2021 Hart Trophy finalists: MacKinnon, Matthews, McDavid

2021 Hart Trophy finalists: MacKinnon, Matthews, McDavid
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The NHL announced the three 2021 Hart Trophy finalists: Nathan MacKinnon (Avalanche), Auston Matthews (Maple Leafs), and Connor McDavid (Oilers). The Professional Hockey Writers vote on the Hart Trophy, awarded to the “the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.”

McDavid’s Oilers teammate Leon Draisaitl won the Hart Trophy in 2019-20. McDavid is the only Hart Trophy finalist to win the award before, taking one in 2016-17.

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Nathan MacKinnon’s Hart Trophy credentials

First, from the NHL:

MacKinnon placed fourth in the NHL with a career-high 1.35 points per game (20-45—65 in 48 GP) to propel the Avalanche’s top-ranked offense to the franchise’s third Presidents’ Trophy (also 1996-97 and 2000-01). MacKinnon finished among the League leaders in shots on goal (3rd; 206), power-play points (3rd; 25), assists 5th; 45), points (8th; 65) and power-play assists (t-10th; 17) despite missing eight of Colorado’s 56 contests.

To put it most succinctly, MacKinnon’s Hart argument is most likely “best player on best team.”

Auston Matthews snipes to Hart Trophy finalist finish

In claiming the 2021 Maurice Richard Trophy, Matthews put together quite a season. From the league:

Matthews scored a League-leading 41 goals in 52 games (41-25—66) to help Toronto earn the top seed in its division for the sixth time in franchise history and first time since 1999-00. He became the first player in Maple Leafs history to capture the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, which first was awarded in 1998-99, as well as the first Toronto player since 1945-46 to pace the NHL in goals (Gaye Stewart). Matthews, who also led the League with 12 game-winning goals and 222 shots on goal, accounted for 22.0 percent of Toronto’s 186 total goals (excluding the shootout) – the highest single-season percentage by any NHL player since 2014-15 (Alex Ovechkin: 22.4% w/ WSH) and the best single-season mark by a Maple Leafs player in the expansion era (since 1967-68).

Impressive stuff all around.

Connor McDavid’s overwhelming Hart Trophy argument

Can you even overstate how incredible Connor McDavid’s 2020-21 regular season was? Scoring 100 points in 56 games went from unthinkable to something McDavid achieved with time to spare.

The NHL summarized many of McDavid’s Hart Trophy-worthy achievements:

McDavid posted a League-best 105 points (33-72—105 in 56 GP) – 21 more than the next-closest player (teammate and reigning Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl) – to power the Oilers to their second straight playoff berth. McDavid, who also topped the League in assists (72), power-play assists (28) and power-play points (37), factored on 57.38 percent of Edmonton’s 183 total goals (excluding the shootout) – the highest single-season percentage in NHL history. He also recorded a League-leading 1.88 points per game – the most by any player since 1995-96, when Mario Lemieux averaged 2.30 (w/ PIT).

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At some point during the 2020-21 NHL season, McDavid’s chase for 100 points changed things from a Hart Trophy argument to McDavid vs. history. Will the PHWA make McDavid the unanimous Hart Trophy winner? Will it be MacKinnon, Matthews, or even someone else who steals a first-place vote or two?

The winners of the 2021 NHL Awards will be announced during the Stanley Cup Semifinals and Stanley Cup Final.

NHL Award finalists announcement schedule:

Vezina Trophy: Marc-Andre Fleury, Philipp Grubauer, Andrei Vasilevskiy
Ted Lindsay Award: Sidney Crosby, Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid
Calder Memorial Trophy: Kirill Kaprizov, Alex Nedeljkovic, Jason Robertson

King Clancy Memorial Trophy: Kurtis Gabriel, Pekka Rinne, P.K. Subban
Lady Byng Memorial Trophy: Auston Matthews, Jaccob Slavin, Jared Spurgeon
Selke Trophy: Aleksander Barkov, Patrice Bergeron, Mark Stone
Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award: Renee Hess, Kevin Hodgson, Howard Smith
Bill Masterton Trophy: Matt Dumba, Oskar Lindblom, Patrick Marleau
Norris Trophy: Adam Fox, Victor Hedman, Cale Makar
Friday, June 11: Jack Adams Award

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.