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The case for... Nikita Kucherov

Beat writer Bryan Burns cites a League-leading point total, a record-setting campaign and incredible consistency as why Nikita Kucherov should win the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

Four Tampa Bay Lightning players and coaches are up for honors at the 2019 NHL Awards in Las Vegas on June 19, tied with St. Louis for most in the League.

Victor Hedman tries to repeat as Norris Trophy winner after becoming the first Bolt to claim the award last season.

Nikita Kucherov makes a strong case for the Hart Trophy and the Ted Lindsay Award, given annually to the League's regular season MVP as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association and the NHL Players Association, respectively.

Andrei Vasilevskiy is in Las Vegas for the second-straight season with hopes to bring home the Vezina Trophy after finishing third in voting a year ago.

And Jon Cooper will be hard to pass up for the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's top coach considering he led the Lightning to 62 regular season wins, tied with the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for the most all-time in League history.

In the coming days, we'll make the case why each is worthy of his respective award.

Up first…Nikita Kucherov

We already know Nikita Kucherov will take home one award from Las Vegas.

Kucherov is the recipient of the NHL's Art Ross Trophy, given to the player with the highest point total at the end of the regular season, becoming the second Lightning player ever to earn the award, joining two-time winner Martin St. Louis (2004, 2013).

Kucherov finished the 2018-19 season with an incredible 128 points, the most in the League since a pair of Pittsburgh Penguins, Mario Lemieux (161 pts.) and Jaromir Jagr (149 pts.), eclipsed that mark in 1995-96.

And while his playoffs, like the team he played for, was certainly unexpected and disappointing, don't let that cloud your vision of Kucherov's remarkable season, particularly as it relates to these awards. Voting for both was conducted at the conclusion of the regular season, meaning postseason performances bear no weight.

Video: TBL@BOS: Kucherov sets record with his 128th point

128 points !?!
First, let's take a moment to really appreciate 128 points. No player has ever put up that many in the salary cap era. Only four have cleared the 120-point milestone since 2005-06.

No Russian-born NHL player has put up that many points ever. When Kucherov tallied his 128th point by providing the second assist on Tyler Johnson's goal with 1:26 remaining in the regular season finale at Boston, Kucherov passed Alexander Mogilny for most points in a single season all-time by a Russian in the NHL.

When comparing his 128 points to other wingers, Kucherov ranks 10th all-time in NHL history.

You could really end the debate to Kucherov's MVP credentials on this point alone.

Well, 128 points alone.

Video: DET@TBL: Kucherov scores to set club record

Record setter
Obviously, Kucherov set the Lightning franchise record for scoring in a season.

But that's not the only rewrite Lightning staff will have to make to the media guide this offseason due to Kucherov's remarkable campaign.

- The right winger amassed 87 assists, the most in Lightning history by a wide margin. Brad Richards (2005-06) and Martin St. Louis (2010-11) previously shared the record with 68 assists. Kucherov's assist total was the third highest in the NHL in the salary cap era and highest since Joe Thornton's 92 assists in 2006-07.

- Of those 87 assists, 45 came on the road, also a new franchise mark.

- Kucherov tallied a Lightning all-time-best 48 points on the power play, two more than previous record holder Brad Richards and his 46 power-play points in 2005-06. Partly due to Kucherov's heroics with the man-advantage, the Lightning scored a League-high 74 power-play markers in 2018-19 and converted at a 28.2 percent clip, the 10th highest power-play percentage all-time in NHL history.

- Kucherov set team records for assists and points in a single month after registering 21 helpers and 30 points in December.

- Kucherov notched 11 points over a three-game span in late December (0-2-2 Dec. 20 at Calgary, 1-4--5 Dec. 22 at Edmonton and 1-3-4 Dec. 27 vs. Philadelphia) for the most points ever in Lightning history over three consecutive team games. Kucherov would go on to accomplish the feat three more times during the season.

- Kucherov's 38 multi-point games shattered the previous franchise high of 31 multi-point games in a season set by Martin St. Louis (2006-07), Vincent Lecavalier (2007-08) and Kucherov himself a season earlier. Kucherov's 38 multi-point games were the most in the NHL since Sidney Crosby put up 38 in 2006-07.

Video: BOS@TBL: Kucherov snipes top corner to tie game

Consistency
That previous number? 38 multi-point games?

Compare that to the number of games Kucherov didn't record a point.

20

Kucherov had nearly twice as many multi-point games as he had games where he went point-less.

What does that tell you?

Kucherov was remarkably consistent over the 82-game schedule, of which he played every contest for the second time in his career (also: 2014-15).

Kucherov had a 10-game point streak that stretched from mid-November into December. After that streak was broken up on December 4, he immediately went on a season-long 12-game point streak.

That's also around the same time Kucherov took over the NHL scoring lead and started to run away with the scoring title. Through most of December, Kucherov battled Colorado's Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon for the top spot. But following his four-point night December 27 against Philadelphia, Kucherov pulled in front and never looked back, widening his gap seemingly every time he took the ice.

Video: LAK@TBL: Kucherov goes to the backhand for a SO goal

Conclusion
Edmonton's Connor McDavid came on strong at the end of the season to finish with 116 points and narrow the gap somewhat between Kucherov and the rest of the league. But Kucherov still finished 12 points ahead while playing for a historic team that captured the Presidents' Trophy. McDavid's Oilers didn't make the playoffs for the second-straight season and 12th time in the last 13 years.

Most analysts feel the Hart and the Ted Lindsay are essentially a two-horse race between Kucherov and McDavid.

And when you look at the numbers, there's really only one logical choice for both awards:

Nikita Kucherov

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