Top-5 Hart Trophy Candidates for 2020
As we get closer and closer to the season’s end, we take a closer look at some of the league’s best and top candidates for the assorted list of NHL awards.
Here we will take a look at some of the league’s best skaters; those deemed most detrimental to their teams’ success this season.
The Hart Memorial Trophy was introduced into the league in 1924 and since then has been awarded to 56 different players across 92 seasons. It is awarded to the player deemed to be the “most valuable to his team” throughout the season. The winner is selected by vote, the voters being the members of the Professional Hockey Writer’s Association. The award was donated to the NHL by the father of long-time Montreal Canadiens’ coach Cecil Hart – David Hart.
The first recipient of the award was original Ottawa Senators centerman Frank Nighbor after a Stanley Cup-winning season. The NHL player with the most Hart Memorial trophies to his name is the great one: Wayne Gretzky. Gretzky won the award nine times in his career, including an eight-year stretch of consecutive wins.
Last season saw the Hart Memorial trophy go to Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, who had also won last season’s Art Ross trophy for amassing the most points of any player last season.
*Note that all statistics listed are at the time of writing*
1. Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers
Without a doubt, forward Artemi Panarin was the most sought-after free agent following the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs. Panarin had spent his whole career up to that point with the Columbus Blue Jackets and when the New York Rangers signed him as a free agent, that was the team’s way of announcing that they were taking this season seriously. Although the Rangers don’t currently find themselves where they thought they’d be after crucial free-agent signings, no one can deny that they’d be nowhere near the playoff picture if it wasn’t for Panarin. At the time of writing, the Rangers sit two spots out of the wildcard picture.
The team is still more than capable of making the playoffs and that’s because of their star forward. Panarin has registered 32 goals and 88 points this season, ranking him third overall in points out of the entire league. What’s most impressive about Panarin’s season, however, is that, despite the Rangers’ struggles at times, Panarin has managed a plus-35 rating, which ranks the highest on this list.
He averages 1.40 points per game this season, 21 power-play points, a 16.5 shooting percentage, and a clean 50.0 faceoff percentage. He also has four game-winners in 2020.
2. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
Yes, he plays alongside Connor McDavid, but Draisaitl has stepped out of that shadow, even more, this season. Not only has he remained a step ahead of McDavid all season long on the scoresheet, but Draisaitl has also led the league in points for the majority of the season. He proved his worth even more across different McDavid injury absences in which Draisaitl didn’t miss a step; proving that he is more than essential to the team.
For a team considered to have little-to-no secondary offense, it’s not unfair to say that Draisaitl has put this team on his back. Just shy of 100 points this season, the German forward has been crucial in this Edmonton team currently sitting in a playoff position – sitting third in the Pacific division behind Vegas and Vancouver. Edmonton has also led the league in power-play percentage for much of the season. Much of that has to do with the fact that 40 of Draisaitl’s 99 points this season have come with the man-advantage.
Draisaitl is a minus-11 on the season, but that is nothing to balk at when one looks at what Draisaitl has been given to work with. He has been averaging 1.55 points per game this season, has a staggering 18.7 shooting percentage, and ten game-winning goals for the Oilers. He even has a positive faceoff percentage at 51.8 percent.
3. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Nathan MacKinnon has been an all-star since day one of his career. Part of a hot, young offense that includes Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog, MacKinnon went above and beyond this season and proved his worth amidst a stretch that saw both of his linemates suffer long-term injuries. During that time, MacKinnon stepped up in every way and it was during that time when he climbed into the league’s top-five in scoring. He has remained there since currently having the fifth-highest point total in the NHL this season.
The team is once again healthy and sit second in the Western Conference behind only the Stanley Cup champions, the St. Louis Blues. The team is capable of anything when healthy but it was MacKinnon that kept them competitive and in the hunt during those weakened, disheartening stretches of time.
Averaging 1.35 points per game this season, MacKinnon has ten power-play goals and 29 power-play points. He has four game-winners, including two in overtime. The only player on this list to average more ice-time per game than MacKinnon is Leon Draisaitl. He is also one of the best creators of scoring opportunities as he leads all players on this list in shots with almost 300 this season!
4. David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
There has been a lot of hype around David Pastrnak this season due to his goal-scoring prowess. Pastrnak is all but a lock for this season Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy as the leading goal scorer in the league. But his goal scoring is overshadowing everything else he is doing for this league-leading Boston Bruins team and his claim to MVP status can’t be denied.
Pastrnak, yes, has 46 goals this season – nine more than anyone else on this list. But he is contributing in many more ways. For example, 19 of those goals have come on the power play and Pastrnak has a total of 36 power-play points. He sits behind only Leon Draisaitl in total points, trailing the Edmonton forward by just nine. He is a plus-20 on the season and averages 1.38 points per game. He has nine game-winning goals and a fantastic shooting percentage of 18 percent. On this list, only Nathan MacKinnon has put more shots on goal this season.
Linemate Brad Marchand has helped bring Pastrnak’s game to life but no one can deny that this Bruins team would not be where it is this season had Pastrnak not been a member of the roster.
5. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
Last year’s winner Nikita Kucherov wasn’t looking likely to repeat the league’s MVP following Tampa’s slow start to this season, but, like his team, Kucherov is slowly climbing in the rankings and now sits seventh overall in league scoring on a Tampa Bay team that now finds themselves in second place in the Eastern Conference behind only the Boston Bruins.
Kucherov has the second-highest plus/minus rating on this list and it keeps climbing. He is now averaging 1.26 points per game with 22 of his points coming on the power play. He has six game-winning goals with three of them taking place in overtime. He has a 16.4 shooting percentage and actually averages the least amount of ice-time on this list (he’s also played the least amount of games).
Dark Horse: Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
We couldn’t end this list without mentioning Buffalo Sabres captain Jack Eichel. Despite another weak season overall, Eichel still made his presence felt and played each game with passion from buzzer to buzzer. The Sabres are currently 12 points back of a wildcard spot but Eichel hasn’t been going down without a fight.
This season, very impressively, Eichel has registered 77 points and is ninth-overall in league scoring. He has 26 power-play points and has (somehow!) managed a plus-11 rating while playing on the Sabres. He has a shooting percentage of 16.2 and nine game-winning goals. He’s averaged 1.22 points per game this season, as well.
Interested in the Stanley Cup? Check out our predictions on the 2020 Stanley Cup.
Top-5 Hart Trophy Candidates for 2020 FAQ
Who’re the top candidates for the Hart Trophy?
WSN picks Artemi Panarin, Leon Draisaitl, Nathan MacKinnon, David Pastrnak, and Nikita Kucherov to win the 2020 Hart Trophy
What is the Hart Trophy?
The Hart Trophy is the award given to the player deemed most valuable to their team. It has been given out since 1923.