Well, it’s official.
To the surprise of very few, Taylor Hall has been named a finalist for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player today.
Hall will be opposed by Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche and Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings at the NHL Awards show on June 20 in Las Vegas.
The official press release put out by the NHL on NHL.com stated that former number one overall draft picks have won the Hart the last two seasons (Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks in 2016 – who went first overall in 2007 and Connor McDavid last season – he went first overall to the Oilers in 2015). Hall and MacKinnon could continue this trend, as Hall was taken first overall by the Oilers in 2010 and MacKinnon first by the Avs in 2013.
One of Hall’s biggest assets going into the voting for this award will be the differential between him and his next closest teammate in points. He finished the year with 93 points which was a whopping 41 better than Nico Hischier’s 52. The press release noted that this was “the largest differential between a team’s top two scorers since 2007-08 (Alex Ovechkin/Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals, 43 points).” For the record, Ovechkin won the Hart Trophy in 2007-08.
Also keep in mind that the Devils possibly do not make the post season without Hall putting them on his back the last few months of the season. If any player was most valuable to his team, it was Hall to New Jersey. You can make a good case for MacKinnon and, we shall see, Kopitar had a very strong year. But, watching the Devils day in and day out, I find it very hard to believe that there is anyone in the NHL who was a more valuable player to one team as Hall was to the Devils.
We covered Hall and MacKinnon’s credentials in yesterday’s post about the Ted Lindsay Award since both are also finalists for that trophy. Because of that, we will just kind of “scout” Anze Kopitar in this post.
Kopitar finished the year with 35 goals, 57 assists for 92 points, which was “tied with Pittsburgh Penguins forward Phil Kessel for seventh in the NHL.” The press release also notes that he was the first player LA Kings player since Wayne Gretzky (1993-94) to finish with more than 90 points. Gretzky had 130 that season. Gretzky is also the first and only Kings player to have won the Hart Trophy as league MVP – nabbing the honor in 1988-89.
Much like Hall and MacKinnon, Kopitar helped the Kings make a return to the playoffs after they missed last season. All three finalists played on teams that were elminated in the first round of the playoffs: the Devils by the Lightning, the Avalanche by the Predators and the Kings by the Golden Knights.
As Kopitar is also a finalist for the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward, a trophy that he won in 2016 last, he would join Bobby Clarke and Sergei Federov as the only players to win the Hart and Selke in their careers. Federov won the Hart in 1994 and the Selke in 1996 as a Red Wing while Clarke won the Hart in 1973, 1975 and 1976 and the Selke in 1983 all with the Flyers. Like the other two, he is a first-time finalist for this trophy.
Were MacKinnon to win, he would be the third Avalache player to win the honor, joining Joe Sakic (2001) and Peter Forsberg (2003).
Were Hall to win, he would be the first New Jersey Devil to take home this prestigious trophy.
Good luck to Taylor Hall and congratulations on this great honor for him.