act like he’s been there before.
Rasmus Ristolainen (BUF)
Dylan Larkin (DET)
Carolina Hurricanes
Brad Marchand (BOS)

Is it heresy to choose anything other than the Storm Surge? Because the thing is that the Storm Surge were all team celebrations, and it feels like this is better served as an individual category if we’re to take this entire thing entirely too seriously. And if that’s the case, Ristolainen wins because it looks like he tried to combine three celebrations into one and got that Frankenstein’s Monster of a post-goal dance.

Best Team Dog: To the pup that always gives 100 pawcent to the team.
Barclay (STL)
Ranger (NYR)
Radar (NYI)
Rookie (OTT)

“This is a trick question. They’re all the best dogs.”

Top Hidden Talent: To the player whose off-ice skills are just the icing on the cake.
Sam Girard (COL)
Matthew Peca (MTL)
Ryan Reaves (VGK)
Aaron Dell (SJ)

The video of Girard is hilarious. Peca and Dell have some musical chops. And Reaves should be doing VO work for an old Sega Genesis NHL game. So, let’s go with Reaves, if only because it’s truly the most bizarre of all the talents listed.

Goal of the Year: To this season’s human highlight reel.
Connor McDavid (EDM) vs. DAL
Sidney Crosby (PIT) vs. EDM
Mikael Backlund (CGY) vs. WSH
Aleksander Barkov (FLA) vs. MTL

McDavid and Barkov both went between their legs to roof one and Backlund benefitted from a bizarre bounce before tucking one in with one hand. But there’s something special about Crosby’s tally. Not only does he dance away from one check and then completely undress a defender, he then shows the patience to get the angle to backhand it home. Wonderful.

Save of the Year: To the masked man wanted for highway robbery.
Carey Price (MTL) vs. WSH
Andrei Vasilevskiy (TBL) vs. TOR
Marc-Andre Fleury (VGK) vs. PHI
Mikko Koskinen (EDM) vs. CGY

Price’s stop on Ovechkin has everything. It’s two of the best players in the world, two of the best of all-time, the stop came in the dying seconds of regulation in a tie game and even Ovechkin stopped to applaud the effort.

Top Team Video: To the team video worthy of instant replay.
Dallas Stars announce Seguin’s contract
Casey Mittelstadt left Home Alone by Sabres
New Jersey Devils need a hero
Anaheim Ducks’ Knuckle Puck

What puts the Stars’ entry a cut above the rest is that it’s the way the organization announced the re-signing of one of their top players.

Best Fan Video: To the fan that leads the league in likes.
Washington Capitals banner raising
Nashville Predators prom-posal
Vancouver Canucks – How Swede It Is

It’s so stupid that it’s hilarious.

Best Feel-Good Moment: To the moment that reminds us it’s more than a game.
Louis Domingue Hockey Fights Cancer
Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon and Team Kenya
Pittsburgh Penguins kidney donation
Carey Price hugs young fan

Not a dry eye in the house when young Canadiens fan Anderson hugs his idol, Price.

Best #HockeyTwitter Moment: To the trending topic that set the hockey world on fire.
Gritty breaks the internet
John Tavares signs with the Maple Leafs
Seattle expansion becomes official
Capitals celebrate Cup win by swimming

It’s Gritty again. This is the moment he went from orange monstrosity to overnight sensation.

Best Halloween Costume: To the player that brings character to the rink and the party.
‘Beast’ Bishop (DAL)
‘Cry Babies’ Brock and Ben (VAN)
‘Cowboy’ Coleman (NJD)
‘Sebastien’ Foligno (MIN)

Based solely on the time that must have been spent on the makeup, Bishop wins this one. That’s Disney theme park-level dedication to the costume.

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