Hart material?

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 4:29 PM ET

ODENTON, Md. -- The Hart Trophy traditionally is awarded to a player whose hockey club has been a serious playoff contender, but to discuss possible Hart candidates and leave Alexander Ovechkin out of the mix wouldn't seem right.

The Russian phenom likely won't lead the Washington Capitals to the playoffs as a rookie but it won't be for lack of trying. Ovechkin, 20, has 65 points in 50 games going into the game against the Maple Leafs tonight at the MCI Center, and has been in on 45% of the Caps' 144 goals.

Ovechkin has more goals (34) and assists (31) than Dainius Zubrus, Washington's second-leading scorer, has points (27).

The Hart annually is awarded "to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team" and is voted on by NHL reporters across the league. Although the Capitals are 14 points behind the Leafs for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, they have fared better than many were expecting.

"If he wasn't here, who knows where we would be right now?" goalie Olaf Kolzig said. "You have to take that into account. At some point in his career he is going to win it. It's unlikely that it will happen (this year), but I don't see why he would not be considered."

Others likely to be in the thick of Hart consideration include Jaromir Jagr of the New York Rangers , Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes and Dominik Hasek of the Ottawa Senators.

Ovechkin, who missed his first game of the season Tuesday because of a left groin injury, declared himself "100%" yesterday. He said he is not concerned about hardware, including the Calder Trophy as the league's top freshman.

"Right now, no," Ovechkin said. "I don't think about any trophies because we have lots of games left. I'm not thinking about any of those things. We have to improve. We'll see who wins the trophies."

Ovechkin's overall enthusiasm for the game has been as impressive as his highlight reel goals.

"I don't want to be case-specific, but sometimes you see some of the great players and they are just robots," Caps coach Glen Hanlon said. "They don't seem to bring a passion. It's just like: 'Oh, well, I'm going to do this for 12 years and go play golf.' Alex is fun, he's a fan of the game and I think it rubs off on all the players."


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