You can bet the only trophy Johnny Gaudreau cares about right now is a Stanley Cup for his Calgary Flames.
But after the Hart Trophy nominations came out on Thursday, it’s fine for fans to feel a little disappointed that Gaudreau won’t have a chance to claim the MVP hardware, too. Gaudreau finished second in the NHL in scoring in the regular season with a career best 115 points. Including 40 goals. Nobody scored more at even strength.
Auston Matthews is the frontrunner and already locked up the Maurice (Rocket) Richard Trophy with 60 goals. Connor McDavid was also a finalist on the heels of his Art Ross victory as the league’s top point producer (123).
The wild card might have been New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin, who had a dynamite season that will likely earn him the Vezina Trophy.
Those are the three players who received the most votes from the 200 media members in the PHWA. All are worthy of their accolades and consideration for the Hart.
So was Gaudreau, who had the most impressive even-strength numbers of the bunch, and provided the biggest boost to his team performance when on the ice versus when he wasn’t.
As for those not nominated, Johnny Gaudreau was arguably the best playmaker this season, a demon off the rush who dominated at even strength.
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) May 12, 2022
Flames coach proud of Gaudreau’s growth
Finalizing a ballot may be tougher than ever, and with more statistical information available, things can get complicated as you dive into the numbers.
When the tallies are released, it will be interesting to see where Gaudreau ultimately landed. There’s no doubt he was a top five player in the league this year.
Only the regular season counts for the Hart, but Gaudreau is showing his heart in the playoffs, too. His Flames could lock up a rare trip to the second round with a win over the Stars on Friday.
“Johnny’s been really good in the playoffs. For me, he’s taken that step, 100 per cent,” hard-to-please Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter said on Thursday. “He did it during the season, he’s done it during the playoffs.
“I’m proud of Johnny.”
Gaudreau has long been roasted for a lack of Flames playoff success. He was a big part of the Flames making it to the second round as a rookie in 2015 and the play-in win under the pandemic bubble in 2020, but faded in the next rounds. And he went without a goal and had just three points in 2017 and 2019 disappointments, in nine games combined.
This is not that Gaudreau.
In as physical and smothering a series as the one between the Calgary Flames and Dallas Stars this year, Gaudreau is not shrinking. He’s leading.
Winger showing toughness and maturity
Absorbing multiple hits to the head from shoulders, elbows, sticks and pucks, Gaudreau continues to get up. His goal on a penalty shot in Game 4 may be looked back on as the defining moment of the series.
His toughness in Game 5 after some repairs from a frozen puck to the face is equally inspiring to his teammates.
“We actually joked about it between periods, just telling him what a warrior he was,” teammate Blake Coleman said on Thursday. “But jokes aside, he’s taken some good licks. To his credit, it hasn’t fazed him. He’s gotten right back up and continued to play his game.
“Having one of your best skilled players show that toughness and grit goes a long way in the locker-room. He’s definitely been leading by example.”
Gaudreau has a goal and five points in the five playoff games so far.
Sutter called him and goaltender Jacob Markstrom the Calgary Flames MVPs.
His Flames teammates feel the same way. And that’s probably enough for Johnny Hockey.
“I guess I’m biased because I see him all the time, but he’s definitely one of the best players in the NHL. He’s what you buy tickets to watch,” said Coleman. “The season he had is incredible.
“I think Johnny would be the first to tell you that he’d trade the Hart for a Cup any day.”