The year is coming to an end, and with that comes a reflection of the last 12 months in the NHL — the good and the bad.This is the good: the goals, the saves, the players, the moments, and the vibes that made 2022 special. And why. With any list like this, there's going to be a lot of snubs, worthy candidates for each category that deserve recognition. Hockey had many great goals, saves, players, moments and vibes — but only one could be the best.With 2022 coming to a close, here's what stood above the rest.Best Forward: Connor McDavid, OilersMost GSVA from Jan. 1 to Dec. 15 (playoffs included)Who else but the best player in the world? This is Connor McDavid's world, we just live in it. McDavid didn't win the 2022 Hart trophy, that was Auston Matthews. He didn't win the Conn Smythe trophy either, that was Cale Makar. But for the totality of 2022, there was no player that delivered more value to their team than McDavid at 7.5 wins over 96 games in which he's scored 164 points.Matthews had McDavid beat briefly to close out the 2021-22 regular season — even outscoring McDavid in fewer games — but ever since then, it's been all McDavid. He's been a man on a mission, starting with his playoff war path where he played at a nine-win pace — an unheard-of level of value during the postseason. Since the end of last regular season, McDavid has 99 points over 51 games. Absurd.No one does it better than McDavid, who needed just seven playoff games to completely shut down any talk last season that the crown for 'best player in the world' was up for discussion. It's not. It's Connor's.Honorable Mentions: Auston Matthews, Matthew TkachukBest Defenseman: Cale Makar, AvalancheMost GSVA from Jan. 1 to Dec. 15 (playoffs included)Cale Makar has single-handedly changed the way we think about defensemen. He is so much more than that, doing it all on every shift, and this year was the year his mythos fully arrived. Makar won his first (of likely many) Norris trophies and followed that up with a sublime playoff run, winning a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe. His trophy case is starting to fill up, with his postseason performance being the most marvelous of all: 29 points in just 20 games and excellent play-driving numbers. That's unheard of for most forwards, let alone a guy manning the blue line. Makar is not just any guy though. Over the playoffs, he played at a seven-win pace.Makar isn't up to his usual level yet this season, but he still ranks among the very best defenders in the league. Combine that with his epic second half and incredible playoffs and Makar was worth 7.1 wins in 2022, behind only McDavid — and two full wins ahead of the next best defenseman. Two! Scoring 115 points in 102 games as a rearguard while providing immense value at both ends of the ice will have that effect.He's a generational talent, and 2022 was the year he proved that.Honorable Mentions: Adam Fox, Charlie McAvoyBest Goalie: Igor Shesterkin, RangersMost GSAx from Jan. 1 to Dec. 15 (playoffs included)Igor Shesterkin was far and away the best goaltender in 2022. So much so that he wasn't just a favorite (and the eventual winner) for the Vezina Trophy throughout 2021-22, but his name was even in the Hart Trophy conversation considering he was the key to the Rangers' success.It was the busiest year of Shesterkin's professional career, which included his first real taste of NHL playoff action. But he responded with elite play. The goalie earned a .935 save percentage and saved 37.2 more goals than expected in 53 regular-season games in 2021-22. Not only did that lead the league, but it was about nine more than the next best. He gave his team a chance to win in 73 percent of his starts, with 38 quality starts, and stole nine wins. That game-changing play carried into the playoffs, where he was his team's backbone once again. The goalie saved a total of 23.2 goals in 20 games, which included 17 quality starts and five stolen wins. That's a total of 60.4 goals saved above expected in 73 games.To start this season, Shesterkin has come down to earth a bit more. But his level is still incredibly high and among the best in the league.So combine that start plus his play from Jan. 1 forward last season, and Shesterkin has saved 34 goals above expected in 56 regular-season games. Expand that to include the playoffs, and he jumps up higher than 57 goals saved in 76 games, and counting. That seems pretty impressive!Honorable Mentions: Ilya Sorokin, Jake OettingerBest GameHighest Game Score from Jan. 1 to Dec. 15Player: Mason Marchment, PanthersIn the year 2022, no one had a better performance in the regular season or postseason than Mason Marchment on Jan. 31 against the Blue Jackets. The then-Panthers forward earned a calendar-year-high game score of 9.86. Against Columbus, Marchment scored two goals and four assists for a six-point night. All but one of those points were primary. Plus, the winger earned a point on 75 percent of his team's eight goals.In all situations, Marchment attempted nine shot attempts — six of which reached the net, and six of which were high enough quality to be considered scoring chances. The key here that makes the performance all the more impressive was that it wasn't just a night of empty-calorie scoring. The Panthers were legitimately that dangerous while Marchment and the third line were on the ice. They kept the ice tilted in Florida's favor at five-on-five, with 18 shot attempts to the Blue Jackets' seven (four of which were blocked), and 92 percent of the expected goals share.Honorable Mentions: Nick Schmaltz (March 5), Roman Josi (March 5)Player (Playoffs): Carter Verhaeghe, PanthersThe best single-game playoff performance from a skater in 2022 also belongs to the Panthers, this one courtesy of Carter Verhaeghe against the Capitals. The forward was Florida's best player in Round 1, and maybe all postseason long. He was one of the few players who really was able to stick to his regular-season strengths of being a top player in transition and generating offense off the rush. And that was clear in Game 5 against Washington, too, when he had a direct impact with a primary point on each one of the Panthers' five goals with two goals and three first assists.Verhaeghe was as pivotal as a player could be in a postseason game. He scored the first goal of the game when trailing 3-0, a primary assist to pull within one, a primary assist to even the score, the go-ahead goal (and eventual game-winner) to open the third period, and a first assist on the fifth and final tally. Even more impressive was that every single point came at five-on-five.Honorable Mentions: Victor Hedman (May 4), Nazem Kadri (June 2)Goalie: Matt Murray, Maple LeafsThere were a few close contenders for the best goalie performance of the regular season. But the winner goes to one that happened just a few weeks ago, when Matt Murray shut out the Stars on Dec. 6. After a less-than-ideal start to the year, with yet another injury, Murray is having a bounce-back season in Toronto — and his performance against Dallas was a prime example of it.The Stars attempted 93 shots in all situations, and 66 went unblocked. The quality of those chances added up to 6.14 expected goals against, when weighing the distance, angle and type or shot, among other factors. Still, Murray didn't allow a single one of the 44 shots turned on net past him. That marked his first shutout of the season and first since Jan. 25, 2022.Honorable Mentions: Alexandar Georgiev (March 20), Ilya Sorokin (Nov. 23)Goalie (Playoffs): ShesterkinIt's no surprise that the best goaltender of the year had the best single-game playoff performance. Shesterkin's introduction to the NHL playoffs was a wild one, in a triple overtime game where he spent almost 106 minutes between the pipes for the Rangers. He didn't have as much support as his opponents on the other end of the ice that night. New York only mustered 42 percent of the five-on-five shots, and, when factoring in shot quality, less than 33 percent of the expected goals share. That led to the goalie having to prepare for 112 unblocked shot attempts that equated to an expected goal total of 8.99 — the highest expected goals against a goaltender has ever faced in a game. Shesterkin turned away 79 shots of the 83 that went on goal in his lengthy outing, to set a Rangers record for saves in a playoff game, and saved 4.99 goals above expected. He did everything he could to keep his team in the game, besides skating down and scoring the winner himself.Honorable Mentions: Jonathan Quick (May 8), Andrei Vasilevskiy (May 23)Best Value: Tage Thompson, SabresLargest surplus value based on player salary compared to market value derived from 2022 GSVAThis year was the year of Tage: a massively tall human who was trending in all the wrong directions up until last season when he was moved to the middle in a top-six role. Suddenly, everything clicked for Tage Thompson and a legend was created — one that no one could've possibly seen coming.Maybe you thought he might be serviceable. Maybe even good. But one of the absolute best players in the world is hard to believe and makes Thompson this year's best story. And also this year's best value.Thompson is on the last year of a $1.4 million deal, a fair paycheck for his previous worth, but an absolute steal for what he's become. Over the last calendar year, Thompson has blossomed into an offensive dynamo scoring 50 goals and 94 points in 76 games — an unfathomable number given his previous trajectory. The breakout is real, and Thompson's output has him worth over $10 million more than when he's getting.He's moving up the salary list starting next season, but even that is looking like a huge bargain too. For 2022, there was no better value than Thompson.Honorable Mentions: Michael Bunting, Cale MakarBest Goal: Trevor Zegras, DucksIt's a shame that 'The Zegras' actually happened in 2021 because 2022 was otherwise known as the year of 'The Michigan' for Trevor Zegras. We are suckers for a Michigan goal, and Zegras is the current king of the maneuver.Zegras scored his first Michigan goal on Jan. 27 against the Montreal Canadiens, one of the smoothest and silkiest versions of the move we've seen yet. Everything about the tuck was perfectly executed and is still a marvel to look at.That one was flawlessly executed, but his next one had a bit more zest to it as Zegras went through his bag of tricks. It starts with him trying to score with a between-the-legs shot, only for him to corral the rebound and then pull off the lacrosse move around his Michigan assist buddy, Sonny Milano, for the goal. Just an incredible amount of skill to pull this off in the moment.If that wasn't enough, Zegras did it again in November with an extremely clean rendition of the move, plus an emphatic launching of the puck into the top shelf to finish it off. The only problem? It was called off after an offside challenge. Yet another reason that any goal challenge should be made null and void if the goal in question was sick as hell. This one certainly was.Honorable Mentions: Cale Makar OT spin cycle (Jan. 4), Nazem Kadri Game 4 OT winner in the Stanley Cup Final, anything Tage Thompson does, Marie-Philip Poulin golden goal (Feb. 17)Best Save: Jake Oettinger, StarsWith the rise in offense and more creativity from goalscorers, there's been some fantastic goaltending to counter it. There have been dramatic, game-changing saves that get pinpointed as potential saves of the year each month. There are quite a few contenders here, from the usual suspects like Shesterkin, Vasilevskiy, Jacob Markstrom, and Sorokin. Plus, there's been eye-catching stops from Cam Talbot, Murray, Marc-Andre Fleury, and Pytor Kochetkov. But the best save of 2022 has to go to Jake Oettinger, in Round 1 of the playoffs.The Flames' Milan Lucic, who was positioned at the top of the blue paint, moved the puck to Tyler Toffoli. The winger had all the time and space to shoot on a pretty empty net. But Oettinger slid laterally to make a brilliant glove save.While the Stars went on to lose that game, it wasn't for a lack of trying back in goal — with the starter saving 3.16 goals above expected. That save and, overall, that game, encapsulates his postseason well. The Stars were not the best team in front of the net, but their goaltender was outstanding throughout Round 1. Through seven games, he saved a total of 13.3 goals above expected, which ended up ranking second among all goalies in the playoffs. Saves like that on Toffoli contributed to what became Oettinger's breakout performance in the playoffs.Honorable Mentions: All of the Markstrom windmill saves, Jack Campbell's diving stop on Devon Toews (Jan. 8), Shesterkin's rebound pad save on Nico Hischier (March 4), Sorokin's paddle save on Artemi Panarin (March 17)Best Moment: Alex Ovechkin reaches 800 goalsAlex Ovechkin was in the homestretch to reach a very exclusive milestone of 800 regular-season goals when the Capitals took on the Blackhawks. But the elite goal scorer decided to just race to the finish with not one, not two, but three goals in the game to get there. The winger found a loose puck and sent it to the back of the net in the third period to complete the hat trick and make history. Ovechkin joined Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky as the only players in NHL history to score 800 goals. And the power forward isn't done yet — Howe's record is in sight, and then comes the big one in Gretzky's 894.
In case you missed it (you didn't)…here's how Alexander Ovechkin became just the third player in NHL history to score 800 goals. pic.twitter.com/o6512qWFmv
— NHL (URL) December 14, 2022Between those 800 goals, there's a lot to appreciate with Ovechkin's scoring. There's the predictability of his signature one-timer on the power play that still can beat every opponent, because his shot is that dangerous, and the versatility in his even-strength shot creation. The longevity is major for a player who already has 22 goals in 36 games at 37 years old, and is coming