Inside The Box: Patrick Kane has officially entered NHL’s MVP chat

Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88). Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88). Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports /

Inside The Box is Puck Prose’s daily news bulletin, covering all the latest news and providing unique analysis and insight, while highlighting the NHL content you need in your lives.

We’re a month into the 2020-21 NHL Season and the usual names are already starting to dominate the discussion when it comes to the Hart Memorial Trophy, which is dished out to the player judged most valuable to his team. However, Patrick Kane should now officially enter that conversation.

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Granted, Kane has won the award once before in 2015-16 and he’s one of the most naturally-gifted offensive players to have played in the NHL, so he is hardly a stranger when it comes to MVP talk. However, the veteran has seen a new wave of young, exciting talent take the NHL by storm over the last few years and it is that class that has dominated the headlines this year.

For instance, Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid leads the entire NHL in points with 32 (9 G, 23 A) with his running mate Leon Draisaitl just behind him with 28 points (10 G, 18 A), while Toronto Maple Leafs duo Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner have both been playing at a godly level in the opening month.

However, Patrick Kane has been right there with those four stars and you can put forward a strong argument that he has been the driving force behind why the Chicago Blackhawks are off to a surprising start in 2020-21, sitting second in the Discover Central Division with a 9-5-4 record.

Patrick Kane (88)
Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane deserves to be in MVP contention

Before we make our case, let’s revisit recent history for a moment. Chicago Blackhawks General Manager and President of Hockey Operations Stan Bowman made it clear during the offseason that this team was now entering a rebuild, allowing goalie Corey Crawford to hit Free Agency and trading forward Brandon Saad to the Colorado Avalanche.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, stud forward Kirby Dach broke his wrist at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship and was ruled out for the year, while Captain and franchise cornerstone Jonathan Toews was placed on Long-Term Injured Reserve with an undisclosed medical problem.

As a result, it has been left up to Patrick Kane to carry this team both literally and figuratively, and he has been playing at an MVP level pretty much from day one, giving a flawed roster some much-needed star power, firepower and leadership.

Now, granted, others on the Blackhawks do deserve credit such as forward Alex DeBrincat who is having a bounce-back year with 17 points (9 G, 8 A) in 14 games and Pius Suter has been stellar in his rookie year with six goals and four assists for 10 points in 18 games, while goaltender Kevin Lankinen has come out of nowhere to establish himself as a solid No. 1 starter for the Hawks, going 7-2-0 with a 2.29 Goals Against Average and a .931 Save Percentage.

But, as good as those players have been, there is no arguing that Kane has thrown this team on his back and made it his absolute mission this year to prove that not only has he still got plenty left in the tank, but that the Blackhawks aren’t quite done being competitive just yet.

Patrick Kane (88)
Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (88). Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Like a fine wine, Kane seems to be getting better with age if that is even possible, adapting his game when needed but still delivering the same results. After recording 110 points (44 G, 66 A) in 2018-19 and 84 points (33 G, 51 A) last year, the 32-year-old has put up seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points in 18 games in 2020-21, leading his team and ranked fifth in the NHL in scoring.

Kane has been like a one-man wrecking ball for Chicago so far this year, leading by example and ensuring that his younger teammates know what it takes to battle through adversity and showing them what it takes to win in the NHL on a nightly basis.

He’s logging 22:10 minutes of average total ice time, he’s recording 1.28 points per game, he’s shooting the puck at a 10.8 percent clip and he’s also doing his fair share when it comes to making an impact in all three zones too. He has stepped up as a real leader in Toew’s absence, and there is no way the Blackhawks would be where they are now without their star winger.

Now, making the postseason does come into consideration when it comes to voting for end of season honors in the NHL, so the Chicago Blackhawks might have to sneak into the Stanley Cup Playoffs if Kane is to win his first lot of hardware since the 2015-16 season.

But, in a Central Division that is wide open, if the Hawks do manage to sneak into the postseason then a large part of that will absolutely be down to the efforts of Patrick Kane who, statistically, isn’t a million miles away from the likes of Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner and, if he can keep up his current pace and maybe even step it up a level if the Chicago Blackhawks decide to get him some help at the Trade Deadline, then we will have to include Patrick Kane firmly in the conversation for the 2020-21 Hart Trophy.

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