Following an incredible 106-point season, Chicago Blackhawks right winger Patrick Kane won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP at the league’s award show on Wednesday night in Las Vegas, according to Chris Peters of CBS Sports.
Even with all his past success, this was the first career Hart Trophy win for Kane. The Blackhawks superstar handily beat out Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars for the award. Kane also received the Ted Lindsay Award, which is given to the most outstanding player in the league as judged by the players themselves.
Other key awards handed out on Wednesday included Kane’s teammate Artemi Panarin winning the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie, while Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals unsurprisingly won the Vezina Trophy as the best goaltender.
Kane has earned plenty of accolades since starting his outstanding career with Chicago in 2007-08, including seven All-Star appearances, the 2007 Calder Trophy, and the 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy as the top player in the NHL playoffs. However, he had finished no better than sixth in the Hart Trophy voting prior to this year.
The 27-year-old took his game to another level this year, easily leading the league with 106 points to earn the Art Ross Trophy. Kane’s 46 goals easily bested his top previous mark of 30, and he also set a new career high with 60 assists per Hockey-reference.com.
That performance was key in helping the Blackhawks earn 103 points in the regular season and qualify for the playoffs despite losing key players like Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad over the offseason due to cap concerns. While the Blackhawks fell a little short of their usual level with a first round elimination in a hard-fought seven game series against the St. Louis Blues, Kane’s importance to his team cannot be denied.
Only Alex Ovechkin from the President’s Trophy-winning Capitals scored more goals than Kane with 50, earning him a fifth-place finish in the Hart voting. Kane’s 60 assists also ranked third in the NHL, trailing only Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators and Joe Thorton of the San Jose Sharks.
Benn finished second in the NHL with 89 points to lead a Stars team that ended up with the best record in the Western Conference. While Crosby’s 85 points helped turn around the Penguins’ championship season around the halfway mark, he finished well back of Kane in the voting with a deserving second place.
There wasn’t much argument against Kane as the NHL MVP, as his season was one of the most impressive individual efforts we’ve seen in recent years. Kane’s 106 points were the most by any player in a single season since Evgeni Malkin piled up 109 in 2011-12, and the eighth-highest yearly total in the storied history of the Blackhawks franchise.
As Peters also mentions, Kane is the first player to be born and raised in the United States to win the Hart Trophy, as previous American winners Billy Burch and Brett Hull moved to Canada at a young age. That sets Kane apart from American legends like Mike Modano, Chris Chelios, and Keith Tkachuk.
Chelios, disadvantaged as a defenseman, finished as high as fifth for the award in 1989, while Modano’s best was seventh in 1997. While Kane is still young with plenty of career left in front of him, it would not be a surprise if he retired as the top American player to ever play the game.
Kane will have to be just as good next year if Chicago is to continue its recent run of dominance. The Blackhawks still have a difficult cap situation, and will likely lose more key pieces this offseason.
There was no doubt Kane was the NHL’s MVP in 2016. The only question is how many more awards he will take home over the rest of his career.
[Image via Swimfinfan | Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and resized | CC BY-SA 2.0]