As the NHL equivalent to a Most Valuable Player award, the Hart Memorial Trophy is the league’s most coveted award. Often times it coincides with the league’s top goal-scorer or point producer, but sometimes a surprise winner emerges.
With last season’s winner named, it’s a good time to lay out which Hart-winning season has been the most impressive in recent memory.
18. Corey Perry – Anaheim Ducks – 2010-11
The 2010-11 NHL campaign almost feels like an anomaly. Corey Perry won the Hart Trophy with 98 points, beating out the NHL scoring leader Daniel Sedin. Neither player had a top-10 finish in Hart voting before or after that season. Perry did lead the league with 50 goals, scoring 19 of them in the final 16 games of the season. Interestingly enough, he was the first Hart winner since Bobby Clarke in 1975-76 to rack up over 100 penalty minutes.
17. Taylor Hall – New Jersey Devils – 2017-18
Taylor Hall’s Hart victory in 2017-18 was another seemingly odd choice. He notched 39 goals and 93 points, the fewest point total in a Hart Trophy campaign since defenseman Chris Pronger during the 1999-00 season. After a relatively slow start, the then 26-year-old caught fire the calendar flipped to 2018.
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He scored a point in 26 straight contests, racking up 18 goals and 38 points during that span. Hall also collected six points in five postseason contests, before his New Jersey Devils were eliminated in the first round.
16. Alex Ovechkin – Washington Capitals – 2012-13
While it may have been the least impressive of his three Hart Trophy seasons, Alex Ovechkin posted strong numbers in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign. He scored 32 goals (16 on the power play) and 56 points in 48 games.
Drawn out over an 82-game season, the big-bodied Russian was on pace for 55 goals and 96 points. Things ended poorly, though, as Ovechkin scored just two points during the Washington Capitals’ first-round postseason exit.
15. Henrik Sedin – Vancouver Canucks – 2009-10
Like Perry, Henrik Sedin’s 2010 Hart Trophy win seemingly came out of nowhere. In his eight prior NHL seasons, the Vancouver Canucks’ star had never surpassed 82 points or so much was a top-20 finisher in Hart voting. Then, he went off for a league-leading 83 assists and 112 points. It would be the only 100-point performance of his 17-year career.
14. Evgeni Malkin – Pittsburgh Penguins – 2011-12
Evgeni Malkin is the first of two Pittsburgh Penguins to appear on this list, making them the only team with two different Hart winners since 2005. In his age-25 season, Malkin racked up a career-high 50 goals and a league-leading 109 points to earn the award. He managed to do that in 75 games and he would have been over 119 in a full 82-game slate. Unfortunately, his Penguins were knocked out in the first round that season despite Malkin scoring eight points in six games.
13. Patrick Kane – Chicago Blackhawks – 2015-16
Following his third time raising Lord Stanley’s Cup, Patrick Kane finally had his regular-season breakout. He tallied 46 goals (still his career-high) and 106 points; no other player even reached the 90-point plateau that season.
The Chicago Blackhawks star hasn’t finished top-five in Hart voting since but got close in 2018-19 after posting a career-best 110 points.
12. Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins – 2013-14
The 2014 Hart Trophy went to one of this generation’s best players, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. It was the second time he took home the award, winning his two Harts seven years apart. But this one was special for different reasons.
In the few preceding seasons, Crosby dealt with head injuries and the lingering effects from concussions, missing over 100 combined games from 2010-12. Coming back and scoring 104 points while earning the league’s most coveted award in his first full season after the injuries was remarkable.
11. Connor McDavid – Edmonton Oilers – 2016-17
After his rookie campaign was shortened by a broken collarbone, Connor McDavid came back with a vengeance in his second season. He led the NHL with 100 points and took home the Hart Trophy at just 20 years old, the youngest to do it since Crosby in 2006-07. More importantly, he carried the Edmonton Oilers to the postseason for the first time in over a decade and even advanced past the first round.
This set the tone for McDavid’s following seasons where he posted three consecutive 100-point campaigns and was on track in 2019-20 before the season was cut short.
10. Alex Ovechkin – Washington Capitals – 2008-09
Ovechkin’s 2009 Hart Trophy victory was his second consecutive year taking home the award. He was the first player to do that since Dominik Hasek won back-to-back Harts in 1997 and 1998. Not only was it Ovechkin’s second straight season winning the award, he also scored over 110 points in both campaigns.
He carried his Capitals to another postseason appearance, this time making it to Game 7 of the second round before losing to the rival Penguins. Ovechkin didn’t go out quietly, though; he racked up 11 goals and 21 points in 14 playoff games that season.
9. Leon Draisaitl – Edmonton Oilers – 2019-20
When you look at Leon Draisaitl’s 2019-20 scoring totals, they are impressive under any circumstance, as he posted 43 goals and 110 points in 71 games. This put him 13 points ahead of second place in the scoring race, which was held by McDavid.
However, there will always be a question of what could have been for Draisaitl had the season not been cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic. He was averaging 1.55 points per game at the time of the pause, so with 11 games remaining on the schedule, he could have totaled upwards of 125 points had he continued that pace.
No matter what, you simply can not take anything away from Draisaitl, who established himself as a true star with his performance throughout the 2019-20 season.
8. Auston Matthews – Toronto Maple Leafs – 2021-22
It takes a truly special player to set records for a team as historically significant as the Toronto Maple Leafs, yet throughout the 2021-22 season, Auston Matthews shattered Toronto’s record books. By scoring 60 goals, he set a Maple Leafs franchise record for goals scored in a season, and he set the single-season record for most goals scored by an American-born player.
This was a dominant season by one of the league’s superstar forwards. It’s no easy task defeating McDavid in the MVP race right now, but Matthews managed to pull it off despite missing nine games. If he is able to play the full 82-game schedule in 2023-24, there’s no telling just how many goals he can score.
7. Carey Price – Montreal Canadiens – 2014-15
The only goaltender on this list, Carey Price was the first goalie to take home the Hart Trophy since fellow Montreal Canadien Jose Theodore after the 2001-02 campaign. His terrific play in goal led Montreal to a 110-point season, second-best in the Eastern Conference.
Price started a whopping 66 games, going 44-16-6 with a minuscule 1.96 goals-against average (GAA) and a .933 save percentage. His team was bounced in the second round of the postseason, as the 27-year-old posted a still-strong .920 save percentage and 2.23 GAA in 12 postseason contests.
6. Connor McDavid – Edmonton Oilers – 2020-21
There’s a lot to unpack when you discuss McDavid’s point totals from the 2020-21 season. In a shortened schedule where he only played in 56 games, he posted 105 points, meaning that he was scoring at an absurd 1.88 points-per-game pace. So, if we extrapolated that out to a full 82 game season, that means he would have been on pace to score 154 points… which looks more like a video game total than a potential real stat line.
Now, of course, we do have to take into account the fact that McDavid only played against the Scotia North Division for those 56 games, meaning that he only saw the same six opponents and was able to feast on their defensive weaknesses more than a normal schedule. Even with that caveat, however, you can’t overlook what McDavid did. He couldn’t control the schedule, after all, but when he was on the ice during the regular season, he was a dominant scoring force that more than justifies his place on this list.
5. Alex Ovechkin – Washington Capitals – 2007-08
Finally, Alex Ovechkin’s best Hart Trophy-winning campaign was his very first one. In his third NHL season, he tortured opposing goaltenders, scoring 65 goals and 112 points; both of those totals are still career bests. He also recorded a career-high 58.1 Corsi percentage.
The 22-year-old Russian got his first taste of postseason action during this campaign, leading Washington to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2002-03. He tallied four goals and nine points but was bounced in seven games in the first round.
4. Joe Thornton – Boston Bruins/San Jose Sharks – 2005-06
Joe Thornton’s 2006 Hart-winning campaign was historic for several reasons. His 125 points were the most for any player since Jaromir Jagr in 1998-99 and was the highest total in the 21st century until Nikita Kucherov’s dominant 2018-19 campaign.
However, the bigger story here is that he’s the only player to ever be traded during his Hart Trophy season. After scoring 33 points in 23 games with the Boston Bruins, he was shipped off the to San Jose Sharks, where he’d go off for 92 points in 58 contests. However, he scored just nine points in 11 postseason contests and his Sharks were bounced in the second round.
3. Nikita Kucherov – Tampa Bay Lightning – 2018-19
After turning in his first 100-point campaign, Nikita Kucherov followed it up with a truly historic performance. He terrorized opposing defenses and goalies to the tune of 41 goals and 128 points, the highest point total in the NHL since the 1995-96 season. On top of that, the Tampa Bay Lightning also scored exactly 128 points in the standings, the second-highest total in NHL history. Unfortunately, the team’s postseason collapse that resulted in a sweep by the Columbus Blue Jackets left a bitter aftertaste to his incredible individual performance.
2. Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins – 2006-07
In just his second NHL campaign, Sidney Crosby racked up 36 goals and 120 points, becoming the youngest to take home the award since someone named Wayne Gretzky during the 1979-80 season.
The fresh-faced 19-year-old led his Penguins to 105 points and the team’s first postseason appearance since 2001. Despite a first-round exit, Crosby notched five points in five games in his first taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It was an incredible season overall and it set the tone for the future Hall of Fame center’s career.
1. Connor McDavid – Edmonton Oilers – 2022-23
While it felt like it was building for years, McDavid finally had everything come together for an entire season during 2022-23, much to the horror of the rest of the NHL. The proficient scorer flashed his goalscoring ability by potting 64 goals in 82 games played, coming up just one short of the record since 2005. He also posted an additional 89 assists, which led him to a total of 153 points. To put it simply, no one else has even come close to this scoring total in decades.
Now you can argue that McDavid is benefitting from a league-wide scoring increase (Draisatl, for example, posted 128 points and David Pasternak scored 61 goals) but that shouldn’t diminish what he accomplished. This is absolutely the high-water standard for hockey players moving forward.