One-third of the NHL season is already in the books, which means it’s not too early to look at the league’s Hart Trophy contenders. It’s hard to narrow down the list to just five with only 17-20 games as framework, but here are the top MVP candidates through Sunday’s action.
1. Sidney Crosby
In his last 82 games, dating back to the start of 2010-11, Crosby has 131 points. More than that, this season he has returned to being the NHL’s most dominant all-around player. In the month of February, Crosby has 21 points in 12 games; of those dozen contests, he has six separate three-point outings. Led by Crosby’s hot streak, Pittsburgh has vaulted to the top of the Atlantic Division.
2. Steven Stamkos
Crosby is second in the NHL with 28 points. Who’s first? Tampa Bay’s prolific goal-scorer. After a lukewarm start to the season, Stamkos has been white hot in February with nine goals in 12 games. Stamkos’s 13 goals and 29 points on the season are a big reason why the Lightning are tied for the Southeast Division lead. The scary part of Stamkos’s success? He’s closing in on 200 career goals at 23 years of age.
3. Patrick Kane
There are many valuable pieces to the Blackhawks’ record-setting 15-0-3 record to the start the shortened season. The one that stands out the most, however, is Kane. The 24-year-old Buffalo native seems to have a renewed focus this season, as his nine goals, 14 assists and 23 points lead the way for league-leading Chicago. To use an old MVP cliché, Kane has been the best player on the best team.
4. Henrik Zetterberg
Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk have carried a bruised, battered and beaten up Detroit club through the first month of the season. Datsyuk continues to dazzle and can’t be forgotten in the MVP discussion, but Zetterberg gets the nod because of the added captaincy responsibility. Zetterberg, who leads the Red Wings with 25 points, has stepped in nicely, becoming the leader the team needs him to be as they try to stay in playoff contention.
5. Pekka Rinne
Where would the Predators be without their star netminder? Nashville has been offensively challenged thus far (shut out five times) and hasn’t given Rinne much goal support. That has forced Rinne to be outstanding early on just for the Predators to keep winning. Through 17 games, Rinne is in the top five in save percentage and goals-against average. Since they have their own award, goaltenders always have a tough time winning the Hart. That said, Rinne should be in the conversation.