Wow what a change in just one season. Last year, our pre-season picks to win the Hart Trophy were Wayne Gretzky (traded), Peter Stastny (now retired), and Glenn Anderson (now retired). So perhaps if you have a player aged 34 or older, you donít want them on this list. Well, of course, then Mario had his season, and it was a no-brainer. Leading the league in goals, points and hits. We guessed in our final edition he would get 20 1st place votes, and he got exactly that. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season was Dmitri Khristich, who finished 5th in scoring but 2nd overall, and very well deserved. We had him getting 1- 1st place vote and finishing 3rd. Glenn Anderson finished 3rd in voting with no first-place votes. (Perhaps that was why he retired; he got tired of not being appreciated by the GMís of the league). We did have him finishing 2nd with 5 1st place votes. Those votes went to Goulet and Boschman though.

So, who is our favorite this season? Mario Lemieux for sure. He won the scoring title by 8 points, his +48 was 3rd highest and his 330 hits led the league by 45 hits. He will be challenged a little more this season as Hartford has made a youth movement somewhat, and we will see if it affects his game with a less impressive supporting cast up front.

Wayne Gretzky must make this list again. The man has pretty much did everything in the league. His 88 points last year, was his lowest total since 1983. He is just 3 seasons removed from his record breaking 61 goals and 142 point season in Washington. A motivated 99 will be great for Philadelphia, while a nightmare possibly for the rest of the NFHL.

Dale Hawerchuk has been given the keys to the Columbus franchise and he is more then capable of leading this team and being a big time producer in the league. Except for 1992, four of his last 5 seasons he has hit 90 points or more. Last year was his top season with 109. He also scored 40+ goals in 4 of those 5 seasons.

Laurie Boschman is always around the Hart Trophy conversation. He just had his 7th season in a row of over 94 points. Last yr although he dipped from 109 to 97 points from 1993 to 1994, he was +48. That was +28 more then the 1983 season. Also his PP goals last 3 seasons have been 10, 15, and 13 last year. He is on a high powered offensive team, and the leader for sure in New Jersey.

Dmitri Khristich, how can be ignored? Last year 5th in scoring with 109 points and 74 assists. Also dishing out 212 hits. He can go against any other teams top center without any fear. Just two season ago he only had 63 points in San Jose. Man has he loved Minnesota. In 1993 Ė 90 points, then 109 last year. Whatís in store for this season?

Lets pick a long-shot darkhorse to watch for. How about Jaromir Jagr in Pittsburgh? While it might not be his time yet, this kids season might be exciting. He will get tons of minutes. Look for a lot of points from him. Last year was his coming out party with 34 goals and 93 points. The thing that will hold him back though might be his teams performance. Having a +5 is a tall task when last years leaderboard was littered with many in the +20 and some in the +40ís.

So who is winning this thing? Mario has to be the favorite without a doubt. In fact he was probably a bit disappointed with his play down the stretch as he faded and will want to improve. Donít be surprised to have many pushing him to. It wont just be Gretzky, but guys that I didnít even mention. Tremblay, Yzerman, Goulet, Oates, Modano, Muller. Etc

This could be an exciting and tight race this season. GMís will need to research as the year goes on.

1.             Mario Lemieux

2.             Wayne Gretzky

3.             Dale Hawerchuk

4.             Laurie Boschman

5.             Steve Yzerman

6.             Dmitiri Khristich

7.             Adam Oates

8.             Michel Goulet

9.             Jaromir Jagr

10.         Mario Tremblay