Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon still has strong MVP argument

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche. Coverage begins at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

We are in the stretch run of the 2019-20 NHL regular season and that means two things: The Stanley Cup playoff races are heating up, and it’s time to start yelling about who should win the Hart Trophy as the league MVP.

When it comes to the latter, almost all of the recent focus has shifted to Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl given his runaway lead in the league scoring race.

But he is far from a slam-dunk winner, and there is still a pretty convincing argument to be made for Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon.

MacKinnon and the Avalanche are back in action on Wednesday night when they host the Anaheim Ducks (9:30 p.m. ET) and will be looking to extend their current winning streak to eight games. They will also have chance to gain ground on the St. Louis Blues for the top spot in the Western Conference.

A win would bring them within just a single point of the Blues while still having a game in hand.

But let’s get back to MacKinnon for a second here, because it seems like he’s starting to take a back seat in the MVP race even though there is still a pretty convincing case to be made for him.

The thing about the MVP argument is everybody has a different definition for what value is and what should matter most. Is it simply the best player? The player that brings the most “value” to a team (which is a completely subjective argument)? The player that does the most for a playoff team?

No matter what your definition or criteria might be, MacKinnon’s season probably fits it.

While he may not win the scoring title this season, he is still one of the league’s top-five scorers entering play on Wednesday and is on pace for more than 40 goals and close 110 points. He is leading the league in shots on goal for the second year in a row and is the focal point of the offense for one of the NHL’s best teams.

During even-strength play, he is tied for the league lead in primary assists, has scored 23 of his 33 goals, and is a possession driver.

When it comes to more subjective things like “value” and the ability to carry his team, he has a direct hand (scoring or assisting) in 39 percent of the Avalanche’s goals this season. That is actually slightly higher than his contribution the past two seasons, while he 39 more points offensively than any other player on the Avalanche roster. Almost every other MVP candidate this season (with the exception of New York’s Artemi Panarin) has another top-tier scorer on their roster this season.

His offensive production and overall contributions have not slowed down even though his two regular linemates (Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog) have both missed at least 15 games this season due to injury. And that is to say nothing of the other injury issues they have had recently to impact their depth, including Nazem Kadri, Andre Burakovsky, Matt Calvert, and starting goalie Philipp Grubauer. When the Avalanche have needed him to carry the load offensively, he has.

And if you’re one of the people that think an MVP has to be on a playoff team, well, the Avalanche have that covered, too.

MacKinnon has finished in the top-six of the MVP voting in each of the past two seasons (including finishing as the runner-up two years ago) and is almost certain to be there again this season.

Draisaitl might be stealing the headlines right now because of his point totals, but the argument for MacKinnon is still as strong as ever.

Liam McHugh will host Wednesday’s coverage on NHL Live alongside analysts Keith Jones and Anson Carter and NHL insider Bob McKenzie. Kenny Albert, Eddie Olczyk and Brian Boucher will have the call from Capital One Arena in Washington D.C.

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NBC Sports will take fans inside the sounds and passion of hockey with a one-hour special “Wired: Stadium Series – Kings vs. Avalanche” immediately following coverage of Ducks-Avalanche on NBCSN

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NBC Sports will utilize an all-female crew to broadcast and produce game coverage of Sunday’s Blues-Blackhawks game, coinciding with International Women’s Day and marking the first NHL game broadcast and produced solely by women in the U.S.

Kate Scott (play-by-play) will call the action alongside U.S. Olympic gold medalists Kendall Coyne-Schofield (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) and AJ Mleczko (analyst) from United Center in Chicago, Ill. Game production will be led by producer Rene Hatlelid and director Lisa Seltzer.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

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