As the NHL regular season inches toward its last month, what had been speculative talk about Patrick Kane’s Hart Trophy candidacy has grown into something more concrete.
Kane, who won the Hart in 2016, has a legitimate chance to be named league MVP again.
The Blackhawks star only scored twice in March yet accumulated 13 assists in 14 games, upping his point total to 49 in 37 games entering April.
“You should hear [Hart Trophy talk] every year with Patrick because that’s the type of elite player he is in the league,” coach Jeremy Colliton said Thursday.
Writers for the NHL’s website voted Kane their midseason Hart choice last month. In the betting world, Kane’s odds have steadily improved to better than 4-to-1, second-best of any player.
But the man leading the pack, Oilers forward Connor McDavid, is not only in the lead by a huge margin — his odds are better than 1-to-2, making it far more likely than not that he wins — but he also would receive Kane’s theoretical vote.
“I don’t think anyone’s going to really touch McDavid this year,” Kane said. “He’s just, [by] head and shoulders, the best player in the league. And their team is having a great year.
“But at the same time, it’s nice to hear those types of things. Usually it means your team is in a good position throughout the year, as well. For me, I don’t really think about it too much. [I] just want to help the team win.”
The Hart Trophy is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, not by players.
Entering Thursday, McDavid led the league with 63 points in 37 games — a truly incredible rate. That prorates to 140 points over a normal 82-game season, a threshold not reached since 1995-96 by Mario Lemieux.
But the man in second place in the league scoring race, with 54 points in 37 games — defending Hart Trophy recipient and Oilers teammate Leon Draisaitl — slightly undermines McDavid’s case.
The award is supposed to go to “the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.” McDavid and Draisaitl create snowball-effect point production for each other: 44 of McDavid’s 63 points have come with Draisaitl on the ice and 33 have come from goals with assists from Draisaitl or scored by Draisaitl.
Kane does have his own partner-in-scoring in Alex DeBrincat, and the McDavid-Draisaitl snowball effect didn’t stop the latter from winning the Hart last season. But their dynamic does open the door for Kane in the Hart conversation.
“We obviously depend on him,” Colliton said. “He plays a lot of minutes, and he’s been a big part of our offensive production. The goals that we do score, his fingerprints are all over it. But I think he’s committed to playing away from the puck, as well, and [he] understands that when he does that, it has a big effect on our team.”
Two Maple Leafs — wing Mitch Marner (fourth in the league in points) and center Auston Matthews (the league leader in goals, albeit seventh in points) — and two Lightning players — Victor Hedman (the top-scoring defenseman with 33 points in 35 games) and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (21-5-1 with a .930 save percentage) — are also in the conversation. Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon’s red-hot run might push him into contention, too.
Ultimately, the Hawks will need to make the playoffs for Kane to have a realistic shot, no matter how impressive his individual statistics turn out to be.
“We want to help him out by taking care of that,” Colliton said.