Kucherov has 'lapped field' in NHL MVP race, says ex-GM Brian Burke
Lightning's star forward has led league in points since Dec. 28
Connor McDavid knows better than to risk making end-of-season NHL award projections.
Through no fault of his own, the Edmonton Oilers captain was not included among last year's three MVP candidates, causing a stir back home. So McDavid understandably deferred when recently asked to list his Hart Trophy front-runners this year.
"After last year, I'm not commenting," McDavid said, chuckling. "I have no idea who will win it at all."
Trouble is, the Oilers have already been eliminated from playoff contention, and McDavid and everyone else are being overshadowed by the numbers Nikita Kucherov is putting up with the President's Trophy-clinching Tampa Bay Lightning.
'He was unbelievable last year'
"It's not at all surprising. He was unbelievable last year, and seemed to get no recognition for it," McDavid said, noting how Kucherov finished third in the NHL with 100 points last season. "They're a team that scores a lot of goals. And he's in on most of them. It's pretty impressive."
That's not to say there aren't others worthy of mention.
Johnny Hockey, Sid in mix
Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau, with a career-best 97 points already, has played a key role in helping the Flames clinch their first division title in 13 years.
Former NHL executive-turned broadcaster Brian Burke said it's difficult to consider anyone ahead of Kucherov, suggesting he has essentially "lapped the field."
"You'd have to be statistically such an aberration, such a unicorn, that voters would have no choice but to say, `OK, that's the guy,"' Burke said.
"But that's not the case where you've got Kucherov. So there's no unicorns," Burke added. "You've already got a guy who's blowing everyone away."
That said, here is The Associated Press list of end-of-season award contenders:
In the conversation: Crosby, Gaudreau, Kucherov and Brad Marchand (Boston)
Who should win: Kucherov
Comment: To quote Burke: "There's no unicorns."
NORRIS (Top defenseman)
In the conversation: Brent Burns (San Jose), John Carlson (Washington), Mark Giordano (Calgary), Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay)
Who should win: Giordano
Comment: A career-best season for a captain on the Pacific Division's top team
VEZINA (Top goalie)
In the conversation: Ben Bishop (Dallas), Darcy Kuemper (Arizona), Carey Price (Montreal) Pekka Rinne (Nashville) and Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay)
Who should win: Vasilevskiy
Comment: Tightest race to call and could include Islanders' tandem of Robin Lehner and Thomas Greiss, though each eliminate each other by splitting starts
SELKE (Top defensive forward)
In the conversation: Aleksander Barkov (Florida), Patrice Bergeron (Boston), Sean Couturier (Philadelphia), Mark Stone (Vegas), Ryan O'Reilly (St. Louis)
Who should win: Stone
Comment: Before being traded to Vegas, Stone had an exceptional plus-13 rating on a Senators team that has currently allowed an NHL-worst 285 goals
CALDER (Top rookie)
In the conversation: Rasmus Dahlin (Buffalo), Andreas Johnsson (Toronto), Elias Pettersson (Vancouver) and Brady Tkachuk (Ottawa)
Who should win: Pettersson
Comment: Pettersson leads rookie forwards in averaging 18:20 of ice time per game
JACK ADAMS (Top coach)
In the conversation: Craig Berube (St. Louis), Jon Cooper (Tampa Bay), Bill Peters (Calgary), Barry Trotz (Islanders).
Who should win: Cooper.
Comment: Though Berube and Trotz deserve consideration, it is difficult to overlook the job Cooper's done with a 60-win team.