Boy did this hockey season fly by in a hurry. It’s now the final week of the year for many NHL clubs, while a select group will be gearing up for a run at hockey’s holy grail, the Stanley Cup. But as the season has gone on, three players, in particular, have put their team’s on their back and have played head and shoulders above the rest of the talent pool the league has to offer. The MVP Award (Hart Trophy) won’t have another name added to its legacy until late June, but the three individuals listed below have all made their case for why the honor of being called the league’s Most Valuable Player should be theirs. Let’s take a look.
Connor McDavid, last year’s Hart Trophy winner, is looking to become the first back-to-back winner of the award since Alex Ovechkin, who won it two years a row in 2008 and 2009. McDavid had a slow start to this season despite still being in the top-15 in points through the seasons first few months. All of this while his team, the Edmonton Oilers, could never find their footing and fell to the back of the pack in the Western Conference. The Oilers captain has also been the driving force on offense for Edmonton all season long. So much so, that he is going to most likely finish with 30 to 35 points more than the second-best point producer on the team, Leon Draisaitl.
Why Connor McDavid could go back-to-back, is his surreal second half of the season. No forward in the NHL has produced more points since the All-Star break than McDavid. McDavid’s 1.30 points per game average is the best in the league and he is going to finish in the top five in both goals and assists. What also could push McDavid is he’s basically been a one-man show in Edmonton. On such an offensively challenged team, McDavid having another 100-point season is utterly staggering.
The Oilers will miss the postseason this year, but it shouldn’t damper what McDavid has accomplished this season. Setting another career-high in points, notching a 40-plus goal season, and just showing why he is the best player in the league from after the quarter-point of the season, proves why McDavid winning his second straight MVP award will be extremely deserved.
It’s not very surprising that Evgeni Malkin’s name is in the talk for MVP as the regular season comes to a close. Malkin — who is only six years removed from winning his first Hart Trophy — has been at the forefront of the Pittsburgh Penguins surge since the middle of the year, leading to yet another postseason birth. Other than Connor McDavid, no one in the league has been on a tear more than Malkin and no one has been scarier to oppose than him. The 31-year olds numbers this season are his most since his Hart-winning season in 2011-12.
Usually riding shotgun next to fellow superstar Sidney Crosby, Malkin has taken the reins and eclipsed Crosby as the Penguins best player and most consistent point producer all season long. In the middle months of this season, Evgeni Malkin was arguably the best player in the league. His numbers in the month of January (12-7-19) and February (10-11-21) were fantastic. Those numbers got Malkin recognition, as he received NHL Three Star of the Month honors for both those months. Adding to Malkin’s MVP case is he’s produced the second 40-plus goal season of his career and he will most likely finish in the top five in players with the most goals in the league.
It will be worth-watching how Malkin performs in the postseason after a sensational regular season. If the Penguins are going to three-peat as Cup champions, they can look back at the job Evgeni Malkin did this season and the MVP caliber style he solidified all year.
For the season Nathan MacKinnon has manufactured — along with his club, the Colorado Avalanche — being in the conversation for MVP is well warranted. A former Calder Trophy winner in 2014, MacKinnon has gotten better production wise over the past few seasons. But this year, MacKinnon has found a whole new level and has moved into the upper echelon with some of the games best players. His absurd numbers have not only put him in an elite company, but they have been the force behind the Avalanche’s miraculous turnaround from a season ago, where they were the worst team in the league.
MacKinnon’s assault to the top started back in early November when teammate Matt Duchene was shipped to Ottawa. After that trade, MacKinnon took it upon himself to step up in Duchene’s place as the team’s top forward. In November, MacKinnon was the best player of the month tallying 20 points in 12 games. In the middle months, as the Avs really shot their way up the standings, MacKinnon quietly continued to produce at a high-rate, and in the process go on to set career-highs in goals, assists, and points in his career. Even just a month ago, he scored 22 points in 15 games, leading the playoff push for Colorado.
With how quickly the Avalanche have returned to prominence, MacKinnon leading the way could be an excellent debate for why he should win the Hart. But for him to go from 53 points a season ago to over 90 and possibly 100 this year, is just unheard of and what an MVP player does.