We hit the halfway mark of the NHL season this week, which has trophy talk buzzing.
Andrei Vasilevskiy is your clubhouse leader in the Vezina race. Connor McDavid is ahead in the Hart. Aleksander Barkov probably has the inside track on the Selke. All of those names will appear in our Power Rankings this year, but there is still a huge chunk of games left before any of those are sewn up.
Not every positive performance will lead to award consideration, though. So, in our rankings, we're shining a light on each team's MVP to this point in the season.
As always, teams are ordered based on overall play this season, with a bit more weight given to recent results.
1. Tampa Bay Lightning: Andrei Vasilevskiy
Even though goalies have their own award, Vasilevskiy is making a strong case for consideration in Hart Trophy talk. At 18-3-1 with a .932 save percentage, 1.90 GAA and three shutouts, he is at, or very near the top of the league in each of those categories. And don't let the great team he plays on deflect recognition -- his 15.87 goals saved above average is second-best in the league, a sliver behind Marc-Andre Fleury.
2. Vegas Golden Knights: Marc-Andre Fleury
You wouldn't necessarily be wrong for choosing Mark Stone here, but to me, Fleury is the guy. Not only is he among the league leaders in all major goalie stats, and No. 1 overall in goals saved above average, but he did well to keep his play up when Vegas had to ride him for more than a month when Robin Lehner was out.
3. Washington Capitals: Nicklas Backstrom
Backstrom's consistency has been key for the Caps, who had to play through a depleted roster due to COVID protocols for a stretch. He hasn't been held pointless in back-to-back games yet and is tops in goals and assists.
4. New York Islanders: Semyon Varlamov
His save percentage has been getting better with each month and Varlamov ranks behind only a couple of Vezina contenders (Marc-Andre Fleury and Andre Vasilevskiy) in goals saved above average this season.
5. Carolina Hurricanes: Vincent Trocheck
Injuries slowed him for a time and that led the Panthers to sell him off last season, but Trocheck is coming back strong and adding scary depth to the Canes down the middle. A point-per-game player, Trocheck is tied for the team lead in goals, and although most of his shifts start in the defensive zone, the Canes outshoot the competition when he's on the ice.
6. Minnesota Wild: Kirill Kaprizov
You can't say enough about how this dynamo has changed both reality and perception of the Wild. A Calder Trophy candidate, Kaprizov leads the Wild with 25 points. Twenty-three of those have come at even strength, which is the eighth-most in the league.
7. Florida Panthers: Aleksander Barkov
One of the top two-way forces in the league, Barkov contributes in every way to the Panthers. Leading goal scorer and point-getter. Penalty killer. Puck possession monster. Barkov makes those around him better and now he's leading one of the top teams in the league this year.
8. Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon
There is no other choice here. MacKinnon is Colorado's engine and solidly a top-three player in the league. Of all NHL players at 5-on-5 this season, MacKinnon ranks seventh in on-ice shots-for percentage (60.98) and fourth in on-ice goals for percentage (72.0).
9. Winnipeg Jets: Connor Hellebuyck
Easy pick here. Winnipeg should be a playoff team this year, but on the defensive side not much has changed from a year ago yet. They still allow lots of great chances and Hellebuyck keeps it all from caving in. His numbers aren't as good as last season, and he won't be in the Vezina running at this rate, but he is easily Winnipeg's most important player.
10. Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews
Fifty goals in 50 games (or 56) was always a stretch, but even through a wrist injury, Matthews has taken a step forward this year. The NHL goal leader (21) by four, Matthews is also adding to a physical layer that is starting to solidify him among the top five players in the league.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 12, 2021
11. Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby
Evgeni Malkin was finding his old form before getting injured, but Crosby has been pretty solid throughout this season. Ever since the Burke/Hextall hirings, when the Pens' season turned around, Crosby's 20 points in 17 games leads the Penguins.
12. Boston Bruins: Brad Marchand
Take your pick of anyone from the top line really, but Marchand as the scoring leader who has consistently been producing all year is our pick here. The Bruins really lack secondary support scoring, which is why being able to count on Marchand (who had a good pace when David Pastrnak was out of the lineup) is so valuable.
13. Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid
Let's not overthink this. McDavid is seven points ahead in the scoring race, leading teammate Leon Draisaitl, and the likely favourite for the Hart Trophy on most mid-season ballots.
14. Montreal Canadiens: Jeff Petry
The leader of this D-core in many measurable ways, Petry is an all-around presence who is having a heck of an offensive season that would easily pro-rate as his best over 82 games. He's nearly a point-per-game guy and when you add in his defensive acumen, Petry could end up in the top three on some Norris ballots this year.
15. Philadelphia Flyers: Joel Farabee
The Flyers have a middling power play, making it that much more important to score at even strength. Farabee leads the Flyers in both 5-on-5 goals and primary assists, already surpassing his rookie season totals. A very nice step up for the 21-year-old.
16. St. Louis Blues: Ryan O'Reilly
The team leader in even-strength points and overall assists, O'Reilly is of course a beast on defence and the penalty kill as well. The two-game pointless streak he's on is his longest of the season.
17. Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane
Forget the Blackhawks, Kane needs more attention for the league-wide Hart Trophy this season. Usually, offensive wingers thrive with a steady No. 1 centre alongside them, but Kane has played next to a revolving door of pivots that includes the likes of Pius Suter, Philipp Kurashev and David Kampf. Kane still ranks third in the league with 42 points and a 1.40 points-per-game rate.
18. Calgary Flames: Jacob Markstrom
The Flames have been hard to pin down because they've shown many faces this year. Good one night, terrible the next. But Jacob Markstrom has been fairly constant, with one fatigue-related blip on the game log. If the Flames' team defence continues to improve under Darryl Sutter, Markstrom could be in an even better position to succeed.
19. New York Rangers: Artemi Panarin
Even though he missed about three weeks, Panarin is still tied for the Rangers' scoring lead with 22 points in 16 games. The lifeblood of this team, Panarin hasn't gone more than two games without a point yet.
20. Los Angeles Kings: Drew Doughty
Doughty heard everyone who left him off their Team Canada rosters and he isn't happy about it. Second on the Kings in scoring, Doughty is having a bit of a resurgence and has some even considering him for at least a mention in the Norris debate.
— NHL (@NHL) March 17, 2021
21. Dallas Stars: Alexander Radulov
Might get yelled at for choosing a player who hasn't played even half of Dallas' games. Don't care. If you were expecting Joe Pavelski's name here (and he's having a great season!), the fact is he and the Stars are different and better with Radulov in the lineup. Dallas is 6-2-2 with Radulov in the lineup, 3-7-5 without. They average 3.6 goals per game with him, 2.33 without. You can even see his impact on linemate Pavelski, who has a 65.71 Corsi and 18 points in 10 games with Radulov, and a 47.37 Corsi with nine points in 15 games without him.
22. Vancouver Canucks: Thatcher Demko
After a very nerve-wracking start to his season, Demko is returning to playoff form and buoying an inconsistent, though improved, Canucks team. His 8.97 goals saved above average is the fifth-best mark in the league.
Oh, we see you, Thatcher Demko! We're happy for you and that you provedd us why we believed before the season you will become number one goalie of the Vancouver Canucks during this season. Vasilevskiy still on TOP of course. pic.twitter.com/CDDK4jTsHQ
— Andy & Rono (@HockeyStatsCZ) March 17, 2021
23. Arizona Coyotes: Conor Garland
Though he's mired in a five-game pointless streak at the moment, credit goes to Garland for his first half. Arizona's leading scorer is tracking towards his second straight increase in points per game, is the forward leader in even-strength ice time, and makes for an interesting RFA this summer.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets: Oliver Bjorkstrand
Bit tricky here because no one has been very consistent, and that's part of their problem. The 23rd-ranked offence is being helped along by a couple of wingers, but Bjorkstrand gets the MVP nod. The team leader with 23 points in 30 games, he could post a new career-high even in the short season at this pace.
25. Nashville Predators: Filip Forsberg
Eleven points clear of the next highest scoring Predator, Forsberg is the heartbeat of a struggling offence. Taking him out would be a massive loss and any potential trade ideas around him should reflect that importance. Viktor Arvidsson should get a nod here because with just a shred of luck he'd have more goals and probably the numbers to be considered for MVP status on this struggling team.
26. San Jose Sharks: Logan Couture
Much has been made of the lost leadership the Sharks have struggled with since Joe Pavelski left for Dallas last year, and now without Joe Thornton this year. Now we look to Couture for that role and he's been producing in this disappointing season with a team-leading 13 goals.
27. Detroit Red Wings: Dylan Larkin
The Wings could be open to doing many things on the trade market, but Larkin seems like the guy to keep building around. He's one of only a couple Red Wings who have been on the ice for more shots for than against, and he's the only Red Wing who's been on the ice for more goals for than against at 5-on-5. Honourable mention to Jonathan Bernier, who has been a nice surprise and upping his trade value as the Wings look to sell.
28. New Jersey Devils: Jack Hughes
This was Mackenzie Blackwood's until he hit a bumpy stretch recently. Hughes started the season on a tear, and though the points have slowed in the past couple of weeks, Hughes helps drives shots for the Devils. He's already only seven points shy of his rookie season total (21), which he put up in 61 games.
29. Ottawa Senators: Brady Tkachuk
The kids at the top of the forward lines have played rather well this season and Tkachuk is the driver of it. The team leader with 11 goals and 22 points, Tkachuk brings the same sandpaper his brother in Calgary does. At 5-on-5, Brady has drawn 15 penalties and only taken seven.
30. Anaheim Ducks: Max Comtois
This had almost become John Gibson's reserved space with the low-scoring Ducks, but he's part of the team-wide disappointment. Rickard Rakell has played better lately, but Comtois has had a season that'll put a smile on your face and it's all about the small victories in Anaheim. He gets some sheltered minutes and, yes, we all hate plus-minus, but it is notable when he shows a plus-4 when the team is minus-36 as a whole.
31. Buffalo Sabres: Jack Eichel
There ain't a lot to choose from as the last place overall Sabres are the butt of every joke this season. Their one light, Jack Eichel, is now injured for the "foreseeable future" so...good luck in the second half. Eichel's offensive numbers don't pop (just two goals in 21 games) but that's largely because of a 3.3 shooting percentage that is unluckily low. When Eichel was on the ice, the Sabres actually controlled 61.35 per cent of all shots (28th-best mark in the league) and he's the only Sabre with a positive goal differential in all situations (25-23).