Zetterberg appears to be handling the leadership role very well at the first quarter mark of the season, but there has been more buzz surrounding him now than at the beginning of the year, and it's for a different reason.
Zetterberg right now is not the top choice for Hart. That honor goes to Buffalo's Thomas Vanek, LeBrun writes.
Looking at his numbers, Zetterberg is near the top of the league in points with 18, trailing only Vanek (23) and Chicago's Patrick Kane (19). While his goal total is low (5), Zetterberg is buoyed by his assists total (13), which ties him with Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin and Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis for the league lead. Lozo writes that Zetterberg is on a career high pace for scoring.
If he were to stay on his current pace, Zetterberg would finish the season with 72 points (20 goals, 52 assists). That would pass his totals from last season (82 games).
While Zetterberg's numbers speak for themselves, how valuable is he? From a leadership standpoint, he should win MVP hands down. All he was asked to do was to become the next captain and replace one of the NHL's all-time greats in Nicklas Lidstrom. From a player standpoint, he is still making his case.
Zetterberg, in addition to scoring, has been a regular on the penalty kill. Both he and Pavel Datsyuk have made the Red Wings' penalty kill much better in the last few games.
So to answer the question, yes, Zetterberg is definitely a candidate for MVP at this point of the season. Whether he can sustain that success through the remaining 36 games remains to be seen, but given that Zetterberg's play has been surprising some, including yours truly, he should be in consideration for Hart Trophy come season's end.
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