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Hart Trophy Watch: Stamkos becoming NHL's best player

Steven Stamkos leads the NHL with 14 goals and 26 points in 15 games. (Photo by Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Steven Stamkos leads the NHL with 14 goals and 26 points in 15 games. (Photo by Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

In your mailbox or on fine newsstands everywhere – well, in Canada at least – you’ll see Steven Stamkos on the cover of the next issue of The Hockey News, where we proclaim Stamkos to be, “The NHL’s new best player.”

So it should come as no surprise Stamkos is at the top of THN.com’s second Hart Trophy Watch of the season. You know, synergy and all that sort of stuff.

Not only is Stamkos establishing himself as the leading candidate to win the Rocket Richard Trophy - outright this time - he has almost one-third of the goals on a team that has established itself as an early playoff contender. The Tampa Bay Lightning are 7-2-1 when Stamkos scores a goal and 1-3-1 when he fails to put the puck past a goalie.

Even though the one-timer from the circle is still Stamkos’ signature goal, teams are starting to take that away from him, which has forced Stamkos to be more net-driven than he was in the past. The fact he has 14 goals – just three on the one-timer – indicates Stamkos has made a very good adjustment in his game.

“It seems like I’m not getting as many opportunities from that spot,” Stamkos told THN. “For me, it’s finding ways to adapt to that and finding ways to score goals in different ways. In order to be a consistent goal-scorer in this league, you have to find different ways to score.”

GAME OF THE MONTH: The other ‘Alex’ in Washington served notice to Stamkos that he’ll have some competition for the Rocket Richard when Alexander Semin potted a hat trick in the Capitals’ 6-3 win over the Lightning Nov. 11. Semin is not only scoring goals, he’s getting important goals. Now let’s see him do that in the playoffs.

RISING: Tim Thomas, rising from the dead, that is. Thomas wasn’t exactly terrible last season, but the Bruins goalie has been lights out to start this one and leads the NHL in virtually every meaningful statistical goaltending category.

FALLING: Cam Ward. We said when we did this early in the season not to get too worked up about our list and Ward is an example why. He was outstanding early, but both he and the Carolina Hurricanes have been less-than-outstanding since.

THE HOCKEY NEWS HART TROPHY WATCH
RK.
TEAM
PLAYER
MAKING THE CASE
1
Tampa Bay Lightning
Proving he’s much more than just a pretty face and a big shot, Stamkos has established himself as the most dangerous offensive player in the league so far this season.
2
Washington Capitals
Alex Ovechkin The goals aren’t coming at the same prodigious rate – he’s on pace for 46 this season – but Ovechkin seems to have come to the conclusion that there are other very good offensive players on his team.
3
Boston Bruins
Tim Thomas Score one for the old and (previously) broken down. Thomas has come back from injury to prove he’s as good – or maybe even better – as the guy who won the Vezina Trophy two seasons ago.
4
Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby ‘Sid the Kid’ is still putting up points despite a supporting cast that has, for the most part, been a huge disappointment. Somebody get this guy a winger.
5
Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price Seriously, folks. Jaroslav Halak has been getting a ton of attention for his play, but Price has faced 120 more shots than Halak has this season. He’s getting wins and keeping the Canadiens in games with some spectacular saves along the way.
6
Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick The Los Angeles Kings are a good attacking team, but they don’t score a ton of goals. They lead the Western Conference largely because they don’t give up a lot of shots and Quick stops most of the ones they do.
7
Washington Capitals
Alexander Semin Like we said, we’d like to see this level of passion and skill in the playoffs, but there is no denying Semin is one of the most dangerous players in the NHL.
8
Vancouver Canucks
Daniel Sedin It’s pretty simple. Twin brother Henrik sets them up and Daniel puts them in. If they gave the Hart Trophy to Daniel instead, who would ever know?
9
Detroit Red Wings
Pavel Datsyuk Take your pick, either Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg. They’re the best two-way players in the league and they’re playing for one of the best teams in the NHL..
10
Atlanta Thrashers
Dustin Byfuglien We needed to have at least one defenseman on this list, so why not Byfuglien? All he is doing is leading the league in points among defenseman and has been a boon to the Atlanta Thrashers power play.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Loui Eriksson of the Dallas Stars is emerging as an elite talent in the NHL and possesses a penchant for scoring important goals. Other notables: Sergei Bobrovsky, Michal Neuvirth, Jaroslav Halak.

Check out our video discussion of this topic.

THN.com's Hart Trophy Watch will appear monthly throughout the season and don't miss out as we'll also track the Vezina, Norris and Jack Adams.

Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear every Monday throughout the season.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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