The Hart Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to the “player judged most valuable to his team” in the National Hockey League.
2015-16 Hart Trophy Predictions
If the there is a player whose team is more reliant on a single player, it is Carey Price. I know what you’re saying. He was hurt all year, the Canadiens are terrible. The locker room is a mess; the coach is on thin ice. The Habs are a David Desharnais stick length away from reaching Edmontonian levels of dysfunction and Jeff Marek already said this. All those facts are true, and that is exactly the point.
Few would argue that Price was a big piece of the surprise Canadiens reaching the 2014-15 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Habs jumped out to an early lead in the NHL standings, and Carey Price sported numbers that look liked like he would win the Vezina by a landslide: 2.02 goals against average, .934 save percentage, two shutouts, and a 10-2 record. Watching the complete and utter implosion in Montreal after the Price injury demonstrated no one in the entire NHL is more valuable to him team. However, due the amazingly small sample size of only 12 games played, Price is stuck with an Honorable Mention.
Right behind Carey Price regarding the importance of a single player to a team is All-Universe defender Erik Karlsson. Some point to the lack of penalty kill time Karlsson received, but when you play nearly half the game (28:58 average TOI) every time your team plays, how much more can Ottawa realistically ask?
The captain of the Senators put up an insane 82 points in 82 games and is the first defenseman in 10 years to do so. For the third year in a row, Karlsson played every game for the Senators while averaging nearly 29 minutes per night of ice time and lead the entire NHL with 66 assists. Karlsson has a relative CF% of 6.5 and is a positive possession play by nearly every metric. As a defenseman, he factored into 34.7% of all of the goals his team scored and 56 of his 82 points came at even strength. In a season where Karlsson should be the runaway favorite to win the Norris, his candidacy for the Hart is warranted as well.
After coach Mike Johnston had been fired, Sidney Crosby found his game again. After five points in the month of October and only (by Crosby standards) 19 in 28 games, the whispers began that it might be the start of the decline for one of the best players in the world. But that was before Mike Sullivan was brought in as the new coach and got the Penguins all moving in the right direction. Crosby then went on a tear, posting 66 points in 52 games once Sullivan took the helm.
Crosby’s 20:51 Avg/TOI was fifth in the entire NHL among forwards and his 1.06 points per game average was 4th. He also finished out the season with at least one point in 20 of his last 21 games, showing once again he is one of the most feared forwards in the NHL and ready for the playoffs.
As the Capitals won the President’s Trophy with a whopping 120 points the Great 8 was not just great, he was magnificent. In an era where scoring remains down throughout the league, and blue-ribbon committees are looking for ways to increase goals, Ovechkin simply goes on scoring like it was the good old days with his third consecutive season with at least 50 goals, the only player to do so. Out of our finalist, “Ovi” unsurprisingly had the highest goal/60 rate of 1.9 but also the highest relative CF% at 4.0 and lowest offensive zone starts (52.1%) which may surprise some.
The Washington Capitals success this season will be shared and rightfully so other members of the team. But nearly one out of every five goals the Caps scored this season came off the stick of Ovechkin, again put the offense on his back. The attention he receives as the most dangerous shooter in the NHL opens up the ice for his teammates to excel, lifting the entire line up with his elite talents. Ovechkin also made history, passing Sergei Fedorov for most goals by a Russian-born player in NHL history.
Hart Trophy Winner: Patrick Kane
The talented right winger put on a show for the entire season. Skating with Artemi Panarin gave Kane a highly-skilled player who could both keep up and create at Kane’s level, something he has arguably been missing over the last few years. The result of the partnership for Patrick Kane was specular with 27 multi-point games and skating in all 82 of Chicago’s contests.
While Kane deployment was amazingly sheltered, his sheer offensive output still powers Kane to the Hart Trophy nod. Kane’s points and primary assists per 60 minutes of play rate was higher than both Crosby and Ovechkin at 3.8 points and 1.5, respectively. Kane’s 46 goals were second only to Ovechkin and finished third in assists with 60. The combined 106 points are best in the NHL this season, propelling Kane to the Art Ross Trophy and the first American winner in the history of the award. The history didn’t stop there: Kane recorded 26-game point streak which set both the all-time Chicago Blackhawks and all-time US-born player records with that epic run.
Kane becomes the first American-born player to win the award and the first #Blackhawks player to win the award since Stan Mikita in 1967-68!
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) April 11, 2016
For making history and producing at an elite level on an elite team, Patrick Kane should be your Hart Memorial Trophy winner.