NHL Award Watch: Top Five Candidates for the 2013 Hart Trophy

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NHL Award Watch: Five Top Candidates for the 2013 Hart Trophy

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As the NHL regular season winds down, the focus can now start to turn to the playoffs and regular season awards.

Even in this truncated season there are plenty of good candidate for the Hart Trophy, given each year to the league’s most valuable player. The 2012 winner was Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, and the last nine winners have all been forwards.

Not surprisingly, the Hart Trophy has largely been an offensive award. The award was first given out for the 1923-24 season, and only 20 times has a defenseman or goaltender won. Some of those non-forwards have been multiple winners like Bobby Orr, Dominik Hasek and Eddie Shore, making it even rarer for a player without a noteworthy number of goals and points to get noticed.

A list of candidates for the Hart Trophy can be put together simply by looking at the NHL’s scoring leaders, with some consideration sure to be given to a glance at the standings. A top scorer on a winning team usually becomes a top MVP contender, and rightfully so in most cases.

In putting together my list of candidates for the Hart Trophy for 2013 I have followed that formula to some degree, as it enhances the chances I will choose the winner of the award when it’s all said and done. But I have attempted to unearth at least one potential sleeper as well.

Without further ado here are my top five candidates, ranging from notable names to underdogs, for the 2013 Hart Trophy. How does your list compare to mine?

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5. Craig Anderson, Goaltender, Ottawa Senators

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The Senators are near the bottom of the NHL in goals scored (109-tied for 26th in the league), but they are currently the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference largely due to Anderson’s play, since he is leading the league in goals against average (1.71) and save percentage (94.1). Ottawa will have to hang onto a playoff spot for Anderson to become a real contender for the Hart Trophy, but he may get a few votes any way and is my upset pick to win the award.

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4. Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay Lightning

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Tampa Bay’s dismal season hurts the former No. 1 overall pick’s chances to win any sort of individual award, but he is currently second in the league in goals (28) and third in points (54) with a few games to go. Teammate Martin St Louis, who is currently leading the league in assists (42) and is second in points (55), make take some votes away from Stamkos though.

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3. Alexander Ovechkin, LW, Washington Capitals

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Ovechkin is leading the NHL in goals right now with 30, and he has enjoyed a bounceback season after scoring just 70 combined goals over the past two full seasons. As long as the Capitals reach the playoffs, and they are currently leading the Southeast Division, Ovechkin will be a contender to take home his third Hart Trophy.

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2. Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Anytime Crosby makes it through a season mostly healthy he is an MVP candidate, and this season has been no different. He is leading the NHL in points (56), is second in assists (41), and barring something unforeseen he will set a career-high in plus/minus (+26, fourth in the league). Crosby will be a popular frontrunner for the Hart Trophy based on name recognition and star power despite currently being sidelined with a broken jaw, and he is sure to finish highly in the voting even if he doesn't win for the second time in his career.

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1. Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks

Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Kane would be an easy choice here as the leading scorer on the team with the NHL’s highest point total. But Toews is no scoring slouch himself (21 goals and 25 assists) and he is also third in the league in plus-minus (+27). Perhaps no player in the league is as important to his team all-around as Toews, making him my top choice.