Will the New Jersey Devils' Patrik Elias Be in NHL MVP Talks by Seasons End?
Elias has five goals and 17 assists through the team's first 19 games, ranking him fourth amongst all NHL players in assists and sixth in points.
With 22 points in less than 20 games, Elias is on pace to record 56 points in the lockout shortened season. If the 2012-2013 campaign was a full 82 games, Elias would finish a point shy of his career best 96 points that he set during the 2000-2001 season.
This is also the fastest Elias has reached 20 points to start the season since the 2005-2006 campaign, when he had 20 points by the Devils 17th game (h/t Hockey Reference). Although he is now 36 years old, Patrik Elias may be having the best year of his career.
But should we start talking MVP?
Elias already ranks in the top 10 in both assists and points, but he also ranks fourth in plus-minus and has been one of the Devils most consistent players so far in 2013. Elias has already recorded four three point games this year as well as six multiple point games.
More importantly, the Devils are 5-0-1 when Elias records at least two points in a game. With Zach Parise gone and Ilya Kovalchuk just finally starting to turn it on, Patrik Elias has undoubtedly been the Devils most valuable player in 2013.
It helps that the Devils currently rank sixth in the conference and sit just two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for first in the Atlantic Division. Elias has all of the credentials for an MVP candidate, but will he be able to out-duel the NHL's best stars?
Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos leads the league in both goals and points and the Pittsburgh Penguins Sidney Crosby leads the league in assists. Both of these teams are contenders because of Stamkos and Crosby and these two stars will certainly be at the top of most award ballots this year.
However, Crosby has two 40 goal scorers on the roster (James Neal, Evgeni Malkin) and Stamkos is lucky enough to have Martin St. Louis and his 20 assists with him in Tampa Bay. Elias has made David Clarkson a consistent goal scorer and has solidified the Devils second line while Ilya Kovalchuk holds down the first.
Malkin and Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry won the last two Hart Trophies because they had spectacular years and their teams finished at the top of the standings. Statistics aren't going to be the same because of the lockout, but if Elias can continue his hot start and the Devils can beat out the Penguins for the Atlantic Division title, there's a chance Elias could be considered an MVP.
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