Hart Trophy Power Rankings: Ovi deserves more than just consideration
Now that we're essentially at the midpoint of the NHL season, the MVP race is really getting interesting.
Despite a crowded field with many qualified candidates, several superstars have managed to separate themselves by cranking it up a notch. Here are our top five contenders for the Hart Trophy as things stand right now:
5. Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche
Mikko Rantanen's been piling up points in his own right, but MacKinnon's the primary reason that the Colorado Avalanche's top line has been so explosive, even now that it no longer includes Gabriel Landeskog.
It would be tough to argue that Rantanen wouldn't see a significant drop in production without MacKinnon as his center, whereas MacKinnon would still produce at an elite level regardless of his linemates.
MacKinnon, last year's Hart Trophy runner-up, ranks fifth in points and sits top 10 in both goals and assists. He's posted six goals and 13 helpers across his last 15 games, and he's recorded at least one point in five straight contests.
4. Nikita Kucherov, Lightning
He's posted at least four points in three of his last five contests, he's scored in five consecutive games, and he's riding a 12-game point streak that includes eight goals and 19 assists.
Kucherov might not get as many Hart votes due to all the help around him, but he's putting himself in the conversation with this dominant run.
3. John Gibson, Ducks
Anaheim's allowed the second-most shots against per game, yet Gibson's produced the league's best goals saved above average at five-on-five to go along with a stellar .924 save percentage. And somehow, he's allowed more than three goals in just two of his last 20 games.
Meanwhile, only the lowly Los Angeles Kings have scored less than the Ducks, so Gibson's not getting any help at the other end.
With all that considered, the 25-year-old is starting to make a pretty convincing case that he's been the best netminder in the league this season and deserves to be a Hart finalist.
2. Connor McDavid, Oilers
While McDavid's probably been the most valuable player to his team this season (which we've said in the past - twice), the Edmonton Oilers have taken a nosedive recently, losing six straight games before snapping that skid Wednesday. And while those woes aren't McDavid's fault in the least, voters will likely penalize him if the Oilers continue to plummet.
Edmonton currently ranks in the bottom third of the league in goals, but McDavid's figured in on an astounding 54 percent of them (61 of 113) and has scored 20 percent of them himself.
If the Oilers are anywhere near a playoff spot in April, McDavid will warrant serious Hart consideration, but he'll be hard-pressed to claim the honor if Edmonton bottoms out, regardless of how unfair that might be.
1. Alex Ovechkin, Capitals
The NHL's goals leader had been mired in a six-game drought before Thursday night, but Ovechkin busted out while etching his name in the record books, becoming only the second player in league history to begin a career with 14 straight 30-goal seasons.
The 33-year-old is carrying the first-place Washington Capitals, having scored nearly 22 percent of their goals and figuring in on one-third of them. He's also potted more than double the amount of goals than his closest teammate, Jakub Vrana (12), while only three other Capitals besides Ovechkin and Vrana have reached double-digits.
Ovechkin's shooting percentage will likely regress closer to his career average by season's end, but what he's doing at this age is utterly remarkable.
ATOI = Average time on ice
SCF% = Percentage of scoring chances generated by the player's team with him on the ice at 5-on-5
CF% = Percentage of shot attempts generated by the player's team with him on the ice at 5-on-5
HDSV% = Save percentage on high-danger shots
GSAA = Goals saved above average (calculated by applying a goaltender's save percentage and total shots faced to the league average save percentage)
(Analytics courtesy: Natural Stat Trick)