The NHL has eclipsed its midway point, and as we prepare for post-All-Star Game hockey, some teams and players are establishing themselves as frontrunners in their respective races in this 2021-2022 season.
We are past the point where high-level performances can be classified as flukes. By now, players and teams that are battling for various scoring/playoff races will likely be in contention for the top spot for the remainder of the season.
At this stage of the campaign, our primary focus is the long-term outlook for the season, which includes individual player awards. As the playoffs approach, those players that are leading their teams will garner consideration for one of the NHL’s most prestigious honors: the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player.
Who are the top three candidates so far for NHL MVP?
The MVP conversation is always an interesting one, as we weigh the differences between the most valuable player and the best player. For me, an MVP candidate must get his team into the postseason (how can you be the most valuable if you can’t help lead your team to the playoffs?) and be the primary catalyst for his team’s success.
To win the MVP, a player must be playing at an elite level that elevates his team to heights that it would be unable to reach in that player’s absence. For some, that may mean getting a fringe playoff team into the postseason, or for others, it might mean taking a playoff team to the top of the standings.
Recent winners like Connor McDavid and Nikita Kucherov have been so overwhelmingly dominant, that to award the MVP to any other player would be absurd, even if that did mean choosing the player that was simply the best.
In those instances, the gap between the player that won the award and the other finalists was insurmountable, but this season is different. With no single player dominating the field, the value that a player adds to his team should be the driving factor in the 2022 MVP race.
With all of those things in mind, here are my top three NHL MVP candidates coming out of the All-Star break.