Why Patrick Kane should be in Hart Trophy conversation originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Patrick Kane is 32 years old, in the middle of his 14th NHL season, and is seven games away from No. 1,000 for his career. He's played in an additional 136 postseason contests, too.
And not only is he not showing any signs of slowing down at this point in his career, but Kane is having one of his best offensive seasons ever from a statistical standpoint.
Get Chicago local news, weather forecasts, sports and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Chicago newsletters.
After following up a three-point effort on Friday with a four-point outing on Tuesday, the Blackhawks superstar is now up to 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) through 20 games this season. That's a points-per-game average of 1.50, which would be a new career-high; his personal best in a single season is 1.36, which came during the 2018-19 campaign.
"He’s just taken it to another level this year," Carl Soderberg said. "He’s been awesome for us all year."
If you project his offensive numbers across an 82-game season, Kane would be on pace to finish with 37 goals and 86 assists for 123 points. His current career-high in assists is 66 and points is 110, two categories he would shatter at this rate.
He may not be scoring at a clip he's used to, but the underlying numbers show Kane has been one of the top set-up players in the league. He ranks No. 2 in primary assists (16), No. 3 in passes for one-timers per game (2.3) and No. 4 in slot pass completions per game (3.0), according to Sportlogiq. He also ranks No. 1 in zone exits per game (11.6) and No. 4 in offensive zone possession time per game (1:07).
"Just trying to help the team as much as possible with the way I play," Kane said. "I feel I’ve had some pretty good seasons the last couple of years, too. Just trying to get better each year, I guess. Still feel like there's always things I can do better within a game and within in the offseason to get better, so it's always a work in progress. Like I said, just trying to help my team as much as possible when I get the chance when I’m on the ice."
If the Blackhawks were going to be playoff contenders this season, they needed Kane to play at an MVP level given the absences of Kirby Dach and Jonathan Toews. And that's exactly what he's doing.
When Kane has been on the ice during 5-on-5 play, the Blackhawks have outscored their opponents 19-14 for a goal differential of +5. When he’s not on the ice, the Blackhawks have been outscored 25-11 for a goal differential of -14.
"Look at what the expectations were for our team and where everyone had us finishing, yet we’re right there, we’re in the battle," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Obviously, he’s a big part of that. His production is better than ever, but to me, it’s all about the work ethic away from the puck and the willingness to put pressure on the puck and create transition for himself but for his linemates, too.
"That type of team-first mentality, that’s what we’re trying to build here so we can have long-term success, so we can get back to being an elite team. Not only is he doing it, but he’s encouraging other guys to do it. Everyone as a group sees when you’re unselfish, and it comes around. When he’s driving that, it sure is powerful."
Leon Draisaitl, Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid are each making strong early cases for the Hart Trophy. Draisaitl, who the award last season, is on pace to finish with 88 points, Matthews is on pace to score 53 goals and McDavid just might crack 100 points in 56 games.
But if the Blackhawks make the playoffs, it would be impossible to leave Kane off the Hart Trophy ballot, especially if he continues to produce to a career-high rate.