The NHL announced the Hart Trophy nominees on Thursday morning, with a pair of players on Canadian teams getting recognized.
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews, Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid, and Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon were chosen as the three finalists for the NHL’s 2020-21 Most Valuable Player award as picked by the Pro Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA).
The NHL award winners are expected to be announced in July.
All three players are former first overall picks: MacKinnon in 2013, McDavid in 2015, and Matthews the most recent of the trio in 2016.
Here’s a recap of each of the nominees’ seasons:
Stats: 52 GP, 41 G, 25 A, 66 PTS
The MVP nomination is Matthews’ first of his career, in a season where he also won the Rocket Richard as the league’s leading scorer with 41 goals in 52 games.
Matthews is the first Leaf to be nominated since Doug Gilmour in 1992-93, who finished second in voting.
Matthews was as lethal as you could get from a goal-scoring perspective in the modern era, with his goal-per-game pace on target for about a 65-goal season over 82 games.
But like McDavid, he’ll probably tell you that playoff success means much more than any individual accolade, as his Leafs crashed out of the first round of the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year with Matthews scoring just once in the series.
Stats: 56 GP, 33 G, 75 A, 105 PTS
The award is likely McDavid’s to lose, with about as slam-dunk as a first-place vote as any writer should have.
Leading the league in points by 36 points over anybody not named Leon Draisaitl (who plays with McDavid and won last year’s MVP), the Newmarket native put up the 23rd best single-season points per game mark of all time, and would have been on pace for about 153 points over an 82-game season.
Certain factors such as a reduced travel schedule and repeat matchups against his opponents may have played in his favour, but McDavid was a force from the get-go this season, registering seven games of four or more points.
Amazingly, that four points was also the total that McDavid registered in the playoffs this year as the Oilers were eliminated in a four-game sweep at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets.
Stats: 48 GP, 20 G, 25 A, 65 PTS
MacKinnon has finished second in Hart Trophy voting twice before: during last years’ shortened season as well as the 2017-18 campaign.
MacKinnon played just 48 of a possible 56 games this season, but made the most of it with 20 goals and 45 assists along the way. MacKinnon finished the year eighth in league scoring, just a single point behind Matthews despite four fewer games.
The player on the list with the most playoff success to his name both in this season and in his career, MacKinnon is facing off against Vegas tonight in a must-win contest as his Avalanche are trailing 3-2 in a second-round series.