With the season winding down the nominees for the Hart Trophy is a pretty long list. No one has separated themselves from the pack as the best player, and an argument can be made for any of them. In past seasons this award seems to be given to the most valuable player to the league. I’d like to get back to giving out this award to players, whom without, make their team significantly worse and risk missing the playoffs. Here are three players who are the most valuable to their team.
Taylor Hall – 68GP, 32G, 46A, 78P
If New Jersey makes the playoffs, Taylor Hall should absolutely be considered for the Hart Trophy. As of writing this, Hall sits 15th in scoring and while that doesn’t stand out from anyone, he has 78 points and the next player on New Jersey, Nico Hischier, has 46. That’s a big gap. Taylor Hall also has a 1.15 points per game and Kyle Palmieri is the next guy on the list with 0.67. I did not count Patrick Maroon because he just joined the Devils at the trade deadline. Just showing these dramatic scoring gaps, Hall is putting the team on his back.
Anze Kopitar – 75GP, 33G, 53A, 86P
This is my pick for the Hart Trophy. Anze Kopitar ranks 6th with 86 points, but here’s why he’s more valuable than anyone else. Kopitar averages 2:13 of short-handed ice time per game, which translates to being called upon 39.8% of the time to kill all the Kings penalties. In killing so many penalties, he ranks 10th in total short-handed time by forwards with 167:17. No one in the scoring race comes even close to that. He also ranks third in faceoff wins and is first in total ice time among forwards. Kopitar plays in all situations and plays more meaningful minutes than anyone else at the top of the leaderboard. I didn’t even mention he only starts in the offensive zone 45.3% of the time. This guy is the complete package and the Kings would not be in a playoff spot without him. Did I mention Drew Doughty is the second leading scorer on the Kings with 55 points?
Nathan MacKinnon – 66GP, 38G, 54A, 92P
Since returning from a shoulder injury on February 18th, no one has scored more points than Nathan MacKinnon, 31, and as of right now, him and his fellow teammate, Mikko Rantanen, have scored the most points in March with 21. I love what MacKinnon’s doing, he tops the league with 1.39 points per game which is number one if we don’t count Ryan Donato who has 2. He’s only played 66 games and could be leading the scoring race if he stayed healthy. Last season, Colorado finished at the bottom of the standings and are now in the playoff race. That season, MacKinnon had 53 points which only strengthens his case for how good he’s been. Before Matt Duchene was dealt, MacKinnon had 12 points in 13 games, and since then has taken his game to a new level and can now be considered an elite talent. He’s carrying them and it’s a lot of fun to watch right now.