With no runaway scoring leader and parity atop the NHL standings at an all-time high, fans should expect a tight race for the Hart Memorial Trophy in the second half of the season.
Here is a look at five Hart contenders who have emerged throughout the first half of 2014-15.
Pekka Rinne — 28 wins, 1.98 GAA, .930 Sv%, 3 SO
The Nashville Predators just keep winning, and Pekka Rinne has been the protagonist in the feel-good story of the 2014-15 campaign thus far. Bouncing back from an injury-plagued 2013-14, in which he played just 24 games and put up uninspired stats, the lanky Finnish netminder is playing the best hockey of his life. Consider this: he currently leads the league with 28 wins; no team has more than 28 wins.
Highlight of 2014-15: Even when he's out of position, he's not really out of position.
Ryan Getzlaf — 13 goals, 32 assists, 39 PIM, plus-4
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Getzlaf's performance this season is that he has been able to lead his team to the top of the Pacific Division without the help of his pal Corey Perry for much of it. Perry, the 2011 Hart winner, has missed 15 games this season due to the mumps and a knee injury, but that didn't slow Getlaf's production. A runner-up to Sidney Crosby in last season's Hart race, Getlaf is everything you want in a captain and this season is playing as well as he ever has.
Highlight of 2014-15: An eight-game point streak in December with Perry out of the lineup was impressive. So was this outstanding individual effort against the Detroit Red Wings.
Carey Price — 22 wins, 2.19 GAA, .928 Sv%, 2 SO
As of Sunday, no club positioned for a playoff spot has scored fewer goals than the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs only average 2.58 goals per game (20th in the NHL) yet win far more often than they lose, which means Price keeps his team in the game when he needs to. The 27-year-old is as poised as it gets in the crease and is the main reason his team is second in the Atlantic Division.
Highlight of 2014-15: Picking up his 200th career win in a game against the Devils was a big accomplishment. Flashing the leather against the best player in the world on Hockey Night in Canada was pretty sweet too (even if he made this save look more difficult than it probably was).
Patrick Kane — 20 goals, 27 assists, 2 PIM, plus-9
Jonathan Toews usually gets the bulk of acclaim with the Chicago Blackhawks, and it's hard to argue against it, but this season Kane continues to establish himself as the most dangerous player on the perennial Cup contenders. He is also a leading contender for the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, with only two penalty minutes to his name through 42 games.
Highlight of 2014-15: Showing off his smooth skills against the St. Louis Blues.
Tyler Seguin — 26 goals, 22 assists, 14 PIM, plus-3
Unless his Dallas Stars turn things around in the second half of the season, Seguin probably won't get significant Hart consideration -- much like Philadelphia Flyers studs Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux. Still, Seguin's first 41 games were far too impressive to ignore. He leads the league in goals (he has more than twice as many as the next best player on his team) and is on pace for a career year in goals, power-play goals and points. His team might not be performing at an elite level, but he is.
Highlight of 2014-15: Taking advantage of a beauty pass from his goalie.
*Statistics as of Jan. 11