Draisaitl, MacKinnon, Panarin are 2019-20 Hart Trophy finalists

Leon Draisaitl (Oilers), Nathan MacKinnon (Avalanche), and Artemi Panarin (Rangers) were named the three finalists for the 2019-20 Hart Trophy. The award is given to the “player judged most valuable to his team” and voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association at the end of the regular season.

Nikita Kucherov was last season’s winner.

This year’s winner will be announced during the conference finals.

It’s worth noting that Draisaitl, MacKinnon, and Panarin weren’t just Hart Trophy finalists, but also the three finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award, the player-voted alternative to the Hart.

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Hart Trophy cases for finalists Draisaitl, MacKinnon, Panarin

The Hart Trophy case for Leon Draisaitl

It’s not just that Leon Draisaitl topped all NHL scorers with 110 points. Voters must have struggled with the fact that it wasn’t even close.

Draisaitl’s teammate Connor McDavid finished a distant second with 97 points. Yes, it’s remarkable that Draisaitl was the only NHL player to crack 100+ points in 2019-20, and he added some extra gravy by reaching 110. Remarkably, Draisaitl was going on a goal-scoring tear toward the end of the regular season, finishing with 43 goals.

While “fancy stats” become more prominent in hockey debate circles — including among voters — Draisaitl’s blistering scoring pace will be hard to ignore.

Nathan MacKinnon’s Hart Trophy argument

There are two basic arguments against Art Ross winner Draisaitl: a) defense and b) quality of teammates.

MacKinnon enjoys his fair share of help on a talented, young Avalanche team, but injuries to the likes of Mikko Rantanen placed significant pressure on the Avs’ speedy center. While McDavid certainly helped Draisaitl reach 110 points, MacKinnon’s 93 points stands far higher than every other Colorado player (Cale Makar finished second in team scoring with 50).

Fans of more “complete” players might side with MacKinnon. As a Lady Byng finalist, MacKinnon played big minutes but only had 12 PIM. (Then again, Draisaitl only had 18, and Panarin just 20.)

A greater selling point might be that MacKinnon’s improved his defensive game without really sacrificing offense. Considering his promising Hockey Viz chart, via Micah Blake McCurdy’s indispensable site:

Nathan MacKinnon Hockey Viz Hart Trophy finalists

Artemi Panarin’s tremendous first Rangers season helps him rank among Hart Trophy finalists

Remember when people downgraded Panarin, believing that he was merely Patrick Kane‘s passenger?

Panarin keeps proving that he can deliver big numbers in different situations. The late-arriving NHL star also seems to somehow get better every season. Despite being limited to 69 games played, Panarin established new career-highs in goals (32) and points (95). Like MacKinnon, Panarin produced far more than any of his teammates (Mika Zibanejad ranked second on the Rangers with 75).

“The Bread Man” possesses the sort of creativity you love to see on the power play. Even so, Panarin did his greatest damage at 5-on-5, leading the NHL with 71 even-strength points.

Overall, Draisaitl, MacKinnon, and Panarin present viable cases as Hart Trophy finalists. Who do you think should be named the NHL’s MVP for 2019-20?

2020 NHL AWARD FINALISTS

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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