In previous posts, we have explored the options for the 2019 NBA MVP and the 2018 MLB MVP. So it will come as no surprise that we are going to do the same, but for the NHL. While all sports are different, what’s interesting is that in the NHL, the award isn’t known as the MVP, but rather the Hart Memorial Trophy. Again, each sport differs slightly but the Hart Trophy is awarded, annually, to the “player judged most valuable to his team” Connor McDavid leads this race, assuming that he’ll win another scoring title and the Edmonton Oilers actually make the playoffs again. Sidney Crosby is second in this race, and both Auston Matthews and John Tavares are close behind. Beyond the usual suspects, there are some interesting names with longer odds. Those four aside, these are our predictions for possible Hart Trophy contenders.
Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago Blackhawks
The drawback to Kane is that he has a ton of personal baggage. But that didn’t stop him from winning the Hart Trophy back in 2016. That noted the same formula that applied to last season’s finalists could apply here: If Kane manages an outstanding offensive season, exponentially better than those of his teammates, while the Blackhawks return to the playoffs, he could easily be a finalist. The big question is whether he can get there without Artemi Panarin on his line.
Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay Lightning
Stamkos was a distant second in team scoring to Nikita Kucherov. It would likely take a reversal of those roles, or for Stamkos to get a ton of goals this season, in order to put him in the Hart conversation. But the one-time Hart finalist could get some love as the face of the franchise and the “Good Canadian Boy” bump from voters. That said, they might just look at the Lightning roster and assume there’s no one player more valuable than the others. This is what may have hurt Kucherov last season.
Patrick Laine, RW, Winnipeg Jets
Laine hit 44 goals last season and definitely has to be a contender for the Rocket Richard Trophy. The Jets are expected to be really good this season, and they have already produced a Hart contender in Blake Wheeler last season. Laine probably has to get his point total a little higher. Alex Ovechkin won the Richard and had a 100 point pace for each of his Hart wins, so it’s definitely feasible.
Aleksander Barkov, C, Florida Panthers
This is definitely a long shot worth watching. Barkov hit a career high with 78 points last season. Because of this he finally got some awards love with a Lady Byng nomination and then he finished fourth for the Selke. The Panthers look incredible this season, so it’s conceivable that Barkov could pull this off. But that means a big lift in the standings. It’s also probably accurate to say that he won’t come within a few feet of the Art Ross or Rocket Richard trophies, and that might pose a problem for him. That said, it is a longshot. Watching underdogs push their way through adversity always makes the win that much better.