Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin won his first Hart Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player Wednesday night.

Yes, first.

Because even on a team with Sidney Crosby, Malkin has the ability to stand out. Even in a league with Crosby and Steven Stamkos and Claude Giroux and so many other stars, Malkin could win the Hart again – maybe even should win the Hart again. The way he's training, the way he's talking, he seems more committed, confident and comfortable than ever before, and that has already made a great player even greater.

"I hope it's not last one," said Malkin after the NHL Awards, standing behind a table packed with hardware – the Hart, the MVP chosen by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association; the Ted Lindsay Award, the most outstanding player chosen by the NHL Players' Association; and the Art Ross Trophy, which goes to the NHL scoring champion.

At another point, he added: "I love this sport. I like my team. I want to be best next 10 years."

That ought to make the rest of the NHL shudder. The Penguins lost in the first round of the playoffs this spring, and this is a salary-capped league of parity in which an eighth seed just won the Stanley Cup for the first time. But the Penguins were the favorites heading into the playoffs for a reason, and they are the favorites heading into next season. The sports book at the Wynn Resort and Casino has them at 7-1 odds, best in the league.

No team is a sure bet, but no team is a better bet than Pittsburgh.