Every Team’s Hart Trophy Candidate: Metropolitan Division

The current Hart Trophy voting selects three candidates throughout the league. Although Nathan MacKinnon and others are front runners, the Metropolitan Division fields a slew of players worthy of consideration. With the division likely sending five teams to the postseason, it could be an interesting race to see who the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association determines to be worthy of receiving the league’s top regular season honor.

[See related: Why Every Team Deserves a Hart Trophy Candidate]

Going by where the teams are currently in the standings, here is every team’s candidate for the Hart Trophy:

Washington Capitals – Alex Ovechkin

What more can you say about the Great 8? Ovechkin’s regular season success since coming into the league has been well documented, and he continues to reach new heights with inching closer to Wayne Gretzky’s once-believed-untouchable goal record, but his value to his team is monumental. The NHL’s current leading goal scorer (46) is working toward his eighth 50-goal season and is leading the Capitals to their third consecutive Metropolitan Division title. His play against Metro teams has been commendable, scoring 12 goals and 27 points in 27 games. With the regular season almost wrapped up, there’s no doubting Ovechkin is a Hart Trophy candidate yet again; it’s the playoffs where he is still yet to prove himself.

Pittsburgh Penguins – Evgeni Malkin

metropolitan division
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

If it seems like the Penguins have a Hart Trophy candidate every year, it’s because they do. In the past 11 seasons, the Penguins have had at least a nomination nine times. Malkin and Sidney Crosby have three victories under their belt, with Crosby taking two. This may be Malkin’s turn to tie his teammate, as he has posted another brilliant season as his club looks to defend their back-to-back championships this spring. With just two games remaining, Malkin is four points shy of his fourth 100-point season, currently placing him third in the point-scoring race. He’s closing out the season in top form, too, contributing 14 assists and 20 points since March 1 (16 games). The Penguins need it, too, as the race to finish in the top three of the Metropolitan Division is paper thin; the Penguins just clinched a playoff berth on March 31.

Columbus Blue Jackets – Sergei Bobrovsky

When you’ve faced the sixth most shots (1,923) and have a .922 save percentage, you’re doing something correct. Bobrovsky, a former Vezina Trophy winner, is having another stellar season in Columbus. The Blue Jackets have a 55.70 win percentage this season, but that number dips to a 47.06 percent when he is not in the crease. The 29-year-old starter has the league’s 9th best goals-against average (2.36), the fifth most wins (36) and is tied for fourth with five shutouts. His 19.24 goals-saved above average (GSAA) is seventh, making him an extremely valuable player to his team and a vital piece to Columbus’ playoff hopes.

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Philadelphia Flyers – Claude Giroux

claude giroux
Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

Remember when Giroux had a nine-game goal drought to open the 2016-17 season and many thought it was the sign of a rapid decline? He finished that year with 58 points, his lowest totals in a non-lockout year since his rookie season. Giroux has completely bounced back, though, proving he is still an elite NHL talent. The Flyers captain has registered career highs in goals (30), assists (67) and points (97). He even has a 10-game point streak, one of the longest of any player this season, under his belt. More importantly, the Flyers are back in the playoff picture after missing out last season.

New Jersey Devils – Taylor Hall

Guaranteed to get some votes for his outstanding play this season, Hall has 93 points; that’s a 42-point lead over Nico Hischier for the team lead. There have been games where Hall is seemingly scoring goals by himself, making defensemen look like pylons every chance he gets. Amazingly, the second-year Devil has played in 39 games since Jan. 1 and hasn’t scored a point in only three of those contests. This stretch includes his 26-game point streak, which compares favorably to Gretzky’s impressive mark set in 1983-84 (51 games).

Carolina Hurricanes – Cam Ward

Eddie Lack and Scott Darling have tried to replace the longest tenured goalie in Whalers/Hurricanes history, but efforts have been futile. Sure, the 34-year-old veteran isn’t setting the league ablaze with stats (.905 save percentage, 2.75 GAA), but he has been the reliable netminder that the Hurricanes have needed. Although the Hurricanes will again miss the playoffs, they were kept alive for so long thanks largely in part to Ward’s goaltending. Darling, a trade acquisition this summer from Chicago, has been dreadful (13-20-7, .888 save percentage, 3.15 GAA), and the Hurricanes’ top goalie prospect, Alex Nedeljkovic, may not be ready for NHL action. Ward is still the man that the Hurricanes will use in big games, and he’s proven to be a capable starter yet again.

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New York Rangers – Henrik Lundqvist

henrik lundqvist 2018 winter classicIn a lost season for the Rangers, Lundqvist has been his reliable self during dark times in Manhattan. The team admitted defeat earlier this season and traded away multiple marquee players in an attempt to build for the future. Staying put was Lundqvist, who is now 36 years old and is in the midst of his 13th NHL season, which will not be followed up by postseason play for just the second time in his career. Playing with largely AHL and junior league prospects since the trade deadline, Lundqvist has still amassed a 3-4-2 record with a .921 save percentage in that time. Lundqvist will have to continue to be one of the league’s greatest players without a Stanley Cup ring for at least one more season.

New York Islanders – Mathew Barzal

The 2017-18 campaign has been one for rookies, as seven first-year players have scored 50 points or more. Barzal, the 16th overall pick in 2015, leads them all in assists (60) and points (82). Although a large reason for his success is captain John Tavares’ playmaking ability, there’s a reason head coach Doug Weight trusts Barzal on the top line. The Western Hockey League product has even accumulated a hat trick and three five-point games this season, which are impressive marks for any player, let alone a rookie. This season has brought some excitement in Barzal’s arrival, despite many obstacles the Islanders have faced on and off the ice.

The Metropolitan Division: Consensus Pick

Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins)

Although Malkin is boasting an excellent season, it’s really his ability to take hold of his game when the Penguins needed it most that is impressive. Before the turn of the calendar, Pittsburgh was outside the playoff picture looking in, playing to a 19-17-3 record for seventh in the Metropolitan Division. Since Jan. 1, the Penguins have been one of the league’s hottest teams, going 26-11-3 while outscoring their opponents 152-117. In that span, Malkin has recorded 28 goals and 60 points, which is tops in the league, and accounts for 64 percent of his total offensive output in 2017-18. Coincidence? The Hart Trophy voters will have a hard time denying him hardware with those numbers.

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Jeff Ponder

The author Jeff Ponder

Jeff brings a wealth of hockey retail experience to xHockeyProducts, as well as a vast knowledge of marketing and content development. Jeff is also a former hockey reporter for various media outlets in the St. Louis area and has attended numerous NHL Entry Drafts. He has played hockey since the age of 10.

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