Kesler should already be planning a trip to Las Vegas in June for the third year in a row as a Selke Trophy finalist (our own Nick Cotsonika pegs him as the midseason winner) considering his exceptional two-way play for the Vancouver this season; but he's done enough at this point in the season that the discussions about the Hart Trophy should be including him, even if it's as a dark horse.
The Hart is given to a player "judged to be the most valuable to his team" and with the Sedins dominating on the offensive side, Kesler has excelled at both ends of the ice along with making his linemates better.
There's no shortage of mancrushes (or true puck bunny love) for #17 and PD makes some good points in their reasoning - check out last year's voting breakdown: plenty of players there who meet the requirements of "most valuable to his team" without being a favorite for winning the trophy.
On pace for an 86-point season, Kesler's obviously a big reason for Vancouver's torrid pace as of late and while he still plays some of the toughest minutes and zone starts not claimed by Malhotra, he's made rockstars of his wingers, be they Raymond, Tambellini and even Hansen.
There are plenty of marks against it though, chief of which is strong two-way play rarely results in a vote for MVP (see Datysuk's rank in MVP votes since the lockout as an example). Value for the Hart often translate to points and though there can be debate as to how those points are accrued - like Hank's Hart nod last year - it seems it would be exceedingly difficult for a player of a different mold to crack that trend, especially in a season where Sidney Crosby has produced at the rate he was before his injury.
It's not just Crosby either; what about Stamkos right behind Sid or honoring a dark horse like Lidstrom's continued dominance even though he's 90 years old? Also if you're going to vote for one specific MVP from Vancouver, how do you ignore Daniel or Henrik, both of who are right behind Stamkos with 55 points and projected 115-point seasons?
Never say never perhaps.
Is Kesler worthy to be considered? By the strict definition yes, just like (Brad) Richards, St. Louis, Zetterberg, Thomas, Iginla, Byfuglien and dozens of others. Has he separated himself from the pack to be a legit Hart nominee? Not yet.
(now tear me a new one)