(Photo credit: Sergel)
Every year there is a handful of players around the NHL that play at an elite level above the rest the league.
Rightfully so, these players make a solid case to be in the conversation to win the Hart Memorial Trophy. An award presented to the "player judged most valuable to his team”.
At this point in the season, there are several frontrunners along with a few dark horse candidates who should be considered for the award. Let’s see which NHL player should be in line to win the Hart Trophy for the 2017/18 season.
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning should be the favorite to take home the award this season. He has been dominant for most of the 2017/18 NHL season and is a key engine for the best team in the NHL.
Kucherov has led the league in scoring for much of the season, and leads the NHL in points with 91, along with 34 goals and 57 assists.
Traditionally, many Hart Trophy winners have been high-scoring offensive players on playoff teams. Tampa Bay has arguably been the best team in the NHL for most of the season and as the Lightning should be serious Stanley Cup contenders, which makes Kucherov a frontrunner to take home the Hart Trophy.
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Alex Ovechkin is having an impressive bounce-back season. He is leading the league in goals (42 goals in 69 games) and looks like he will add another Rocket Richard trophy to his resume.
The 2017/18 season has been nothing but spectacular for the “Great Eight” as he hit another career-milestone: becoming the 20th player in the National Hockey League history to score 600 goals.
Ovechkin has been a huge reason the Washington Capitals are one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference again. The Capitals have scored 206 goals this season, and Ovechkin has got a point on 74 of those goals. This accounts for over 35% of the team’s goals.
It’s fair to say that, Washington would be a very different team without Ovechkin in the lineup.
Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Although, he might not be a top-candidate to win the Hart Trophy, Evgeni Malkin has quietly played himself into the conversation.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were sitting near the bottom of the Metropolitan Division at the Christmas break and were in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.But Malkin’s stellar play has brought the team back to the top of the East.
Since the new year, Malkin tops the NHL in goals and points with 25 and 51, respectively. He is also second in the NHL scoring with 87 points and is only four points behind Nikita Kucherov for the scoring title.
With Sidney Crosby having a mediocre season by his standards, we can say Malkin has arguably been the Penguins most valuable player this season.
Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
Nobody expected the New Jersey Devils to be any good this year, let alone be in the playoff race this late in the season. A big reason for the team’s success is the play of All-Star forward Taylor Hall.
Frequently, Hall has single-handedly carried the Devils offensively. He has 31 more points than the team’s second-leading scoring (Nico Hischier) and is also on pace to break his career-high in points.
Hall has set a new career high in goals (31) and 76 points in 65 games, which includes an impressive 26-game-point-streak. Impressively, only Hall and Patrick Kane are only players in the NHL to record a point in 26 straight games in the past two decades.
Hall has been the Devil's’ Most valuable player, and he might be dark-horse to win the Hart trophy, especially if the Devils can secure a playoff spot by the end of the season.
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Despite a mediocre start for the team this season, Nathan MacKinnon has put the Colorado Avalanche on his back and has carried the team back into playoff contention. Especially after the departure of all-star center Matt Duchene.
Through this season, MacKinnon has elevated his game to an elite level and has become one of the top scorers in the NHL. The former first overall pick is having a career year and has hit new career-highs in goals (33), assists (49) and points (82).
If he wasn’t sidelined by an injury in February, he might be NHL’s top scorer today. Like Taylor Hall, if the Colorado Avalanche are able to secure a playoff spot, MacKinnon should be considered as a dark horse candidate to win the Hart Trophy.
Do you agree with this list of candidates? Let us know in the comments section below and be sure to vote in the poll.