The Hart Trophy Race: This may be the year it isn’t won by a forward!

Updated: February 22, 2015 at 9:00 am by Cam Lewis

As we enter the final stretch of the season and teams battle for playoff positions, the races for the league’s individual awards also begin to heat up. Of all the awards, the Hart Trophy race for the league’s most valuable player might be the most wide open and difficult to predict. Nobody is running away with the scoring lead, as 10 players are within seven points of first place. On top of that, this may be the first time we see the Hart award to somebody other than a forward since Jose Theodore won it back in 2002. 

I can see a lot of players getting the nod for the league’s most valuable player when it’s all said and done, but currently, 10 players stand out to me based on how valuable they are to their respective teams, how well their teams are performing, and what I think the voters will be looking at when they cast their ballots. 

Let’s take a look.

These are in no particular order.

Patrick Kane

Goals: 27

Assists: 36

First assists: 24

Even strength goals: 19

Even strength assists: 14

ES GF%: 56.4

ES GF60: 2.97

Offensive point shares: 6.7

Total point shares: 8.6

At the beginning of the week, Patrick Kane was leading the league in scoring. Right now, that title is held by Nicklas Backstrom, but I suspect that Kane may be back in the driver’s seat within the next few days. If Kane does end up winning the Art Ross trophy for the league’s highest scorer, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him also take home the Hart. One thing that may hurt him, though, is the fact he plays on a really good team and he scores a good chunk of his points on the power play. Regardless, Kane has been arguably the most valuable player on one of the league’s best teams this season.

John Tavares

Goals: 29

Assists: 33

First assists: 17

Even strength goals: 15

Even strength assists: 19

ES GF%: 53.8

ES GF60: 3.20

Offensive point shares: 6.8

Total point shares: 7.9

With the Islanders breaking out and becoming relevant for the first time since the early 80s, this may be the year John Tavares is awarded with the Hart Trophy. Tavares is quietly climbing his way up the leader board in terms of both goals and assists. While the Islanders are better when Tavares is on the ice than they are when he isn’t, he makes a lot of his starts in the offensive zone. I really doubt most of the people voting on this award care about that, though.

Rick Nash 

Goals: 37

Assists: 21

First assists: 17

Even strength goals: 26

Even strength assists: 16

ES GF%: 62.0

ES strength GF60: 4.07

Offensive point shares: 8.0

Total point shares: 9.9

Rick Nash leads the league in offensive point shares with 8.0, which suggests how valuable he is to the Rangers. On top of that, Nash is also seventh in the league in GF60 relative to teammates, which, compounded with his point shares, shows how important he is to the Rangers scoring goals. Kane and Tavares are 56th and 61st respectively, which could give Nash an edge in voting. On top of that, Nash also faces more difficult competition than the other forwards on the list. 

Alex Ovechkin

Goals: 38

Assists: 23

First assists: 19

Even strength goals: 15

Even strength assists: 13

ES GF%: 53.1

ES GF60: 2.91

Offensive point shares: 7.7

Total point shares: 9.5

Nash and Ovechkin’s production has been pretty similar, except for the fact Ovechkin has 23 of his goals on the power play in comparison to Nash’s 11. Ovechkin ranks just behind Nash in GF60 relative to teammates at ninth, and his 7.7 offensive point shares sits second behind Nash. While the two have somewhat similar production stats, Nash appears to be the one who is most valuable to his team and he’s scored a lot more at even strength, which would likely give him the edge in voting. 

Nicklas Backstrom

Goals: 18

Assists: 46

First assists: 21

Even strength goals: 13

Even strength assists: 17

ES GF%: 48.8

ES GF60: 2.65

Offensive point shares: 5.7

Total point shares: 7.0

Ovechkin has a boat load of points on the power play, and unsurprisingly, so does Nicklas Backstrom. Out of his 46 assists this year, only 17 have come at even strength, and only 21 have been first assists. As a result, Backstrom’s even strength numbers don’t seem overly impressive. Regardless, his scoring still holds some clout and if he can maintain his lead at the top of the league’s scoring race, I’m sure he’ll sway some voters in his direction. 

Ryan Getzlaf

Goals: 18

Assists: 38

First assists: 26

Even strength goals: 13

Even strength assists: 20

ES GF%: 53.2

ES GF60: 3.17

Offensive point shares: 5.1

Total point shares: 6.6

At a quick glance, none of Ryan Getzlaf’s stats really jump off the page at you. When you look deeper at his stats, you see that 26 of his 38 assists have been first assists, and of those, 17 have come at even strength. I mean, he may not have any hair, but he’s got a hell of a lot of first assists. Regardless, Getzlaf’s numbers in relation to his teammates and competition aren’t impressive enough to warrant much Hart consideration. 

Shea Weber

Goals: 14

Assists: 28

First assists: 9

ES GF%: 62.0

ES GF60: 2.62

ES CF%: 49.6

ES CF60: 58.57

Defensive point shares: 4.5

Total point shares: 8.8

Like I said before, this could be the year somebody other than a forward wins the Hart Trophy. It hasn’t happened since 2002 when Jose Theodore won, and a defenseman hasn’t been given the honours since Chris Pronger in 2000. That year, Chris Pronger put up a whopping 9.6 defensive point shares, a number Shea Weber certainly won’t top this season. Regardless, Weber is third in the league in defensive point shares, and he sits fifth among skaters in total point shares. Weber also faces some of the most difficult competition in the league while averaging over 26 minutes of ice time per game, and on top of that, when he’s on the ice, Nashville has 62.0 per cent of the goals scored. Like Tavares, Weber may catch the eye of voters because of Nashville’s breakout season, but him winning the Hart is pretty unlikely. 

Mark Giordano 

Goals: 11

Assists: 36

First assists: 16

ES GF%: 52.5

ES GF60: 2.33

ES CF%: 48.2

ES CF60: 52.99

Defensive point shares: 4.4

Total point shares: 8.9

Mark Giordano has put up some really impressive offensive numbers this season and he’s also a huge reason why the Flames are this year’s overachievers of the year. With that being said, his scoring has slowed down a little bit and Kris Letang is only one point behind him for the league’s lead in points among defensemen. If a defenseman is going to win this award, it’s going to be Shea Weber, not Mark Giordano, unless voters really enjoy a sentimental story. 

Pekka Rinne

Wins: 34 

Minutes: 2,652 

Shutouts: 3 

Shots against: 1,280 

Goals against: 89

Save percentage: 0.930

Goals against average: 2.01

Goals saves above average: 22.39

Goaltender point shares: 10.4

What Pekka Rinne has done this season is really impressive. He’s been an instrumental part in Nashville’s rise to Stanley Cup contender, which is evident in his ridiculous save percentage, goals against average, and goaltender point shares. Well, I guess I don’t have to go into much detail, his stats do the talking. 

Carey Price

Wins: 32 

Minutes: 2,764 

Shutouts: 5 

Shots against: 1,355 

Goals against: 85 

Save percentage: 0.934 

Goals against average: 1.93 

Goals saves above average: 28.92 

Goaltender point shares: 11.7

Like I just said, Rinne has had a really impressive season and his stats don’t lie. Unfortunately for him, there’s somebody else who’s done everything he’s done and more on a weaker team. Carey Price is the Montreal Canadiens. They’re much lower than the Predators in terms of shots, chances, and corsi against per 60 minutes, meaning Price has a much more difficult workload than Rinne does. He’s already got 11.7 point shares and 28.92 goals saved above average, which puts him on pace to possibly have an even better season than Theodore did when he won back in 2002. If he keeps this up, I think voters are going to go with Carey Price come awards season. 

Stats from Hockey Reference and Puck Analytics