There was simply no doubt on Wednesday evening. Nikita Kucherov became the second Tampa Bay Lightning player and fourth Russian all-time to win the Hart Trophy as the National Hockey League’s most valuable player at the 2019 NHL Awards in Las Vegas.
Kucherov won 164 of the 171 first place votes in beating finalists Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. In 2018-19, Kucherov led the NHL in assists with 87 and points with 129. In addition to winning the Hart Trophy, Kucherov won the Art Ross Trophy (leading the NHL in points) and Ted Lindsay Award (most valuable player voted by the NHL players’ association).
The first Lightning player to win the Hart Trophy was Martin St. Louis in 2004. There was a significant similarity between the 2004 and 2019 Tampa Bay Lightning as each team had the most points in the Eastern Conference. The biggest diference however would come in the playoffs. The 2004 Lightning beat the Calgary Flames to win the Stanley Cup. The 2019 Lightning were swept in the first roud of the playoffs by the Columbus Blue Jackets despite tying a NHL record for most wins in the regular season with 62. Meanwhile, the other three Russians to have won the Hart Trophy were Sergei Fedorov of the Detroit Red Wings (1994), Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (2008, 2009 and 2013) and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins (2012).
Other notable award winners included Barry Trotz of the New York Islanders (Jack Adams Award for NHL coach of the year), Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames (James Norris Trophy for NHL’s best defenseman), Ryan O’Reilly of the St. Louis Blues (Frank J. Selke Trophy for NHL’s best defensive forward), Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning (Vezina Trophy for the NHL’s best goaltender), Aleksader Barkov of the Florida Panthers (Lady Byng Trophy for NHL’s most gentlemanly player) and Elias Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks (Calder Trophy for NHL’s best rookie). It was quite the year for O’Reilly as he also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the best player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and of course the Stanley Cup.
Also on Wednesday, the NHL’s first all-star team was announced. The forwards were Kucherov, McDavid and Ovechkin. Defensemen were Giordano and Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks and the goaltender was Vasilevskiy.