by PuckStopsHere on 11/27/08 at 02:47 PM ET
In October, I picked Alexander Semin of the Washington Capitals as the early season MVP. However, Semin has not played a game since November 14th due to a back injury. As a result, it is time to pick a new leader in the 2008/09 Hart Trophy race. That leader is Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Malkin leads the NHL in scoring with 35 points. His 25 assists are also a league leading total.
The NHL has tried to maintain the narrative that the best player in the league is a battle between Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, but that does not appear true. Malkin is at least as good as they are and beginning to show that he may be the better player.
Crosby and Ovechkin traded Hart Trophies the last two seasons. Malkin, a rookie in the Crosby season (2006/07), made a huge leap forward in the Ovechkin season (2007/08) and was runner up to the Hart Trophy. Malkin appears to be improving at a faster rate than either of the two last MVPs and has been the best player in the league so far this year. He has outplayed his teammate Crosby to this point.
Should Evgeni Malkin maintain his lead in the MVP race, he will clearly establish himself in a worst case as the third choice in the question of who the best player in the NHL is and in a best case as a better choice than the other two. Crosby, Malkin and Ovechkin are all born in back to back draft years (2004 and 2005) and seem to be taking over the NHL as the best players in the game. So far this season, nobody has been as valuable as Evgeni Malkin, though I expect the other two (and possibly others) will challenge him for that spot as the season progresses.
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