NHL Power Rankings: The MVP Edition

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) stickhandles past Vancouver Canucks' J.T. Miller (9) and Alexander Edler (23), of Sweden, during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, May 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Unless you're really conflicted on a super-tight race, there probably isn't any more runway to change your opinion on who should win each of the major awards. With only a handful or less of games left across the league, the resumes have been built and the cases made.

Who deserves the recognition in 2021?

We believe the Hart Trophy has been sewn up for a while, with Edmonton's Connor McDavid the heavy favourite. He might get all the votes. He's certainly earned that kind of support - when the name Mario Lemieux comes up as a comparison to put your year of greatness in context, you're probably going to be the MVP.

So in this week's Power Rankings we'll give a little love to the other MVPs in the league, and who is worthy of that distinction for each of the 31 teams. As always, our rankings reflect how the teams are doing this season, with weight towards recent play.

1. Vegas Golden Knights
Mark Stone: Should be a Selke Trophy candidate, if not the leading choice. Stone is always worthy of consideration for the award, but the explosion he's gotten at the offensive end this season should give him a boost in the best "two-way forward" discussion. Stone has 59 points in 51 games, which is just five away from the second-best, full-season total of his career.

2. Carolina Hurricanes
Dougie Hamilton: Top six in league-wide defencemen scoring, top five in power play scoring among defencemen and an expected goals for percentage at 5-on-5 that tops all Carolina blue-liners. Is Hamilton on your Norris ballot? He's in the conversation again this year and his looming UFA status is a big contract for the team to get done.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning
Andrei Vasilevskiy: A .929 save percentage, 2.10 GAA, 31 wins and generally heavy workload (1,088 saves ranks second in the league) make Vasilevskiy the favourite for this year's Vezina, which would be his second in three years.

4. Colorado Avalanche
Nathan MacKinnon: It's clear who the answer is here. MacKinnon is third in league scoring, a one-man transition machine and nearly impossible to move off the puck. He's going to get some non-first-place votes on the Hart Trophy ballot this season at least. But, we should also mention that Philipp Grubauer should get a little light on him here because he truly is incredibly valuable to this team and without him they get a lot more shaky. He is 27-8-1 in the crease, while the rest of the goalies are 7-4-3 with a sub-.900 save percentage.

5. Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby: Since the hiring of Brian Burke and Ron Hextall, the Penguins are the NHL's second-best team by points percentage and Crosby is second in league scoring with 51 points - just 15 behind Connor McDavid. Crosby celebrated his delayed 1,000th career game this season and is still in his prime at 33. He's proving why, as long as he's a Penguin, the team won't be choosing rebuild.

6. Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews: His goal scoring pace has been ridiculous. At 0.81 goals per game, Matthews's pace equals Mario Lemieux's from 2000-01 and the last time anyone scored more often was Lemieux again back in 1995-96. He's played through a wrist injury and had to miss some time because of it as well, which cooled his early-season chase for 50 goals. Usually these numbers would be good enough for the Hart Trophy, but then Connor McDavid happened.

7. Washington Capitals
Nicklas Backstrom: Team leader in scoring at even strength and on the power play, Backstrom has been a leader and consistent producer playing in every game as the Capitals have overcome various obstacles this season. His underlying stats are strong as well, with the Caps getting 53.47 per cent of the shots when he's on the ice, and 56.67 per cent of the goals.

8. Edmonton Oilers
Connor McDavid: He's the MVP of the whole league. Full stop. What McDavid is doing in his push for 100 points in a 56-game season is nothing short of spectacular and a real throw back to the pre-Dead Puck era days when Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr were dominating. Remember when he went three games in a row without a point against Toronto? McDavid has 53 points in the 26 games since (including three points in two games versus the Leafs). That's 2.03 points per game, which is far better than the already ridiculous 1.6 rate he was scoring at before that minor slump. He only gets better.

9. Florida Panthers
Aleksander Barkov: He's going to be in the Selke conversation again and his reputation is that of one of the game's top two-way forwards. He's been Florida's best offensive player this season, too, running with the top points per game mark on the team and leading the Panthers in 5-on-5 goals scored. Among all NHL forwards who've played at least 500 minutes at 5-on-5 this season, Barkov's 59.44 CF% ranks ninth and his 61.34 expected goals for percentage sixth.

10. Minnesota Wild
Kirill Kaprizov: The 1A or 1B rookie of the year depending how you view it, Kaprizov has been the focal point of the Wild since his much-anticipated electric debut when he scored the overtime winner. Even in the shortened season, Kaprizov has the eigth-most goals of any rookie from the past five years and with three games still left he has a bit more runway to inch higher.

11. Boston Bruins
Brad Marchand: While Tom Wilson has been such a huge topic this week, Marchand is a perfect example of a reformed player who still plays with edge, but has cut out the suspendible nonsense from his game while elevating his offensive upside. Marchand leads the Bruins in scoring by six goals and 17 points over linemate Patrice Bergeron, who we'd consider "MVP B." Lost in the numbers of a shortened season is that Marchand's 1.26 points per game pace is the same he had two years ago when he hit 100 points.

12. St. Louis Blues
Ryan O'Reilly: No surprise here. The best defensive forward on the team is also leading the Blues in scoring, with a shot at the first point-per-game season of his career. The Blues' 8-3-2 run to get them into the playoffs has also been led by O'Reilly, who has scored 10 times with two game-winners in that stretch.

13. New York Islanders
Mathew Barzal: On a team that's all about the collective over the individual, it can be hard to stick out, but let's not overthink this. Barzal is the team leader in even-strength goals and points, shots, and primary assists at 5-on-5. He's their engine. While a very good case could be made for Anders Lee as the MVP considering the nosedive the team has taken without him, 27 games played is just not enough.

14. Nashville Predators
Juuse Saros: You can pinpoint the moment when the Predators went from a potential "burn it all down" team to one that might just push on into next season without any significant overhaul. When Juuse Saros returned from injury on March 18, Nashville was sixth in the Central and six points out of the playoffs. Pekka Rinne started all seven games Saros missed and lost five of them. Saros himself had only been "OK" to that point in the season. But a 40-save 2-1 win against Florida in his return was the start of a wild run. Saros has played in 21 of 24 games since, winning 15 of them, and Nashville has had the league's fourth-highest points percentage during it all. He's got an outside chance at the Vezina Trophy now.

15. Dallas Stars
Jason Robertson: With a nod to point-per-game player Roope Hintz, Robertson has been too good for too long and his additional offence has really helped the Stars stay in the race. The rookie has 12 more even-strength points than the next-highest scoring Star and his mark is tied for 17th overall in the league. Pretty good for a guy who didn't get a permanent spot in the lineup until February, or raised to a prominent position in the lineup until March.

16. Ottawa Senators
Brady Tkachuk: Stay tuned to Sportsnet.ca on Friday when Wayne Scanlan presents his team awards for the Senators and may outline why I'm wrong, but Tkachuk is the choice here. He's the team leader in scoring and spirit, giving the Sens an edge along with upside very similar to what his broth Matthew does in Calgary. It's that fight that has defined the scrappy Sens this season. Ottawa has been a top 15 team since Feb. 21 and Tkachuk has been a leader throughout.

17. Montreal Canadiens
Jeff Petry: How much Norris consideration will he get? Petry has been Montreal's best and most consistent defenceman all season and he's equalled his offensive output from last season in 20 fewer games. He might yet set a career-best for goals and points. He has the best expected goals for percentage at 5-on-5 among Canadiens defencemen, and ranks among the league leaders at his position in that stat.

18. New York Rangers
Artemi Panarin: Despite missing time when he stepped away from the team after assault allegations surfaced, Panarin still has a 10-point lead on the rest of the Rangers. He's their primary assist leader and Panarin's main strength is that he raises the performances of his linemates. The Rangers have a lot of promise in the years ahead and Panarin could help lead them to something special... as long as the off-ice drama doesn't start to interfere.

19. Winnipeg Jets
Nikolaj Ehlers: The struggling Jets finally ended their losing streak Sunday, but boy, could they use Ehlers down the stretch. His 21 goals and 46 points in 47 games was the best pace of his career. Ehlers's shot and goal differentials at 5-on-5 remain the best on the team. For the Jets to reach their full potential in the playoffs, they'll need Ehlers the game breaker back.

20. Philadelphia Flyers
Sean Couturier: Yeesh. Picking an MVP on a team that has disappointed as deeply as the Flyers have - after a strong start no less - is no easy thing. At least in Couturier his defensive play has been consistent, the Flyers control the 5-on-5 play rather well when he's on the ice, and his offensive production is among the best on the team. He plays all situations, is their best faceoff player and that well-roundedness makes him the default MVP in a frustrating season.

21. Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Kane: While Kevin Lankinen deservedly got all the kudos for over half of the season, his numbers have been in decline over a month now and the guy we all knew was the MVP has stayed constant. Kane is fourth in league scoring with 64 points in 53 games. Kane has gone pointless in consecutive games three different times this season, but hasn't been shut out for a third in a row yet.

22. San Jose Sharks
Tomas Hertl: Not a lot of "great" in another playoff miss. Hertl has been the best of the bunch, with 19 goals and 41 points in 47 games to surpass last season's totals. He may yet finish with the second-most points of his career regardless of the shortened season. Hertl's on-ice goals for percentage at 5-on-5 is the best on the team and he's second to Evander Kane in primary assists.

23. Los Angeles Kings
Drew Doughty: Seeing himself get left off the 2022 Canadian Olympic roster projections fuelled Doughty to a very solid season on the rebuilding Kings. Second on the team in scoring, Doughty's 0.73 points per game is one of the best marks he's ever had and the 18 power play points he's posted is tied for fifth-most among all defencemen. When he's on the ice at 5-on-5 the Kings have outshot and outscored their opponents, which can only be said for two other players (Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown).

24. Calgary Flames
Elias Lindholm: Would probably qualify for Calgary's most underrated player, too. Lindholm leads the team in scoring and all forwards in ice time, playing major minutes on both special teams units. Honourable mention to both Andrew Mangiapane who has great underlying numbers and leads the team in primary assists at 5-on-5, and Jacob Markstrom who started hot, cooled, and has found his footing again.

25. Arizona Coyotes
Jakob Chychrun: An important breakout season for the 23-year-old blueliner was more than just a nice step forward for Chychrun. He leads the team in ice time, shots, points and is one off Phil Kessel's team-leading 18 goals. Chychrun has been great at both ends, also leading the team in blocked shots, and a plus-six 5-on-5 goal differential.

26. Vancouver Canucks
Thatcher Demko: In a challenging season for the Canucks it was certainly a relief to see Demko regain his footing and find his playoff version at times this season. They took a bit of a risk diving into Demko as their future No. 1 and it's paying off so far. He's been off his game since the team returned from its COVID-19 outbreak, but that can't be held against him. Prior to that Demko was among the league leaders in goals saved above average.

27. Buffalo Sabres
Sam Reinhart: We've seen two versions of the Sabres this season - the team that was 6-18-4 under Ralph Krueger and the one that's been a slightly improved 9-14-3 since. Reinhart has been one of the few constants through it all, leading the team in scoring on both sides of that measure. Reinhart and Jeff Skinner are the only two players who've been with the Sabres all season to have a 5-on-5 expected goals for percentage over 50.

28. New Jersey Devils
Jack Hughes: The truly most valuable to the Devils for many reasons, Hughes has improved on his rookie year, surpassing last season's point total by a whopping 10 in eight fewer games. He may be sheltered with offensive zone starts, but he's made the most of it. Hughes makes those who play with him better and has been integral in Yegor Sharangovich's 16-goal rookie season, another nice story out of New Jersey.

29. Detroit Red Wings
Jonathan Bernier: Its gotta be hard to be the goalie of the team designed to finish near the bottom of the league. So credit to Bernier, who's found a way to register a .914 save percentage which is his best mark in four years.

30. Columbus Blue Jackets
Elvis Merzlikins: A lot of underwhelming seasons here with few bright spots, but when Merzlikins has started the Blue Jackets have at least been able to (mostly) know what they were going to get. By goals saved above average, Merzlikins ranks 16th in the league, while battery mate Joonas Korpisalo ranks 66th. Merzlikins' .916 save percentage is 15th in the league among all goalies with at least 20 games played. Even as the Blue Jackets have struggled down the stretch his save rate remains over .910 during the past month and a half. Frustration is understandably setting in and Merzlikins recently said he just wanted the season to end and for it to be deleted, but he's had a generally good one considering the circumstances.

31. Anaheim Ducks
Cam Fowler: Hat tip to Maxime Comtois who is going to lead the team in scoring, but we'll give the MVP nod to Fowler here. Not a lot of great performances to write home about on this team, so that Fowler (or any Duck) ranks inside the top 32 of an offensive statistic is notable for the league's second-lowest scoring team. Fowler's 18 even strength points equal Quinn Hughes and Roman Josi. He's played in all situations, averages 21:40 of ice per game, and he's the only regular Ducks blue-liner who's got a positive 5-on-5 goal differential.

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