The NHL season is just about halfway over, so we’re using the moment to pick our faves for end-of-season trophy winners. The NHL Awards are messy and infrequently go to the players who actually deserve to win, so our picks reflect who should win the award, not necessarily the traditional front-runner. Feel free to agree or disagree with the picks, but these are the correct answers.
This time: The Hart Memorial Trophy, a.k.a. Player of the Year.
The notion that the Hart Trophy winner must come from a playoff team is dumb. Connor McDavid is the best player in hockey, but the Oilers surround him with inconsistent talent. And yet, the Oilers have 117 goals this season (21st best in the league), and McDavid has 62 points, good for 53 percent of the team’s total goals. McDavid is on pace for his third 100-point season in a row despite having to play with Zack Kassian and Jujhar Khaira. To put it in perspective, McDavid averages almost 23 minutes of ice time a game on a bad Oilers team, and he still manages a 50.6 shot-attempt percentage, a 55.7 goal percentage, and a 50.7 scoring-chance percentage.
Me: Connor McDavid is so good that you can literally play anyone with him and it won’t matter
Ken Hitchcock: *cracks knuckles* pic.twitter.com/qbSn721e3Z
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) January 9, 2019
Kucherov ticks off all the boxes for a Hart Trophy winner: the Lightning are outpacing every team in the league by a good margin, and he is racking up an astronomical amount of points. He has 71 in 43 games, which is the fastest a player has reached 70 points since 1992-1993. However, the Lightning are loaded with Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos, both above 20 goals and 20 assists on the season. The Lightning have seven players with over 10 goals, and while Kucherov adds value, the team is overflowing with talent. Kucherov may end up leading the league in scoring, but McDavid adds far more value to the Oilers than Kuch does to the Lightning.
— NHL (@NHL) January 9, 2019
With Alex Ovechkin leading the league in goals, Nicklas Backstrom has flown under the radar as the Caps’ most valuable player once again. By pure counts, Backstrom is second on the team with 45 points and 34 assists. Despite being matched up against opponents’ top lines every game, Backstrom’s puck possession numbers are positive with a 50.1 shot-attempt percentage, a 52.1 scoring-chance percentage, and a 64.4 goals percentage. Backstrom’s shot-attempt percentage has only dipped below 50 percent (49.6 in 2013-14 under Adam Oates, so is it really his fault?) in his twelve-year NHL career. Nicklas Backstrom is quietly stringing together another impressive season, and he has been the Caps’ most valuable player 44 games into the season.
Who’s your pick for the Hart?
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