As the 2018-19 National Hockey League nears its end, speculation as to the eventual Stanley Cup champion points directly to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Should the Lightning culminate their dominant regular season with their second Stanley Cup trophy, the favorite to win the NHL’s Hart Trophy, given to the league’s most valuable player, is Nikita Kucherov.
Kucherov is the frontrunner to win the award followed by a list of hockey’s elite. Last year’s winner was New Jersey forward Taylor Hall whose 93 point-season rescued the Devils and led them to the postseason. Hall suffered a season-ending injury in December and is not among the favorites to win the award this year. Several other recognizable names are among the Hart Trophy favorites.
Kucherov has been outstanding all season long and leads the NHL in points with 125 through 80 games. The Lightning right wing has scored 39 goals, 15 of which have come on the power play. Kucherov has a 10-point lead in the scoring title and the Lightning are on pace to record the most points in the regular season since the 2005-06 Detroit Red Wings. Hopefully, the Lightning do not end their season like the ’05-’06 Wings. Detroit lost in the first round of the playoffs to Edmonton. Regardless, Kucherov is still the favorite to win the Hart Trophy.
Speaking of Edmonton, don’t forget the Oilers star that is second to Kucherov in scoring. McDavid has scored 41 goals and has 115 points on the season. While he has been on top of his game all season long, the Oilers as a team have not. For the second straight season, Edmonton failed to make to make the postseason. While McDavid’s season was great, it’s very difficult for a player to win the Hart Trophy without leading his team to the postseason.
The Capitals star hasn’t scored fewer than 32 goals in any of his 14 NHL seasons. Ovechkin recorded his eighth 50-plus-goal season in 2019. He has 51 in 80 games leading the Capitals to first place in the Metropolitan Division. The winner of the 2018 Conn Smythe trophy as the MVP of last year’s Stanley Cup Finals, Ovechkin has 89 points and if his Capitals can reach the finals again he has a real shot at winning the Hart Trophy.
How good is Calgary? As good as Gaudreau, who is sixth in the NHL in scoring with 98 points through 81 games. Gaudreau has scored 36 goals in leading the Flames to the best overall record in the Western Conference. It’s been a dramatic turnaround for Calgary which did not qualify for the playoffs last season and were ousted in the first round in 2016-17 by Anaheim in a four-game sweep. A lengthy playoff run makes Gaudreau’s case for the Hart even stronger.
HART TROPHY TRENDS
Only one goalie – Carey Price of Montreal in 2014-15 – has won the Hart in the last 15 years. Price is also the only non-forward to win the award since St. Louis defenseman Chris Pronger in 1999-2000. Only four times in the history of the NHL has a player won the Hart Trophy playing for a team that did not make the playoffs. The last to do so? Mario Lemieux in 1988. This year’s Hart winner will lead the league in one of the following: points, goals, or both. Since the lockout, the only winners that did not lead the league in one of those categories were Price and last year’s winner, Hall.