Bruins’ David Pastrnak Should be a Hart Finalist

David Pastrnak is undoubtedly having the best season of his career. In his ninth NHL season, The 26-year-old has surpassed the 50 goals in a season mark for the first time and is very, very close to surpassing 100 points in a single season.

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His stat line has been incredible across the whole board this season. He’s a plus-32, far surpassing his previous career-high plus-21 in the 2019-20 season (where he would have surpassed 50 goals and 100 points without the COVID-19 pause). He’s registered a career-high 358 shots on goal, career-high 84 hits, and is averaging a career-high 19:43 minutes of ice time a night. His fantastic play earned him an eight-year extension at the beginning of this month.

David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

As always though, hockey goes beyond stats. When he is on the ice, he is a complete difference-maker for the Boston Bruins. In these past two seasons, he’s also truly proven that he can play anywhere in the lineup, not just on the top line with the dynamic duo of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and be an elite player. He brings something special to the team and has been a big part of their historic season so far. He truly deserves to be in the conversation to be a first-time Hart Trophy finalist this year.

Stepping it Up in 2022-23

Since coming into this league, Pastrnak has been an effective player and a great goal scorer. But this season, he has shown that he truly can help make others better when they play on a line with him. Pavel Zacha, who is playing the best hockey of his life, has benefitted from playing with him and David Krejci on a line this season. He’s really begun to show that the Bruins aren’t just better with him on the ice because he is an elite player but because he helps elevate guys around him as well. 

Pastrnak has been stepping into more and more of a leadership role in recent seasons, and it’s truly been on display this year. Head coach Jim Montgomery has commented on it, including the below clip from earlier in the season. His leadership and team-focused mentality was recently on display after scoring his 50th goal when he made it clear that reaching the milestone for the first time was even more important because of the guys he gets to call his teammates (from “Why David Pastrnak isn’t taking his first 50-goal campaign for granted”, Mar. 26. 2023.) The Bruins have talked multiple times about having a special group of guys in the locker room, and it shows on the ice. 

As mentioned, Pastrnak has the stats to be considered for the Hart Trophy. In 75 games, he has 53 goals and 99 points. He’s second in the league in goals scored and top five in overall points. His most recent goal came in OT to push the team to victory and awarded them the Presidents’ Trophy for the best team in the league. His stats have either already surpassed, or close to surpassing, what they were in the 2019-20 season when he finished fourth in voting for the Hart. He has clearly been one of the best players in the league all season.

For Your Consideration Campaign

During awards seasons for the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, etc., films and television shows launch “for your consideration” campaigns in an attempt to convince voters why their projects deserve nominations and wins across the various categories. They pitch their accolades and highlight incredible performances, and I think Pastrnak has the merits to put together a pretty convincing FYC pitch.  

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The Hart Memorial Trophy is awarded “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.” The Bruins have proven to be a complete team with depth like we haven’t seen in years, but having good depth begins at the top with the elite talent to set the tone. Pastrnak has been the best skater for the team this year since the very first game back in October. His stability and skills have allowed for other members of the roster to settle into roles that are the right fit for them, leading to the remarkable depth.

Pastrnak has been lucky to spend his career playing on a roster with Bergeron and Marchand. While he’s never had to be the guy pulling his team into the playoffs like Taylor Hall did for the New Jersey Devils when he won the Hart Trophy back in 2018, playing at a level that surmounts the Bruins’ dynamic duo is no easy feat. Let’s also be honest, most of the elite players on playoff-bound teams this year (the Hart almost always goes to a player on a team that makes the playoffs) have at least one other extremely talented player on their roster. So for Pastrnak to be the best player on a roster with Marchand and Bergeron on it, is truly a remarkable feat. 

Pastrnak has also been consistently a top-tier player for several years now. The fact that he was already easily a top-15 player in the league and managed to play even better speaks to the remarkable season he’s had. 

David Pastrnak Boston Bruins 2023 Winter Classic
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins 2023 Winter Classic (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

But again, the award is not just the best player, but the most valuable to their team. The Bruins were largely out of the conversation for the Stanley Cup last summer. There were even some concerns that they may miss out on a playoff spot for the first time since 2016. Instead, the team is the top in the NHL. They will be the ones to watch in the playoffs. The depth has played an important role in their success this season, but their success begins with their elite talent, and Pastrnak is number one. Without him, I truly do not think this team would be as successful as they have been this season (and given his contract extension, the front office agrees).

The Ultimate Prize

There is a lot of talent in the NHL and is part of the reason it is such a fun sport to be watching right now. We are living through an age of some truly remarkably talented players. Connor McDavid is of course a shoo-in for one of the Hart Trophy finalist spots, but it will be a tight race for the other two spots. Pastrnak is as deserving as anyone and has the numbers to back it up. 

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But at the end of the day, every hockey player is much more focused on the ultimate prize, the Stanley Cup. With only seven games left in the regular season, the challenging playoffs are soon to begin. As great as Pastrnak and the team has been since October, everything resets in the postseason, and it matters most what they’re able to do in the next few months.

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