As far as front runners go for the Hart Trophy, the majority come from the other three divisions. The Pacific Division has some worthy candidates, but they likely don’t match the names of Nikita Kucherov, Nathan MacKinnon or Evgeni Malkin. However, if the league adopted a new voting system that allowed every team to submit a candidate, there are some dark horses who could step into the mix.
[See related: Why Every Team Deserves a Hart Trophy Candidate]
Going by where the teams are currently in the standings, here is every Pacific Division team’s candidate for the Hart Trophy:
Vegas Golden Knights – William Karlsson
The problem with Vegas receiving the Hart Trophy is you could make a case for almost anyone on the roster. A team that wasn’t supposed to even sniff the playoffs, the Golden Knights have received stellar performances from players such as Marc-Andre Fleury, Jonathan Marchessault and David Perron. However, the biggest surprise, possibly of the entire league, has been Karlsson, who tallied 18 goals over parts of three seasons before joining the Knights. This season, Karlsson has exploded as the team’s top offensive player, scorching the league with 43 goals and 78 points. He has found open areas like you see from the NHL’s most prolific scorers and he’s doing it on a nightly basis. He’s destroyed his Pacific Division opponents, totaling 20 goals and 33 points in 27 games in those matchups, which has helped Vegas post an impressive 20-4-3 mark against division rivals.
San Jose Sharks – Joe Pavelski
Los Angeles Kings – Drew Doughty
After a coaching change last summer, the Kings are back in the playoff picture. A large part of the return is thanks to the resurgence of Anze Kopitar, who had a low point in his career last year with 52 points, but the dominating defensive play from Doughty continues to be a rallying point for the veteran Kings. The all-around skater currently ranks seventh among points from defensemen (59), while being a driving force for his team’s offensive output, providing excellent SAT (52.56) and USAT (51.52) percentages (learn about these advanced stats here). The easy way to explain Doughty’s worth is to say it’s the intangibles. However, if you watch a Kings game, you’ll understand that reasoning more with Doughty than any other player.
Anaheim Ducks – Brandon Montour
Rickard Rakell is the obvious pick for the Ducks, but Montour has quietly been a revelation in Orange County. The 23-year-old defenseman has been a staple on Anaheim’s blue line this season. Playing in 78 games, Montour is one of the few players remaining from the opening day lineup as injured players have returned to the lineup. He has bounced up and down the first, second and third pairings as needed, still providing 23 assists and 32 points on the season. His plus-18 rating ties him for third and his 12 power-play points is tied for second on the roster. Want even more proof that Montour has been huge for the Ducks? Five of his nine goals have been of the game-winning variety. The young defenseman’s rise to excellence allowed Ducks general manager Bob Murray to trade Sami Vatanen for Adam Henrique earlier this season, providing a much-needed boost to the dismal Ducks offense at the time. His play has been necessary for the Ducks to be a playoff team.
Calgary Flames – Johnny Gaudreau
Gaudreau seems to build on himself every season, as he has reached career highs in assists (59) and points (82). The Flames were expected to be a playoff team this year, but their lack of regular season success had nothing to do with Gaudreau’s performance. The New Jersey native is currently sporting a plus-1 rating, which actually functions as one of the best on the roster. He’s been a difference maker on multiple occasions, posting 22 multi-point games throughout the 2017-18 campaign. This includes a 10-game point streak, between Oct. 27 and Nov. 20, when he recorded seven multi-point performances and a total of 19 points.
Edmonton Oilers – Connor McDavid
For the second consecutive season, McDavid will win the Art Ross as the league’s top point scorer. However, it’s his lack of team success that will keep him from bringing home a second consecutive Hart Trophy. McDavid is in the top scorers for all categories, including goals (41) and assists (65). He’s the cream of the crop in terms of overall talent; a point no one in their right minds would argue. The Oilers need him at a top level every night, as they are an abysmal 3-19-2 on the off nights he actually doesn’t record a point.
Vancouver Canucks – Brock Boeser
Before an injury derailed his rookie season, Boeser was the only bright spot in a season of darkness for the Canucks. In the bottom six of the league in goals scored, the Canucks were out of the playoffs long ago. But that didn’t stop Boeser. Even though he has played 12 games less than everyone other rookie scoring leader, Boeser’s 29 goals ranks second behind Kyle Connor of Winnipeg. His 55 points ties for fourth and his 10 power-play goals still is tops in the league. Judging by the talent around him, Boeser would have been a shoe-in for the Calder Trophy if not for ending his season early.
Arizona Coyotes – Antti Raanta
If you would have seen Raanta’s first 10 games with the Coyotes and stopped paying attention, you would be appalled at this pick. However, the first-year Coyotes netminder has been dazzling behind a team that struggled through the beginning of the year. His league third best goals-against average (2.24) and save percentage (.930) are spectacular to say the least, but a deeper dive into the numbers shows you even more. The Finn has been remarkable since the Coyotes’ turnaround in January, posting a 16-5-4 record with a 1.83 GAA and .942 save percentage with three shutouts. It’s no wonder his team has been on the upswing since Jan. 1. If Raanta re-signs in Arizona (he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer), the Coyotes could be looking at playoff contention in one short year.
The Pacific Division: Consensus Pick
Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings)
It seems the race for the Hart Trophy is with players from the other three divisions (although some are making the case for McDavid). However, with the Kings’ rise back to the playoff picture and Doughty’s continued dominance in his own zone, he’s a prime candidate if the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association takes a second look at the Pacific Division.
Doughty’s offensive play is just as important as his defense. From the turn of the calendar year, the Kings are 14-5-2 when Doughty scores a point. Those are valuable points for the Kings to be earning as they have been battling for a playoff spot throughout that span.
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