Every NHL Team's Most Valuable Player in 2013-14

Rob Vollman@robvollmanNHLContributor IMarch 18, 2014

Every NHL Team's Most Valuable Player in 2013-14

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    Kathy Kmonicek/Associated Press

    With one month to go, who are the most valuable players on each NHL team? Some cases are clear cut, like Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh or Alexander Ovechkin in Washington, but in other cases, you need to select from teams with several strong players or from teams with none.

    Each team's MVP was selected using a variety of analytic data, including all of the following:

    • Basic scoring, ice-time and real-time scoring statistics, from NHL.com.
    • A representation of how players were used, from Extra Skater.
    • A high-level estimate of the player's impact in points in the standings, from Hockey Reference.
    • A high-level estimate of the player's impact in goals scored or prevented, from Hockey Prospectus.

    Although it can be difficult to compare an offensive player to a defensive one, or a skater to a goalie, in almost every case, the evidence pointed strongly to a single competitor. For each selection, the player's strengths are listed along with what's made him so valuable to his team.

    To help handle the remaining cases, a section was added to list alternative choices that could rise up over the season's final month. Let's begin!

     

    All advanced statistics are via writer's own original research unless otherwise noted.

     

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Ryan Getzlaf is one of the league's top tough two-way centers and among the game's best playmakers.

    He is currently seventh in the NHL with 44 assists and is tied for second in overall scoring with 73 points.

    Given that playmaking is his calling card, his goal scoring has come as something of a surprise bonus this year. Getzlaf has already broken his old single-season career high of 25 goals with 29, thanks to a 17.1 shooting percentage. He's tied for ninth overall in the goal department, and his seven game-winning goals is tied for fifth. As a team, Anaheim is third in the NHL with 218 goals.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Anaheim has defied preseason expectations and currently stands near the very top of the standings, and most of the credit goes to their 28-year-old captain.

    In addition to scoring at a top-10 level, Getzlaf has been one of the league's best defensive forwards.

    Among Duck forwards, Getzlaf is second to Daniel Winnik in average penalty-killing time, is second to Saku Koivu in the percentage of shifts he starts in the defensive zone and no one on the team takes on a tougher level of opponent than him.

    Given these tough playing conditions, its particularly amazing that Getzlaf is tied for 10th in the NHL with a plus-26.

    Thanks in large part to Getzlaf's elite two-way play, Anaheim is second in the NHL with a 22-2-7 record in one-goal games. Expect their captain to receive some Selke consideration for the fifth time in his career.

     

    Also in the Running: Getzlaf's goal-scoring linemate Corey Perry, who won the Hart Trophy in 2010-11, is second in NHL goal scoring, tied for eighth in points and leads the league with nine game-winning goals and 40 drawn penalties.

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Vezina favorite Tuukka Rask's .928 save percentage may be typical for him, but only Josh Harding, Ben Scrivens and Ben Bishop can match it, and the first two in far fewer games.

    Sometimes special teams play can skew a goalie's save percentage one way or the other, but the only goalie with a higher even-strength save percentage than Rask's .940 is L.A.'s Martin Jones, who has played less than a third as many games.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: The 146 goals Boston has allowed is the second fewest in the NHL, thanks to Rask and incredible team defense.

    The Bruins are also tied for second in the NHL with seven shutouts, of which a league-leading six were recorded by Rask.

    Having a goalie who can slam the door shut has been invaluable to the Bruins, who are an incredible 34-2-0 when taking a lead into the third period, the second-best record in the NHL (the Kings are a perfect 21-0-0).

     

    Also in the Running: A case can always be made for huge defenseman Zdeno Chara and possibly two-way forward Patrice Bergeron, whose incredible defensive play helps make goaltending numbers like Rask's possible in the first place.

Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Buffalo is dead last in the NHL with a record of 19-40-8. When you look at their underlying analytics, you wonder how they won 19.

    The Sabres have been badly outshot every night and relied on outstanding netminding from Ryan Miller prior to his departure to keep as many games as possible within reach.

    Miller's .924 save percentage is currently seventh in the NHL. His .972 save percentage in overtime and .730 in the shootout has helped the Sabres post a winning percentage in post-regulation games.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Will Miller remain the most valuable Sabre even as he plays the final quarter of the season for St. Louis? Definitely.

    Miller's goaltending was estimated to be worth over 10 points in the standings and/or 19 goals prevented. How can a goalie have this significant an impact over part of a season? The Sabres have allowed 2,331 shots, the second most in the NHL. That's 34.8 shots per game!

    In his 33 starts in Buffalo this year, Miller faced at least 40 shots a whopping 10 times, of which two games actually topped 50 shots. By comparison, Miller is facing just 25.1 shots per game in St. Louis.

     

    Also in the Running: Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff is arguably the only Buffalo Sabre whose contributions this season have even been half as valuable as Miller's, and just barely.

Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Mark Giordano is one of the league's most underrated two-way defensemen.

    He enjoys fantastic success at both ends of the ice despite one of the toughest assignments in the NHL but doesn't get the same kind of press (or contract offers) as Duncan Keith, Ryan Suter or Shea Weber.

    Offensively, Giordano is second only to Ottawa's Erik Karlsson in points per game. Despite missing 18 games, Giordano has 39 points, which is tied for 12th among NHL defensemen, and is second on the Flames. He is four points shy of his single-season career high.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Calgary's 30-year-old captain faces the toughest competition on the team, but he has the best possession numbers on the Flames.

    Giordano is second in team scoring and first with a plus-five despite the fact that he and his partner, T.J. Brodie, start the lowest percentage of their shifts in the offensive zone on the entire team.

    Not only are Giordano's minutes the toughest, but they are also the biggest. He leads the team in average ice time per game in both special teams situations, and his total of 25:20 per game is ninth in the NHL. 

      

    Also in the Running: Nobody. The team scoring leader, Jiri Hudler, required 12 extra games and all the advantages of playing on the top scoring line with few defensive responsibilities to generate only four more points than Giordano.

Andrej Sekera, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Who says it's almost impossible to find a quality defenseman through free agency? In Andrej Sekera, the Hurricanes landed a legitimate top-pairing defenseman for four years at $2.75 million per season.

    This 27-year-old Slovakian is one of the league's most unheralded two-way blueliners. Sekera's 41 points, which blow away his former single-season career high of 29 points, is ninth among the league's defensemen.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Sekera is second on the team with 30 assists and third in points with 41.

    He is more than just a puck-moving defender, as he and partner Justin Faulk also shut down the team's top opponents.

    Sekera has solid possession numbers and is third on the team with a plus-six despite the difficulty of his playing conditions. He also leads the team in blocked shots with 111, the only Hurricane in triple digits.

    He is the team's overall ice-time leader and leads the team in penalty-killing minutes. Sekera's even contributed one of Carolina's league-leading 10 shorthanded goals.

     

    Also in the Running: There are a few other possibilities for MVP in Carolina. Anton Khudobin has been fantastic in his 25 games, Jeff Skinner has really been coming on and a case can always be made for Eric Staal.

Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Jonathan Toews is a complete two-way player who is at the elite level in virtually every aspect of the sport.

    Not only is Toews in the top 20 with 26 goals, 63 points and a plus-25, but he's seventh in the NHL with a 56.8 faceoff winning percentage and is second to T.J. Oshie with seven shootout goals in 13 attempts.

    There are very few NHL players who offer as complete a package as Chicago's captain.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Why Toews? There are two Hawks with more points than him, and the team possesses arguably the league's best defenseman on the blue line.

    As valuable as Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith may be, none of them transform a strong team into a Stanley Cup favorite like Toews does.

    He takes on the highest average quality of competition, not just on the team but in the entire league. He has the best possession numbers in Chicago and seventh best in the NHL. Toews is a great defensive asset who could very well become the sixth player to win back-to-back Selke Trophies.

     

    Also in the Running: Chicago is blessed with an abundance of highly valuable players. This year, a strong case could be made for any of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith.

    There are even a few others that would likely be the MVPs on most other teams, like Marian Hossa, Corey Crawford, Brent Seabrook or Brandon Saad.

Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Semyon Varlamov's elite goaltending is estimated to be worth over 12 points in the standings and/or over 19 goals prevented, fourth best in the NHL.

    Varlamov currently leads the league with 34 wins and is second to Phoenix's Mike Smith in shots faced (1712). He actually leads the league with 1,312 saves at even strength, where he has an impressive .930 save percentage.

    Varlamov's overall save percentage is .925, which is fifth in the NHL among those with at least 20 games.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Colorado was expected to be battling for a playoff spot, not a home seed. A big part of its success is its tremendous ability to win in key situations.

    Colorado leads the league with a 23-4-5 record in one-goal games and has gone 31-0-2 when carrying a lead into the third, the third-best record in the NHL. The team has given up only one shorthanded goal, second in the NHL. Varlamov has a .967 save percentage on the power play.

    All of this is made possible by having a workhorse goalie in nets that can be relied upon to consistently close the door. 

     

    Also in the Running: For those who remain unconvinced that Colorado's goalie has been its most valuable player, Matt Duchene leads a tight list of top forwards.

    Duchene, the team's leading scorer, is one of five 20-goal men. Duchene is right among three others (Paul Stastny, Gabriel Landeskog and linemate Ryan O'Reilly) in facing the toughest competition on the team, but he ranks fourth in the volume of defensive responsibilities assigned and third in penalty-killing time.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Last year's Vezina winner, Sergei Bobrovsky is having another strong season. His .928 save percentage is 12th among those with at least 20 games and eighth among NHL starters.

    His .722 save percentage in the shootout has helped him to a 4-1 record.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: The 25-year-old Russian has posted a solid .920 save percentage, which is much better than the combined .906 save percentage of his backups, Curtis McElhinney and Mike McKenna.

    At a high level, Bobrovsky's goaltending has been estimated to be worth just over nine points in the standings and/or 11 goals prevented.

     

    Also in the Running: A very strong MVP case can also be made for young Ryan Johansen, who is enjoying his breakout season.

    Johansen currently leads the Blue Jackets by a comfortable margin with 26 goals and 50 points. And he has achieved that while facing the highest quality of competition, maintaining solid possession numbers and even chipping in on the penalty kill.

Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    What He Brings: This year's most valuable Dallas Star should be chosen from the team's top scoring line—either Jamie Benn or Tyler Seguin. They take on top opponents and lead the team in both scoring and possession numbers.

    The 22-year-old Seguin, who was acquired in the offseason in a deal for Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith, leads the team with 30 goals and 69 points, which is tied for seventh and fourth in the NHL, respectively. Seguin is also a strong candidate for the Lady Byng.

    Benn, the team's 24-year-old captain, is close behind, tied with Jonathan Toews in goals, assists and points, all of which are in the NHL's top 20.

    The two players are estimated to be worth 17 and 14 goals scored and/or prevented, respectively, and nine points each in the standings.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Benn breaks the tie by bringing more of the extras and intangibles. He's the team leader and the more complete, physical and defensive-minded of the team's two big stars.

    His 56.0 faceoff winning percentage is just outside the league's top 10, for example. And though the team is near the bottom of the league in physicality, Benn is one of only four Stars who has thrown 100 hits and is also second among the team's forwards in blocked shots.

     

    Also in the Running: Other than Seguin, a case could be made for Kari Lehtonen, who has provided consistent and reliable goaltending all season.

Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Niklas Kronwall is among the league's finer two-way top-pairing defensemen.

    The 33-year-old Swede is tied for ninth among NHL defensemen with 41 points, which is second on the Red Wings. It is only 10 points back of the single-season career high he set back in 2008-09.

    He also leads the team with 34 assists, which is sixth among defensemen. At a high level, his contributions are measured to be worth about 10 extra goals scored or prevented, or just under seven points in the standings.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Kronwall is no Nicklas Lidstrom, but he is the defenseman to whom the team turns in the most critical situations.

    He leads the team with 3:06 of average ice time on the league's eighth-best penalty kill, is two seconds behind Zetterberg with 3:29 on the power play and his 17:43 is behind only partner Jonathan Ericsson at even strength.

    Together, Kronwall and Ericsson face the highest level of competition among Detroit's blueliners at even strength, and no other Red Wings defensemen start in the defensive zone more frequently. They have nevertheless managed solid possession numbers.

    The volume and difficulty of his minutes has also helped Kronwall lead the team with 125 blocked shots; no one else is in triple digits.

     

    Also in the Running: Detroit's MVP award was all but assured for Henrik Zetterberg before his regular season was prematurely ended with injuries after just 45 games.

    Zetterberg still leads the team with 48 points, plays all the toughest situations and his plus-19 is 10 goals better than any other Red Wing.

Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    What He Brings: In an earlier Bleacher Report piece that explored whether Taylor Hall would break out this season, I wrote that "analytics confirm Hall to be a speedy, penalty-drawing power-play specialist, an absolute puck-possession monster, and among the league’s five best in each of these areas." This largely remains an accurate description today.

    Of his many contributions, his great playmaking abilities stand out the most. Hall has recorded 41 assists this season, which ranks 13th in the NHL, while no other Oiler has yet to reach 30. I ranked him as the 10th-best playmaker in a Bleacher Report piece earlier this season.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Though several of their young players are developing quickly, the Oilers' 22-year-old left winger is currently their only true superstar. This year, Hall has been worth an estimated 11 goals scored and prevented and/or seven points in the standings.

    Though he is primarily a playmaker, Hall leads the team with 203 shots. His 22 goals, which are second on the team to David Perron, and 41 assists give him 63 points. That's 13 more than Jordan Eberle and puts him within the NHL's top 20.

    In total, Hall has been in on 97 percent of all on-ice scoring, highest in the league, according to the data at Hockey Prospectus.

    Thirteen of those points came on the power play, where analytics ranked him fifth among the league's best power-play specialists in a Bleacher Report piece earlier this season. Hall leads Edmonton's forwards with an average of 3:12 on the power play and also 16:10 at even strength.

     

    Also in the Running: It's a stretch, but if something should happen to Hall in the final part of the season, an MVP case could be constructed for Jordan Eberle or David Perron.

Brian Campbell, Florida Panthers

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Brian Campbell is a huge minute-eating defenseman who is called upon to handle all the most difficult assignments. He is potentially the only legitimate star on the Florida Panthers.

    The 34-year-old blueliner is tied with partner Tom Gilbert for the team lead in assists with 25 and is one back of Scottie Upshall for the team lead in points with 32.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Campbell plays some serious minutes. He is second in the league to Ryan Suter in overall ice time.

    In total, Campbell averages 27:22 per game, over five minutes per game more than any other Panther. His 21:10 per game at even strength is third in the NHL and three minutes more per game than anyone else on his team. Overall, he leads Florida by over 400 minutes!

    Despite the sheer volume and difficulty of his minutes, Campbell's possession numbers are second on the team to Sean Bergenheim.  

     

    Also in the Running: The lack of any real standout players in Florida makes room to build arguments for Gilbert, Brad Boyes, Upshall, Nick Bjugstad or even former goalie Tim Thomas, especially if one of the first four get particularly hot down the stretch.

Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

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    Joe Mahoney/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Anze Kopitar is one of the best two-way centers in the entire league.

    Kopitar's shootout talent alone has incredible value. He has gone 5-for-9 on the shootout while the rest of the team is a combined 6-for-30.

    Kopitar will lead the Kings in scoring for the seventh straight season, as his 56 points currently lead the team by 13 points. He also leads Los Angeles with nine power-play goals and 19 points. This level of scoring is especially critical on a team that is currently tied for 25th in the NHL with just 165 goals.

    Altogether, Kopitar is worth about eight points in the standings and/or just under 15 goals.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Not just an offensive force, Kopitar stands to finish in the top 10 for Selke voting for the fourth straight season.

    The 26-year-old Slovenian leads the team's forwards in average ice time in each manpower situation. Nobody on the team starts in the defensive zone more frequently nor against a higher average quality of opponent than Kopitar. Nevertheless, he has the best possession numbers on the team. And the best in the entire league, in fact.

    Kopitar is in the NHL's top 20 with a plus-25, leading the team by seven goals. This is no plus/minus confusion, because at even strength, the Kings have more than doubled their opponents in scoring when Kopitar is on the ice. Only Vladimir Tarasenko and Dustin Penner have numbers that exceed him in that regard. Is Kopitar boosted by a strong team in this regard? Even on a relative basis, Kopitar is still fifth.

     

    Also in the Running: Given that the key to the Kings' success has been their defense, it might make sense to select one of their defensemen or goalies as the team MVP instead.

    Los Angeles has allowed 1,797 shots, third fewest in the league, and the fewest goals with 144. The team also leads the league with 10 shutouts.

    The Kings are a perfect 21-0-0 when leading into the third and second in the NHL with a .780 shootout save percentage.

    Add it up, and a case can be made for their two-way defenseman Drew Doughty or potentially either Jonathan Quick or Martin Jones.

Josh Harding, Minnesota Wild

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    Andy King/Associated Press

    What He Brings: People thought I was crazy when I devoted an entire chapter to Josh Harding in Hockey Prospectus 2013-14, but the 29-year-old career backup finally did achieve his breakthrough season.

    Harding's 1.65 goals-against average is the best in the league by almost half a goal per game. His .933 save percentage leads the league, including .940 at even strength and a flawless 1.000 in seven overtime games.

    His multiple sclerosis symptoms have unfortunately limited him to just 29 games this season, but even in that short time, Harding has provided an estimated extra six points in the standings and prevented an additional 16 goals. This is potentially more than any other Wild player can contribute over an entire season.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: The Minnesota Wild need strong goaltending, as they are not a strong offensive nor especially physical team. They are second last in road hits and are tied for 27th with just 164 goals.

    Given also the relatively unknown and inexperienced top-four playing with Ryan Suter (Jonas Brodin, Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella), it has been particularly critical to get superstar goaltending from Josh Harding and 23-year-old backup Darcy Kuemper.

    It's hard to imagine a scenario where the Wild would be in the postseason without league-leading goaltending.

     

    Also in the Running: I took a bit of a gamble by choosing Josh Harding. Ryan Suter is a far safer and less controversial selection for Minnesota's team MVP. On a blue line composed almost entirely of the unknown and the unheralded, Suter plays league-leading minutes of killer difficulty.

    He has nevertheless managed 36 points, which puts him in the top 20 among NHL defensemen and just 10 shy of his career high. Playing almost 31 minutes per game, Suter is quite likely to finish among the Norris Trophy finalists for the second consecutive season.

Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Carey Price is currently sporting a career-high .924 save percentage overall, including .931 at even strength, where he has faced the fifth-most shots in the NHL. His four shutouts are two back of the league lead.

    He has helped Montreal to the tune of about 20 goals, the second-largest contribution in the entire league, and has had an impact of almost 11 points in the standings.

    Despite his Olympic injury, Price has already done enough to receive Vezina consideration for the fourth time in his career, potentially besting his previous record of a fifth-place finish in 2010-11.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Though their possession-based play has improved quite recently, Montreal's blue line is not an easy one to play behind.

    As detailed in a December Bleacher Report piece examining if Montreal was a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, the Canadiens require more blue-line depth. Picking up Mike Weaver at the trade deadline will help, but not enough to keep their goalies from being shelled.

    The only scenario in which Montreal remains a dark-horse possibility for the Stanley Cup is one where Carey Price carries the team on his back.

     

    Also in the Running: Despite winning the Norris Trophy last year, P.K. Subban rarely gets the full credit he deserves as one of the world's best defensemen.

    His 48 points leads the team and is fourth among all NHL blueliners. He may not be a defensive-minded specialist, but he and Andrei Markov compose one of the league's most effective top pairings against the league's best forwards.  

Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Shea Weber is potentially the world's best two-way defenseman.

    His 43 points are seventh among NHL blueliners and currently lead the Predators by three points. This total includes 23 on the power play, which has him tied for third league-wide at his position. This has helped the team to a 20.1 power-play percentage, good for 10th overall, and the Preds are the only NHL team that has yet to allow a shorthanded goal this season.

    Of course, Weber is best known for his cannon from the point. His 16 goals are tied with Zdeno Chara for third among defensemen, and his 10.1 shooting percentage is also among the league leaders. This level of scoring is particularly critical for a team currently ranked 27th overall with just 164 goals.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: With Pekka Rinne out of the lineup for a significant part of the season, there was no doubt who Nashville's most valuable player would be.

    Weber and his partner, Roman Josi, lead the team in ice time in every manpower situation and by over four minutes a game at even strength. Weber is fifth in the NHL in ice time overall.

    Nashville's top pairing faces the team's highest level of competition and is trusted to start a larger share of their shifts in the defensive zone than any other duo on the team.

    His amazing defense, combined with his team-leading 137 hits and 143 blocked shots, is one of the reasons why the Predators lead the league with an 18-1-1 record when leading after the first period.

     

    Also in the Running: Nobody else can be realistically considered as Nashville's MVP.

Jaromir Jagr, New Jersey Devils

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Forty-two-year-old future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr leads the New Jersey Devils in most offensive categories with his best scoring totals since coming back from the KHL.

    His 22 goals are one back of Adam Henrique for the team lead, his 36 assists are first and his 58 points lead the team by 14 points over Patrik Elias. His 174 shots, which represent almost 10 percent of the team's 29th-ranked shot totals, also lead the team.

    All of this scoring, especially his league-leading five overtime points, has been absolutely critical to a team that has been shut out eight times, tied for the league lead, and that is 23rd with only 166 goals.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Plus/minus may seem like a bogus statistic, but there's a persuasive story behind Jagr's plus-15, which leads the team by 12 goals.

    The Devils have scored 44 goals at even strength when Jagr's been on the ice, four more than anyone else, and have allowed just 29. The team's goal differential is 20 percent better with Jagr on the ice than with anyone else, which is the third biggest advantage in the entire NHL after Matt Niskanen and Thomas Vanek.

    Despite his age, Jagr leads the team in ice time at even strength and against the second-highest level of competition on the club. He has nevertheless managed the best possession numbers on the team.

    Finally, New Jersey ranks fifth with a 20.7 power-play percentage, which is thanks in large part to Jagr, who leads the team in power-play ice time and is one point back of the team lead with 15 points.

     

    Also in the Running: No one is really within reach of Jagr this year.

    Andy Greene is a highly underrated defensemen who had a great season, and Cory Schneider could have had a season-changing impact if the team could have only scored in front of him.

Kyle Okposo, New York Islanders

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Kyle Okposo's scoring totals are very similar to that of his superstar linemate John Tavares. They both have 42 assists, and Okposo has three more goals (and points)—and on three fewer shots—but in nine more games.

    Overall, Okposo is tied for fourth in league scoring, two back of Sidney Crosby at even strength. How has he done in the nine games since Tavares' Olympic injury? He has three goals and 10 points. That suggests that Tavares can't take all the credit for Okposo's leap in scoring.

    His contributions are estimated to be worth 12 goals and/or eight points in the standings.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: With the injury to Tavares and Vanek's trade to the Montreal Canadiens, Okposo is the only consistent scoring threat the Islanders have had all season. At the moment, Frans Nielsen is the only other Islander with more points than Joshua Bailey's 27.

    Of course, the real problem for the Islanders hasn't been scoring but defense. No team has allowed more than their 233 goals against.

    The 25-year-old forward hasn't helped much with that because he isn't used defensively. His line is used against top opponents, yes, but mostly in offensive situations. Okposo and his linemates start well over 60 percent of their non-neutral shifts in the offensive zone on a team with almost nobody else over 50 percent.

     

    Also in the Running: Frans Nielsen is more of a two-way player. He's one of their top penalty-killers, plays in the defensive zone against top players and should get Selke consideration for the fifth straight season, possibly improving on his career high of sixth place in 2010-11.

    Nielsen is great on the shootout and has managed career highs of 22 goals and 49 points—both of which are still far lower than that of Okposo.

    It's very hard to compare offensive contributions to defensive ones to determine if Okposo's advantage in the former outweighs Nielsen's edge in the latter. This is especially true since it's unclear how much of Okposo's scoring has been thanks to John Tavares. There's no easy answer in selecting the MVP in Long Island.

Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Ryan McDonagh is one of the league's top two-way defensemen and is perhaps just a single stride back of the game's elite.

    McDonagh, who finished 11th in Norris Trophy voting in 2011-12, is a classic do-it-all defenseman who is top-two on his team in ice time in each manpower situation. He ranks ninth in the NHL in overall ice time.

    The 24-year-old defenseman is tied for fourth in team scoring with 36 points, which is a career high. That puts him in the top 20 among NHL defensemen, and his 11 goals has him inside the top 10.

    He has also been on the ice for 47 goals scored, more than any other Ranger, which has helped him climb up to second on the team with a plus-six.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: The New York Rangers are a great defensive team thanks to one of the league's strongest blue lines.

    They have allowed the seventh-fewest goals in the league with just 179 and rank sixth in the NHL with a 84.6 penalty-killing percentage.

    McDonagh is the key in both cases. He and his partner, Dan Girardi, take on the top opponents at both even strength and while killing penalties and are trusted in the defensive zone more than any other Ranger pairing.

    While shorthanded, McDonagh has scored three goals, and Brenden Dillon is the only other NHL defenseman with more than a single one. Victor Hedman is the only defenseman who has exceed McDonagh's four shorthanded points.

    The Rangers are also strong offensively and rank third with 2,230 shots. McDonagh is critical here, too, having taken 156 of those shots while no other Ranger defenseman is in the triple digits

     

    Also in the Running: You can always make a case for Henrik Lundqvist, who is arguably the world's best goalie.

    A slow start has resulted in his worst season in five years, so if anyone is to temporarily claim the team's MVP title, it's now.

Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Erik Karlsson is the best offensive defenseman in the game.

    He leads all blueliners with 61 points and, depending on how you classify Dustin Byfuglien, also leads D-men with 17 goals and 214 shots. That represents almost exactly 10 percent of Ottawa's 2,143 shots, which is fifth in the NHL. 

    On the power play, Karlsson's 26 points are one back of Keith Yandle.

    There are concerns that Erik Karlsson is a defensive liability. After all, he is the ice-time leader and a minus-15 on a team that is third last in both shots allowed and goals against.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Karlsson is Ottawa's leading scorer and the ice-time leader by almost six minutes per game, or over 500 minutes overall.

    The speedy 23-year-old Swede won the Norris Trophy in 2011-12 and is likely to contend for the award once again this year.

    His contributions are estimated to have been worth about 12 goals and/or eight points in the standings.

     

    Also in the Running: Ottawa's top two-way line features three players with at least 20 goals—Kyle Turris, Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur.

    If you had to select one of them as the team MVP instead of Karlsson, it would likely be Turris.

Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Tom Mihalek/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Claude Giroux is one of the best playmakers, power-play specialists and overall talents in the NHL.

    Despite a slow start that we covered in an earlier Bleacher Report piece, Giroux is currently sixth in the NHL with 46 assists and tied for fourth in the NHL with 69 points.

    We ranked him as the league's second-best playmaker in an earlier Bleacher Report article, and he indeed finds himself in the league's top eight in assists for the fourth consecutive season.

    We also ranked him as the eighth-best power-play specialist in another Bleacher Report piece, and his 30 points is currently fourth in the NHL.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Giroux is the team leader in all offensive categories, usually by a wide margin, and also serves as a strong leader and defensive presence against the highest level of competition.

    Giroux leads the team with 23 goals and is three back of Jakub Voracek with 181 shots. His 46 assists are a team best by a margin of 15, as are his 69 points by 19.  

    The 26-year-old captain, who was fourth in Hart Trophy voting in 2011-12, has been worth an estimated 15 goals scored or prevented and/or eight points in the standings so far this year.

     

    Also in the Running: Although goalie Steve Mason still has his fans, it's hard to put together a persuasive argument for anyone else as this year's Flyers MVP.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Phoenix Coyotes

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Oliver Ekman-Larsson is one of the league's most highly underrated two-way defensemen.

    He has been handling his team's toughest minutes for years. Ekman-Larsson often takes on the defensive-zone assignments against top opponents in order to leave Keith Yandle the opportunities he needs to generate scoring.

    Despite the tilted ice, the 22-year-old Swede generates plenty of scoring of his own. His 158 shots are third on the team, his 36 points are top-20 among NHL defensemen and his 11 goals rank him inside the top 10.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Ekman-Larsson's career-high 36 points are, amazingly, only eighth in team scoring. Phoenix has a chain of players going from Yandle's 47 points down to his 36.

    So why is Ekman-Larsson the most valuable, instead of one of the other seven? Because he's the only one who truly does it all.

    Ekman-Larsson is the team's ice-time leader, playing on the top pairing at even strength and killing penalties with Zbynek Michalek and on the top power play with Keith Yandle. Overall, he is eighth in the NHL in total ice time.

    He finished seventh in Norris Trophy voting last year and could potentially be one of the finalists by the time he hits his prime.

     

    Also in the Running: Phoenix is a team without individual superstars, and therefore, a lot of other players could be considered, including, most especially, veteran two-way forward Antoine Vermette.

    He currently leads the team with 22 goals, including their only three while shorthanded, and leads the forwards in ice time. Among forwards, Vermette takes on the top competition and starts his shifts in the defensive zone more than everyone except depth forwards Jeff Halpern and Kyle Chipchura.

    Because it is hard to compare offensive and defensive contributions, another possibility is the Coyotes' leading scorer, Keith Yandle. Phoenix ranks ninth in the NHL with a 20.3 power-play percentage, and that's mostly thanks to Yandle's 27 points, which are fifth in the NHL and tops among defensemen.

Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Sidney Crosby is the world's greatest hockey player, period.

    His incredible natural talent and hard work allow him to score almost at will. And, unlike some of the league's other leading scorers, Crosby does his scoring against the league's best and without requiring additional shifts in the offensive zone or with particular linemates.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Explaining why Sidney Crosby is the most valuable player on the Penguins is the easiest slide in this slideshow.

    Pittsburgh's success is in direct correlation with Crosby's this year. For example, Crosby's 88 points lead the league by 15 points, and he's tied for fifth with 31 goals. Consequently, Pittsburgh is tied for sixth in the NHL with 206 goals.

    Furthermore, Crosby's 32 points with the man advantage is third in the NHL, and Pittsburgh leads the league with a 24.8 power-play percentage.

    What has Crosby been worth this year? About 11 points in the standings and over 20 goals, both the highest among the league's skaters.  

     

    Also in the Running: On any other team, there are a handful of players that could be in the mix for team MVP. Matt Niskanen and Chris Kunitz are having incredible years and, even with their injuries, so are James Neal and Evgeni Malkin.  

Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Alex Pietrangelo is one of the league's top young two-way defensemen, and he will soon surpass the fourth-place finish he earned for the Norris in 2011-12.

    Offensively, Pietrangelo's 46 points are sixth among the NHL's defensemen, and he's also top-10 with a plus-22. Those 46 points place him fifth in team scoring and just five points back of his previous single-season career high.

    He is certainly one of the NHL's workhorses, ranking in the NHL's top 10 in total ice time, including sixth while killing penalties.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Look what Pietrangelo has done for Jay Bouwmeester's reputation after they were first put together late last year.

    Together, they take on the top opponents, often in key defensive-zone situations, and they absolutely kill it possession-wise. They're a big reason why St. Louis is second in fewest shots allowed, third in fewest goals and are second with seven shutouts.

    They are also a key reason why St. Louis ranks third with a 86.3 penalty-killing percentage, as Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester each play over 53 percent of the team's penalty-killing minutes while no one else on the team is over 40 percent.

    The Blues are third in the NHL with a 21-5-7 record in one-goal games, and the 24-year-old defenseman is probably the biggest reason why.

     

    Also in the Running: A strong case could be made for any one from St. Louis' top two-way line of Alexander Steen, David Backes and T.J. Oshie.

    And though he's not really in the running for team MVP, Jaden Schwartz had his breakout season this year and will be in the mix soon enough.

Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Joe Pavelski is a classic do-it-all player who can score goals, set players up, win faceoffs, kill penalties, draw penalties and score in the shootout, all while playing disciplined, defensive hockey.

    Offensively, Pavelski leads the team with 34 goals, six more than Patrick Marleau and 15 more than any one else. He's tied for third in the NHL.

    He also leads the team with 66 points, which matches his career high. This ties him for 10th in the NHL. His 23 power-play points leads the team and are also 10th in the NHL overall.

    San Jose is a great offensive team, ranking fifth in the NHL with 213 goals, and the only team with a winning record when trailing after the first period (11-8-1). There are a number of players that have made key contributions, but potentially, no one more than Pavelski.

    At a high level, Pavelski's value is estimated to be over 18 goals scored or prevented, which is fourth among the NHL's skaters.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Pavelski is the team's leading scorer and is also a key factor in its success in a number of other departments.

    For instance, San Jose is third in the NHL with a 52.9 faceoff winning percentage, and it's largely thanks to Pavelski's own 56.1 faceoff winning percentage, which is ninth overall.

    San Jose also leads the league with 14 post-regulation wins, which has led to a 21-6-7 record in one-goal games, the fourth-best record in the league. Pavelski's solid two-way play combined with his five shootout goals in 12 attempts have been a big reason.

    The list goes on! Pavelski is also second on the team with 22 drawn penalties, and he boasts fantastic possession numbers. He has received Selke votes in each of his six full NHL seasons, never finishing higher than 11th, however. He's one of the reasons why San Jose has allowed the sixth-fewest goals in the league (165).

    He and Patrick Marleau are among the team's leaders in ice time among forwards in each manpower situation and are two of the reasons why San Jose ranks seventh with a 84.4 penalty-killing percentage.

     

    Also in the Running: The San Jose Sharks have three players with at least 60 points, including Joe Thornton, one of the game's best playmakers, and Patrick Marleau, one of the league's best two-way veteran forwards.

    In another month, either one of them could move ahead and clearly establish themselves as the team's MVP.

Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Second behind Boston's Tuukka Rask, that's where Ben Bishop ranks in most statistical categories.

    Bishop's .928 save percentage is second to Tuukka Rask, among those who have played at least 30 games, as is his .938 save percentage at even strength. His five shutouts are also (tied for) second behind Rask.

    While Rask may have an edge in Vezina voting, Bishop has an edge for the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player.

    Unlike Rask, Bishop doesn't have Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron or a team of veterans all playing a defensive Claude Julien system in front of him. Instead, he has nine rookies and one offensive-minded superstar.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Tampa Bay used to be where goalies went to die. Who would have guessed Ben Bishop would be this year's surprise Vezina finalist (and potential winner)?

    At a high level, Bishop is estimated to be worth 28 goals prevented so far this year, making him the most valuable single player in the league.

    Twenty-eight goals? That's not nearly as far-fetched as it sounds when you consider that Bishop has a .971 save percentage in 16 overtime games and a .778 save percentage in the shootout. Tampa Bay is, consequently, third in the NHL with a .773 team shootout save percentage. That's a lot of extra points without which they wouldn't be preparing for the playoffs.

     

    Also in the Running: Obviously, Martin St. Louis would be in the running if he hadn't been traded. Same goes for Steven Stamkos if he hadn't missed 45 games.

    The highly underrated Victor Hedman had an incredible season, Valtteri Filppula was easily the most successful of the league's risky, high-priced offseason signings and Ondrej Palat deserves some Calder consideration, but none of them are really much competition for Bishop as team MVP.

Jonathan Bernier, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Jonathan Bernier has been one of this season's best goalies.

    His .925 save percentage is fourth overall, among those with at least 30 games. Last year's starter, James Reimer, who is used to posting better numbers than that of his partners, currently has an inferior .914 save percentage.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: No team needs elite goaltending as desperately as the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Toronto has allowed 2,474 shots, the most in the league. Bernier has faced at least 40 shots 12 times this year. Last year in Los Angeles, he only faced 30 shots twice.

    This is a team that has been outshot by 587 in just 69 games. The Leafs are almost constantly in their own end and chasing the puck. They have won the possession game only 14 times this season, and Nazem Kadri is the only player who has started more shifts in the offensive zone than the defensive zone.

    The Leafs have relied on lights-out goaltending to stay out of the basement, let alone to compete for a playoff spot. Bernier has allowed them to do both.

     

    Also in the Running: Phil Kessel is tied for third with 34 goals and for second with 260 shots and 73 points. He is a lights-out offensive talent and would easily be the team MVP if goaltending weren't more desperately needed than his scoring.

     

Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Ryan Kesler is one of the league's most complete defensive players. He takes on the toughest competition and in the most difficult situations in order to free up the Sedins to fully unleash their offensive talents.

    Kesler is nevertheless tied for second in team scoring with 40 points, just four back of Henrik Sedin. His 22 goals lead the team by five, and his eight goals on the power play are double that of any other Canuck. His 15 power-play points are tied for the team lead, and his five game-winning goals stand alone among all Canucks.

    This scoring has been critical to a team that has otherwise struggled through injuries all year. Vancouver is actually second last in the NHL with 163 goals but seventh in the NHL with 2,129 shots, 218 of which were taken by Kesler.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: There's a reason the team wouldn't trade Ryan Kesler; he's far too valuable.

    Kesler is the complete package. The 29-year-old is among the team's ice-time leaders in every manpower situation, has a 52.4 faceoff winning percentage, is second on the team with 110 hits and though he takes a lot of penalties, he also leads the team in penalties drawn.

    He won the Selke in 2010-11, the third straight season that he was in the top three as a finalist. He was fifth the following season, a position he may regain this year.

     

    Also in the Running: This is a tough selection given Vancouver's difficult season and the lack of any clear standout players.

    An argument can always be made for one of the Sedin twins and possibly for former goalie Roberto Luongo. Other possibilities include one of the club's defensemen, like Dan Hamhuis, and even Chris Higgins has been an effective defensive presence up front.

Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Alexander Ovechkin is the game's most exciting goal scorer, bar none.

    He is leading the league in goals for the fourth time, and his 45 goals are more than double of any other Washington Capital. His 68 points are tied for seventh in the NHL.

    Ovechkin also leads the league in shots for the eighth time in nine seasons. His 338 shots are 78 more than what Phil Kessel has thrown at the net.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Ovechkin is the defending Hart Trophy winner, an award he's won three times.

    The Great Eight is a big reason why Washington has 12 post-regulation wins, which is tied for third in the NHL. His eight game-winners is one back of Corey Perry for the league lead, and he's the only player with at least three overtime goals.

    When you consider his excellent timing, Ovechkin is likely worth more than the estimated 11 goals and/or nine points in the standings.

    There is a concern about his defense, however, especially his minus-31 plus/minus rating, which is second worst to Edmonton's Nail Yakupov. This is especially unexpected given that he starts over 60 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone.

    Washington is a bad defensive team, having allowed the fourth-most shots and the sixth-most goals. Ovechkin leads the team by being on the ice for 53 goals against at even strength, but surprisingly, he's ninth on the team in goals for with 30.

    Ovechkin's scoring comes mostly from the power play, where he is assigned 92.3 percent of the team's minutes, most in the league by over 10 percent more than Evgeni Malkin.

    Consequently, he leads the league with 19 power-play goals, six more than Chris Kunitz, and is second to linemate Nicklas Backstrom with 33 points. Thanks to both of them, Washington ranks second in the NHL with a 23.3 power-play percentage.

     

    Also in the Running: The only one whose contributions are anywhere near Ovechkin's is Backstrom. They have amazing chemistry together, but Ovechkin's obviously the tougher of the two to replace.

Andrew Ladd, Winnipeg Jets

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    What He Brings: Andrew Ladd is a strong two-way winger. He can take on top opponents in both zones and has posted the best possession numbers on the team while generating some solid scoring.

    Ladd's 19 goals are currently tied for third on the team and his 48 points are fourth.

    Ladd is tied for fourth in the league with six shootout goals on 12 attempts.

     

    Why He's the Most Valuable: Not only was the 28-year-old captain the player to whom both coach Claude Noel and Paul Maurice turned when they needed scoring but also when they needed to protect a late lead.

    Last year was the second time he received some Selke consideration, and this year, he's averaged 2:07 of penalty-killing time per game, during which he has scored two points. Winnipeg ranks fifth with a 84.9 penalty-killing percentage.

     

    Also in the Running: It was very difficult to choose between Ladd and Bryan Little, the only player who faces a higher quality of competition—and even more frequently in the defensive zone.

    Little is second on the team with 20 goals and 54 points, and his four shorthanded points is one back of the league lead.  

     

    Rob Vollman is author of Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract, co-author of the annual Hockey Prospectus guides and a featured ESPN Insider writer. @robvollmanNHL.