The 2018-19 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 Awards? The Awards ceremony, held in Las Vegas, does not take place until after the Stanley Cup has been hoisted, but voting for the awards takes place when the regular season ends. There is no harm in getting our predictions in now.
The Hart 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 2018-19 Hart Trophy
Connor McDavid: 78GP, 41G, 75A, 116P
There are many different ways people view the Hart Trophy. Some believe that you need to make the playoffs to win. Others believe it should just go to the best player. However, we have decided to view all three and try to accommodate them in our finalists and winners. That is why Connor McDavid is the first finalist.
The Edmonton Oilers and Connor McDavid once again missed the playoffs this year. However, this was at no fault to Connor McDavid. He had 116 points in 78 games, putting him at 1.49 points per game. This improves off of his already amazing 108 points in 82 games last year.
According to Evolving Hockey, McDavid finished the year contributing 19.8 Goals Above Replacement. He helped his linemate Leon Draisaitl finish at 18.1, then after that, the next player on their team was at just 10 GAR. This is one of the biggest swings from one to three in the league. His 19.8 GAR ranks him eighth in the entire league despite having a rotating cast of linemates. It is easy to see how McDavid could be considered most valuable to his team.
Sidney Crosby: 79GP, 35G, 65A, 100P
When thinking of the Pittsburgh Penguins you don’t usually think of a team that has to rely on one guy. A team loaded with players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Kris Letang usually spread the responsibility out. However, this year, it was really Crosby that moved this team ahead.
While the other players played well too, some of them had down years for their standards. As well, the cap crunch has meant the Pens haven’t always been able to bring on the depth players they wish. With a lack of scoring at times throughout the year, Crosby really stepped up.
Crosby’s two-way game is also what really set him apart for the Hart. His offence has been amazing but adding his defensive game he came out to be a 24.9 GAR player. This is the most in the entire league. He finished a full 10 GAR ahead of the next player on his team, one of the biggest swings in the league. Crosby routinely controlled play and also elevated those he plays around even more so than some other years. His ability to just dominate play this year in all areas of the ice is why he may be a Hart finalist.
Nikita Kucherov: 82GP, 41G, 87A, 128P
Here is our winner for the Hart award, Nikita Kucherov. Yes, Kucherov plays on a stacked Tampa Bay Lightning team so people may make the argument someone like Crosby deserves it more than him. However, it seems obvious that Kucherov is the most important player on the best team.
Looking at his raw point totals almost tells you as much as you need to know. His 128 points are the most since the lockout and the highest total by a Russian player. Only Joe Thornton in 2006 scored even close to that with 125. Crosby would score 120 the following year. So, with the most points in well over a decade, what else made him the most valuable?
The way Kucherov seemed to elevate the players around him was simply amazing. Yes, he was blessed with much better linemates than other players but he still managed to get the most out of them. Brayden Point is an amazing player of his own, but there is no doubt he has Kucherov to thank when he gets a massive raise this summer. Tyler Johnson and Steven Stamkos also played with Kucherov for parts of the year and the way he could find teammates extra space when he did and didn’t have the puck was magical. It is why Kucherov is our Hart trophy winner for being the most valuable player in the league.