Is Toronto Maple Leafs' Phil Kessel a Hart Trophy Candidate in 2013-14?

James OnuskoContributor IIIMarch 18, 2014

Toronto Maple Leafs' Phil Kessel (81) shoots the puck past New York Rangers' Ryan McDonagh (27) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

The Toronto Maple Leafs' Phil Kessel has not been merely good over the course of the 2013-14 season. He has been exceptional for the Leafs and, unquestionably, he has entered the Hart Trophy conversation.

Top Offensive Producers in 2013-14
PlayerGoalsAssistsPointsGame Winners
Sidney Crosby3157885
Phil Kessel3439736
Ryan Getzlaf2944737

Kessel has been one of the top offensive players in the game, as seen in the first table. These are the top three point producers in the NHL this season and are the three forwards most likely to be garnering early attention for the prestigious Hart Trophy.

Total Ice Time and Even Strength Output
Sidney Crosby21:59213556
Phil Kessel20:31262753
Ryan Getzlaf21:19253055

If we look at just even-strength numbers, along with ice time, Kessel's numbers are very good. He is certainly in the same league as both Getzlaf and Crosby, who are obvious contenders for the Hart this season.

Kessel is posting these strong numbers with less ice time than either of these elite forwards.

Of course, it is always a subjective process to determine a player's value to his team. An interesting advanced stat that attempts to do this is the Goal Versus Threshold stat, or GVT. In its simplest terms, it is an attempt to measure a player's value, in goals, over and above what a replacement player could be expected to contribute.

If we think of Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf and Kessel as the front-runners among forwards for the Hart, then Crosby's calculated GVT is superior to both Getzlaf and Kessel. According to Hockey Prospectus, Crosby scores a 21.8, Getzlaf a 18.3 and Kessel a 16.5 in terms of GVT.

Finally, I think another pertinent stat to consider is each player's offensive contribution relative to their team's offense.

Offensive Contribution By Top Offensive Players
PlayerGoalsAssistsTeam Goals% Contributed
Sidney Crosby315720942.1
Ryan Getzlaf294421833.5
Phil Kessel343920335.9

From these numbers, it is clear that Kessel has been extremely important to the Leafs. While Crosby has contributed a higher percentage, both Getzlaf and Kessel are key offensive contributors to their teams.

Kessel has moved to another level this season. He posted eight points at the Olympics and was electrifying in Sochi. Kessel is a long shot to win the Hart this season, with these two forwards, along with Tampa Bay's Ben Bishop and Boston's Tuukka Rask likely to receive a lot of consideration. 

Other players who warrant consideration are Chicago's Duncan Keith, San Jose's Joe Pavelski, Nashville's Shea Weber, and Minnesota's Ryan Suter.

At the very least, Kessel deserves to be in the conversation thanks to his strong offensive output and the fact that the Leafs have been one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference for most of the season.

All statistics were up-to-date prior to play on Mar. 18, 2014.