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Without Thomas Vanek playing at an elite level in the early part of the season, the Buffalo Sabres would be alone at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings with no chance of making the playoffs.
The star winger leads the NHL in points with 23, and he has also improved defensively, evidenced by the fact that Vanek also leads the league in takeaways with 18. He has also played well against quality opponents with 13 points against teams currently in a playoff spot in the East.
Vanek's scoring and assists have made up for 60.5 percent of Buffalo's entire offensive production this season, and since the team's second, third and fourth lines have under performed thus far, the 29-year-old's impressive play has been crucial to the Sabres' success.
The problem for Vanek is that he might not get enough votes for the Hart Trophy if the Sabres don't make the playoffs. Voters usually reward finalists who lead their teams to the postseason.
2nd Place: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
3rd Place: Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
Note: Vanek is also my pick for the Ted Lindsay Award (Most Outstanding Player)