With just over 20 games left in the regular season, the race for the Hart Trophy is finally starting to clear up. While there are many great choices, we have decided to showcase our top three picks for the NHL’s inaugural MVP award. Our list includes three players who have never won the award, so buckle up and enjoy The Intermission's top three candidates for the illustrious Hart Trophy so far.
1. Auston Matthews
55 Games Played (GP), 42 Goals (G), 32 Assists (A), 74 Points (P)
In Matthews’ sixth season, he’s playing the best hockey of his career. The Toronto super star has put up eye-popping numbers this year and is on route to crush not only his career high for goals, assists and points, but also looks primed to break the franchise record for most goals in a season (54) set by Rick Vaive in 1982.
But where Matthews has made significant strides is on the defensive end. His faceoff percentage has skyrocketed this season to 57.82%, good for fifth in the league. Matthews also ranks third in the NHL in takeaways (61). The Arizona product is playing like the best goal scorer in the league with the puck, and a Selke Trophy candidate without the puck which is good enough to give him the No. 1 spot in our Hart Trophy rankings.
2. Igor Shesterkin
28-7-3 Record, 2.02 Goals Against Average (GAA), .939 Save Percentage (SV%)
Typically, the Hart Trophy is a trophy that isn’t usually awarded to goaltenders. Only two goaltenders have won the award in the modern era of the NHL. When you compare the numbers of the most recent winner, 2015 Carey Price, to Shesterkin, they aren’t much different. Price boasted a 1.96 GAA and a .933 SV% in his Hart Trophy winning campaign and much like Shesterkin, he was the MVP of his team.
Shesterkin has been one of, if not the biggest reason, why the New York Rangers are having the success they’re having. The offense isn’t anything special, ranking 20th in the NHL for goals scored per game. The team is also surrendering the 24th most shots on goal (SOG) this season at 32.3 shots per game. This is what separates Shesterkin from the pack when it comes to the other elite goaltenders this season. He’s been able to put his team on his back and has put together one of the most remarkable goaltender seasons of all time which is why he deserves the No. 2 spot on our Hart Trophy rankings.
3. Jonathan Huberdeau
58 Games Played (GP), 18 Goals (G), 64 Assists (A), 82 Points (P)
It would be a crime to not include the current league leader for points in the NHL on this list. Jonathan Huberdeau has been unreal for the Panthers this season and is one of the biggest contributors of why Florida boasts the No. 1 ranked offense in the NHL. The Quebec native leads the NHL in assists by a landslide (McDavid is the runner-up with 51 assists) and primary assists (42) compared to McDavid’s 30 primary assists.
Over the course of this season, Huberdeau has been shaping into one of the top playmakers in the world. The only area he has lacked in this season has been his goal-scoring. He ranks 78th in the league with 18 goals and 174th in shot percentage (11.3%). His shot percentage is down 5.1% from last season which is what’s holding him back from truly running away in the race for the Hart Trophy. But still, Florida can’t be mad about that. They already possess the best scoring offense in the league and a lot of the credit goes to Huberdeau which is why he deserves our No. 3 spot in our Hart Trophy rankings.
Here are some honorable mentions for players that are having amazing seasons as well:
57 Games Played (GP), 30 Goals (G), 51 Assists (A), 81 Points (P)
McDavid is having another McDavid season for Edmonton. The former Hart Trophy winner has been going back-and-forth with teammate Leon Draisaitl and Jonathan Huberdeau for the league lead in points and is undoubtedly one of the best players this sport has ever seen.
58 Games Played (GP), 36 Goals (G), 35 Assists (A), 71 Points (P)
Like a fine wine, it seems like Ovechkin gets better with age. The 36-year old is tied for fourth in the league in goals scored and is still the same physical presence he's always been even at his age. It's hard to say when Ovechkin will ever slow down.
57 Games Played (GP), 26 Goals (G), 51 Assists (A), 77 Points (P)
Johnny hockey is having an unbelievable season for the Flames. He's recorded 77 points this campaign; good for fourth in the NHL. But his craziest stat is his plus-minus. Gaudreau is an absurd +44 this season.