The 2023-24 NHL season has officially reached its halfway point this month, so it’s time to check in on some midseason MVP candidates. Here are five players who are standing out ahead of the pack as of Thursday.
1. Nathan MacKinnon, forward, Colorado Avalanche
MacKinnon has been one of the NHL’s best offensive players in the league over the past five years, and his 2023-24 performance might be his best one yet. He entered play on Thursday averaging 1.60 points per game, putting him on pace for 131 points over 82 games. That number would shatter his previous career high (111) and has helped the Avalanche remain one of the top Stanley Cup contenders in the NHL.
2. Connor McDavid, forward, Edmonton Oilers
As long as McDavid is healthy, he is going to be a contender for both the NHL’s scoring title and MVP award. He has already won five scoring titles (including each of the past three) and three MVP awards over the first nine years of his career. He is a little off the pace for the scoring lead this season, entering play on Thursday with 58 points in 38 games. But those 38 games are 4four to six fewer than all of the players ahead of him. The Oilers have overcome a brutal start to the season that resulted in the firing of former head coach Jay Woodcroft and have been one of the league’s best teams over the past two months.
3. Connor Hellebuyck, goalie, Winnipeg Jets
The Jets are one of the most surprising Stanley Cup contenders in the NHL at the halfway point, owning the league’s best record at the halfway point. One of the biggest reasons for that success has been the play of their starting goalie, Hellebuyck. He is having another stellar year that will again put him in consideration for the Vezina Trophy (league’s best goalie) and owns a .925 save percentage entering play on Thursday. That number is tops in the NHL among the 36 goalies who have appeared in at least 20 games. There is no more impactful position in hockey than a great goaltender, and no goalie is playing better than Hellebuyck this season.
4. Quinn Hughes, defenseman, Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks are another surprising contender, and they have a handful of players that are pushing them to the top of the standings. While forwards Elias Pettersson, J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser are putting up huge numbers, no player has been more significant for them than Hughes. He is on pace for 96 points as a defenseman, a number that has been reached only 20 times in NHL history for a defenseman, and plays more than 24 minutes per night (19th most in the NHL).
5. Artemi Panarin, forward, New York Rangers. The Rangers have one of the league’s best records despite having some real flaws on their roster defensively and relating to their scoring depth. What they do have is a bonafide superstar forward in Panarin who entered Thursday as one of the top-five scorers in the NHL (60 points in 43 games). Panarin has either scored or assisted on more than 43 percent of the Rangers’ goals this season and has 17 more points than any other player on the team. They would still have a chance to be a pretty good team without him. But they probably would not be one of the best teams in the NHL.