- Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov is a heavy favorite to win the Hart Trophy
- Less than 20 games left for each team
- Can any other player mount a charge?
The 2018-19 NHL season is entering the final stretch: a time when MVP candidates can really separate themselves from the pack.
Last year, both Taylor Hall and Nathan Mackinnon averaged over 1.3 points per game over the final two months, lifting their mediocre teams to a playoff spot.
Meanwhile, Connor McDavid averaged 1.7 points per game, lifting the Edmonton Oilers to worse draft lottery odds. But while last year’s MVP race was a toss up, this year, the Hart Trophy odds are a little less bunched up.
2019 Hart Trophy Odds
*Odds taken 3/1
The Tampa Bay Lightning are having a historic season and as a result, you’ll find them well represented on the odds boards for pretty much every award.
But when it comes to the Hart, there’s a reason Nikita Kucherov is a runaway favorite.
Nikita Kucherov is the fastest player to reach 100 points in the last 22 years. pic.twitter.com/5nUwJA1QY6
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) February 22, 2019
Not only is he the best player on a team that could finish with the NHL’s best record ever, and ten points clear of the next closest player in the Art Ross race, he’s also long overdue for some Hart Trophy love.
A Make-Up MVP?
The Hart Trophy is selected by the Pro Hockey Writers’ Association, which means 50% of its voting body are guys named Gord from Saskatchewan. And those Gords don’t always acknowledge European players in the same way.
I will never forgive Corey Perry for robbing Daniel Sedin of the Hart Trophy. Oh he scored a bunch of goals in April, big whoop!
— Justin Morissette ?? (@JustinMoris) March 23, 2017
Kucherov didn’t get robbed in the last two seasons, but that’s only because voters didn’t even have him in the conversation.
Only Connor McDavid had more regular season points than Kucherov from 2016 to 2018 and yet, Kucherov has never cracked the top five in Hart Trophy voting.
This year, he’s leaving no doubts in the voter’s minds, dominating the points race on a Lightning team that is destroying the NHL. The only reason he’s not a -100000 favorite is…
Can You Be “Most Valuable” on a Stacked Team?
That’s sure to be the case argued against Kucherov come award season.
The 95-96 Detroit Red Wings had the most wins ever, but none of their players could gain any traction in the MVP race, with Sergei Fedorov finishing highest in voting at 5th.
More recently, the Wings had 124 points in 05-06, but again, failed to get an MVP nod, despite a career year from Nicklas Lidstrom.
I mean, couldn't seven-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom have not merited the Hart Trophy at least once?
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) April 4, 2018
The only other post-lockout teams to finish with over 120 points were the Washington Capitals in 09-10 and 15-16. And though Alex Ovechkin has three Hart Trophies, none of them came in those seasons.
Sometimes, playing on a great team has its drawbacks.
Nothing is ever certain when it comes to the PHWA, but this is pretty darn close.
Not only are Patrick Kane and Connor McDavid way behind in the scoring race, but their teams are five and seven points out of a playoff spot. There’s not a conceivable Hart case to be made unless one of them goes on a historic run.
Take Kucherov at a hefty price and be thankful it’s not heftier. If his name was Sidney Crosby, this bet would be off the board already.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.