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NHL Notebook: Can Connor McDavid catch Nathan Mackinnon in the Hart Trophy race and San Jose Sharks sign Akim Aliu to AHL tryout

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Photo credit:Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
28 days ago
The general consensus is that this year’s Hart Trophy is Nathan MacKinnon’s to lose.
It’s an easy argument to make, given that not only has he never won one before, and that he’s been nearly singlehandedly kept the Colorado Avalanche alive this year with 117 points in 69 games. There’s also Nikita Kucherov right there, with 118 points in 67 games, keeping the Tampa Bay Lightning in the wild card mix.
Connor McDavid isn’t too far behind, either. Despite playing 64 games, he’s still got 108 points on the year and a 1.69 points per game pace helping him keep up.
And on Wednesday’s edition of Daily Faceoff Live, Tyler Yaremchuk and Carter Hutton spoke about who could take home the Hart, and if McDavid can catch up.
Tyler Yaremchuk: There’s less than a month left in the season and the awards races are heating up although a couple of them feel like slam-dunks. Over in the MVP debate Nathan MacKinnon is starting to pull away, especially when you look at the odds from our friends at Betano. He’s now down at -250 with Connor McDavid in second at +450 and Nikita Kucherov comes in at +500.
That’s kind of the core three group right now with MacKinnon pulling away. Is there anything McDavid or Kucherov can do down the stretch to make this race a little bit tighter?
Carter Hutton: You know, there’s still so much hockey left. We talk about swings and the Red Wings losing a few games and falling out of the playoffs, I think the race is very similar to that. One guy could get hot, Kucherov added a four-point night in the late game and went ahead in the standings as well. I always think there’s that give and take with it but for me MacKinnon has been the MVP all around the rink.
It’s not just what he does offensively, it’s what he does away from the puck and what he does in the locker room or what he does just as a leader and presence on that team, it’s hard to find on the stat sheets. I think about players that impacted my career or the teams I was on and Nathan MacKinnon seems to be that guy. Kucherov seems to check out and mail it in where he just has that offensive upside and skill where McDavid arguably can do the same thing but I think that’s taken more of a back seat to propel this Oilers team into a winning standard.
For me, MacKinnon is the guy right now but I still think time will tell over this last stretch, especially the fact that post trade deadline and into the playoff run the game tightens up and it does not seem to affect MacKinnon at all.

Sharks sign Aliu

The San Jose Sharks have signed forward Akim Aliu to an AHL tryout through the remainder of the season.
“We wanted to give him an opportunity to see what he can do,” Sharks general manager Mike Grier said, according to Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli, who was first to report the news.
Aliu, 34, last played in 2020 in Czechia for HC Litvinov, where he scored a goal and three points in six games. As Seravalli reported, Aliu has been working through injury issues over the last few years, but has been trying to make his way back.
In a post shared on X, formerly known as Twitter, Aliu said no matter what happens, he’s at peace knowing his son got to see him play hockey.
“I’ve been through a great deal both mentally and physically in the last four years since I last played, but even at the age of 34, my love and passion for the game has never wavered,” he said. “All I can do is give it my best and enjoy the moment of doing what I love most.
“I can’t thank the San Jose Sharks organization enough for this opportunity, as I know this decision was not an easy one. Thank you to my family and friends for sticking by me. However things turn out, I am assured and at peace with one thing: that my 9 month old son will get to see me play and always know daddy never gave up and never stopped dreaming. ”
Drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round of the 2007 draft, Aliu last played in the NHL in 2012-13, dressing for five games with the Calgary Flames and 42 for their AHL affiliate. Between then and 2020, he had stints in the AHL, ECHL, KHL, Slovakia, SHL, Hockey Allsvenskan and Czechia.
In the years since he last played, Aliu co-founded the Hockey Diversity Alliance.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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