NHL MVP race heat­ing up

Crosby and McDavid have com­pany

The Niagara Falls Review - - SPORTS - JONAS SIEGEL

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

No­body could touch Pa­trick Kane in last sea­son’s race for the Hart Tro­phy.

The Chicago Black­hawks winger and Art Ross Tro­phy winner (by 17 points!) earned 121-of-150 first-place votes for NHL MVP and 93 per cent of the vote over­all.

A run­away winner for the league’s top award seems un­likely this sea­son.

Co-favourites in the fall, Sid­ney Crosby and Con­nor McDavid looked to be 1-2 at mid-sea­son, but since then, a flood of wor­thy con­tenders has emerged. Here is a look at the crowded field:

He’s No. 1 in points-per-game and just clinched his first 40-goal sea­son since the 2009-10 sea­son. He’s right there in the thick of the race for the Rocket Richard and Art Ross tro­phies de­spite miss­ing nearly two weeks to start the sea­son.

It’s al­ready easy to take McDavid for granted, but re­mem­ber: He’s only 20, in his se­cond NHL sea­son and al­ready an MVP can­di­date. The Oil­ers cap­tain has had a hand in al­most 40 per cent of his club’s of­fence this year, leads the league in as­sists and re­mains a favourite to win the scor­ing ti­tle.

He’s not pro­duc­ing at last year’s pace — 46 goals and 106 points — but has been pretty close to it in the past cou­ple months, col­lect­ing 20 goals and 30 points since Feb. 1. The NHL hasn’t had a re­peat MVP winner since Alex Ovechkin (2008 and 2009).

Se­cond to only Crosby in points-per-game, Malkin is headed for his big­gest sea­son of­fen­sively since 201112 when he won the Art Ross and Hart tro­phies by post­ing 50 goals and 109 points.

No one had more goals or points since the be­gin­ning of De­cem­ber head­ing into Mon­day’s ac­tion, mak­ing the 28-year-old a vi­able threat to win both the Art Ross and Rocket Richard.

Back­strom trails only McDavid in as­sists, hov­ers near the league lead in power-play points and is a dark horse to win the Art Ross. The 29-year-old is headed for his best year since 2009-10 when he gar­nered 101 points for the Cap­i­tals.

Burns has cooled off this month, but he’s still track­ing to­ward one of the more elec­tric sea­sons from a de­fence­man that we’ve ever seen. He has an out­side shot at join­ing Paul Cof­fey, Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, De­nis Potvin and Doug Wil­son (his gen­eral man­ager with the Sharks) as the only de­fence­men to crack 30 goals and 80 points in one sea­son.

The Sen­a­tors cap­tain is tip­toe­ing back into not only the Nor­ris race as the league’s top de­fence­man, but the Hart with maybe the most well-rounded sea­son of his ca­reer. Karls­son is pretty close to a point­per-game once more — de­spite a drop in ice­time — while lead­ing the league in blocked shots.

Mark Scheifele; Nikita Kucherov; Vic­tor Hed­man; Sergei Bo­brovsky

Black­hawkscoachJoelQuen­neville­hadthis to say re­cently on Kane’s per­for­mance:

“I see Kaner ev­ery sin­gle year get­ting a lit­tle bit bet­ter. He gets a lit­tle bit faster, quicker, he gets the puck, he com­mands the puck and once he has it he does so many good things with it.”

He’s been lost with his team tum­bling out of the play­off mix, but Sabres cen­tre Jack Eichel has been tear­ing the league apart this sea­son. Still just 20, Eichel en­tered Mon­day’s play with more points than any­body but Marc­hand and Kane since the start of Fe­bru­ary and has an out­side shot at sur­pass­ing the 24 goals and 56 points he man­aged as a rookie — in far fewer games af­ter miss­ing nearly two months with in­jury to start the sea­son.

One of the sneaky smart de­ci­sions early this sea­son by first-year Flames head coach Glen Gu­lutzan was con­nect­ing Dougie Hamil­ton with cap­tain Mark Gior­dano on the team’s top pair.

A look at the puck pos­ses­sion num­bers re­veals that suc­cess:

Hamil­ton and Gior­dano to­gether: 56 per cent Hamil­ton apart: 52 per cent Gior­dano apart: 47 per cent Trade spec­u­la­tion in­volv­ing Hamil­ton has rightly fiz­zled. The 23-year-old has al­ready set a ca­reer-high with 47 points and 36 as­sists this sea­son, soon to post new per­sonal bests in goals and power-play points.

The NHL had 13 30-goal scor­ers head­ing into Mon­day’s play, in­clud­ing five first-timers: Jack­ets winger Cam Atkin­son, Bru­ins winger David Pas­tr­nak, Ducks cen­tre Rickard Rakell and the rookie duo of Aus­ton Matthews and Pa­trik Laine. A num­ber of oth­ers could join them in the club for the first time, in­clud­ing Scheifele, Burns, T.J. Oshie, Nazem Kadri, Chris Krei­der, An­ders Lee, Vik­tor Arvids­son and per­haps McDavid.

POST­MEDIA NET­WORK FILES

San Jose Sharks de­fence­man Brent Burns’ 30 goals and 80 points make him a serious can­di­date for the Hart Tro­phy.

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