It’s the halfway point in the season and we’re creating a hypothetical mid-season Hart Trophy here at DailyFaceoff.com. We’ve created the shortlist of nominees who could all be judged as the most valuable player to his team. Normally, the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association chooses who wins but we’d like you to choose! The poll can be found at the end. We’re going to run through mid-season versions of all of the prominent NHL trophies and awards so stay tuned!
Joe Thornton (12 goals, 49 assists, +14)
Four years removed from his last Hart Trophy win, Thornton isn’t on pace to match the 114 points that earned him his first Hart Trophy, but there’s no question that Thornton is an integral part of the Sharks’ offense. We’ve seen him elevate Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau’s game to arguably the most fearsome line in the NHL. Thornton is still one of the best faceoff men in the league and plays an integral role in San Jose’s second-best overall penalty kill. His offensive playmaking abilities still make him one of the most valuable centers in the league – he’s been on the ice for 75 of the Sharks’ 148 goals for on the season.
Henrik Sedin (20 goals, 44 assists, +18)
Another playmaker to grace the list of Hart nominees, Sedin has helped turn Vancouver into the 5th highest scoring team in the NHL. Henrik is currently the leagues top scorer with 64 points and holds the second most assists. Henrik is on pace to surpass his career-high points total of 82 set last season. Sedin’s real test will be his performance through the toughest stretch of the Canucks’ schedule en route to the playoffs. The Hart typically goes to players who have contributed to their respective teams’ outstanding performance in the regular season – the Canucks currently sit 7th in the West.
Alex Ovechkin (29 goals, 33 assists, +23)
The Hart winner for the last two seasons, Alex Ovechkin can lock up the first Hart Trophy three-peat since Wayne Gretzky in the late 1980s. With 62 points in only 39 games, Ovechkin is boasting his best point-per-game totals of his career in addition to career-bests in +/- and PIMs. Like Thornton, Ovechkin makes the players around him better but unlike Thornton, Ovechkin’s strength comes with putting the puck in the net. The Capitals, 3rd in the East, are the highest scoring team in the NHL with 173 goals for and Ovechkin has helped contribute to 81 of them. He’s still giving excellent production in his first injury-shortened season.
Sidney Crosby (30 goals, 27 assists, +14)
Two years removed from his first Hart Trophy, Crosby is quietly putting together his best season since. He’s on pace to surpass his career-high of 39 goals, set in his rookie year, and plus/minus +18. Crosby’s play has helped the Cup Champions remain Eastern Conference contenders and top-10 performers in goals-per-game and penalty-kill percentage but the Penguins have shown a lot of inconsistency this season as overwhelming favourites. Sid’s best chance at hardware this season, however, might be the Maurice Richard Trophy as he currently sits one goal behind Patrick Marleau for the league lead.
Ryan Miller (26-8-3, 2.02 GAA, .936 SV%, 5 SO)
There’s virtually no doubt that the Buffalo Sabres would not be atop the Northeast division with anybody except Ryan Miller as their goaltender. Miller is well on his way to career-best numbers in GAA and SV% and has already tied his career-high in shutouts he set last season. Miller’s play has nearly cemented his bid to be the third Vezina Trophy winner not named Brodeur in the last 7 years and be the first Sabres (and goaltending) Hart Trophy winner since Dominik Hasek won it back-to-back in 1997 and 1998.