The Pittsburgh Penguins are rolling with a 16-8-4 record through their first 28 games of the season. In fact, since Nov. 7, they have led the league with 26 points (12-2-2), losing to only one team in regulation during that time (the Toronto Maple Leafs). Throughout, the Penguins have continued to get consistent production from the first line of Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby, and Rickard Rakell. Crosby alone continues to put up numbers that are close to his career high, even at the ripe age of 35.
The way that he has played through 34 percent of the NHL season is remarkable and deserves to be talked about. If the season ended today, he would be a Hart Trophy candidate, awarded to the NHL’s regular-season MVP, and Crosby has worked his way towards the top.
Hart Nominees (So Far)
As we are starting to understand which teams could be fighting for a playoff spot, several players have stood out as MVP worthy already.
Connor McDavid (25) is performing as he usually does, leading the NHL in points. In 28 games, he has reached more than halfway to 100 points, and with 25 goals, he is on pace for 73, which is incredible. The Edmonton Oilers are in a wild-card spot as they have struggled in the defensive zone with poor goaltending, but he is keeping them alive in the standings.
The Dallas Stars’ Jason Robertson (23) is part of one of the best lines in the NHL, with Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski, and all three players are over a point per game this season. Robertson has been the driving force on the line, with 23 goals in 28 games, which is a 67-goal pace. He also has 42 points, which is good for third in the league. Not only is he producing consistently, but he is a plus-16, which is also among the top ten in the league.
Related: Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby’s Top 5 Seasons
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Tage Thompson (25) has had an amazing season so far. However, it may be difficult for him to win the Hart as the Buffalo Sabres will likely miss the playoffs for the 12th season in a row. With a recent five-goal game, he has shot up the scoring leaderboard with 41 points in 28 games. This has been a breakout year for him, although he was also nearly a point-per-game player last season. The Sabres are one of seven teams to have given up over 100 goals, and Thompson still has a plus-6 rating.
Mikko Rantanen (26) is a bit of a long-shot pick, but it’s warranted, given the injuries to the Colorado Avalanche roster. Their captain, Gabriel Landeskog, has been out for the entire season as he recovers from offseason surgery. Nathan Mackinnon is sidelined for four weeks, and the top-six are decimated. If Rantanen can hold down the fort while these players are out, he will become one of the most important players in the league. He has 36 points in 26 games (10th in the NHL) and scored all three goals to beat the St.Louis Blues in overtime on Sunday. For a team that is 14-10-2, Rantanen will have to keep up his strong play in the coming weeks.
Although the players above have had fantastic starts to the season, Crosby is doing the unthinkable. He is the only player in the top 15 in NHL scoring (besides Erik Karlsson) who is over 29 years old. Crosby sits seventh in the league with 17 goals and 21 assists in 28 games. This puts him on pace for 111 points, which would give him the second-highest point total of his career. He is also on pace for 50 goals this season, which would put him one behind Johnny Bucyk’s record for the most goals in NHL history scored by a player 35 or older, and his 111 points are five behind Bucyk for the most points.
The Penguins’ power play has been awful this season, ranked near the bottom of the league, but Crosby leads the NHL in even-strength points with 31. He also leads the league in even-strength goals with 14. During the Penguins’ outstanding 16-game stretch (12-2-2), Crosby ranks third in the NHL with 24 points.
Hart Trophy Favorite
Any of these five players could win the Hart Trophy, and no questions would be asked. Crosby should be the leader, however, because of his excellent play on both sides of the puck, his ability to drag the Penguins out of their 4-6-2 start, and his consistency. Robertson would be a close second, while McDavid, Thompson, and Rantanen round out the list. There are still tons of games to be played that will see new players jump into this list. That being said, your 2022-23 Hart Trophy winner as of now should be the 35-year-old Crosby.