Philadelphia forward Claude Giroux has the inside edge on winning the 2012 Hart Trophy, according to NHL.com.
Giroux has been the League’s most complete player this season. He entered the week with 48 points, one fewer than League leader Henrik Sedin. But, he has played in only 36 games while Sedin was set to play in his 43rd game on Monday night. Giroux has scored 18 goals and dished out 30 assists. He’s averaging 1.33 points per game and is on pace for 98 points this season.
Not bad for a 23-year-old who wasn’t even a particularly high draft pick (22nd overall in 2006). Giroux also contributes defensively, averaging 2:33 per game on the penalty kill with 23 blocked shots.
Phil Kessel and Jonathan Toews were NHL.com’s two other top Hart candidates.
A few others to consider:
—-Evgeni Malkin. Has a great opportunity to impress voters with all the injuries on the Penguins.
—-Marian Hossa. Not many people talking about this guy. Leads the Blackhawks with 44 points, +20, kills penalties.
—-Steven Stamkos. Has the best chance of any player to score 50 goals. Though it might be hard to vote for someone whose team doesn’t make the playoffs.
—-Daniel and Henrik Sedin. Both in the race for the Art Ross on a club that could win the Presidents’ Trophy.
—-Pavel Datsyuk. Started slow, but now only six points back of the league’s scoring lead. Not just a scorer either, as evidenced by all those Selke awards.
—-Zdeno Chara. The last defenseman to win the Hart was Chris Pronger, back in 1999-2000 when he had 62 points in 79 games for the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Blues. Chara’s on pace for 57 points, so not far off Pronger’s total. Question: if the Bruins lost Chara for the rest of the season, would they still have a legit shot at the Cup?
—-Shea Weber. Bit of a dark horse, but anyone that can rank third in scoring among NHL defensemen on a team so bereft of offensively talented forwards as Nashville deserves at least a mention.