Is Hobey Baker winner Dryden McKay an NHL long shot?

Auston Matthews will go down as one of the greatest goal scorers of all time.

As long as he’s healthy, I can’t see Auston Matthews slowing down. The Maple Leafs have plenty of offensive weapons that help support the talented American. But Matthews can take the puck and do it on his own if necessary. Watching him accelerate through the neutral zone while stickhandling the puck — that’s not normal. Usually players get slower the more they do with their hands. Not Matthews.

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He’s going to score 60-plus goals this season. And he’s just 24 years old. Matthews is scoring every way imaginable. He’s not just a hammer; he can shoot in stride and beat goalies clean. I think at this point, he’s clearly the NHL’s MVP. He should win the Hart trophy.

Brendan Gallagher was right — until he wasn’t.

I love when NHL players actually speak their minds. So when Montreal right winger Brendan Gallagher accused Senators left winger Tim Stutzle of being dramatic after the Canadiens played the Ottawa Senators on Apr. 5, I was hanging on every word. And I actually appreciated what Gallagher was saying, even if it was in a measured manner.

It’s not often that another player calls out an opponent in a press conference and Gallagher swung for the fences. He effectively called Stutzle a soft crybaby. That’s a serious accusation within an NHL locker room. And truthfully, with the amount of time Stutzle has spent rolling around on the ice during his NHL career, I figured that Gallagher’s comments were onside.

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But I hadn’t seen the play yet. And once I did, I had reservations. It didn’t look good. Then we come to find out the Senators forward suffered a knee injury on the play. Stutzle hasn’t played since. So in this case, Stutzle actually had a reason to be on the ice. And Gallagher probably should have taken a closer look at the replay before stepping to the podium.

Bad timing by Gallagher, maybe a little careless, but let’s not forget he was driving home a point. There isn’t much respect for players that lay on the ice. And Stutzle had cried wolf one too many times.

The 2022 NCAA Hobey Baker Award Memorial Award winner is a goaltender named Dryden McKay — who might not even get a proper shot with an NHL organization.

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The last time a goalie won the Hobey Baker Memorial Award was in 2001, when Ryan Miller — ever heard of him? — won it after his junior year at Michigan State University. It’s only the third time in NCAA history the award has gone to a netminder.

Yet the feeling I get is that McKay, who was named after Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden, is probably going to be overlooked by NHL teams. He’s listed at 5-foot-11 and is 24 years old. Those are both big strikes against the Downers Grove, Ill., native if you’re looking through the eyes of NHL management.

Maybe a team gives him an NHL contract. All he’s done at Minnesota State is win. But he’s undersized and the clock is ticking. And he’s been insulated by the team in front of him.

I talked with a few people today that have a similar feeling: that McKay might have to go to Europe or accept an AHL contract to start his pro career. After an NCAA tenure featuring 113 wins and 34 shutouts, what else could McKay do to prove his worth? The sad reality is that there’s a six-foot-tall glass ceiling for NHL goaltending prospects.

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Roman Josi has to be a finalist for the Hart trophy.

Midway through this season I thought Cale Makar was a lock for the Norris Trophy — and maybe worthy of Hart Trophy consideration. Well, that’s changed. I still think Makar is incredible, but the run Roman Josi has been on cannot be overlooked. He might hit 100 points before the season ends.

I can’t think of the last time a defenseman carried the mail the way Josi is doing for the Predators. He’s playing more than 25 minutes a night in all situations. He’s dominating on the power play as well as at even strength. He’s the captain of the Predators and rightly so.

If he’s not a finalist for the Hart trophy, the NHL might as well just officially say it’s reserved for forwards. Because even Igor Shesterkin, who’s having a mega-season in goal for the New York Rangers, seems like a long shot. I don’t know if Josi is the NHL’s MVP. But right now, he’s in a league of his own among defensemen. 

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An inexperienced goaltender is probably going to win the Stanley Cup. And that’s more normal than people want to accept.

Pick a goaltender that hasn’t previously won a Stanley Cup and you’ll hear the typical response wondering if he can win in the postseason: doubts galore, reasons why he can’t win or why a previous bad outing in the playoffs is reason not to believe.

Stop it. Enough.

Jordan Binnington. Braden Holtby. Corey Crawford. Remember when critics slammed these guys, saying they could never carry a team to a Stanley Cup? Even Andrei Vasilevskiy faced scrutiny after the Tampa Bay Lightning lost to Joonas Korpisalo and the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2019.

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When you look at the top teams in the NHL, there’s a really good chance that a goaltender without much deep-playoff experience wins the Stanley Cup. Darcy Kuemper. Jacob Markstrom. Igor Shesterkin. Tristan Jarry. They could all win.

Even Freddie Andersen — who’s played 53 playoff games but only made it out of the first round once — could easily hoist the Cup for the Carolina Hurricanes.

It’s such a tired storyline. But goalies are used to it. For a lot of fans – and even the Hall of Fame – a goalie is never good enough until they’ve won a Stanley Cup.

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