Taylor Hall of the New Jersey Devils won the Hart Trophy as NHL most valuable player at the 2018 NHL Awards Presented by Hulu at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas on Wednesday.
The 26-year-old forward ranked sixth in the NHL with a career high 93 points (39 goals, 54 assists) in 76 games to help the Devils to a 27-point improvement in the standings and their first Stanley Cup Playoff appearance since 2012.
"It's not something that I really ever had a goal in mind [to win]," Hall said. "It's always been playoffs and Stanley Cup. As the season went on, you know it might be a possibility and it's really out of your hands, to be honest. … In saying that, I'm very proud to be standing up here with the trophy."
Hall is the first Devils player to win the Hart Trophy; goaltender Martin Brodeur finished third in 2003, 2004 and 2007.
Hall had 41 more points than his next closest teammate (Nico Hischier, 52), the highest differential by a team's top two scorers since 2007-08 (Washington Capitals forwards Alex Ovechkin, 112, and Nicklas Backstrom, 69). Hall had a personal 26-game point streak from Jan. 2-March 6 (18 goals, 20 assists, 38 points), a New Jersey record. He set a Devils record with a 19-game point streak during that span, from Jan. 30-March 6 (13 goals, 13 assists, 26 points).
"I was a good player for a long time," Hall said. "I feel what really brought me to the next level was being in Jersey, playing with my teammates, drafting Nico [Hischier] No. 1 overall, getting to play with him as a centerman all season long," Hall said. "Probably the biggest reason I'm up here today is No. 13 on my team and the trust that [general manager] Ray Shero and [coach] John Hynes have put in me. Honored to represent them as a group."
[RELATED: NHL Awards results | Complete NHL Awards coverage]
Video: Taylor Hall is presented the Hart Memorial Trophy
Hall, selected No. 1 by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2010 NHL Draft, was the third straight Hart Trophy winner to be a No. 1 pick. Oilers center Connor McDavid (No. 1, 2015) won it last season and Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane (No. 1 in 2007) won it in 2016.
Hall was acquired by the Devils in a trade with the Oilers for defenseman Adam Larsson on June 29, 2016.
"I just kept trying to play and I thought if we made the [playoffs], maybe I'd get nominated, but it wasn't really a big focal point to me," he said.
Video: NJD@TBL, Gm1: Hall lights the lamp in playoff debut
The other finalists were Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar and Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon. Kopitar, 30, had 92 points (35 goals, 57 assists) in 82 games and led NHL forwards in time on ice (1,810:58) and time on ice per game (22:05). MacKinnon, 22, finished fifth in the League with 97 points (39 goals, 58 assists) in 74 games, tied for first with 12 game-winning goals, and helped Colorado improve by 47 points to clinch a berth in the playoffs.
Here is the voting by the Professional Hockey Writers Association:
1. Taylor Hall, NJD 1,264 (72-62-19-4-3)
2. Nathan MacKinnon, COL 1,194 (60-66-19-11-4)
3. Anze Kopitar, LAK 551 (11-11-41-49-12)
4. Claude Giroux, PHI 546 (10-10-44-45-21)
5. Connor McDavid, EDM 270 (6-5-19-16-32)
6. Nikita Kucherov, TBL 166 (0-6-8-15-39)
7. Evgeni Malkin, PIT 97 (3-2-6-5-8)
8. Blake Wheeler, WPG 69 (1-2-1-6-22)
9. Alex Ovechkin, WSH 37 (0-0-2-5-12)
10. William Karlsson, VGK 32 (1-0-3-2-1)