After the last puck was dropped on the NHL regular season on Sunday, Pittsburgh Penguins’ Alternate Captain Evgeni Malkin officially became the winner of the 2009 Art Ross Trophy having scored more points than any other NHL player this season. It is the 13th time in the last 21 seasons that a Pittsburgh Penguins player has won the scoring title. Malkin finished the year with a career best 113-points (35G, 78A), 3-points ahead of last year’s winner and fellow Russian Alexander Ovechkin (56G, 54A). Last season, Malkin came in 2nd in the scoring race just 6-points behind Ovechkin. Malkin is the 8th-player in the past 8-seasons to be awarded the Art Ross Trophy, joining Jaromir Jagr in 2001, Jarome Iginla in 2002, Peter Forsberg in 2003, Martin St. Louis in 2004, Joe Thornton in 2006, Sidney Crosby in 2007 and Alexander Ovechkin in 2008. Just 22-years old and playing in his 3rd season, one has to wonder how many times he may win the award. Malkin has proven that he is one of the most elite and productive players on the ice today.
While both Malkin and Ovechkin hail from Russia and have finished #1/#2 in the scoring race for the past two seasons, they are noticeably two very different personalities. While Ovechkin has demonstrated a flair for the flamboyant (see his All-Star appearance and this season’s 50th goal celebration for two recent examples), Malkin is much more reserved publicly with perhaps even an over-abundance of humility. “It’s my third year playing in the NHL and I understand how to play here,” said Malkin after Saturday night’s win against the Canadiens. ”My English is a little bit better and my game is better.” Referring to Ovechkin’s end of season drive in the points race, Malkin stated, “Alex is a good player, and in the last five games he played awesome. Every game he had three or four points. It made for a good scoring race, but it was better for me.”
While understated in his recognition of his own accomplishments, Malkin understands the importance of meeting his goal of winning the scoring title. ”All season I’ve wanted to win it,” Malkin said. “I had a good summer working out and felt great all season. I started well and now here I am. I feel great. Thanks to my team and coach who helped me all season,” said Malkin. “I was nervous the last five games but I won. It’s my life and a good day today.” The significance of Malkin’s accomplishment wasn’t lost on Sidney Crosby, either. “In the last 20 years how many guys from Pittsburgh have won it? It’s pretty amazing,” Crosby said. “Now he can put his name on that list, it’s a special accomplishment and well-deserved. It’s nice to have it in Pittsburgh.” Malkin also led the league in assists (78) and takeaways (91), and was named as the team’s Most Valuable Player.
Malkin is also a potential candidate for the Hart Trophy as the league’s Most Valuable Player, although he himself expects it may be difficult to dethrone last year’s winner Alexander Ovechkin. Penguins’ captain Sidney Crosby thinks Malkin is deserving. ”He’s done a great job all season long,” noted Crosby, “Consistency is a big thing for any player, especially for one who wants to be recognized for an award like that. To show the consistency he has, he’s right up there.” Malkin has shown great consistency through the season, scoring at least one point in 64 of 82 games played, and never going more than two straight games without a point.
The trophy will be presented at the 2009 NHL Awards, to be held for the first time in Las Vegas on Thursday, June 18. The NHL Awards will be broadcast live from the Pearl Concert Theater inside the Palms Hotel Las Vegas on VERSUS in the United States and CBC in Canada.