The Hart Trophy is awarded annually to the player best judged to have been his team’s Most Valuable Player during the regular season. Three players are nominated, one wins. This year’s nominees are Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky, Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. Three worthy candidates. But that’s just three of thirty. In this short series we’ll be looking at which players deserve to be named as their team’s MVP. Today we’re looking at the Atlantic Division.
Boston Bruins: David Pastrnak
He may have scored fewer points than linemate Brad Marchand; but Pastrnak brings the effort while leaving the arrogance at home. His 70 point season is still enough to make the NHL’s top 20. It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Pasta, who missed two games through suspension in October, but he’s still a fan favourite and worthy MVP.
Buffalo Sabres: Ryan O’Reilly
The Sabres finished dead last in the division and there aren’t many contenders for MVP. Ryan O’Reilly edged the title with his points production and work ethic. In a team known for easily giving up the points, 2014’s Lady Bing Memorial winner O’Reilly stands out as a solid two-way player and leader on the ice. He also wears his heart on his sleeve and doesn’t shy away from criticism.
Detroit Red Wings: Henrik Zetterberg
This won’t take any Detroit fans by surprise. Z is the team’s captain in every sense of the word. The 36 year old played all 82 games and coach Jeff Blashill paired him with almost every young forward on the roster to build their experience. That chopping and changing didn’t hurt Zetterberg’s production though, he finished the season with 68 points, 20 more than any of his teammates.
Florida Panthers: Vincent Trocheck
It goes without saying that Trocheck was the Panthers’ stand out player this season, and his 54 points is his highest in his four seasons in the NHL. In a disappointing campaign Trocheck’s thirst for goals and work ethic helped him to stand out above an average roster. Unfortunately for Trocheck, the Panthers concede a lot when he’s on the ice (as well as off it). He’s still young and don’t be surprised to see him actually nominated if keeps playing well.
Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price
2015’s Hart Trophy winner has stood strong in net for the Canadiens all season. Of the six Atlantic goalies who played 50+ games, Price leads with a .923 Save Percentage and 2.23 Goals Against Average. He’s also faced more shots than usual as the Habs’ blueline goes through a reshuffle, but he always holds firm and should absolutely win the Vezina trophy again.
Ottawa Senators: Erik Karlsson
Without Karlsson, the Senators would have to rely on actual forwards to do some of the heavy lifting. Defensemen often get overlooked for the Hart Trophy but Karlsson’s contribution to his team can’t be ignored. He’s consistent every season and although his 71 points in 77 games is statistically one of his weaker seasons, Karlsson is still the driving force in Ottawa and the team is better for it.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Victor Hedman
The Lightning may have missed out on the playoffs, but Hedman has been the team’s engine room, driving from behind the blue line. Nikita Kucherov will always put up the points, but Hedman has stood out with his fantastic two-way game. This season’s 72 points is a career high for Hedman. Hat tip to Joe for the suggestion.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Frederik Andersen
There are half a dozen players on the Leafs’ roster who could be considered MVP, but with no linemates and sat behind an unfamiliar blueline, Freddie Andersen stood out above the rest. The big Dane stood tall, facing nearly 1,900 shots and earning four shutouts. For a team with so many new pieces, the Maple Leafs exceeded expectations. Of course having the best rookies in the league helped, but Andersen as backstop made the difference.
Those are our picks for each team’s MVP. Are you a fan of a team in the Atlantic Division? Who would you pick? Comment below or join in the conversation on Twitter.