By: Glenn Kaplan, Staff Writer
Photo Courtesy of MSG Networks
Early Hart Trophy Candidates
With the NHL season set to start Wednesday, Oct. 3, the race for the Hart Trophy will begin. It is the NHL’s version of the MVP Award.
New Jersey Devils forward Taylor Hall won the Hart Trophy last season with 39 goals scored and 54 assists. His plus/minus was 14. He deserved the MVP award because he took the Devils to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-2012 season.
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon and Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar were both nominated for the award.
What’s truly amazing is that Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov and Philadelphia Flyers forward/center Claude Giroux all reached the 100-point mark last season and none of them were nominated for the Hart Trophy.
The award isn’t only about points. It’s about what impact a player can have on his team. McDavid should have been a finalist for the Hart Trophy last season over Kopitar. The only reason why Kopitar was a Hart Trophy finalist and not Connor McDavid is because the Kings made it to the playoffs and the Oilers didn’t.
Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby and Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin could be nominated as Hart Trophy finalists every year because they are that good, but who will be the three finalists this season?
- John Tavares, Center, Toronto Maple Leafs: When a player decides to go play for his home town like Tavares did, he is going to put major pressure on himself to produce. Tavares feels like he has another level he can play at and Tavares will be surrounded with tremendous young talent. He scored 37 goals and recorded 47 assists last season with the New York Islanders. His plus/minus was -12. John Tavares has never recorded 90 or more points in one season before in his NHL career and this will be the year he finally does it.
- Patrik Laine, Forward, Winnipeg Jets: At just 20-years-old, Patrik Laine is already solidifying himself as one of the best goal scorers in the entire NHL. He scored 44 goals and recorded 26 assists last season in his second year in the NHL. His plus/minus was 8. He was a big reason why the Winnipeg Jets had the second-best record in the entire league and made it to the Western Conference Finals last season. Laine had 54 points in his rookie in 2016-2017 and he will continue to trend upward. It is possible he could score 50 goals and record 40 assists this season.
- Evgeni Malkin, Center, Pittsburgh Penguins: Malkin might be the most forgotten superstar in the entire NHL. He plays second fiddle to Sidney Crosby every year. Alex Ovechkin is the most talked about Russian player in the league and Evgeni Malkin is also from Russia. Connor McDavid is talked about more than him. It motivates Malkin to just play at a high level and produce night in and night out. He scored 42 goals and recorded 56 assists last season. His plus/minus was 16. Evgeni Malkin was fourth in the NHL last season in total points with 98. He won the Hart Trophy once in his career and it was back in 2011-2012.