TAMPA – Nikita Kucherov might very well have been the Most Valuable Player of the first half, but he will not be the MVP of the entire season.
The Lightning wing was shut out of the Hart Memorial Trophy voting when he was not named as one of the three finalists.
They are Taylor Hall of the Devils, Anze Kopitar of the Kings and Nathan MacKinnon of the Avalanche.
The award, given to the player deemed to be the most valuable to his team, is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Kucherov scored 39 goals and added a career-high 61 assists for a career-best 100 points. He is only the third player in team history to reach 100 points. Kucherov began the season with at least one point in the Lightning's first 11 games — 12 goals, 7 assists.
But he hit a slump in midseason and could not hold on to the overall points lead. Connor McDavid of the Oilers finished with a league-high 108 points. Kucherov finished third.
What might have worked against Kucherov was the belief throughout the season that goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is the most important player on the team. Coach Jon Cooper and many of the Lightning players have said that repeatedly throughout the year.
Hall was the reason the Devils reached the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. His 93 points were 41 more than his next closest teammate.
Hall is believed to be the favorite to win the Hart trophy.
Kopitar's 92 points were 40 more than he totaled last season. He is the first King to reach 90 points since Wayne Gretzky had 130 in 1993-94.
MacKinnon's 1.31 points per game was second in the NHL and helped lead the Avalanche to a 47-point improvement over last season and the final seed in the Western Conference.
Kucherov, though, has a chance to win a much bigger award.
He had five goals and five assists for a team-high 10 points during the Lightning's first-round victory against Hall and the Devils. He could very well win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Stanley Cup playoff MVP should he continue to produce and the Lightning wins it all.
Contact Roger Mooney at [email protected] Follow @rogermooney50