The NHL regular season is long behind us and we're deep into the playoffs, which means it will soon be time to hand out awards at the Vegas awards show in June. It's been quite a season and the last season in which there will only be 30 teams, with Vegas set to join the fray next season. There were some big surprises this season, such as the Edmonton Oilers finally breaking the glass ceiling and pushing the Ducks to seven games in the second round. The Ottawa Senators somehow managed to reach the Eastern Conference Finals under first year Ottawa coach Guy Boucher. Finally, the Capitals lost in the second round to Pittsburgh - okay, maybe that wasn't a surprise.
Nevertheless, the season has been fascinating to watch and it's time to start handing out awards. While only Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid or Sergei Bobrovsky will be walking away with the Hart Trophy in June, there are players on every club who would gladly be put up for nomination by their respective teams. If we lived in a world where we could hand out 30 Hart Trophies, here are the 30 guys we would hand them to. Here are the MVPs of every NHL team this season.
30 Anaheim Ducks – Ryan Kesler
NHL forward Ryan Kesler used to be responsible for dominating the Anaheim Ducks in the face-off circle (as a center) and irritating numerous Ducks’ players on the ice, while Kesler was a member of the Vancouver Canucks. Now, after two seasons with Anaheim, the 32-year-old currently stands as the Ducks’ best player.
No, Kesler didn’t lead the club in points, but he did finish in second with 57; and it’s apparent Kesler’s play away from the puck is valued just as much, if not more, while the American-born has the puck on his stick. Kesler has impacted the Ducks’ offense with his dynamic play, and the veteran also led Anaheim with eight power-play goals this season. It will be interesting to see how much farther the Ducks will go in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and backed by number 17’s play.
29 Arizona Coyotes – Oliver Ekman-Larsson
It’s been apparent over the past decade that the role of a team’s number one defenseman has transitioned, more so than not, to a d’man portraying that of an offensive-defensive skater – rather than a defensive-defenseman. Players such as the Ottawa Senators’ Erik Karrlson immediately come to mind, but there’s also a hidden gem out west and on the Arizona Coyotes’ blue line.
Coyotes’ defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson is a fascinating player to witness once he takes to the ice for Arizona. His ability to not only move the puck up ice to his fellow forwards is impressive, but so is the 25-year-old’s nose for finding the back of the net, too. The former first-round draft-pick (2009) finished second on the team in 2017 with 39 points. The future is bright for the Coyotes, and it starts and ends with the club’s best player in Ekman-Larsson.
28 Boston Bruins – Brad Marchand
Similar to Ducks’ forward Ryan Kesler, forward Brad Marchand could be considered an opponent’s least favorite “pest” to be play against and on a nightly basis. However, while with the Boston Bruins Marchand was never known for being an NHL team’s leading goal scorer -- the 28-year-old led the B’s with a total of 85 points this past season.
It was evident that the pest's play ultimately carried the B’s to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and his career high for points in a season was borderline MVP-like. It appears that Boston will move forward with its roster, while building around Marchand – the club’s current best player. If Marchand wasn’t finding the back of the net while putting home a rebound goal this past season, he was screening opposing goaltenders or deflecting pucks into the back of the net…
27 Buffalo Sabres – Ryan O’Reilly
Sure, Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel will soon be considered the club’s best player, but at the moment it’s veteran skater Ryan O’Reilly. The former Colorado Avalanche sniper finished second on the team this past season while recording 55 points in 72 games played.Additionally, the 2009 second-round draft-pick (Avalanche) finished the 2017 campaign tied for second on the team with 24 power-play points, and shorthanded points (2).
O’Reilly’s enthusiasm on and off the ice is a necessity for this Sabres team to take that next step forward in Buffalo’s transition to becoming a perennial Stanley Cup Playoffs contender. NHL fans alike should also expect to see O’Reilly potentially have a career-high year next season, especially with the club making a coaching change as well.
26 Carolina Hurricanes – Jeff Skinner
For the second consecutive season forward Jeff Skinner led the Carolina Hurricanes in points, with a career high of 37 goals scored. Skinner’s play has developed in the right direction over the past three seasons, and it’s now safe to say that the 24-year-old is currently the Hurricanes’ best player on their roster.
It appears that Skinner enjoys playing in Carolina and donning that of a Hurricanes’ red sweater, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the former first-round draft-pick records another career high season next year in Raleigh, North Carolina. In fact, the youngster doesn’t have much of a choice…if the Canes want to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009 – it will have to be on the back of the young Skinner, next season.
25 Calgary Flames – Johnny Gaudreau
This one shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, right? New Jersey native, Johnny Gaudreau, has arguably been the Calgary Flames best player for the past two seasons now. “Johnny Hockey,” led the Flames this past season with 61 points, and finished second on the team with 16 power-play points.
Not only is Gaudreau the Flames’ best player, but the 23-year-old is one of the most electrifying players to watch in all of professional ice hockey. His speed and puck handling abilities are one of a kind, and his will to win can be compared to some of the all-time greats. The future is now in Western Canada, and for Calgary. Fans can expect to see the Flames in the Stanley Cup Playoffs year-after-year as long as Gaudreau can stay healthy.
24 Chicago Blackhawks – Patrick Kane
In recent memory, Chicago Blackhawks team captain Jonathan Toews would have been mentioned on this list for being the Blackhawks’ best current player. Yet, the entertaining winger in Patrick Kane has officially taken over the reigns as Chicago’s MVP as we head into the 2017-18 season.
Just about one year ago, Patrick Kane took home the NHL scoring title and became the first American born player to do so. Kane followed up that historic season by finishing in the top ten again for goals, assists and points for this past season. Kane’s offensive talent has become more of a necessity for the Hawks in comparison to what Toews may have to offer; especially as they continue to shuffle players around in order to build around both superstars in the Windy City.
23 Columbus Blue Jackets – Sergei Bobrovsky
Philadelphia Flyers fans cringe and typically standstill in disbelief after each passing season, as the City of Brotherly Love’s former netminder, Sergei Bobrovsky, continues to make headlines as one of the NHL’s best current goaltenders. The Flyers traded “Bob” to the Columbus Blue Jackets back in the 2012 offseason, and the Russian native hasn’t look back since that time.
Not only is Bobrovsky a Vezina Trophy winner since that time, but he’s also the Blue Jackets best player as Columbus heads into the 2017-18 season. Bobrovsky was nominated for a Vezina Trophy and he may just win again; even though the other nominees are the well-established Braden Holtby (Washington Capitals) and Carey Price (Montreal Canadiens). He's also been nominated for the Hart Trophy so it was an easy choice here. Bobrovsky has proven to be one of the best NHL goaltenders of his generation since leaving Philadelphia almost five years ago.
22 Colorado Avalanche – Nathan MacKinnon
Okay, it's practically impossible to pick an MVP for a team as bad as the Avalanche, but MacKinnon pretty much wins by default.
It’s been hard times for the Colorado Avalanche as of late, and the team hasn’t reached the second-round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2008 regular season. Yet, if the team plans on reaching the Stanley Cup Playoffs and reestablishing themselves as perennial winners again – than it will be in large thanks to the club’s current best player, Nathan MacKinnon.
Sure, MacKinnon’s numbers have not exceeded the potential that the former first-overall draft-pick (2013) should be portraying season after season, but the Nova Scotia native is still a very talented NHL skater. This hockey enthusiast believes it would be wise for Colorado to hold onto MacKinnon moving forward, as the Avs look to rebuild and move out of the basement from the Western Conference.
21 Dallas Stars – Jamie Benn
It would appear that the Dallas Stars would be on the verge of being a potential Stanley Cup favorite again, after going almost two decades of being mediocre in the NHL’s Western Conference. The Stars have superstars on offense, which primarily would be forwards Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. Though, it’s Benn’s team.
The captain, and former fifth-round draft-pick (2007), surprisingly merged onto the scene in Dallas back in 2014. It was then that the youngster recorded a career-high 79 points, which was followed up by an 87 plus 89 point seasons (2015; 2016). Benn is a well-respected character player, and could be the next great leader to help the Stars to its second Stanley Cup in franchise history. He's undoubtedly their most important player moving forward.
20 Detroit Red Wings – Henrik Zetterberg
Considering that the Detroit Red Wings didn’t qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in over 25 years, this selection should be a no brainer for Hockeytown. With the departure of Russian forward Pavel Datsyuk last season (moved to KHL), the Red Wings current best skater is Swedish native, Henrik Zetterberg.
Hockeytown is finally in a rebuild after dominating the NHL for almost three decades as one of the league’s most consistent and successful organizations, and Zetterberg is going to have to continue to be the Wings’ top skater if the club wants to make progress going forward. Zetterberg will go down as one of the greatest Red Wings of all-time and once he retires – his number 40 will be hung up in the rafters at the new Little Caesar’s Arena.
19 Edmonton Oilers – Connor McDavid
Not only is forward Connor McDavid the MVP of the Edmonton Oilers, but he’s arguably a season, or two, away from establishing himself as the best player in the National Hockey League. Even if a non-hockey fan would watch McDavid take to the ice, it wouldn’t take long for that someone to understand how special of a player that the Oilers’ newest team captain is.
The 2015 first-overall draft-pick led the league in scoring this past season with 100 points (Sidney Crosby finished in second with 89), and number 97 for the orange blue has successfully helped Edmonton rise from the ashes of being a perennial losing franchise. McDavid might be the purest and fastest skater fans have ever witnessed, and his stick handling abilities are one of a kind as well.
18 Florida Panthers – Aaron Ekblad
The Florida Panthers drafted defenseman Aaron Ekblad with the first-overall-pick at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, and since that time the youngster has proven to be worthy of his former draft status. Ekblad is the Panthers best current players on the club’s roster.
Keep in mind, that there was a time when the Panthers went two decades without making an appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but things have turned around drastically since Ekblad has joined the Panthers in Sunrise, Florida. Now, the Cats will always be a force to reckoned with, and it starts with the backbone on the club’s blue line with the young Ekblad. The 21-year-old took home the Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year) back in 2015, and don’t be surprised to see his name involved in MVP talks in the near future too.
17 Los Angeles Kings – Anže Kopitar
When NHL fans from across the world think of the Los Angeles Kings, more times than not, the global fanbase will associate the Kings with Slovenia native, Anže Kopitar. The Kings’ captain has totaled 736 career NHL points in ten seasons with Los Angeles and may just go down as the greatest King of all time once his career is all said and done.
Kopitar was a key member of the Kings when the club hoisted its first ever Stanley Cup back in 2012, and then again in 2014. Hockey Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille were not able to lead the Kings to a Stanley Cup championship during their respective playing days. And, even as Kopitar ages, he is still the best player on the team.
16 Minnesota Wild – Ryan Suter
The State Of Hockey entails an NHL roster that is veteran heavy, and a blue line that is feared across the league; which is in large thanks to Minnesota Wild defenseman, Ryan Suter. The former Nashville Predator joined the Wild during the 2012 offseason, along with former College Hockey teammate Zach Parise, and the 32-year-old has proven to be the Wilds best current player.
Suter is a dynamic d’man, in the sense that he can be effective both offensively and on the defensive side of the puck. The former first-round draft-pick (2003) is a unique talent, because of his size on the ice plus his skating abilities. If it doesn’t happen with Minnesota, one could guess that Suter will eventually win a Stanley Cup, because he’s just too good not to…
15 Montreal Canadiens – Carey Price
Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty gives goaltender Carey Price a good run for his money on this topic, but the Habs’ MVP is in fact, Mr. Price. It was evident last season, after Price went down with an early season ending surgery, and Montreal was nowhere near the same successful club that they once were with him in net.
The Canadiens ended up finishing near the basement of the Eastern Conference last season, but this year with a healthy Price between the pipes the Habs found themselves back in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Not only is the 29-year-old one of the best regular season netminders, but Price has also proven he’s dominant during the postseason, too. Without Price, the Canadiens are more than likely just a mediocre club.
14 Nashville Predators – Roman Josi
While the Nashville Predators could still be considered a fairly young franchise in the NHL (1998), the Preds have a respectable list of superstar players that have donned Nashville’s hockey sweater since ’98. And, with that being said, defenseman Roman Josi has made a case to be included on that list of all-time greats to play for Nashville.
Josi is the Predators MVP, and is arguably one of the more underrated players in league at the moment. The Swiss native is usually considered an offensive-defenseman, but don’t let that fool you…Josi is tight defensively and can make that transition from offense to defense look very, very easy.
Josi has also done a solid job on becoming the Preds’ new number one defenseman since Shea Weber was traded to the Montreal Canadiens this past offseason, too. Josi's playoff run in Nashville has further proven how valuable he is.
13 New Jersey Devils – Taylor Hall
Jersey’s fans could argue that forward Kyle Palmieri or goaltender Corey Schneider could be considered the New Jersey Devils’ current best player, but that title now officially belongs to forward Taylor Hall. Hall was acquired by the New Jersey Devils last summer, in exchange for defenseman Adam Larsson, and Hall’s play spoke for itself this season.
Sure, Hall didn’t produce as many points (53) as he would have liked to, but that’s also in large part to how poor the team’s depth is at the moment. If the Devils’ rebuild can move a little faster than anticipated, than the former 2010 first-overall-pick (Edmonton Oilers) could potentially break New Jersey scoring records. At the age of 25, it’s fair to say that Hall isn’t even in his prime yet. There’s a scary good potential there for the superstar and with Jersey’s Team.
12 New York Islanders – John Tavares
For the third straight season forward John Tavares led the New York Islanders in scoring (66). The Islanders’ former first-overall-pick (2008) has established himself as not only one of the NHL’s best captains, but he’s also one of the most talented players too.
Tavares has an uncanny way of inspiring his teammates and when it matters most as well. While the heartbeat for New York may be overshadowed at times by other Eastern Conference superstar skaters such as Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, there’s still a great deal of respect for Tavares across the NHL. Quite frankly, New York’s captain is the best thing that has happened to the Islanders since they last hoisted a Stanley Cup back in 1983. Now, “The Island,” just has to hope that their Prince doesn’t leave via unrestricted-free-agency after this upcoming season.
11 New York Rangers – Henrik Lundqvist
Swedish netminder, Henrik Lundqvist, has been the face of the New York Rangers since 2006 and the King currently carries the throne as the Broadway Blueshirts’ best player. Lundqvist’s NHL career now entails sitting atop Rangers’ goaltending records and more, plus the Swede recently led the Blueshirts back to their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 20 years (2014).
If New York is ever going to win its fifth Stanley Cup in franchise history, it’s going to have to be with “Hank” between the pipes on Broadway. The Rangers’ overall performance historically shows that they win when Lundqvist is at his best, which is a more common theme than not is recent past. If Lundqvist doesn’t go down as the greatest Ranger of all-time, he’ll go down as number two on the prestige list.
10 Ottawa Senators – Erik Karlsson
Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson has redefined what it means to be one of the league’s best two-way defenseman. One could argue that the defenseman should be an MVP candidate each season, because that’s how good and valuable the Swedish native truly is in today’s style of play.
Karlsson’s smooth skating ability and savvy playmaking ability has left fans speechless for over almost a decade now, and it seems that the 26-year-old only continues to get better after each passing season. Additionally, Karlsson is more than likely in the top 10 for the league’s best overall players. He’s responsible on the defensive side of the puck, which he normally doesn’t receive enough credit for too. There’s no doubting that Karlsson will go down as arguably the second best Ottawa Senator of all-time…right behind fellow countryman, Daniel Alfredsson.
9 Philadelphia Flyers – Wayne Simmonds
No, the MVP of the Philadelphia Flyers is no longer team captain and forward Claude Giroux. The times have changed in the City of Brotherly Love, and forward Wayne Simmonds has developed into the Flyers’ most irreplaceable player on the club’s current roster.
Over the past two seasons, Simmonds has transformed into a consistent threat for Philly’s opponents, especially on the team’s power-play. Simmonds is a skater of many hats; He’s tough, not afraid to get gritty in the corner, he drops the gloves and the 28-year-old has transformed into a point producer. Simmonds has established new career highs the past two seasons, and is the text book definition of what it means to be a Philadelphia Flyer. Don’t expect the former Los Angeles King to slow down anytime soon either…this is just the beginning for him in South Philly.
8 Pittsburgh Penguins – Sidney Crosby
Say what you want about Pittsburgh Penguins forward Sidney Crosby, but he’s currently the best player in the National Hockey League. So, with that being said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that as long as Sid the Kid is on Pittsburgh – he’ll be the club’s best player.
Crosby’s play speaks for itself, and even when the going gets tough lately, he’s quick to quiet his critics by posting a memorable three point night and in the clutch. NHL fans alike may just be witnessing the most talented player to ever lace up the skates since Crosby entered the league back in 2005. Crosby finished second in scoring for the NHL and for the second straight season, while leading the Penguins. The Pens may even be on their way to the team’s third Stanley Cup with Crosby at the helm.
7 San Jose Sharks – Brent Burns
The chances are that no one would have imagined NHLer Brent Burns to pan out the way that he did as a player, and with the San Jose Sharks. Burns, 32, has essentially doubled his point totals with the Teal since joining the Sharks back in 2012 (37 points). The two-way defenseman finished this season with two new career highs by finding the back of the net 29 times and posting 76 points.
The former Minnesota Wild skater has panned out to be a coach’s dream, and an opposing coach’s worst nightmare. He’s unpredictably and dynamic puck moving abilities are one of a kind, and his ability to be diverse on the offensive side of the puck is arguably second to none. The Sharks did not make a mistake by extending Burns’ contract long-term this past offseason.
6 St. Louis Blues – Vladimir Tarasenko
It’s hard to believe that Vladimir Tarasenko was selected 16th-overall at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the St Louis Blues. Since that time, he has matured into a top-five caliber NHL producer. Tarasenko has become the new heart and soul for the Blues, and the Russian native can single-handedly take over a game during the big moments as well. Recall the 2017 Winter Classic?
Tarasenko’s uncanny energy on the ice could potentially carry the Blues to the club’s first ever Stanley Cup championship as soon as this June. His ability to find key scoring areas is admirable, plus he arguably has some of the game’s best goal celebrations at the moment. St Louis is all smiles when the puck is on the blade of their most valuable player.
5 Tampa Bay Lightning – Nikita Kucherov
Similar to St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko, Nikita Kucherov, of the Tampa Bay Lightning has taken the NHL by storm over the past three seasons. And, this Russian forward has proven to be just as, if not more valuable, to his respective team; especially with the absence of the Lightning’s captain Steven Stamkos.
Currently, Kucherov has proven to be one of the most clutch NHL players and his pure scoring ability cannot go unnoted either. The 23-year-old finished second in goals scored this season (40), which was right behind Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby (44). It should be interesting to see if “Kuch” will continue to prosper with Stamkos returning next season…the Russian may be comfortable with the routine of being “the go to guy;” but will that still be the case once the Bolts’ captain returns?
4 Toronto Maple Leafs – Auston Matthews
A new leaf has turned over in Toronto, for the city’s favorite professional sports team. The Toronto Maple Leafs selected forward Auston Matthews with the first-overall at last year’s NHL Entry Draft, and the 19-year-old has panned out to the Leafs’ best player on the ice.
Matthews found the back of net 40 times this past season, and totaled an impressive 69 points as well. It shouldn’t come as surprise that Matthews will win the Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year), and things are looking bright for Toronto moving forward with Matthews and company. There’s no fear when it comes to the youngster's ability to perform on the big stage, and it’s only a matter of time until he and Connor McDavid are nose-to-nose for an MVP race.
3 Vancouver Canucks – Henrik Sedin
It’s been a tough last couple of seasons for the Vancouver Canucks and the club’s dedicated fan base. And, it’s also a tough call to say which player currently stands as Vancouver’s best player on the ice at the moment. Still, forward Henrik Sedin continues to find his way onto the stat sheet and in the assist column on a consistent basis.
Henrik, twin brother of Daniel Sedin, has recorded over 100 more assists than his brother since the two entered the NHL with the Canucks back in 2001. Not too shabby, right? Also, while it may not matter to the brothers, one could argue that it speaks volume to Henrik’s style considering the 36-year-old dons the captain’s “C.” So, Henrik Sedin is the Vancouver Canucks MVP as it stands now.
2 Washington Capitals – Alex Ovechkin
Sure, it’s easy to say that Russian forward Alex Ovechkin is the Washington Capitals’ best player on the ice at the current time. There are a few choices on the Caps with Nicklas Backtrom and Braden Holtby having already established themselves as NHL superstars, too.
However, the Capitals will forever be Ovi’s team. The captain continues to shine year after year, as his career progresses. Ovechkin is arguably the purest goal scorer any NHL fan has ever witnessed, and even with the league’s overall goal totals declining in recent past, the 31-year-old has found the back of the net almost 200 times in the past three seasons. The critics will always doubt Ovi in some way shape or form, considering he has yet to win a Stanley Cup; but there’s no doubt he’s the Capitals best player.
1 Winnipeg Jets – Mark Scheifele
No, rookie sensation Patrick Laine is not the Winnipeg Jets MVP, unlike some other young stars that made this list. Jets’ forward Mark Scheifele takes home the honor of being Winnipeg’s most important player for now. Scheifele has matured into a solid two way skater for the Jets since entering the league back in 2012.
And, the 24-year-old production on the stat sheet has improved by almost 20 points in each of the past three seasons. The potential for Scheifele to become a legitimate NHL superstar is high at the moment, and the former first-round draft-pick (2011) could be the main reason why the Jets find themselves back to being Stanley Cup Playoff contenders again. Scheifele could potentially thrive more, considering Laine may receive most of the spotlight as the future takes flight in Winnipeg for the Jets.