The New York Rangers have been led by Mika Zibanejad this season.
Throughout a rebuilding year, he carried the Blueshirts within two points of a playoff spot and should receive consideration to be a Hart Trophy candidate.
The definition of a most valuable player by Meriam-Webster is “the player who contributes the most to his or her team’s success.”
In the NHL the MVP award is named the Hart Memorial Trophy. The trophy is awarded annually to the player judged most valuable to his tea” in the National Hockey League. The original trophy was donated to the league in 1923 by David Hart, the father of Cecil Hart, the longtime head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.
Whenever the conversation of the Hart trophy comes up the usual names top the list, Leon Draisait, Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and David Pastrnak. Zibanejad’s name is the one that never gets mentioned.
Zibanejad recorded 41 goals and 75 points in 57 games before the NHL shut down the season due to the pandemic. Ranked first on the team in goals scored, second in points, and fourth in assist with 34. Mika has excelled on the power play netting 15 goals with 27 points, the leader in both categories.
Before the shutdown, Zibanejad was on a hot streak scoring 11 goals in the final six games and 17 goals in the final 13 games. He scored 23 goals in 22 games following the bye and All-Star break. With 12 games remaining on the Rangers schedule he was gunning for 50 goals, a feat he is yet to achieve in the NHL. His previous high was 30 goals achieved in the 2018-19 season with the Blueshirts.
The Huddinge, Sweden native has been apart of one of the best lines in recent years with Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich as his wingers. Buchnevich, throughout his struggles continued to improve all season as did Kreider.
Kreider battled back against trade rumors all season right up until the trade deadline where he signed a new contract extension. The hard work and confidence Zibanejad displayed was a reason the club continued to improve as the season moved on.
A Ranger team that began the season with plenty of rookies, Zibanejad was the player the young guys could rely on to teach them on the ice during games and in practices. A true leader, one who should have been named captain but didn’t need the “C” on his chest to do what a captain does.
The Hart Trophy isn’t all about the stats. It is an award that is given to the players who carry a team beyond its capacity, leads a team that doesn’t have the best players in their lineup, but the player who can create a unified core in bringing a team together. In this case, a team that had little chance to make the playoffs when the season began.
Mika Zibanejad should be one of the three finalists for the NHL Hart Trophy 2020. Regardless if he is named or not, one thing remains certain.
He is a Most Valuable Player on this Rangers squad. That will do in Rangerstown.
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