To continue previewing the 2017/2018 NHL regular season, I will give in-depth predictions for the major awards. Over the next week, I will look at the Vezina, Hart, Norris, Maurice Richard, and Art Ross trophies. The season starts halfway through the predictions, but the results this week won’t influence the predictions.
For the last “preseason” award prediction I will predict the biggest trophy in the award case, the Hart Trophy. The Hart Trophy is awarded to the player deemed the most valuable player during the regular season. Last year, Connor McDavid became the third-youngest player in NHL history to receive the award. He was the heartbeat of his team, and that’s why he will be among the finalists again this year. Joining him are some familiar faces. Sidney Crosby, Erik Karlsson and Sergei Bobrovsky are all incredible talents who are dominant in their given position. Since all of these players are crucial to getting wins for their teams, they will easily be among the Hart finalists by the end of the season.
- Connor McDavid
At the ripe age of 20, Connor McDavid has become the class of the NHL. He’s one of the best players in the league, and one the most important to his team’s success. Where McDavid goes, so do the Edmonton Oilers. As long as McDavid keeps putting up points on a consistent basis, he will be the leader in the Hart Trophy race. The biggest question mark for him is who his linemates will be. If Leon Draisaitl plays at center when he returns from injury, will that help or hurt McDavid? Even if McDavid has to play without an elite partner, he will remain atop this list for much of the season.
2016 / 2017 Stats: GP: 82, Points: 100
Predicted 2017 / 2018 Stats: GP: 82, Points: 107
- Sidney Crosby
This year may be one of Sidney Crosby’s last chances at winning another Hart Trophy. His usurper, Connor McDavid, is pulling the title of “Best Hockey Player on the Planet” straight from Crosby’s hands. The title is so close to being passed, but this year, Crosby will take his last stand. Crosby is looking to become the first player to lead his team to three-straight Stanley Cups since Denis Potvin led the New York Islanders to four in the early 80’s. This ambition will drive Crosby to another dominant year. Crosby will have to take matters into his own hands many times this year when injuries arise. Evgeni Malkin and Patrik Honqvuist are injured almost every season. If it happens again this year, Crosby will make his audience marvel at his excellence once again.
2016 / 2017 Stats: GP: 75, Points: 89
Predicted 2017 / 2018 Stats: GP: 77, Points: 93
- Erik Karlsson
The best player in the world is a defenceman? Erik Karlsson doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He is the best player in his position, and arguably the most important player to his team. Without Karlsson, the Ottawa Senators don’t have their best defensive player or their biggest offensive contributor. Karlsson has missed the Senators’ first five games of the season but returned tonight. He may be rusty to start the season, but he will regain his exceptional level of play sooner than later. If Karlsson can win his first Hart Trophy, he will be the first defenceman to win it since Chris Pronger did in 2000. The biggest question mark for Karlsson winning the trophy is whether the media will recognize him as a generational talent.
2016 / 2017 Stats: GP: 77, Points: 71
Predicted 2017 / 2018 Stats: GP: 75, Points: 75
- Sergei Bobrovsky
The Columbus Blue Jackets were great last year, and much of that credit goes to Sergei Bobrovsky. The league recognized his contributions, as he was third in Hart Trophy voting at the end of the season. “Bob” is the most important player on the Blue Jackets. His stability allowed them to use an aggressive forecheck to relentlessly pursue the opposition. The opposition caught the Blue Jackets chasing on multiple occasions, but Bobrovsky was always there to shut the door. He led them to the second-best defensive record in the league and gave them the support to be the sixth-best offensive team in the league.
2016 / 2017 Stats: GP: 63, Wins: 41, GAA: 2.06 Save %: .931
Predicted 2017 / 2018 Stats: GP: 65, Wins: 44, GAA: 2.04 Save %: .932
- Auston Matthews
I already predicted that the Toronto Maple Leafs will be the second-best team in the Atlantic and fifth-best in the East. If Toronto is to surpass that ranking, it will be on the back of Auston Matthews. He’s the face of the biggest franchise in the NHL. Matthews is already a dominant scorer, so to take the next step, he must improve his playmaking and defensive game. He is already a star, but to become a superstar he must fine-tune his arsenal. If he can make those adjustments, like he has already shown he can in his young career, then he will be able to win the Hart Trophy in his second season.
2016 / 2017 Stats: GP: 82, Points: 69
Predicted 2017 / 2018 Stats: GP: 82, Points: 85
Outside looking in: Patrick Kane, John Tavares, Jack Eichel, Brad Marchand and Nikita Kucherov
Many of these players are on borderline playoff teams, and that’s why they could win the Hart. If the New York Islanders or Buffalo Sabres were to make the playoffs, it would be because John Tavares and Jack Eichel took them there. All of these players are superstars that have high usage rates on their teams. They will be relied upon heavily this season, and if they can shoulder the extra burden, they could become the MVP of the NHL.
All statistics provided by NHL.com