We’re about halfway through the 2017-2018 NHL season and boy have we had a few unexpected surprises. We’ve seen the Vegas Golden Knights dominate right out of the gate, the collapse of the Montreal Canadiens and the resurgence of the Boston Bruins. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos have become the most lethal duo in the NHL and this year’s Calder race is shaping up to be one of the best ever. Without further ado, let’s look at who deserves the mid-season NHL awards so far:
Hart Trophy (MVP): Nikita Kucherov
Runners Up: Mark Scheifele (WIN) and Brayden Schenn (STL)
Nikita Kucherov was an obvious choice in this case, as the young Russian winger has produced 106 points in 87 games in the entire year of 2017. Half of those 106 points were produced on a completely decimated Tampa Bay roster. Kucherov followed up his breakout 2016-2017 season with a ridiculous 56 points in 38 games so far this season. Much of his success has been attributed to the return of franchise center man Steven Stamkos, with whom Kucherov has undeniable and unviable chemistry. He and Stamkos have both contributed heavily to the success of the Lightning who consequently sit at first overall in the NHL standings.
Prior to his injury, Mark Scheifele had emerged as the game-breaking center that teams dream about acquiring at the draft table every year. His improved overall play has allowed him to anchor the Jets top line with captain Blake Wheeler. His 38 points in 38 games (15 goals) was impressive as is, but his work away from the puck is what has solidified him as a premier first-line center in the NHL. Furthermore, his increased play has produced a trickle-down effect in the lineup, as the extremely potent second line of Ehlers, Little and Laine has been given more free space as teams are mostly focusing on Scheifele’s dangerous top line. Had it not been for a serious injury just before the holidays, Scheifele would certainly figure among the Hart candidates by year’s end.
When Brayden Schenn was trade by the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2017 NHL draft, many believed that Schenn didn’t fit within the Blues lineup, as he was primarily a winger for the Flyers. However, the Blues saw fit to utilize the former junior center man as the top line pivot between Vladimir Tarasenko and Jayden Schwartz. Although many seemed to think this was a horrid idea, Schenn exploded right out of the gate and has been the Blues’ most consistent player both offensively and defensively. His 41 points in 41 games are indicative of his increased presence on the ice and his chemistry with sniper Vladimir Tarasenko. Schenn’s play has created a renewed hope that the Blues didn’t have their contention window close last year with the departures of TJ Oshie, David Backes and Kevin Shattenkirk. In as such, Schenn is seen by many as the spark that put all the right players in the right place within the lineup, while filling the hole that St-Louis has been trying to fill for the better part of a decade at center.
Our next article will focus on the Norris Trophy race for the NHL`s best D-man. Stay tuned!