SOCHI -- Phil Kessel has carried his red-hot play from the NHL season into the 2014 Sochi Olympics to help the United States prove its status as a gold-medal contender. With seven points in three games, the Toronto Maple Leafs right wing not only leads the Olympics in scoring, he is the front-runner for tournament MVP, according to votes cast by the four members of NHL.com's Olympic coverage team.
Kessel received 11 out of a possible 12 points, including three first-place votes, in the very unofficial ballots submitted by Arpon Basu, Corey Masisak, Shawn Roarke and Dan Rosen.
The writers ranked their top three candidates for tournament MVP as well as the best defenseman, best forward, best goalie and the most surprising player. A point system was applied with a first-place vote three points, a second-place vote two points and a third-place vote one point.
The writers also submitted the six players they think belong on the All-Tournament Team through the qualification round. Players received one point for each vote. The three forwards, two defensemen and one goalie who received the most votes made it onto the writers' All-Tournament Team after the qualification round.
Kessel received three first-place votes and one second-place vote for MVP. He was a unanimous selection to the All-Tournament team.
Canada's Drew Doughty, who was voted the best defensemen of the tournament and was second in the MVP voting, also was a unanimous selection to the All-Tournament team. Doughty leads defensemen in scoring with four goals and five points.
Russia center Pavel Datsyuk, second to Kessel in the voting for the best forward, was selected to the All-Tournament team by each of the four writers. Datsyuk has five points on two goals and three assists.
Hiller won the best goalie category despite being eliminated from the tournament Tuesday night. He had a 0.67 goals-against average, .970 save percentage and two shutouts in three starts. Switzerland scored three goals in those games.
Pavelski was third in the voting for the best forward and Karlsson was second behind Doughty in the best defensemen category.
The writers struggled to come to any kind of consensus on the most surprising player in the tournament. Three players received first-place votes, with Austria forward Michael Grabner garnering two plus a third-place vote to take the award. Eight players received votes in the most surprising player category.
Grabner leads the Olympics with five goals, but the Austrians were eliminated Tuesday.
The results of the votes are below:
BEST GOALIE1. Jonas Hiller (Switzerland) – 11 points (3 first-place votes)
2. Henrik Lundqvist (Sweden) – 6 points (1 first-place vote)
3. Jonathan Quick (United States) – 4 points
4. Sergei Bobrovsky (Russia) – 2 points
5. Robert Kristan (Slovenia) – 1 point
1. Drew Doughty (Canada) – 10 points (2 first-place votes)
2. Erik Karlsson (Sweden) – 7 points (1 first-place vote)
3. Ryan Suter (United States) – 4 points (1 first-place vote)
4. Shea Weber (Canada) – 3 points
1. Phil Kessel (United States) – 12 points (4 first-place votes, unanimous)
2. Pavel Datsyuk (Russia) – 7 points
3. Joe Pavelski (United States) – 3 points
4. Jaromir Jagr (Czech Republic) and Anze Kopitar (Slovenia) – 1 point
MOST SURPRISING PLAYER
1. Michael Grabner, Austria – 7 (2 first-place votes)
2. Ziga Jeglic, Slovenia – 4
3. T.J. Oshie, United States – 3 (1 first-place vote)
4. Robert Kristan, Slovenia – 3 (1 first-place vote)
6. Olli Maatta, Finland – 2
7. Evgeny Medvedev (Russia) and Tomas Kaberle (Czech Republic) – 1
G: Jonas Hiller (3 out of 4 votes)
D: Drew Doughty (4 out of 4 votes)
D: Erik Karlsson (2 out of 4 votes)
F: Phil Kessel (4 out of 4 votes)
F: Pavel Datsyuk (4 out of 4 votes)
F: Joe Pavelski (2 out of 4 votes)
Other receiving votes: Henrik Lundqvist (1), Shea Weber (1), Ryan Suter (1), Anze Kopitar (1), Jaromir Jagr (1)