The 2017-2018 National Hockey League season has been chalk full of surprises, but perhaps the biggest surprise of them all has been the names that are currently in contention for the Hart Memorial Trophy, an awarded that is handed out each season to the National Hockey League's most valuable player.
In my humble opinion there are only three men who truly deserve consideration for this award, and while there will undoubtedly be extremely vocal disagreement, especially when it comes to two of the people snubbed on my short list, the good news for all of you who disagree is the simple facxt that I do not get a vote.
At the top of my list would be Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon. There's no denying the fact that MacKinnon has had an incredible run of performance ever since the Avalanche made the decision to trade forward Matt Duchene early in the season. With just 70 games played on the season MacKinnon has racked up an extremely impressive 38 goals as well as an additional 55 assists for a total of 93 points, stunning to say the least.
Thanks in large part to his performance the Colorado Avalanche have gone from the laughing stock of the National Hockey League to a very serious threat to make the playoffs this season. They currently sit one point ahead of the St. Louis Blues in the standings but the Blues do have one extra game remaining on their schedule so the Avalanche could potentially still miss the playoffs. If they make it in however it seems likely that MacKinnon will be awarded the Hart.
Up next is a player who much like MacKinnon has seen a huge resurgence in form, and much like MacKinnon he has always been highly touted as an extremely talented hockey player, although he hasn't always shown his best side. I'm of course speaking of New Jersey Devils forward Taylor Hall who much like MacKinnon has led his team into playoff contention thanks in large part to some heroic performances.
Despite the fact that Hall has dealt with a number of relatively serious injuries this season he has appeared in 73 games for the Devils and over that stretch he has recorded 36 goals while adding 52 assists for a total of 88 points. Much like MacKinnon and his impact on the Avalanche there is no doubt that the Devils would not be in the playoff picture were in not for some heroic performances from Hall this season.
Last but not least in my top 3 in Anze Koipitar. In my humble opinion Kopitar has been the most complete player in the National Hockey League this season and when you factor in just how good he is overall you could even make an argument that he has been the NHL's very best player this season. Not only does he played at arguably the most valuable position in the NHL but he does it on both sides of the ice.
Not only does Kopitar take numerous faceoffs in the defensive zone for the Los Angeles Kings but he also eats up significant minutes on their penalty kill, something rarely seen with players with his level of offensive talent. Speaking of offensive talent, despite eating up so many defensive minutes Kopitar has recorded 35 goals and 55 assists for a total of 90 points in just 79 games and despite all his time on defense and on the penalty kill, he owns a plus/minus rating of +20 on the season.
Of course honorable mentions should go to Connor McDavid and Nikita Kucherov but I frankly rank them below the three players I've already listed above. In McDavid's case largely due to the fact that his team was never in contention, so how valuable was he truly despite his amazing level of play? While Kucherov is just one of a number of stars including Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman which diminishes him in the running for this award in my eyes.
The oddsmakers have spoken though and they have ranked the favorites in the following order as per The Score.
#1 Nathan Mackinnon at 1-1 odds.
#2 Nikita Kucherov at 9-4 odds.
#3 Taylor Hall at 9-2 odds
#4 Connor McDavid at 9-1 odds
#5 Anze Kopitar at 19-2 odds.
Let me know who your favorite to win the Hart trophy is in the comments below.