Nathan MacKinnon is a finalist again for the Hart Trophy, given to the NHL’s most valuable player. That’s a great honor in itself, but I think MacK is going to come up short again in the voting.
No question, Connor McDavid is the runaway favorite, after the season he had (105 points in 56 games). Quite frankly, I think Matthews had better regular-season numbers than MacKinnon too (41 goals to MacKinnon’s 20). Still, for MacK to be in the top 3, when others could have been in it (Leon Draisaitl, Brad Marchand, Patrick Kane, even Mikko Rantanen) is a nice feather in his cap.
MacKinnon is the second trophy finalist with the Avs in as many days.
More on the three candidates for the Hart and the year they had:
Nathan MacKinnon, C, Colorado Avalanche
MacKinnon placed fourth in the NHL with a career-high 1.35 points per game (20-45—65 in 48 GP) to propel the Avalanche’s top-ranked offense to the franchise’s third Presidents’ Trophy (also 1996-97 and 2000-01). MacKinnon finished among the League leaders in shots on goal (3rd; 206), power-play points (3rd; 25), assists (5th; 45), points (8th; 65) and power-play assists (t-10th; 17) despite missing eight of Colorado’s 56 contests. He did so on the strength of a career-best 15-game point streak from March 27 – April 28 (9-17—26), the longest by any player in 2020-21 as well as the longest by a member of the Avalanche since 2006-07 (Paul Stastny: 20 GP). The 25-year-old Halifax, N.S., native – a finalist for the second straight year and third time overall after second-place finishes in both 2017-18 and 2019-20 – is looking to become the third Avalanche/Nordiques player to claim the Hart Trophy, following Joe Sakic (2000-01) and Peter Forsberg (2002-03).
Auston Matthews, C, Toronto Maple Leafs
Matthews scored a League-leading 41 goals in 52 games (41-25—66) to help Toronto earn the top seed in its division for the sixth time in franchise history and first time since 1999-00. He became the first player in Maple Leafs history to capture the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, which first was awarded in 1998-99, as well as the first Toronto player since 1945-46 to pace the NHL in goals (Gaye Stewart). He is currently at +950 odds to win this year’s Hart Trophy. Matthews, who also led the League with 12 game-winning goals and 222 shots on goal, accounted for 22.0 percent of Toronto’s 186 total goals (excluding the shootout) – the highest single-season percentage by any NHL player since 2014-15 (Alex Ovechkin: 22.4% w/ WSH) and the best single-season mark by a Maple Leafs player in the expansion era (since 1967-68). The 23-year-old Scottsdale, Ariz., native is Toronto’s first Hart Trophy finalist since 1992-93, when Doug Gilmour finished second in voting, and is vying to become the third player in franchise history to win the award, after Babe Pratt (1943-44) and Ted Kennedy (1954-55).
Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers
According to FanDuel sportsbook, McDavid is the overwhelming favorite to win the Hart Memorial Trophy this year, with -1500 odds. He posted a League-best 105 points (33-72—105 in 56 GP) – 21 more than the next-closest player (teammate and reigning Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl) – to power the Oilers to their second straight playoff berth. McDavid, who also topped the League in assists (72), power-play assists (28) and power-play points (37), factored on 57.38 percent of Edmonton’s 183 total goals (excluding the shootout) – the highest single-season percentage in NHL history. He also recorded a League-leading 1.88 points per game – the most by any player since 1995-96, when Mario Lemieux averaged 2.30 (w/ PIT). The 24-year-old Richmond Hill, Ont., native – who won the Hart Trophy in 2016-17 and finished third in voting in 2018-19 – is seeking to become the fifth player in NHL history to capture the award multiple times before his 25th birthday (age as of final day of regular season), after Wayne Gretzky (6x), Bobby Orr (3x), Gordie Howe (2x) and Ovechkin (2x). A McDavid win also would make the Oilers the first team with different Hart Trophy winners in consecutive seasons since the Bruins in 1968-69 (Phil Esposito) and 1969-70 (Bobby Orr).