NEW YORK - A trio of Russians will battle for the honour of being named most valuable player in the National Hockey League.
Goal-scoring sensation Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, playmaker Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the versatile Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings were named as finalists for the Hart Trophy on Wednesday.
The winner is to be announced June 18 at the NHL awards show in Las Vegas.
Ovechkin can become the first repeat winner of the Hart since Dominik Hasek in 1997 and 1998 and the first forward to do it since Wayne Gretzky won the Hart Trophy eighth straight times from 1980 to 1987.
"It means a lot for me to be up for this award," Ovechkin told the Capitals' website. "I always wanted to be the best, so this is a great honour.
"It's special, too, with three Russians nominated. It's a great thing for our country and our sport."
A year ago, Ovechkin won the Hart as well as the Art Ross Trophy as NHL scoring leader with 112 points and the Rocket Richard Trophy as goal-scoring leader with 65.
This season, he locked up a second Richard Trophy with 56 goals but his 110 points were second to Malkin's 113 for the Art Ross.
Malkin, who was runner-up to Ovechkin for MVP honours last season, had 35 goals and 78 assists for the Penguins, who had a second 100-point man in Sidney Crosby with 103.
Datsyuk is considered by many the league's most complete player. He was fourth in scoring with 97 points, was plus-34 and won 56 per cent of his faceoffs.
He is also a finalist for the Lady Byng Trophy as most gentlemanly player and the Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward. He won the Selke last year and is bidding for a fourth straight Lady Byng. He could be the first player to take both in consecutive years.
On Thursday, finalists will be announced for the Bill Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication while on Friday, the final three are to be announced for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.