The three Hart Trophy finalists were announced by the NHL Friday evening. Taylor Hall of the New Jersey Devils, Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche, and L.A. Kings center Anze Kopitar earned nominations.
As many as eight players were in the discussion for the Hart Trophy, which is annually given the NHL’s most valuable player, as judged by the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA). Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid and Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov were not nominated.
With those exclusions, the top four scorers in the NHL all failed to earn a nomination. Kucherov led the NHL scoring race for most of the season before McDavid surged past in the final weeks.
Taylor Hall, 26, led the Devils to a 27-point improvement over last season. However, his biggest argument is his offensive contribution. With 93 points (39g, 54a), Hall led the Devils in all categories and had just three points fewer than the Devils second and third leading scorers-combined.
Nathan MacKinnon, 22, helped the Colorado Avalanche improve by 47 points over last season. MacKinnon scored 97 points (39g, 58a) and was a force all season. His breakout season carried the Avalanche back to the playoffs.
Anze Kopitar is the surprise on the list, but his season stats and play were clearly worthy. Kopitar, 30, led all NHL forwards in average ice time (22:05) and had a career year. On the offensively challenged Kings, Kopitar netted 35 goals and 57 assists. The Kings captain led the Kings back to the playoffs after they missed them last season.
Malkin did not earn a nomination, likely because he stumbled in the final week of the season. Malkin had 98 points (42g, 56a) and carried the Penguins 5v5 offense for a large portion of the season.
As a tenured member of the PHWA, PHN’s Shelly Anderson was given a vote. She has remained coy on her ballot order, or even her three nominees.