Heading into the NHL All-Star break several players are having spectacular seasons, and they don’t look like they will slow down anytime soon.
As a result, a few of them are currently in the running to win the Hart Memorial Trophy this season.
It is an award given to the player judged most valuable to his team, selected in a Professional Hockey Writers Association poll.
Here is a look at a few players who should be considered as frontrunners to win the award right now.
Nikita Kucherov - Tampa Bay Lightning
Nikita Kucherov is one of the most obvious places to start. Heading into the All-Star break he is leading in the NHL in scoring with 78 points in 48 games, or 1.63 points per game.
He also leads the league in assists with 56 and plays for a Tampa Bay Lightning team that holds the best record (37-10-2) in the NHL. All of these factors should help Kucherov’s cause and make him the early favorite right now.
Kucherov is no stranger to putting up elite numbers, the Russian forward has scored 29 or more goals in each of his past four seasons including a 40-goal campaign in 2016/17.
He is currently on pace to score over 100 points this year, and if he continues to stay hot 120 points may not be out of the question by the end of the year.
Connor McDavid - Edmonton Oilers
His name seems to be in the conversation every year and rightfully so. Even though the Oilers haven’t been good this year, things could be a lot worse without Connor McDavid in their lineup.
Compared to everyone on this list, McDavid might be the most valuable to his team. Considering how he is leading the Oilers in all major offensive categories including goals, assists, and points.
If you look at the numbers, McDavid has a point in 73 of the Oilers 141 goals which accounts for over 50%.
With 73 points in his first 49 games, he is on pace for another 100-point season and has a shot to take home another Art Ross Trophy at the end of the year.
The only thing that could hold McDavid back from winning another Hart Trophy is if the Oilers struggle in the second half of the season and miss the playoffs. Otherwise, he should be right there with Kucherov until the end.
Johnny Gaudreau - Calgary Flames
Some people may not agree with this pick, but not many players in the league have been as successful as “Johnny Hockey” so far.
Gaudreau is having another career season, and it looks like he can breach the 40-goal plateau and 100-point mark for the first time in his career.
Despite playing on a rather deep team, many could argue that Gaudreau has been the Calgary Flames’ best player and is the biggest reason why they sit alone at the top of the Western Conference.
He leads the Flames in goals (29), assists (44) and points (73) and like others on this list is a top-three in the league in scoring.
Things could change dramatically for Gaudreau and the Calgary Flames as there are still three months left in the season. But if Gaudreau can keep up his current play, he might be the second U.S - born skater (behind Patrick Kane) to win the Hart Trophy.
It is still early, so there is time for other players to make play their way into the conversation. A few honorable mentions include:
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Who do you think is the most deserving candidate on this list? And who could be a dark-horse to take home the trophy by the end of the season? Let us know in the comment section below.