Hart Trophy Race Heating Up
The Cases for Kane, Kucherov, Mcdavid for the Hart Trophy
The NHL playoffs are a little less than a month out. With teams making their final push to extend their season, team point leaders are relied on to produce even more. At this point in the season, the Hart trophy race tends to heat up and a few names are thrown towards the top of the list. These names are Patrick Kane, Nikita Kucherov and the next “Chosen one” Connor McDavid.
Patrick Kane: The Blackhawks season has been turbulent to say the least. Firing long-time head coach and fan favorite; Joel Quenneville, followed by a rocky start and adjustment period with new head coach Jeremy Colliton. However, after the new year, the team heated up and got themselves back in the playoff race by winning seven in a row. This was in major part due to Patrick Kane. Kane went on a 20 game point streak, with 43 points (17 goals, 23 assists). His streak recently ended on February 24th, but Kane has racked up 98 points in 68 games. He has the ability to create chances out of what seems to be nothing and has helped this team get back into the playoff hunt. The rest of the team seems to be responding. Captain Jonathan Toews seems to be having a career resurgence, with his first 30 goal season in 8 years and Alex Debrincat is on pace for over 40 goals in just his second NHL season.
Nikita Kucherov: The Tampa Bay Lightning are having an historic year. At this point in the season they are at 110 points with 12 game left to play. They are on pace to have one of the best regular seasons in 82-game history. On a team with multiple superstars, Nikita Kucherov has had an equally historic season of his own. He is currently at 111 points in 70 games. He is the fastest player to reach 100 points in a season since Mario Lemieux in 1996. This is Kucherov’s second 100 point seasons in as many years. He is the fourth Russian-born player to do so, along with Pavel Bure, Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin. With the talent around him, it doesn’t seem like he is going to slow down anytime soon.
Connor McDavid: Connor McDavid is the best skilled superstar in the league and is only 22 years old. He has the most fluid stickhandling that hockey has seen in some time. If you haven’t gotten a chance to see him play, due to NBC not broadcasting the Oilers often, I would suggest going on YouTube to see some highlights. He has 98 points in just 65 games and along with teammate Leon Draisaitl, is carrying the Oilers offense. The Oilers, however, are just not clicking as a team. They have not had the defense and goaltending strong enough to be a competitor in the already struggling Western Conference. The Hart Trophy has not been given to a player whose team had not made the playoffs since 1988 (Mario Lemieux) and has only happened four times in history. If there was one player that could be granted this exception this season, it would be Connor McDavid.
The Verdict: If the Chicago Blackhawks do not reach the playoffs, Nikita Kucherov will undoubtedly win the Hart Trophy. He will end up with around 120 points in 82 games and statistically the league leader in goals, points or both will win the Hart. BUT, if the Blackhawks do make the playoffs, Patrick Kane has to be considered the most valuable to his team. Patrick Kane lead the Blackhawks out of the basement and at one point the team was in the eighth spot in the West, now 5 points out with 13 games left. Without Kucherov, the Lightning are still a playoff team and Cup contender. Without Kane, the Blackhawks were most likely going to end up being a bottom 5 team in the league. In terms of most valuable, the edge goes to Kane. Last season, Taylor Hall won the Hart, which was a surprise to some. Similar to Kane, Hall lead a team who was not ready for the playoffs and brought them into the second season.