Sport Hart Trophy Power Rankings: Many deserving candidates, but Hall stands out

01:18  10 april  2018
01:18  10 april  2018 Source:   thescore.com

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With just one game left on the NHL schedule, the Hart Trophy race should be all but done, but let's be honest: it's still anyone's trophy at this point. New Jersey Devils forward Taylor Hall has made it clear he should be among the favorites, but with so many incredible performances to choose from, we're no

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a hockey game in the snow© Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports / USA TODAY Sports With just one game left on the NHL schedule, the Hart Trophy race should be all but done, but let's be honest: it's still anyone's trophy at this point.

New Jersey Devils forward Taylor Hall has made it clear he should be among the favorites, but with so many incredible performances to choose from, we're no closer to knowing the winner now than we were a month ago.

Nevertheless, let's have a look at the five names likely to receive the most consideration, plus a few honorable mentions:

5. Anze Kopitar

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Kopitar may have had one of the quietest near-MVP seasons in recent memory, but that doesn't mean he's any less deserving of the award.

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He set career highs in goals (35) and points (92), shattering his career high by 11. Incredibly, he scored 31 more points than Dustin Brown who finished second in team scoring.

Besides his offensive contributions, Kopitar averaged 2:10 of shorthanded ice-time per game, good enough for 19th among forwards. He did it all for the Kings this year, and a postseason return is the fruit of that labor.

4. Claude Giroux

On the back of an incredible second half, Giroux nearly stole the Art Ross Trophy away from Connor McDavid.

The Philadelphia Flyers captain finished just six points back of McDavid to sit second in league scoring after 45 points in his final 33 games.

Giroux became the first Flyer to post a 100-point season since Eric Lindros in 1995-96. The 30-year-old was moved to the wing this season from center and the adjustment has him in the Hart Trophy discussion.

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3. Connor McDavid

We'd be having a different conversation if the Edmonton Oilers were a playoff team, but alas, they're not. So here we stand with McDavid unlikely to repeat as Hart Trophy winner despite being every bit worthy. It's a complicated system, if that wasn't already clear.

Nevertheless, McDavid's had an incredible season, besting his league-leading numbers from last season with 41 goals and 108 points and an NHL-best 1.32 points per game. His point total is the most in a season since Evgeni Malkin put up 109 in 2011-12.

He also put up 38 more points than teammate Leon Draisaitl, which is just nutty.

2. Nathan MacKinnon

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What MacKinnon was able to do this season was nothing short of spectacular.

Leading a Colorado Avalanche team, that finished the 2016-17 season with the worst record in the salary-cap era, to a playoff berth just one year later was no easy feat.

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Hart Trophy ( most valuable player). Connor McDavid's individual success cannot be overlooked -- and it won't be entirely. But when it comes to anointing the most valuable player this season, Taylor Hall of the playoff-contending Devils is a much better option.

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The 22-year-old obliterated his previous career highs in goals and points by 15 and 34, respectively, in eight fewer games to finish with 39 goals and 97 points - good enough for fifth in league scoring.

He was the key reason for the team's turnaround, as proven by his league-leading 12 game-winning goals. The question now is: how far can he take his team in the playoffs?

1. Taylor Hall

Hall had himself a season for the ages.

He put together a league-best 26-game point streak and concluded the year with a point in 36 of his final 40 games, which is just ridiculous.

He recorded at least a point against every team except the Toronto Maple Leafs and Nashville Predators, and if his value to his team wasn't obvious enough, he recorded 41 more points than the next closest Devil (Nico Hischier).

He also helped lead the Devils to their first playoff appearance in six years.

Honorable Mentions

Nikita Kucherov

For the majority of the season, Kucherov looked like he'd run away with the award, but a handful of players caught up to him in the scoring race, rendering his season slightly less impressive.

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His 100-point campaign was remarkable, but unfortunately in his case, he has the luxury of playing alongside many greats including Steven Stamkos, something many other nominees can't boast.

Evgeni Malkin

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Malkin also put up a monster season, but - like Kucherov - was fortunate to play alongside some great players, like Phil Kessel and the NHL's most stacked power-play unit.

He's in the running, and his 98 points are nothing short of amazing, but other names seem more worthy of the award.

Alex Ovechkin

Ovechkin deserves considerable praise for winning his seventh Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy, but he isn't quite in the conversation for his fourth Hart Trophy. His 18-point bounce-back, after just 33 goals and 69 points a season ago, was impressive, but on a well-oiled Washington Capitals team, his value, unfortunately, gets diluted.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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