1. Sidney Crosby – Center – Pittsburgh Penguins
At this point in his career he is a shoe-in for a finalist spot even if he doesn’t deserve it, but let’s let’s be honest with ourselves, he always puts up the numbers to justify it. In just 17 games this season he is tied for the league lead in points with 23 and that number is despite him failing to find the back of the net in his previous seven games. He’s managed to grab a point in 13 of his 17 games and has tallied multiple points in six of those games.
It’s hard to imagine what this current edition of the Penguins would be like if Crosby went down with some sort of injury. The offense is already struggling (at least by Pittsburgh’s standards) and without Crosby distributing the puck it would look even worse.
Just to hammer that point home a little bit more here is a telling stat: the Penguins are 11-2-0 when Sidney Crosby has a goal or an assist in a game. When he does ’t, they are 0-4-0.
2. Alexander Steen – Left Wing – St. Louis Blues
For a few seasons the Blues have been a good offensive weapon away being a true contender in the Western Conference playoffs. Well, they might have found that player in a surging Alexander Steen,
His 14 goals are tied for the league lead and put him on a ridiculous pace of 76 goals in 2013-14. Obviously no one believes that Steen can sustain that kind of pace. His career high is just 24 which happened back in 2009-10 and his shooting percentage is 26.9, the highest percentage amongst forwards who have taken at least 30 shots.
Steen doesn’t need to continue his scoring tear in order to stay on the Hart radar though. The Blues will likely be one of the top teams in the NHL (a must for Hart hopefuls) and as long as Steen remains the offensive force behind that success (either scoring or distributing) he’ll be towards the top of the pack at the end of the season.
3. Ryan Getzlaf – Center – Anaheim Ducks
Getzlaf’s drive for the Hart has received a massive boost in the past week alone where he has tallied six points (four goals, two assists) in just three games. In Anaheim’s most recent game, a clash against the hapless Sabres, Getzlaf bagged himself a hat trick and added on an assist in just 14 minutes of ice time.
Through 18 games he is on pace for a career high in points (95) and goals (43). Both of those numbers would be good enough for Hart candidacy and if Anaheim can somehow manage continue their success then it would add a massive boost to his resume.
The biggest thing going against Getzlaf is actually his own teammate. Corey Perry, a previous Hart winner, is right behind Getzlaf with 20 points (11 goals, 10 assists) of his own. If both players continue their current pace then voters will probably be split between the linemates.
4. Alexander Ovechkin – Left Wing – Washington Capital
Ovechkin has nearly reached the Crosby level when it comes to being an automatic Hart finalist. He’s won the award three times already, with his most recent win being last year, and with the amount of goals he puts out on a yearly average (46.38) he’ll always have a place at the table.
This year hasn’t been any different than any other year for Ovie. He has 13 goals in 16 games and seven of those have come on the powerplay. With Stamkos out for the foreseeable future Ovechkin seems like the favorite for the Rocket Richard and as long as teams leave him open in the slot he is going to keep putting the puck in the net.
5. Matt Duchene – Center – Colorado Avalanche
This might be more wishful thinking than anything else, but Duchene should be considered a Hart hopeful after leading the Avalanche to a remarkable 14-2-0 record over the first month or so of the season.
The Canadian Olympic hopeful (well at this point he is a guarantee to make the roster) is leading the team in goals (11), assists (8) and points (19) for the best team in the league and is on pace to shatter his career high in all of those categories. It’s really the perfect storm for a Duchene for the Hart campaign.
The only problem is that Duchene’s Hart candidacy will be tied directly to the Colorado Avalanche. As of right now the team is a fantastic story but at some point they will regress to the mean and even if Duchene continues to play like a top five player it won’t matter. Oh well, one can only hope.