Hart Trophy Contenders: Top 10 Candidates at Week 17 of 2013-14 NHL Season

Jonathan Willis@jonathanwillisNHL National ColumnistJanuary 25, 2014

Hart Trophy Contenders: Top 10 Candidates at Week 17 of 2013-14 NHL Season

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    The NHL's Hart Trophy is technically awarded to the player assessed as being most valuable to his team, but in reality it has long since been transformed into an award given to the most valuable player, period.

    Which individuals are in the running for that award today? Is it a one-sided race or one where any of a number of candidates could come away as the winner? Read on for our take.

    Unless otherwise noted, statistics are courtesy of NHL.com and are current through January 24, 2014. 

10. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks

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    The numbers: Three goals, 46 points in 52 games, plus-19 rating

    The skinny: The NHL's probable Norris Trophy winner is having a great scoring season and may be the most important player in Chicago—but he's going to be a hard sell for the MVP trophy given that the Blackhawks also have at least two other contenders. 

    Bottom line: The good news for Duncan Keith is that he is miles ahead in the Norris race.

9. Josh Harding, Minnesota Wild

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    The numbers: 18-7-3 record, 0.933 save percentage

    The skinny: Josh Harding has been a phenomenal story for the Wild, particularly given his well-known health problems. He stepped in when Minnesota needed a goaltender and has been impossible to dislodge since. One factor working against him is that he's played fewer games than other top candidates. 

    Bottom line: Even being in the conversation is a tremendous achievement for a guy who was all but written off as a career backup. 

8. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

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    The numbers: 24 goals and 59 points in 53 games, plus-11 rating

    The skinny: The Blackhawks' leading scorer is tied with Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf (though Getzlaf has played fewer games) as the top point-producer in the Western Conference. He's also going to be Team USA's top weapon at the 2014 Sochi games. 

    Bottom line: Patrick Kane makes this list on scoring numbers alone, but he's going to have trouble getting noticed on a stacked Chicago team. 

7. John Tavares, New York Islanders

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    The numbers: 23 goals and 63 points in 52 games, minus-two rating

    The skinny: It is pretty difficult to ignore the NHL's second-leading scorer in a discussion of the league's most valuable player. He's playing nearly 21 minutes per game and is the engine that drives the Islanders' offence. 

    Bottom line: Fairly or not, John Tavares is going to have trouble convincing voters that a non-playoff team boasts the NHL's most valuable player. 

6. Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    The numbers: 25 goals and 51 points in 51 games, plus-17 rating

    The skinny: Martin St. Louis, who led the NHL in scoring last season, has had his share of adversity and then some this season. Regular linemate Steven Stamkos suffered a serious injury, and St. Louis was one of the final cuts from Canada's Olympic team.

    He has responded in fine form, putting the Lightning's offence on his back.  

    Bottom line: St. Louis is a fantastic story, especially at age 38, but he may not even be the best MVP option on his team. 

5. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

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    The numbers: 17 goals and 49 points in 53 games, plus-21 rating

    The skinny: One of the NHL's very best defensive forwards, Jonathan Toews is also tied for 14th in the league in scoring, playing more than 20 minutes per game and winning 57.4 percent of his faceoffs. Most would likely peg him as Chicago's most valuable player, despite Patrick Kane's scoring numbers.  

    Bottom line: Vote splitting is going to finish off whatever shot Toews has at the Hart, but that won't be the case with the Selke Trophy. 

4. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

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    The numbers: 35 goals and 49 points in 47 games, minus-16 rating

    The skinny: The NHL's leading goal-scorer has had some problems this season, most notably the trouble of his linemates to score goals at even-strength (Alexander Ovechkin's linemates were a combined 1-for-152 when we looked back in December). But he is in vintage form, regarldess of what his plus/minus says. 

    Bottom line: Ovechkin's going to have to settle for the 'Rocket' Richard Trophy. 

3. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    The numbers: 25-6-4 record, 0.934 save percentage

    The skinny: Martin St. Louis may be carrying the scoring, but Ben Bishop is seemingly doing everything else for Tampa Bay. He is the NHL's top goalie and thus also a contender for the Hart Trophy. Underscoring his value to the Lightning is Anders Lindback's 5-10-1 record behind the same team. 

    Bottom line: He has a great shot at the Vezina, but it's rare for a goaltender to be so outstanding that he gets serious Hart votes. 

2. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks

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    The numbers: 25 goals and 59 points in 49 games, plus-23 rating

    The skinny: The captain of the best team in the NHL and its most valuable player, Ryan Getzlaf is also the leading scorer in the NHL's tough Western Conference.

    One thing to watch for the rest of the way is a drop in goal scoring. Currently, Getzlaf is tallying goals on 19.5 percent of his shots, while he's been just a 12.6 percent shooter on his career. At his usual rates, he'd have 10 less goals on the season than he does right now.  

    Bottom line: Right now, Getzlaf is one of the top candidates in the NHL for the Hart Trophy, but he's likely to cool down the stretch. 

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    The numbers: 27 goals and 72 points in 51 games, plus-11 rating

    The skinny: On a Pittsburgh team beset with injuries, Sidney Crosby has been the one constant. He's scoring at levels nobody else in the NHL can touch and has his team near the top of the NHL standings. 

    Bottom line: Nobody's close to Crosby right now. If he plays at anything close to his usual levels the rest of the way, he'll win in a landslide.