On Friday, the NHL named the three finalists for the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player. They are Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh), John Tavares (New York Isles) and Alexander Ovechkin (Washington).
Several national writers took to Twitter to express their disbelief that former UND standout Jonathan Toews was not among the top three, including Damien Cox from the Toronto Star, Pierre LeBrun from ESPN and Gord Miller from TSN.
Miller wrote: “I know this: There’s only one player in the league Chicago would consider trading Toews for (Crosby) and they’d think long and hard about it.”
You often hear analysts, general managers and coaches talk about Toews and his all-around game. Right away, everyone will bring up his faceoff numbers, which are annually among the league’s best.
But there’s an even better case for Toews with numbers to back it up: Ovechkin and Tavares, for as offensively dazzling as they are, do not kill penalties. In fact, much to my surprise when researching this, many of the league’s top offensive players do not kill penalties.
Former UND center Chris VandeVelde, who spent 11 games in the NHL this season, had more time on the penalty kill this season (11:00) than both Tavares (6:26) and Ovechkin (3:24) combined.
Below, I compiled the top goal scorers in the NHL and the average amount of time they spent on the PK per game. You can see who routinely kills penalties and who doesn’t.
It also should be noted that Chicago finished tied for last in penalty minutes in the NHL this year, which means Toews didn’t have a lot of opportunities for huge shorthanded ice times.
Top NHL goal scorers’ average time on PK per game
1:25 – Jonathan Toews, Chicago (23 goals)
1:12 – Jeff Carter, Los Angeles (26)
0:58 – Jiri Tlusty, Carolina (23)
0:53 – Logan Couture, San Jose (21)
0:43 – Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay (29)
0:31 – Rick Nash, New York Rangers (21)
0:12 – Thomas Vanek, Buffalo (20)
0:08 – Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh (22)
0:08 – John Tavares, New York Islanders (28)
0:04 – Alexander Ovechkin, Washington (32)
0:01 – Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia (22)
0:01 – Phil Kessel, Toronto (20)
0:00 – James Neal, Pittsburgh (21)
0:00 – Patrick Kane, Chicago (23)
Out of curiosity, I also tracked each UND player and the average number of minutes they spent on the PK each game. You will notice that almost all of UND’s guys in the NHL are counted on to kill penalties.
Perhaps this shouldn’t be a huge surprise: If you are not a two-way, reliable player, it is difficult to play for coach Dave Hakstol.
Of the guys who ended the season in the NHL, only Matt Frattin was not counted on to kill penalties (Frattin did kill penalties at UND).
UND average time on PK per game
2:07 – Matt Greene, D, Los Angeles
1:45 – Travis Zajac, F, New Jersey
1:38 – T.J. Oshie, F, St. Louis
1:27 – Zach Parise, F, Minnesota
1:26 – Drew Stafford, F, Buffalo
1:25 – Jonathan Toews, F, Chicago
1:00 – Chris VandeVelde, F, Edmonton
0:53 – Chris Porter, F, St. Louis
0:18 – Brian Lee, D, Tampa Bay
0:17 – Brad Malone, F, Colorado
0:14 – Joe Finley, D, New York Islanders
0:00 – Matt Frattin, F, Toronto
There was this same debate on the college side with John Gaudreau and his chase for the Hobey Baker Award.
The Boston College forward is much like Alexander Ovechkin – a great offensive talent who can score on the drop of a time, but not a great player in his own end and someone who does not kill penalties for the Eagles.
The Hobey ended up going to St. Cloud State’s Drew LeBlanc, an all-around player, and I have a feeling that the Hart Trophy will go to Sidney Crosby (:41 of PK time per game).