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Is MacKinnon Vs. Matthews The Real Hart Trophy Battle?



Colorado Avalanche, Toronto Maple Leafs nhl

You don’t always get what you pay for in the NHL, but don’t tell that to Nathan MacKinnon or Auston Matthews.

Saturday’s matchup between the Colorado Avalanche and Toronto Maple Leafs will be a showdown of arguably the two leading candidates for this year’s Hart Trophy. Those same Hart Trophy candidates just so happen to be the two players who will have the highest cap hits in the league once next season begins.

Right now, they’re both showing they’re worth every penny.

On Wednesday night, Matthews scored his 50th (and 51st) goal in just his 54th game of the season, becoming the fastest U.S.-born player to hit the 50 goal mark in a season. The 25 year old center, who already has an $11,640,250 cap hit this season, will surpass MacKinnon this summer as the highest paid player in the league, thanks to the four year, $53 million contract he signed before the season started. Could you imagine how much more he could have demanded if he waited a little longer to sign that extension?

Matthews looks like a lock to win the Rocket Richard trophy this season, as his 52 goals are 13 more than the next closest player in the NHL. If Matthews hits the 70 goal mark, which looks like it could very well happen, will the voters be able to deny him of the Hart Trophy? When you consider the NHL hasn’t seen a 70 goal scorer in over 30 years, I’m not sure they will. Alex Ovechkin’s 65 goals earned him a Hart Trophy back in 2007-08, so there is precedent for it.

On Saturday, Matthews will see a lot of Nathan MacKinnon, who currently sits second in the NHL with 93 points in 58 games. MacKinnon is the current owner of the second longest home point streak to start a season in NHL history, as he’s picked up points in all 27 Avalanche games at Ball Arena this year. That streak is a big reason why the Avalanche are the best home team in the league, having lost just five games at Ball Arena this year.

After winning a Stanley Cup in 2022, MacKinnon signed a monster eight year, $100,800,000 contract. That’s so much money that it doesn’t even feel real writing it out.

Since signing that whopper of a contract, MacKinnon has put together his two best seasons in the NHL, showing he’s definitely worth the money. MacKinnon has been a finalist for the Hart Trophy three times in his career, but has never won the prestigious award. He’s been showered with “MVP!” chants at home this year, but he’s heard it all before. Is this the year he finally takes one home?

These two certainly aren’t the only Hart Trophy candidates out there, as Nikita Kucherov leads the league in scoring, and Connor McDavid might just catch him after helping dig his Edmonton Oilers squad out of an early season hole, but it could very well come down to the two superstars who will face-off Saturday night in Ball Arena.

Based off how their seasons have gone, we should be in for one heck of a show.

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Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Evan Rawal, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

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