We’re more than halfway through the 2017-18 NHL season, which means races for the league’s major awards – like the Hart Trophy – are starting to take shape.
While Nikita Kucherov and Nathan MacKinnon have emerged as the favorites, and it’s not hard to see why, I think there’s another player who belongs in that group: Taylor Hall.
Many will be quick to point out he’s not a top-15 scorer – he does, however, rank 11th in points per game – and that will probably hurt his case with voters if that holds true through the end of the season. It shouldn’t, though, as the award is supposed to be handed to the player deemed most valuable to his team, not the player who put up the most points or had the best season.
As far as value to the team goes, Hall is up there with anyone.
Despite having played two fewer games, the New Jersey Devils shockingly sit only five points behind the Washington Capitals for the top spot in an extremely difficult Metro Division.
The biggest reason for that, of course, is Hall.
He leads the Devils in goals, assists, points, primary points, shots on goal, shot attempts, scoring chances, high-danger scoring chances, and pretty much anything else you could think of.
Not only does he lead the way in all those categories but, in some cases, there is nobody even close.
In terms of points, the gap between Hall and rookie Nico Hischier, the team’s 2nd leading scorer, is bigger than the two leaders of any other team in the league.
Things aren’t much different in the scoring chance department as Hall is also miles ahead of Hischier for the team lead in individual chances.
MacKinnon is the only other player who leads his team – that is in playoff contention – in both categories by a gap large enough to crack the top 10, but the differentials (9th in points, 5th in chances) aren’t nearly as extreme as they are in Hall’s case (1st in points, 2nd in chances).
That’s not at all a knock on MacKinnon, who has been out of this world good for Colorado this season, but rather an indication of just how much Hall has had to do to get the Devils where they are.
Has Hall been the best player in the league this season? No, but he may very well be the most valuable.
Written by Todd Cordell (@ToddCordell)