Scott Hartnell Is the NHL's Most Improved Player of the Year

Robert TheodorsonSenior Analyst IApril 4, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 22:  Scott Hartnell #19 of the Philadelphia Flyers celebrates his third goal of the second period against the Boston Bruins on January 22, 2012 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

There was no player who upped his game more than Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell during the 2011-12 NHL season.

An amazing power forward with a reputation for clutch-ness, Hartnell took his game to a new level in his 11th NHL season.

Setting career highs in goals (36), power-play goals (16), points (65) and shots (217), Hartnell was one of few forwards who totaled 30 goals and over 100 penalty minutes.

Previously playing in the stunningly good Hartnell-Briere-Leino line, Hartnell has had the privilege of playing with one of the game's top young playmakers in Claude Giroux and the timeless Jaromir Jagr for most of the season.

With his new linemates, Hartnell has made scoring timely goals look easy. The Flyers as a whole have been scoring in bunches, as the team is second in the NHL with most goals scored (260).

Entering his prime at age 30 later this month, it's safe to say we can see plenty more 30-goal seasons from Hartnell as long as he's paired with Giroux.

When it's time for Jagr's contract negotiations, you have to believe Hartnell will be one of his biggest advocates to stick around. Jagr's stick-handling ability and mastery of puck possession has taken a lot of attention away from Hartnell on the ice, which leaves the forward open to score at will.

After a recent Stanley Cup Finals loss two years back, it will be great fun to see how Hartnell has adapted his postseason game where he will not be playing on the same line with Danny Briere, and Ville Leino will most likely be watching Hartnell on TV from his home couch.

Hartnell continues to amaze and amuse the hockey community with his great play and on-the-ice antics. Looking forward to the postseason, if there was ever a Philadelphia Flyer that has Conn Smythe written all over him this year, it's Scott Hartnell.