While you peruse the highest 5 scorers within the NHL this season, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl occupy the highest two spots. And, after all, they’ve one another. Occupying Nos. 3 and 5 are Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, who even have one another. And all 4 of them play within the North Division, the place they actually, actually like their objectives.
Wedged in at No. 4 is Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, who it may very well be argued is placing collectively essentially the most exceptional season of his profession. And (checks notes…) that’s saying one thing. On the age of 32, the alpha canine on a younger and hungry staff that’s with out its captain, Kane is dragging the Blackhawks into playoff competition and contributing all around the ice. Kane has been a significant contributor to linemate Alex DeBrincat’s bounce-back season and has been the important cog on a staff that has shocked the NHL with its capability to hold with the large boys within the Central Division.
And for that, Patrick Kane has emerged because the frontrunner for the Hart Trophy because the NHL’s Most worthy participant. Yeah, you learn that proper. Not McDavid, not Matthews. By no matter metric you wish to measure within the age-old debate surrounding the Hart Trophy – both greatest participant or Most worthy to his staff – Kane makes a really robust case. Of gamers who’ve performed a minimum of 10 video games this season, Kane is fourth within the league in factors per recreation with 1.5. Solely McDavid, Matthews and Marner have extra even-strength factors than Kane (who has 20) and solely McDavid has extra major assists than Kane (who has 16 amongst a complete of 21). That latter stat is a significant indication that as a winger, Kane is driving his line, which incorporates rookie Pius Suter at heart.
“I imply, take a look at what the expectations had been for our staff and the place everybody had us ending,” Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton mentioned after watching Kane rating a purpose and three assists Tuesday evening in a 6-5 shootout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets. “And we’re proper there. We’re within the battle. And he’s a giant a part of that. His manufacturing is healthier than ever, however to me it’s all concerning the work ethic away from the puck and his willingness to place strain on the puck and create transition for himself and his linemates, too. That sort of team-first mentality is what we’re attempting to construct right here so we will have long-term success and we will get again to being an elite staff. Not solely is he doing it, however he’s encouraging different guys to do it.”
A kind of 16 major assists Kane has had this season got here on a really particular purpose. Rookie Brandon Hagel had gone with out a purpose by means of his first 16 video games of this season, however lastly discovered the again of the online on the 17th after being arrange for a straightforward empty netter on a superb cross from Kane. Throughout the purpose celebration, it was tough to find out whether or not Hagel or Kane was extra excited concerning the purpose.
“Dream come true, I’ve dreamt of this my complete life,” mentioned the 22-year-old Hagel. “No higher feeling than getting a cross from a legend. I’m completely satisfied (Kane) is completely satisfied for me and an ideal cross by him. I can’t thank him sufficient for that present.”
Kane has talked rather a lot this season about feeling rejuvenated taking part in with the Blackhawks’ younger gamers. He deferred to DeBrincat, saying the proper winger has taken his recreation to a different degree and making performs all around the ice, which has undoubtedly helped. If this had been an 82-game season, Kane can be on tempo for a career-high 123 factors. As it’s, Kane’s 9-21-30 totals characterize the second-highest output after the primary 20 video games of a season of his profession, trailing solely the 13-18-21 totals he posted in 2015-16 en path to the scoring title and his first Hart Trophy. However that yr his common linemates had been Toews and Artemi Panarin.
“Simply attempting to assist the staff as a lot as potential with the way in which I play,” Kane mentioned. “I really feel like I’ve had some fairly good seasons the previous couple of years, too. Simply attempting to get higher annually, I suppose.”
Effectively, mission completed. And if Kane can maintain something near this dizzying tempo and he pulls this supporting forged into the playoffs, he needs to be rewarded with the second Hart Trophy of his profession.