It can be very difficult for the NHL to choose a winner for the Hart Memorial Trophy because there are so many unbelievable players in the league. Now, when it comes to predicting a winner, that is even more challenging because so many players progress and drop in skill each year. The NHL is an always changing league so picking a winner requires a lot of evaluating and even a bit of luck. Yet, there are always a group of players who are contenders each season.
With this article, we will be looking at a list of eight legitimate contenders for the Hart Memorial Trophy and seven dark horse candidates. When it comes to the legitimate ones, it is pretty self-explanatory. These players have been contenders for a majority of seasons and even may have won it once or a handful of times. For the dark horse players, it is a bit different. These players were either coming off strong rookie seasons or were veterans who had break out seasons last year. Consistency is the name of the game when it comes to the Hart Trophy, so we will see if any of these predictions come true.
With that, here is the list of eight legitimate contenders for the Hart Trophy and seven dark horses.
15 Legitimate: Carey Price
Carey Price has developed into the best goaltender in the NHL for the Montreal Canadiens and for that, he is always a threat to win the Hart Trophy. Without Price, the Canadiens would not be contenders and have the success they have each and every season. With that, Price will always have a shot at being crowned the best player in the league.
Price won MVP in the 2014-15 season, so it is clear that he has the chance to do it yet again. When Price is on his game, nobody comes close to his skill level and the league notices it. It will not be surprising if Price puts up another marvelous season this year and that could ultimately make him win his second Hart Trophy.
14 Dark Horse: David Pastrnak
David Pastrnak emerged into a very strong talent this past season for the Bruins and if he continues to progress, he could very well become a candidate for the Hart Trophy. Pastrnak started last season on a pace where he was basically scoring every game, but his goal totals started to slow down during the second half of the year.
Pastrnak has all the tools to become one of the best goal scorers in the league, but he needs to find more consistency in his game. This past season was a huge step toward the right direction when he reached the 70 point plateau. If Pastrnak can find more consistency, he could be a point per game player and a permanent elite talent.
13 Legitimate: Alex Ovechkin
Although Alex Ovechkin had a down year this season, he is always a legitimate candidate for the Hart Trophy because he is still the best goal scorer in the league. Not many players have reached over fifty goals in a season since his arrival in the league and he has done it numerous times. It is likely he will again.
For Ovechkin to find the success he once had, it will come down to his confidence and support. He is still a very talented player and very well is the heart and soul of the Capitals. Ovechkin will have a far better year this year and if all goes well, could end up landing another Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s best player.
12 Dark Horse: Nicklas Backstrom
Nicklas Backstrom has been stuck in Ovechkin’s shadow for the entirety of his career, but in the process, has been one of the best players in the league. Backstrom is a natural playmaker who is always a threat to lead the league in assists. This past season, Backstrom quietly put up 85 points on a year where Ovechkin struggled.
Backstrom has had so many good years in the league, but never seems to get the recognition that he truly deserves. He is showing no signs of slowing down so it is likely that he very well could put up an even better year this year. If Backstrom continues to dominate, he could very well win his first Hart Memorial trophy.
11 Legitimate: Vladimir Tarasenko
Vladimir Tarasenko is an absolute beast of a hockey player and is emerging as one of the league’s top players. He is one of the biggest threats on the ice each game that he plays and because of this, is an offensive force in the league. Although he is playing in St. Louis and does not have the greatest center core, he finds way to still produce.
Tarasenko is already one of the world’s best players so he is always a legitimate candidate to win the Hart Memorial. If Tarasenko could find a way to score even more goals this season, that will end up being his ticket to his first ever Hart. As a sniper, that is the primary way for him to dominate and make the NHL notice.
10 Dark Horse: Patrik Laine
Patrik Laine had a spectacular rookie season, but it was overshadowed by Auston Matthew’s miraculous one. Yet, Laine has already showed signs that he is going to develop into the league’s best goal scorer, so it is only a matter of time before he wins a Hart Memorial. It just may be too early next season for him to accomplish that.
Yet, it is very possible that he can turn some heads and end up winning his first ever Hart trophy. For this to happen, Laine will need to put up even more goals next season and as a sniper, that is the only way he can accomplish it. Laine has been considered the next Ovechkin so he will need to follow in his footsteps.
9 Legitimate: Patrick Kane
Patrick Kane is a three-time Stanley Cup champion and the best player on the Chicago Blackhawks. With that, he is also arguably the best winger in the entire league. Kane is the perfect player because he not only can score a lot of goals, but also has the ability to be an effective playmaker in the process.
Each season Kane plays, he is a legitimate threat to win the Hart Trophy and this is proven by the fact that he won in 2016. If all goes well for him this season, it is very likely that he can win it again because there are far better than Kane in the league. Bringing another Stanley Cup to Chicago would also help his chances.
8 Dark Horse: Blake Wheeler
Blake Wheeler is an incredibly underrated hockey player and has quietly become one the league’s best. Because he is often looked past by fans and coaches around the league, he very well is considered to be a dark horse for the Hart Memorial Trophy. Since coming to the Jets, Wheeler has been one of the most productive players in the NHL.
This past season, Wheeler dominated the league by putting up 74 points in 82 games. With the emergence of Patrik Laine, Wheeler could end up seeing his points grow even larger if he is playing with him. Wheeler has developed into a playmaker over the years, so he could end up putting up significant points.
7 Legitimate: Erik Karlsson
Erik Karlsson has become the best defenseman in the NHL and proved it with his stellar performance in last season’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Karlsson carried a Senators team to the Eastern Conference Finals and realistically, no one expected them to be there. With that, he is a franchise player and has the ability to determine a team’s fate.
Karlsson has the ability to rack up insane points for a defenseman and showed this last season when he registered over 70 points. In today’s NHL, accomplishments such as these are a rarity, especially when done by defensemen. Karlsson very well could carry his momentum from last season to this year and that will make him unstoppable.
6 Dark Horse: P.K. Subban
Although P.K. Subban is an elite defenseman in the NHL, he has never flirted with obtaining the Hart Memorial Trophy. However, that does not mean that he will never be a candidate for one. Subban is one of the most effective defenders in the NHL and when he is on his game, there are not many better than him.
For Subban to win the Hart, he will need to put up a spectacular offensive season and for him, that is a likely scenario. Now that Subban is used to playing in Nashville, he has the opportunity to now show the league just how great of a hockey player he is. The 2017-18 season could very well be a huge one for Subban.
5 Legitimate: Evgeni Malkin
The Pittsburgh Penguins are extremely lucky to call a player of Malkin’s skill to be their second best center. The majority of NHL teams do not even have a player that is to the same ability as Malkin. Although Malkin is often stuck behind Crosby’s shadow, he still is beloved by the NHL and is easily one of the best players.
Last season Malkin very well could have ended up winning the Hart if he did not get injured. In 62 games, Malkin registered a whopping 72 points and at that rate, could have come close to leading the league in scoring. With Malkin fully healthy in 2017-18, he could end up having a year to remember and obtain his Hart Trophy.
4 Dark Horse: Leon Draisaitl
Leon Draisaitl has a spectacular breakout season last year with the Oilers and is on the path to becoming one the NHL’s best. Draistaitl is in a similar position to Malkin because he is stuck playing behind a franchise talent with Connor McDavid. With that, Draisaitl sometimes is overlooked by the NHL and not appreciated to the capacity he should be.
Draisaitl last season put up 77 points in 82 games so it is clear that he can produce at an elite level. Draisaitl is also only 21 years old so he is only going to progress even more as the years continue to pass. Next season could be the year that moves Draisaitl to franchise status and with that, could land him his first Hart Memorial Trophy.
3 Legitimate: Sidney Crosby
Sidney Crosby, the league’s best player, is obviously a likely candidate for the Hart Memorial Trophy each and every season he plays. Crosby is the main reason why the Penguins have won three Stanley Cups. Crosby has also won the Conn Smythe Award back to back seasons, so it is clear that he can win the Hart Memorial.
All Crosby needs to do to win this award is to stay healthy and be consistent with his game. He is not necessarily a lock for the award, but he will at a minimum, be in contention for it. The Penguins are in a spot where they could very well three-peat so expect to see Crosby play at a whole new level next season.
2 Dark Horse: Auston Matthews
Auston Matthews took the league by storm last year and scored 40 goals as a rookie for the Toronto Maple Leafs. That is a huge accomplishment and very well could be foreshadowing the future for this elite talent. Matthews is not necessarily a legitimate contender the Hart just yet because he is still young and needs to prove his consistency.
Yet, there is a strong chance that he can become a legitimate contender for the Hart if he shows the NHL that last season was not a fluke. It is clear that Matthews is the future of the Maple Leafs and will be a franchise player, but 2017-18 is just one season. He needs to show the NHL that he can be the best and outplay players like Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid.
1 Legitimate: Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid effectively displayed last season that all the hype for him was one hundred percent real and that he is a franchise player. McDavid was the winner of the Hart Trophy last season because he managed to put up a huge 100 points for the Oilers. He is the main reason why the Oilers finally reached the playoffs as well.
McDavid is going to be the best player in the NHL fairly soon and already is in the Top 5 at a minimum. McDavid is number one on this list because of the fact that he managed to win it just this past season. It will not be surprising if he ends up winning it again this year because of his talent, but he needs to find playoff success to be the best in the NHL permanently.