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The NHL MVP and Vezina Trophy Contenders

George Kurtz March 7, 2018 8:38PM EDT

 NHL  Vezina Trophy and MVP Contenders

Who will be the NHL MVP (Hart trophy) this season? The early favorite was Nikita Kucherov and he is certainly still in consideration with 33 goals and 53 assists in 65 games this season. Still, when it comes down to voting time, it seems players who perform late in the season are always favored over those who were hot early. Nathan MacKinnon could also be in the running. He has 32 goals and 46 assists in 58 games, but can a player from a probable non-playoff team be the MVP? If we’re thinking about the best goal scorer in the game, Alexander Ovechkin, it’s hard to ignore a player who has 40 goals already and could once again be the only player to hit the 50-goal mark. If he is able to hit that mark, that may be too much for the voters to ignore.

The two best goaltenders in the NHL this season seem to be Andrei Vasilevskiy and Pekka Rinne. While one is likely to win the Vezina trophy, the Hart is not likely to accompany it. Vasilevskiy has the same problem as Kucherov, he was much better earlier in the season than he has been of late. Sure, he is still winning games, but his goals against average and save percentage are taking a bit of a beating. Rinne has been the hottest netminder for over a month now, and he picked up his 17th win in his last 19 starts and his seventh shutout on Tuesday. Tuukka Rask should also not be forgotten.

The last candidate may be the one who is currently gaining the most traction right now, Taylor Hall. Unless you are currently living under a rock, you know that Hall currently has a 26-game point scoring streak. That’s not the only reason he is in line for the Hart trophy. The Devils are currently in the seventh slot in the Eastern Conference. The Devils were a borderline playoff team entering the season and Hall’s play is a big reason why they are currently in a playoff spot. He has 30 goals and 44 assists in 62 games and it’s not like he has another top forward to play with. Do you think the Oilers, who traded Hall for Adam Larsson, would like a do-over here? Hall is the dark horse candidate to win the award, but only if the Devils hold onto a playoff spot.

Stack the Panthers

When it comes to setting your Fantasy lineup over the next couple of weeks, you may want to load up on Panthers. Not only is the team hot, winning six of their last seven games, but they are also scoring in bunches as they are averaging almost four goals per game over that span. Throw in the fact that they have the most games left of any team in the NHL, 18, and that 11 of those games are versus teams currently not in the playoffs, and you have all the reasons in the world to start the Panthers.

Matt Murray is skating with the Penguins but is not yet practicing. The Penguins need him back, as both Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith have struggled in his latest absence. The problem for Pittsburgh is that they are well aware that concussions can be tricky. They dealt with this multiple times last season with Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins are going to make the playoffs, that’s not a worry; but they may play it safe with Murray as far as bringing him back, as it’s much more important that he be 100-percent healthy for the playoffs than it is for the remainder of the regular season. The best-case scenario is for Murray to return at some point within the next 7-10 days.

Ilya Kovalchuk is likely to come back to the NHL next season. Kovalchuk had tried to return in the past but due to complicated NHL rules, it was really only New Jersey or bust and the Devils didn’t want him. Those restrictions are now over and he’s free to sign with any team for next season. Who will want him? The Rangers have let it be known in the past that they have interest, but after trading off several of their high-priced veterans at the deadline they seem to be in rebuild mode and may not want to sign a 35-year old veteran forward. Assuming Kovalchuk wants to play for a contender, he’s going to have to want to play for less money than he might be anticipating. Fantasy owners will want to pay attention, however, as Kovalchuk should still be a 25-plus goal scorer in the NHL.

Alexander Ovechkin Photo Credit: AP Photo/Nick Wass

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