With just under two weeks remaining in the regular season, the race for the league’s MVP Award, the Hart Memorial Trophy, has a list of possible winners that is considerably longer when compared to past years.
Here are my top five candidates as of right now for the Hart Memorial Trophy.
1. Nathan MacKinnon: Colorado Avalanche
In his sixth year, Nathan MacKinnon is having by far his strongest season in his NHL career.
So far this year, MacKinnon has 92 points, 38 goals and 54 assists, his next best was his rookie season when he recorded 63 points.
The most impressive thing to me out of MacKinnon’s season is his ability to completely return playoff hopes to Colorado.
Last season the Avalanche finished with just 48 points, seventh place in the Central Division, as of right now Colorado has 90 points and is in the second wild card spot of a loaded Western Conference.
2. Nikita Kucherov: Tampa Bay Lightning
As of right now, the Tampa Bay Lightning are arguably one of the strongest teams in the NHL.
Much of this is due to Nikita Kucherov being able to record 96 points so far this season.
With 38 goals and 58 assists, Kucherov is second in the league in points behind Connor McDavid with 99 points.
A challenge has been presented to Kucherov and he now has a chance to further validate his vote for the Hart Trophy.
First line center Steven Stamkos is currently day-to-day with a lower body injury, if Kucherov is able to continue acquiring points even without Stamkos, who is seventh in league with 86 points, Kucherov may solidify his chances of a Hart Trophy.
3. Taylor Hall: New Jersey Devils
Left wing Taylor Hall currently has 82 points on the season in what appears to be his first record setting season with the Devils.
Last year, his first season with New Jersey after being traded from Edmonton, Hall was only able to record 53 points.
An impressive aspect of Hall’s season is his lead in points over the rest of his team.
Hall leads the Devils in points with 82, the next highest being Nico Hischier with 49 points.
The Devils are also fighting to break a five year streak of missing the playoffs, as they are currently in the second wild card spot of the Eastern Conference.
The highlight of Hall’s season however was his 26 game point streak, the only other player to do so in the last twenty years was Patrick Kane.
4. Connor McDavid: Edmonton Oilers
In all honestly, I do have a hard time placing Connor McDavid in the talks of a Hart Trophy simply because of how hard the Oilers fell after a promising playoff appearance last season.
However, a team’s lack of success should not over shadow a player’s individual success as McDavid has had yet another impressive season after winning the Hart Trophy, Art Ross Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award and voted to the cover of NHL 18 in his rookie season.
Currently, McDavid leads the league with 99 points, 39 goals and 60 assists.
In the last five games, McDavid has recorded 5 goals and 5 assists.
More impressively, in his last 27 games, McDavid has been able to score 24 goals and climb to the top of the league in points after being 12 points behind Nikita Kucherov on January 12th.
The biggest thing holding McDavid back from a second straight Hart Trophy is the fact that a player from a non-playoff team has not won the Hart since Mario Lemieux in the 1987-88 season.
5. Evgeni Malkin: Pittsburgh Penguins
Pittsburgh Center Evgeni Malkin has had an impressive season despite a slow start for the Penguins, who are shooting for a third straight Stanley Cup.
Currently third in the league with 92 points, Malkin is looking to win his second Hart Trophy, which came in 2011-12 when Sidney Crosby missed much of the year due to injury.
Although Malkin and the Penguins had a slow start to the season, Malkin has been able to record 28 goals and 56 points in the 35 games of 2018.
For the first time in his career, Malkin has also played over 70 games this season.
If the Penguins are able to complete the three-peat, which is possible once Pittsburgh is in the playoffs, Malkin will have a strong case for the Hart Trophy.
Other Notable Mentions:
Brad Marchand: Boston Bruins
Marchand has been able to help the Bruins find themselves gearing up for a deep playoff run with his 33 goals, 47 assists and 5 overtime winners this season.
Pekka Rinne: Nashville Predators
Rinne is also in the talks for the Vezina Trophy, however his stats and accomplishments this season has earned him a mention for MVP.
Rinne has a save percentage of .928, a goals against average of 2.27, 40 wins, and leads the league with 8 shutouts, along with a 15 game win streak to set a new franchise record.
Alexander Ovechkin: Washington Capitals
Ovechkin has won the Hart Trophy three times and is looking to make it four.
In his seventh season with over 50 goals, Ovechkin is helping his team to another playoff appearance.
Although, without an impressive playoff run this year, Ovechkin just simply doesn’t have the numbers to top the players listed above.