It’s time for the big one. The NHL announced the finalists for the Hart Trophy, given annually to the “player judged most valuable to his team.” Last year’s winner, Leon Draisaitl, also took home the Ted Lindsay and the Art Ross in an impressive trifecta.
McDavid could complete the same trifecta his teammate did a year ago after putting together one of the most impressive regular seasons in recent history. The Oilers captain scored 105 points in 56 games, a scoring rate that put him in rare company. Since 1980-81, 40 years ago, only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Bernie Nicholls and Adam Oates have finished with a higher point/game rate over a full season. Each of the last three names on that list only did it once, and each was just barely ahead of the best offensive player in today’s game. There was absolutely no doubt that McDavid would be a finalist for the third time in his career. He previously took home the Hart in 2016-17, his sophomore year.
Matthews is a first-time finalist after winning the Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s top goal scorer. Amazingly, he had an eight-goal lead over second-place McDavid despite playing in four fewer games. Matthews was a scoring marvel this season, totaling 41 in 52 games for the Maple Leafs, continuing to develop his strong defensive game. He was actually tied for fifth in points but still 39 behind McDavid’s 105.
MacKinnon, the oldest of the three at age 25, is a Hart finalist for the third time in his career. Always a bridesmaid though, the Avalanche star finished second in his first two runs at the award. Unfortunately — for MacKinnon and hockey fans — he played in just 48 games this season so his point total of 65 put him in the eighth spot league-wide. On a per-game basis though he trailed only McDavid, Draisaitl and New York Rangers forward Artemi Panarin. Even if MacKinnon becomes a runner-up again, it would be hard to find someone who disagreed with his placement as one of the very best players in the entire world.