NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Monday’s matchup between the Arizona Coyotes and Vegas Golden Knights. Coverage begins at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
When you think MVP candidates at the start of every season you probably already have a very select group of names in mind.
Connor McDavid. Nathan MacKinnon. Leon Draisaitl. Nikita Kucherov when he is healthy. Maybe David Pastrnak or Artemi Panarin. Those are the players that are going to get the most preseason hype and be the odds on favorites, usually because of their point totals and the impact they make offensively. MVP winners typically finish near the top of the league in the scoring race. That’s just how the voting usually tends to work.
There is another name we should consider adding to that list, and it is Vegas Golden Knights winger Mark Stone.
Stone may not produce the same offensive numbers as the group mentioned above, but there are only a handful of players that are capable of impacting a game all over the ice the way he can.
He has truly become one of the league’s absolute best players, and one that should check every box for any MVP criteria.
Do you want the award to go to the best player? While he may not be on the McDavid or MacKinnon level in that discussion, he has not that far off of it when you take into account everything he does.
He is a top-tier player offensively and has been a point-per-game player for three years now. There have been 393 forwards that have logged at least 500 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time over the past three seasons. Out of that group Stone is in the top-30 when it comes to total points, assists, and primary assists per 60 minutes, and is one of the league’s best possession drivers. When he is on the ice his team lives in the offensive zone and is typically outshooting, outchancing, and outscoring its opponents by a significant margin.
Do you want a player that impacts the game when he does not have the puck on his stick?
Well, Stone is almost universally regarded (by both objective and subjective analysis) as one of the league’s best defensive forwards, finishing in the top-five of the Selke Trophy voting in each of the past two seasons, including as the runner-up during the 2018-19 season. He is also a regular on the Golden Knights’ penalty kill. If he doesn’t have the puck, it is only a matter of time until he takes it from you and helps turn it into the offense the other way.
If you are of the belief that your MVP has to play on a contender, well, he checks that box as well. He is an impact player in all three zones, in all three phases of the game (even-strength, penalty kill, power play) for what is one of the best teams in the NHL and a top Stanley Cup contender. He is the best player on that Stanley Cup contending team and one of the main cogs in that machine.
Because he isn’t likely to be one of the league’s top-five scorers he seems to be an afterthought in that MVP discussion (if he is even in it all). That should not be the case given his overall impact and importance not just as an individual player, but for a team that has a legitimate shot to win the Stanley Cup. He very well might be a top-10 overall player in the league right now and as long as he continues that complete two-way dominance for an elite team, there is no reason for him to not be one of your top MVP contenders.