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We’re almost halfway through the NHL season. That means it’s fair to think about mid-season pricing choices.
Connor McDavid is almost certain to be the winner of the Hart Trophy right now, whether the Oilers make the playoffs or not. He’s just too far ahead of the others. But the roundtable question this week is…Who is McDavid’s closest challenger in the MVP race? If you couldn’t vote for McDavid, who do you choose so far this season?
MAT LARKIN: I am a Tagus Thompson convert. It’s been a long time since I remember a player putting a team on his back like that. The Sabres, who seemed headed for their usual midseason swoon, have won 10 of their last 14 games. During this period, he scored 16 goals. Yes, 16 goals in 14 games. And 27 points. His mix of size, hands, speed and shooting ability makes him one of the most unique players to exist in this league in ages. Whether it’s Lemieux or Lindros, no comparison quite matches, so maybe we should stop trying to find one. There has never been a player quite like Thompson. And that’s why he’s so valuable to me, maybe the second most valuable player this season after McJesus.
NICK ALBERGA: I will go with Kirill Kaprizov. Seriously, what would the Wild be without him? Personally, I think this is an important angle to consider when handicapping league MVP candidates. In 37 outings, the 25-year-old has scored 22 goals and 47 points. Prorated over 82 games, it’s a pace of 49 goals and 104 points. Also, compared to last season, Minnesota’s supporting cast wasn’t as much of a factor. It was Kaprizov, Mats Zuccarello, and then everyone. Of course, the Wild traded Kevin Fiala to Los Angeles in the offseason. Additionally, Ryan Hartman, among others, struggled to replicate what he did in 2021-22. Despite all this, Kaprizov continues to roll. Imagine if this guy had a legit No. 1 center to play with? It’s scary to think about. Simply put, Kirill Kaprizov means everything (and more) to the Minnesota Wild.
MIKE MCKENNA: I had Kaprizov as a pre-season favourite, and he definitely tends to be considered. Thompson is not considered unless Buffalo pulls off a miracle and makes the Stanley Cup playoffs. Yeah, I think that’s a stupid litmus test. But it’s real. I said earlier this year that Nikita Kucherov deserved consideration and I stand by it. People forget how ridiculous this guy is with the puck. But really guys… the answer is Leon Draisaitl. Every year we try to find reasons why it’s not McDavid. Or why Leon doesn’t deserve the same kind of recognition. I’m as guilty of it as anyone. But I’m running out of excuses. Leon all the way.
STEVEN ELLIS: Where would the Dallas Stars be without Jason Robertson? He was in the top three scorers for most of the season and was McDavid’s closest challenger in the first three months. The Stars look like a real threat to the Cup, and Robertson’s play is a huge reason for that. We were expecting great things from him, but he is close to breaking his previous record of 33 points. Analytically, there’s a lot to like there. Robertson is high profile, but imagine if he was on a Canadian team.
FRANCK SERAVALLI: I agree that right now Jason Robertson is McDavid’s biggest threat among skaters. I’ve never been a big fan of goalie voting for Hart, but Connor Hellebuyck has a pretty strong case. But in the spirit of adding something a little different to the conversation, I’d say Sidney CrosbyThe season of is overlooked in terms of consideration, if that’s even possible. If he stays healthy, he’s on track for one of his best points-per-game seasons in the past decade. Plus, the Penguins are clearly tracking Crosby. Their six-game losing streak (0-4-2) is the most recent example: Crosby has two goals and one assist for three points and has gone four games without scoring. Earlier this year, when they went 0-6-1, he was knocked off the scoresheet in four of seven games. He took the Pens to 19 wins with 34 points in those games. The playoffs would be a pipe dream in Pittsburgh without him.