It’s an interesting race for the NHL’s Hart Memorial Trophy. The Trophy recognizes the player deemed most valuable to their team, throughout the entire NHL. This 2017-2018 season has allowed several players to showcase their abilities, thus leaving the title of MVP still up for grabs.
Here are some top contenders for the season:
The Favorite, Nikita Kucherov
The Russian right wing playing for the Tampa Bay Lightening is second in the league in terms of overall points. With 37 goals and 58 assists in 73 games played, Kucherov is a strong contender for the Hart Memorial Trophy with a point total of 95. He led the league in points until recently and could easily finish the season with the most points in the NHL.
However, in 1989 when Wayne Gretzky was named MVP over Mario Lemieux, despite Lemieux having 31 more points than Gretzky, the Hart Memorial Trophy voting committee proved that overall points don’t account for everything in the voting process. So he could lose out to any guy on this list, or a surprise late candidate. Even still, NHL.com’s panel of 19 staff writers cast 13 votes in favor of Kucherov being named this years MVP.
The “Streak-er,” Taylor Hall
The Canadian left wing is the alternating captain of the New Jersey Devils, and after being traded from the Edmonton Oilers in 2016, Hall experienced a remarkable 26-game point streak playing for the Devils this year. Not only is this the longest streak this season, but it’s also the longest streak in the Devils’ history. Per NHL.com, Hall’s steak, although half as long as Gretzky’s 83′-84′ season streak of 51 games, is highly comparable when factoring in scoring levels.
“Hall has either scored or assisted on 50.7 percent (38 of 75) of New Jersey’s goals during his streak, 0.5 percent less than Gretzky’s 51.2 percent (153 of 229)” of the Oilers goals for his season, NHL.com explains. This run and Hall’s impressive contribution to the Devils’ overall goal count earns him a place in the race for the Hart Memorial Trophy.
The “Phoenix,” Nathan MacKinnon
The Colorado Avalanche center is third in the league in terms of total points, just three points behind Kucherov and four points behind Connor McDavid, who is leading the league as of this posting (3/25). MacKinnon holds his ranking with 38 goals and 54 assists in 67 games played. With his team fighting for the wildcard spot in the Western Conference, MacKinnon is being rightfully perceived as having elevated his team after the Avalanches finished last in the Western Conference last year. MacKinnon’s success in this season and the rebound affect his team has had could rightfully earn him the title of this year’s MVP.
The Returning Champ, Evgeni Malkin
Malkin the Russian center for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who won the Hart Memorial Trophy for the 2011-12 season, is back in the running for a second title. The Penguins, who won the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017, are gaining momentum for a three-peat this year and have largely spoken out about including Malkin in the running for MVP. Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan told NHL.com that this season has been the best season he’s seen Malkin play.
“He’s an elite player. He’s one of those guys who could change the outcome of the game, and he’s done that for us,” Sullivan explains. Right wing Patric Hornqvist agrees, and after playing along side Malkin this year, feels that he deserves to be in the running for MVP.
“The way he’s playing now is the best I’ve ever seen him play. You can see it on the scoreboard too,” Hornqvist told NHL.com. Other teammates feel that it’s the duration of Malkin’s career that’s causing him to slip out of the direct limelight of the trophy. With 91 total points making him fourth in the league, and third in terms of scoring with 41 goals, Malkin’s numbers and performance still definitely speak to his victories on the ice, and his long and successful career.