It’s time for the big one. The NHL has announced the finalists for the Hart Trophy, given annually to the “player judged most valuable to his team.” Last year’s award went to Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers, his second win after taking it home in 2017 as well.
There’s not much to be said about the Oilers captain that hasn’t already been mentioned a million times. One of the most dynamic offensive players to ever grace the NHL, he reached new highs in goals and points this year with 44 and 123. It was the fourth time he has led the league in points, and this will be the fourth time he is a Hart finalist. With 697 points in his career already, he sits fourth in points/game among those who have played at least 450. Only Wayne Gretzky (1.92), Mario Lemieux (1.88), and the late Mike Bossy (1.50) sit ahead of McDavid’s 1.43 mark, an incredible accomplishment in this era.
Matthews, meanwhile, is a finalist for the second time after being the runner-up last season. Now the two-time Rocket Richard winner, the Maple Leafs forward is the best goal scorer in the league and reached a mark very rarely seen in today’s game. His 60 goals were the most since Steven Stamkos hit the same mark in 2011-12, and he became only the third player in the salary cap era to reach the mark (Alex Ovechkin has the top spot with 65 in 2007-08). More than just his goals though, it was Matthews’ overall production that skyrocketed this season, with the big center hitting 106 points in just 73 games.
Shesterkin is a first-time finalist, but if he continues to play at the level he established this season this certainly won’t be the last time he’s up for major awards. The 26-year-old netminder posted a .935 save percentage in 53 appearances and is the front-runner for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best netminder. Moreover, the Rangers were routinely critiqued for their defensive zone breakdowns this season as a young team, breakdowns that Shesterkin regularly rescued them from with incredible saves. The Hart hasn’t been won by a goaltender since Carey Price in 2015, when he nearly swept the field, taking home the Jennings, Vezina, and Lindsay as well. Price’s save percentage that season was actually .933, just a few points below what Shesterkin did this year.