The Hart Trophy is the most prestigious regular season award in the NHL, given to the “player judged most valuable to his team.” While there are always debates over what exactly most valuable means, the award is often given to one of the league’s top scorers who also contributed greatly to team success.
Last year saw the trophy go to Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning, whose 128 points led the league. Kucherov was part of a powerhouse club in Tampa Bay that won the Presidents’ Trophy easily, finishing the season 21 points ahead of the next team in the standings. The then 25-year old forward was a dynamic force on the powerplay, but also posted 80 points at even-strength.
Kucherov was a relatively easy choice as the winner—he earned 164 first-place votes, 161 more than second place Sidney Crosby—but it’s not that way every year. This season for instance has several players who could be considered the favorite at this point.
Through the first quarter of the season Leon Draisaitl is the top scorer, with 48 points on the year, one ahead of linemate Connor McDavid. Both Edmonton Oilers forwards could make a claim as the best player in the league this season, something McDavid is used to at this point after taking home his own Hart Trophy in 2017. The Oilers as a team are experiencing success for the first time in a while, giving even more credence to the idea that one of their superstars could be considered for the award.
There is also a pair of Boston Bruins in the running, with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak taking up residence just below McDavid on the scoring charts. Two parts of the “Perfection Line” in Boston, Marchand and Pastrnak have not only found incredible chemistry but are now two of the best bargains in the entire league. The Bruins are arguably the league’s best team at this point, with just three regulation losses through 26 games.
Perhaps though the linemates in Edmonton and Boston will split their respective votes and drop down the list. There are other players like Nathan MacKinnon who have had to carry their team in relative solidarity this season and are still finding great success. Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, MacKinnon’s usual linemates, have both been injured for a good chunk of the start of the year, yet the speedy Avalanche center still has 39 points in 25 games.
Maybe even a defenseman could win the award for the first time since Chris Pronger in 2000. John Carlson has an incredible 36 points in 26 games so far for the Washington Capitals, a pace that would give him the best offensive season from a defenseman in 30 years. Only Bobby Orr and Paul Coffey have ever scored more than 103 points while playing defense, a group that Carlson will try to join this season.
There are countless others who could contend for the award by the end of the year, but cast your vote for the one who you think is the early favorite. We’ve listed some of the most likely candidates, but be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments below.
[Mobile users click here to vote]
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images