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NHL Awards: How Diana C. Nearhos voted

And why voting Nikita Kucherov for Hart Trophy was the easiest call the Lightning beat writer had this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) shoots and scores on the power play. (DIRK SHADD | Times)
Published Jun. 19

Nikita Kucherov earned the Hart Trophy. That vote was one of the easiest things I did this season.

As a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, I vote for six awards as well as the all-star and all-rookie teams. Those winners, as well the other honors, will be revealed at tonight’s NHL Awards show (NBCSN, 8 p.m.).

Earlier in the season, I was less certain where I’d go with my Hart vote. Kucherov was good for sure, but was he MVP?

RELATED: Nikita Kucherov is the Lightning's best chance at NHL Awards

There is a difference between the most valuable player and the most outstanding player. A difference greater than the opinions of the players who vote on the Ted Lindsay and the writers who vote for the Hart Trophy.

The Hart should go to the player who makes the biggest difference to his team, not just the best player in the league. Kucherov was clearly the latter, but could he be the former in a team with this many stars?

As the season went on, the answer was a resounding yes.

Not only did Kucherov rack up the points at a historic rate, he also lifted the Lightning with him. Tampa Bay was better with Kucherov, for more than just the points he contributed.

Thus, the easy decision to vote for Kucherov for Hart.

RELATED: Lightning in line for multiple NHL Awards

Diana C. Nearhos’ NHL Awards winners:

Hart Trophy: Nikita Kucherov, Lightning

Norris Trophy: Mark Giordano, Flames

Calder Trophy: Elias Pettersson, Canucks

Lady Byng Trophy: Aleksander Barkov, Panthers

Selke Trophy: Ryan O’Reilly, Blues

Masterton Award: Robin Lehner, Islanders

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