Published On: Fri, Mar 9th, 2018

Hart Trophy Power Rankings: Weeding through the numerous MVP candidates

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This year a coin flip will decide the winner of the Hart Trophy.

OK, not really, but given how tight the race for arguably the biggest individual award in hockey has been this season, it appears to be as good a system as any as we head into the final weeks of the season.

As it stands, a serious case could be made for nearly a dozen potential candidates. However, we’ll try to narrow that down as we look at the five most-likely candidates and a few honorable mentions to bring home MVP honors.

1. Nikita Kucherov

Throughout the season several players have entered and exited the MVP conversation, but Nikita Kucherov has remained a constant.

The Tampa Bay Lightning forward sits atop the NHL’s points list with 87 in 66 games and has not conceded his throne since Dec. 13.

Kucherov has had one three-game pointless streak and another of two games, and outside of those has not gone consecutive games without a point.

The 24-year-old been the pinnacle of consistency while tormenting goaltenders, and is poised to lead the Lightning to what stands to be a franchise-best in points and the team’s first-ever Presidents’ Trophy.

2. Nathan MacKinnon

One year removed from the worst season in the salary cap era, the Colorado Avalanche are knocking on the door of the playoffs and they have Nathan MacKinnon to thank for it.

MacKinnon has 32 goals and 79 points in just 59 games this season, demolishing his previous career highs (24 goals, 63 points) set during his rookie campaign. In fact, he currently leads the league with 1.34 points per game.

If it wasn’t clear how valuable he’s been, it should be noted that only Calgary’s Sean Monahan has more than MacKinnon’s 10 game-winning goals.

3. Taylor Hall

Taylor Hall finally saw his historic point streak come to an end Thursday night.

Prior to Thursday, the New Jersey Devils forward had strung together a point streak of 26 games. That run helped Hall set a career high in goals, and leaves him just six points shy of his career best (80).

Besides being in the top 10 in scoring, he’s also put up an astounding 33 more points than the next closest Devil. He also leads the team in power-play points, game-winning goals, shots, and overtime goals.

Meanwhile, his performance has the Devils sitting in a playoff spot, which would halt a streak of five seasons without postseason hockey.

4. Evgeni Malkin

It’s not outlandish to think that if Malkin had been able to stay healthy over the last eight seasons he may very well have captured a few more Hart Trophies.

Malkin has played more than 70 games in a season just once since the 2009-10 season when he dressed in 75 in 2012. Last season he tallied 72 points in 62 games – a 95-point pace. And this season he’s on pace for 107.

Malkin is just two goals off Alex Ovechkin‘s league-leading 40 and just two points back of Kucherov with a game in hand. If he keeps this up he could soon lead both categories and subsequently lead this list.

5. Alex Ovechkin

Patrik Laine, Eric Staal, and Malkin are making late-season pushes for the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. But let’s face it, Ovechkin is still the favorite to capture the award for the seventh time in his career.

Ovechkin paces the league as the only 40-goal scorer this season. The 32-year-old has already surpassed last year’s output of 33 goals and 69 points with 40 and 72, respectively.

His bounce back in offense has the Capitals within a point of top spot in the Metropolitan Division with a game in hand on the Penguins and him in pursuit of his fourth Hart Trophy.

Honorable Mentions

Connor McDavid

Historically the Hart Trophy is usually awarded to players on playoff-bound clubs, but if McDavid keeps producing as he has, it will be hard to deny him his second straight Hart Trophy.

While playing on the fifth-worst team in the league, the Edmonton Oilers captain has still managed to put up 31 goals (a career high) and 81 points. In fact, he’s factored in on over 42 percent of all Oilers goals this season.

The Hart Trophy is summarized as “the player most valuable to his team” and it would be hard to argue that any team relies more on one player than the Oilers do on McDavid.

Steven Stamkos

Before Kucherov grabbed the scoring race by the horns, it looked as though Stamkos was going to run away with it.

The Lightning captain has since slowed down a bit, but still remains in the top 10 in scoring.

After being limited to just 17 games last season, it’s quite clear that Stamkos has returned to being one of the elite producers in the game.

Claude Giroux

The Philadelphia Flyers appear playoff bound after missing last year’s postseason, and that’s thanks in large to the play of Giroux.

The captain sits fourth in league scoring with 80 points in 68 games. He’s already posted his highest point total since the 2013-14 season and has been instrumental in linemate Sean Couturier shattering his previous career highs in goals and points.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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