The 2016-17 NHL season is coming to a close and what better way to cap off the year by taking a look at the front runners for the NHL Award winners? The Awards ceremony, held in Las Vegas, does not take place until after the Stanley Cup has been hoisted, but there is no harm in getting our predictions in now.
The Hart Memorial Trophy is an annual award given to the player judged most valuable to his team in the National Hockey League. The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association at the end of the regular season.
Predictions For 2016-17 Hart Trophy
Brent Burns: 80 GP, 28 G, 46 A, 74 Pts
Brent Burns blew out of the gate with the San Jose Sharks this season continuing where he left off in last year’s playoffs. For much of the season he looked like he could finish better than a point per game. Unfortunately he trailed off a bit towards the end after hitting a seven-game scoring drought. That killed his point per game pace and probably his Hart Trophy chances. Burns has been involved in 34.3% of Sharks goals this year, a very impressive number for a defenseman. Take into account the Sharks offensive struggles for much of the year and Burns’ contributions become even more important.
Brad Marchand: 80 GP, 39 G, 46 A, 85 Pts
Marchand continued where he left off last year and it looks like he might finish with his first 40-goal season. He needs just one goal in his last two games to do it. Marchand has been good most of the year for the Boston Bruins, but he’s been very good recently as the playoff race in the East has tightened. He’s been involved in 37.3% of Bruins goals, so don’t be surprised if Marchand grabs some votes for the Hart.
Sergei Bobrovsky: 62 GP, 41-16-5, 2.02 GAA, .933 SV%
Bobrovsky has had perhaps the best season of his career along with his team. As Bobrovsky is playing some Vezina worthy hockey, backstopping the Columbus Blue Jackets his team has risen and stayed in contention for the President’s Trophy most of the season.
In 62 games this year Bobrovsky has won 41 games to go along with a stellar .933 Sv%. To put the into context the second best goalie Sv% among goalies with more than half of their team’s starts this year is Carey Price who is at .924. In a league of such parity as the NHL that is quite the difference. Bobrovsky has had help from a much improved Blue Jackets blueline, but deserves credit himself as well. Without his play in net, the Blue Jackets likely would only have been dreaming of their lofty position in the standings.
Sidney Crosby: 73 GP, 43 G 43 A, 86 Pts
After missing the first six games of the season, Crosby been back to his old tricks. Early, it looked like he could hit 50 goals, but his incredible scoring pace has since slowed down a bit.
That hasn’t hurt his overall production much, however. He still sits third in the league with 86 points in 73 games, only second to the probable Hart winner in points per game. In an injury riddled Pittsburgh Penguins season it’s been paramount that the Pens have been able to rely on Crosby on most nights. Evidence of Crosby’s importance can be seen in the team’s expected goals for with and without Crosby. With him it’s at 56%, while it drops to 51% without Crosby.
Another feather in Crosby’s hat is the fact the he’s kept up this scoring rate without playing consistently with the same wingers. He’s been able to carry two rookies at times this season along with many other formations of wingers. Yet he has been able to produce alongside all of them. That speaks volumes about a player’s importance and skill. On a team that boasts Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin, Crosby is still the star.
Connor McDavid: 79 GP 29 G 66 A 95 PTS
This is not even close. After missing a significant portion of last season with injury and likely missing out on the Calder Trophy as a result, McDavid was back with a vengeance this season and the Edmonton Oilers have prospered on the backs of it.
In 79 games McDavid has amassed 95 points and could hit 100 points with three games remaining. McDavid has been involved in 40.7% of Edmonton’s goals and with his speed is a threat any time he’s on the ice.
Playing more than 21 minutes a night McDavid is the heart and soul of this Oilers team. Without McDavid leading the way this is likely a team looking at a top 14 pick in the draft. For proof, look no further than the team’s performance in the roughly 39 minutes McDavid sits on the bench each game. On ice the Oilers have an expected goals for percentage of 56%. When he’s off that drops to 46%. That is a massive difference and shows just how much McDavid matters to this team.
That’s why he is the league most valuable player to his team and should win the Hart Trophy.