2012-2013 NHL Predictions: 10 Favorites for Next Year's MVP

Shane Darrow@@Pilsbury_BroBoyAnalyst IIAugust 2, 2012

2012-2013 NHL Predictions: 10 Favorites for Next Year's MVP

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    Evgeni Malkin took home the Hart Memorial Trophy for the 2011-12 season, and it would be difficult to make a legitimate argument that anybody else deserved it. He was second in goals, third in assists and finished the regular season with a league-leading 109 points.

    There have been 13 different winners over the last 14 seasons, with Alex Ovechkin the only player to win it twice, so it really is anyone's award to win as next season approaches.

    Let's take a look at the 10 guys with the best chance to take home the Hart next year.

Steven Stamkos

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    Last season's statistics: 82 games, 60 goals, 37 assists, 97 points, plus-7 rating

    It is hard to argue against a guy that led the league in goals last season and has lit the lamp 156 times over the last three seasons.

    He has passed Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis as the prominent goal scorer in Tampa Bay, and he is arguably the best power-play asset in the game today. His slap shot from the top of the umbrella is deadly.

    The Hart trophy tends to favor those that have played on a successful team during the regular season, so the Lightning would more than likely need to make the playoffs in order for him to be taken into consideration. However, he was a finalist this past season with the Lightning failing to do just that.

    He will enter his fifth NHL season next year, and he has continued to get better as he gains more and more experience.

    Stamkos will once again be a player to watch next season.

Henrik Sedin

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    Last season's statistics: 82 games, 14 goals, 67 assists, 81 points, plus-23 rating

    Arguably the best playmaker in the game, Henrik Sedin's 67 assists led the NHL last season, and his 81 points were good enough for the ninth highest in the league. It is hard to argue that there is a better duo than Henrik and his twin brother Daniel in Vancouver, and their chemistry is nearly impossible to defend.

    Many people forget that Henrik won the Hart Memorial Trophy in 2010. However, that season he put up a remarkable 82 assists and 112 points.

    The Canucks have been one of the most successful teams during the regular season over the last five years, and it shouldn't surprise anyone if he were to once again topple the 100-point mark next year.

Erik Karlsson

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    Last season's statistics: 81 games, 19 goals, 59 assists, 78 points, plus-16 rating

    The Hart Memorial Trophy hasn't been won by a defenseman since 2000. That season, Chris Pronger took home the award after he put up 62 points in 79 games—a surprising 16 points fewer than the 2012 Norris Trophy winner accumulated this past season. Dating even farther back, Pronger was the first defenseman to win the award since Bobby Orr in 1972.

    Karlsson is undoubtedly young, and he will need to substantially improve his defensive play if he wants to make a serious run at the Hart Trophy. But the past will show that the award is commonly favored toward offensive production, and he has had no problem putting up points for the Ottawa Senators.

    Karlsson's 78 points were the highest total by a defenseman since Nicklas Lidstrom had 80 points in 2006.

Henrik Lundqvist

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    Last season's statistics: 62 games, 39 wins, 1.97 goals against average, .930 save percentage, 8 shutouts

    The only goaltender that has been on hockey fans' minds since the Stanley Cup was won by the Los Angeles Kings is Jonathon Quick, but people fail to remember about the unbelievable season Henrik Lundqvist had.

    He won the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender, and was a finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy. Now that the New York Rangers have acquired Rick Nash, it is hard to say that there is another team with a better chance of winning the Stanley Cup, but it always begins in the net.

    Lundqvist has the experience, the confidence and the skill to be not only the best goaltender once again in the league next year, but he can also become the first goaltender since 2002 to win the Hart Trophy.

Claude Giroux

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    Last season's statistics: 77 games, 28 goals, 65 assists, 93 points, plus-6 rating

    Claude Giroux had a breakout season last year, and he continued his offensive production into the playoffs. He outplayed both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in the first round and led them to a 4-2 series victory.

    He even landed the cover of "NHL 13."

    The Philadelphia Flyers are another team that shouldn't have much of a problem making the playoffs this year, even if they do play in arguably the hardest division in the NHL.

    Giroux is a great two-way player and is only going to get better next season. His 93 points in last year's campaign were the third highest total in the league, and his 17 points in the playoffs were the fourth highest—even though the Flyers didn't even make it to the Finals.

    At 24 years old, Giroux has plenty in the tank and is definitely one of the favorites for the Hart Trophy as next season approaches.

Phil Kessel

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    Last season's statistics: 82 games, 37 goals, 45 assists, 82 points, minus-10 rating

    Phil Kessel started out last season with a bang, and if he had continued his production throughout the year, he could have exceeded the 100-point mark. He was sixth in the NHL in points with 82, and since joining the Toronto Maple Leafs three seasons ago, his point total has increased each year.

    The Hart Memorial Trophy is officially defined as the "player adjudged most valuable to his team," and Kessel is without a doubt the most important piece of the puzzle in Toronto.

    While he has already played six full seasons in the NHL, Kessel is only 24 years old, and he should be approaching the prime of his career in the next couple seasons.

    Don't be surprised to see Kessel among the names selected as finalists for the Hart Trophy next year.

Sidney Crosby

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    Last season's statistics: 22 games, 8 goals, 29 assists, 37 points, plus-15 rating

    He has only played in 63 games over the last two seasons due to his highly reported concussions, but he is still commonly referred to as the "face of the NHL" and the best player in the world for a reason. Over those 63 games, he has averaged 1.63 points per game, which is an insane total. Over the course of 82 games, that would put him on pace for 134 points.

    The biggest issue facing Crosby is still whether or not he is going to be able to stay healthy for an entire season, but considering he just received a huge, 12-year contract extension, the Penguins training staff must be confident that he is able to do this.

    When he is playing at 100-percent health and is on his game, he is still the most talented player in the league. If he can find a way to stay in the lineup, he will be among the names considered for next season's Hart Trophy.

Eric Staal

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    Last season's statistics: 82 games, 24 goals, 46 assists, 70 points, minus-20 rating

    Eric Staal has been a superstar in the NHL for quite some time, but now that he will be playing alongside his brother Jordan, he has to be excited to see just how high he can soar. The Hurricanes have also signed Alexander Semin, so there are is no shortage of offensive weapons in Carolina.

    Over the last seven seasons, Staal has has at least 70 points in all of them, and now that he will be playing with both his brother and Semin, it is hard to imagine that he won't put up that number once again.

    Many will say that he has drifted off from his 100-point campaign in 2006, but at the age of 27, he has more than enough left to push for the MVP title. His minus-20 rating is a huge black eye on his stat sheet, but that should easily improve next season with a much-improved Hurricanes roster.

Jonathan Toews

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    Last season's statistics: 59 games, 28 goals, 27 assists, 55 points, plus-17 rating

    Had his last season not been shortened by injury, who knows how many points Toews could have finished with and how high the Blackhawks would have finished in the rankings when last season concluded? He is without a doubt one of the best young talents in the game, but he has not yet had that breakout season where everything seems to bounce his way.

    Why not next year?

    His career-high point total currently sits at a respectable 76 points, but he will surpass that next season as he enters with fresh legs and something to prove. He has proven that he can lead his team to a Stanley Cup, and he excels in every aspect of the game.

    He is one of the perennial goal scorers in the league, and playing alongside Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa for 82 games could easily be what Toews needs to etch his name onto the Hart Trophy.

Evgeni Malkin

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    Last season's statistics: 75 games, 50 goals, 59 assists, 109 points, plus-18 rating

    The Hart Trophy has only been won in back-to-back seasons twice since 1990, but Evgeni Malkin will have the opportunity to do just that when the puck drops next season. He has to be considered the favorite, considering he recorded 12 more points than anyone else last year and was the only player to surpass the 100-point mark.

    Having Sidney Crosby back for an entire season will only improve his point total on the power play, and it might even have him seeing weaker defensive pairings on a regular basis if opponents choose to put their top pair out against Sid.

    He can shoot; he can pass; he wins face-offs. He is an expert on the power play, and he won the award last year.

    It's hard to view anyone else as the favorite.