Look, don’t get me wrong. Leon Draisaitl is a heck of a player, as evidenced by his winning the Hart Trophy as NHL most valuable player for 2019-20 – the player who, as a longstanding member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, got my second-place vote. But – and go ahead and call me a homer if you want – I voted Nathan MacKinnon first on my ballot, and here’s why:
Because, well, MacKinnon was more valuable to his team than Draisaitl.
I don’t want to bog this all down in this stat, and that stat and just compare a million different numbers. I just know how much MacKinnon literally carried his team throughout much of the regular season, when a total siege of injuries hit, most especially to his own linemates. The fact that MacKinnon got 93 points, in 69 games, playing at least a third of the season without either Gabe Landeskog or Mikko Rantanen – sometimes both – on his line, is testimony to how valuable he was to his team – a team that finished second in the Western Conference.
Like I said, I don’t want to make this too stat-centric. Draisaitl had more goals and points than MacKinnon (110-93). He had 10 game-winning goals, while MacKinnon had four. MacKinnon was much better in fancystat analytics than Draisaitl. MacKinnon’s Corsi for percentage was a whopping 60.1. Draisaitl’s was a subpar 47.9. This helps explain why MacKinnon was a plus-13 and Draisaitl a minus-7.
We all know Draisaitl is a teammate and frequent linemate of Connor McDavid. I’m actually not going to penalize him for that, because – and hockey people will tell you this – it’s not easy playing with a guy as talented as McDavid. Hockey is littered with guys who couldn’t play on a line with great players, but Draisaitl has more than shown he can.
I just believe, absolutely, that MacKinnon was the most valuable player to his team this season. He was the better all-around hockey player.
That’s why he got my vote. But he finished second in the voting for the second time in three years.
Here’s a link that shows how the rest of the PHWA voted (and, ugh, I guess I forgot to tell someone that the name of my affiliation has changed). Two of the 170 members who voted did not have him even in their top five. Hey, I’ve made some goofs before too in voting for trophies but…woof.