Hall Has Hart: Taylor Hall Named NHL MVP

It was a great night for the New Jersey Devils at the 2018 NHL Awards at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

First, Brian Boyle, after overcoming a form of leukemia he was diagnosed with in training camp, was named the winner of the Masterton Trophy for best exemplifying “the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.”

And while that would have made for a very successful night for New Jersey in and of itself, the main event was Taylor Hall being named the Hart Trophy winner as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player for 2017-18.

Hall had a tremendous year, of course, the 26-game point scoring streak, but his leadership was what was highlighted by most people who talked about the award. According to Ken Daneyko on the NHL Network’s NHL Tonight show, he also became a more well-rounded player.

An interesting note by ESPN Stats & Info was that Hall’s Hart win came without him finishing in the top four in NHL scoring (he finished sixth). The last time that happened was in 1991-92 when Mark Messier won while finishing tied for fifth in scoring. Bobby Clarke finished sixth when he won the award in 1974-75 and Gordie Howe won in 1959-60 when also tied for fifth in scoring.

Hall becomes the first Devil to win the Hart Trophy in franchise history while Boyle is the first Devils recipient of the Masterton since Daneyko in 2000.

Other award winners named tonight include Connor McDavid of the Oilers winning the Ted Lindsay Award as the most outstanding player voted on by the NHLPA. Hall was also in the running for this award, but former teammate McDavid, who had a great season on his own (and would have possibly challenged for the Hart had Edmonton made the postseason) won it instead.

Victor Hedman of the Lightning was named Norris Trophy winner as best defenseman. The King Clancy Trophy for leadership and humanitarian contribution went to a pair this year: the retiring Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin of the Canucks. The Sedin twins become the first co-winners of this award in NHL history.

Matthew Barzal of the Islanders won the Calder Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year. According to Devils beat writer Amanda Stein, two Devils received votes for this trophy. Nico Hischier finished seventh in voting with 111 points (no first place votes, seven second place, six third place, six fourth place and 14 fifth place) and Will Butcher finished ninth with 37 points (no first place votes, one second, two third, five fourth and five fifth).

The hometown Vegas Golden Knights took home an amazing four awards, not surprising after their great maiden voyage of a season in 2017-18. William Karlsson was named the winner of the Lady Byng Trophy for most gentlemanly player, Gerard Gallant was Jack Adams Award winner for top coach, former Devils draft pick and longtime Las Vegas resident Deryk Engelland was given the Messier Leadership Award and George McPhee was named top General Manager.

Anze Kopitar, who came in third in the Hart Trophy voting did get some hardware. The Kings forward won the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward.

Pekka Rinne of the Predators took home his first Vezina Trophy as top goaltender in the NHL. Also at the show, Rinne’s teammate, PK Subban, was announced as the cover athlete for EA Sports’ NHL 19 video game.

And finally, a new award was given out, the Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award. The first recipient was Darcy Haugan, awarded posthumously. Mr. Haugan was the coach of the Humboldt Broncos, the Saskatchewan junior team that was involved in a tragic bus accident earlier this season while traveling to a playoff game. A nice fitting tribute to a team and community that the hockey world has rallied around all year.

The Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award will be presented to those who commit to “improving lives and strengthening communities through hockey.” Christina Haughan accepted the award on behalf of her late husband.

Overall, it was a successful night for the Devils and their fans. Congratulations to Brian Boyle, Taylor Hall and all of the other NHL award winners. We will have coverage here tomorrow of the NHL schedule release, as we will know just where the Devils’ itinerary will take them in 2018-19. On Friday and Saturday, we will also have coverage of the NHL Draft. The Devils pick 17th overall in the first round.

Hall Officially Named Hart Trophy Finalist

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.