Crosby, McDavid, Kucherov are 2019 Hart Trophy finalists

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Award announcement season is almost at a close as the NHL has revealed the finalists for the 2018-19 Hart Trophy, which is given to “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.”

Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers are your three finalists, as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association at the end of the 2018-19 NHL regular season.

The Hart Memorial Trophy was presented by the NHL in 1960 after the original Hart Trophy was retired to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The original Hart Trophy was donated to the NHL in 1924 by Dr. David A. Hart, father of Cecil Hart, former manager-coach of the Montreal Canadiens.

The winner will be announced on June 19 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN) at the 2019 NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The Case For Sidney Crosby: The Penguins captain finished tied for fifth in the NHL in scoring this season with 100 points (35 goals) in 79 games. It was the sixth time in his career he reached the 100-point mark, and he trails only Wayne Gretzky (15), Mario Lemieux (10), Marcel Dionne (8), Mike Bossy (7) and Peter Stastny (7) as players with the most consecutive 100-point seasons. He was also tied for fifth in points per game (1.27) and tied for eighth with 3.62 points per 60 minutes. He was also the team leader with 69 points at 5-on-5. Already a two-time MVP, Crosby is a seven-time finalist and would be the ninth player in league history if he wins a third one.

The Case For Nikita Kucherov: The 2018-19 Art Ross Trophy winner, Kucherov recorded 128 points, the most by any NHL player since 1995-96, and his 87 assists were the most by a player since 2006-07. He recorded at least one point in 62 of 82 games this season and had 38 multi-point games, including two nights where he finished with five points. He averaged 1.56 points per game, the highest since Jaromir Jagr’s 1.57 in 1998-99. Only McDavid (81) had more even strength points than Kucherov’s 80. The Lightning forward would be the second player in franchise history to win the award, joining Martin St. Louis, who was voted winner in 2003-04.

The Case For Connor McDavid: The Oilers’ captain recorded his third straight 100-point season, finishing behind Kucherov in the Art Ross Trophy race with 116 points. He had a hand in 50.7 percent of Edmonton’s 229 goals (41) this season, the best in the NHL. He became the eighth player in NHL history to fail to go consecutive games without a point and led all forwards with 22:50 of ice time a night. He also recorded a league-best 81 even strength points. A Hart winner in 2016-17, McDavid is seeking to join Wayne Gretzky as the second player in league history to win multiple MVPs before turning 23 years old.

MORE 2019 NHL AWARD FINALISTS
• Selke Trophy
Lady Bing Trophy
Masteron Trophy
Norris Trophy
Ted Lindsay Award
Calder Trophy
Jack Adams Award

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.