The NBA has an award for the Most Improved Player. While it is a somewhat dubious award, because it means that you really weren’t very good the year before if you win it. Still, honors are honors, and it might be an award that the NHL should give out. So what if the NHL had a similar award?
Who would take home the hardware? What would the requirements be?
Here would be my nominees for the Award (1 forward, 1 defenseman and 1 Goalie), which would go to the player being on the NHL roster for 60 games (0r 80%) the previous season (40 games for goaltenders) who showed the most improvement in the League:
Jiri Tlusty, CAR – With 17 goals and 36 points in 79 games last year, Tlusty has passed that goal total (21) and almost matched the point total (35) in just 46 games this season. He was part of the Hurricane’s top line with Alexander Semin and Erik Staal for most of the season and his year really came out of left field.
Ray Emery, CHI – Splitting the starter’s job with Chicago, Emery had the goal support of a strong team around him, but you can’t argue with his 17-1-0 record along with 1.94 GAA and .922 SP. It is the most wins Emery has had since the Stanley Cup Final year of the Ottawa Senators in 2006-07.
Cody Franson, TOR – The blueliner has become a very important (and under-rated) piece of the Maple Leafs. Franson has gone from often being a healthy scratch last season to the 6th leading scorer among all NHL defensemen. His 28 points in 43 games this season is one off his career high set in 2010-11 with the Predators (in 80 games).
AND THE WINNER IS:
Jiri Tlusy. His impact on the team is arguably more than hightly touted acquisitions Alexander Semin and Jordan Staal had on the Hurricanes, he just needed to be in the right situation. Nobody would have thought that the right situation would have been first line minutes. He leads the team in both goals and +/- so his impact has been felt at both ends of the ice. His +17 rating is the highest of any player not on a playoff bound team.