It was announced earlier that Connor McDavid would be a finalist for the Hart Trophy along with Toronto Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews and New York Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin. McDavid has won two Hart Trophies through his first six seasons and finished in the top five in voting in five of them. His rookie season, where he missed half the year, was the only time he hasn’t received votes.
It was a tough decision that had to be made by the NHLPA, as there were seven players I would consider crucial to their teams’ success. McDavid looks to become the third player in NHL history to capture three Hart Trophies before the age of 26. The others: Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr.
Taking a Look at McDavid’s MVP Calibre Season
This season has been nothing short of spectacular for McDavid as he set new career highs in goals (44), assists (79), points (123), power-play points (44), shots (314), faceoff percentage (53.7 percent), and hits (75). Some of those may be less meaningful in the MVP voting, but it proves he is elevating his play in many aspects of the game to do what he can for the Oilers offensively and defensively.
McDavid captained the Oilers to a season where they won the most games (49) and ended the season with the most points (104) for their franchise since 1986-87. Typically, only players on playoff teams get Hart Trophy consideration, and McDavid made sure that the Oilers were going to be playing meaningful games in May.
He registered a point in 63 of the 80 games he played and didn’t go more than three games without a point this season. Despite an amazing start and mediocre middle of the season by his standards, McDavid turned on the jets as he typically does down the stretch and further made his case for Hart. In the final 24 games of the season, he scored 15 goals and 44 points to finish the season eight points ahead of the next closest player and ranked seventh in goals in the NHL. Seventeen of those 24 games he had multiple points in, he had goal streaks of five (six goals) and six games (seven goals), recorded a 15-game point streak, which was his second longest of the season, and recorded 13 points in the last five games. To add a little pepper on his season, he also scored the most overtime goals this season, tied with Alex DeBrincat.
The Oilers needed lots of goals to get them to victories throughout the season, especially early on, and McDavid delivered. If the Art Ross Trophy Winner wasn’t on the Oilers, the team would be much worse off and likely not close to a playoff spot despite the talent that surrounded him.
Scoping the Competition for Hart
There were many players that had career years and great overall seasons, but seven stood out as possible Hart Trophy candidates. These included McDavid, Matthews, and Shesterkin but also Jonathan Huberdeau, Johnny Gaudreau, Roman Josi, and Leon Draisaitl. It must have been one of the tightest votes in years with more than enough players receiving love from the voters.
Looking at the closest competition in Matthews, the Maple Leafs’ superstar led the NHL in goals and was the first player to hit 60 goals in a season since Steven Stamkos in 2011-12. He also scored 50 goals in a 50-game span, the first to do so since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96. Matthews scored four hat tricks this season and recorded three six-plus goal streaks this season, accumulating 27 goals in those 19 games. He will be tough to top for McDavid to take home the award due to the goals he scored.
Shesterkin, the other Hart nominee, had one of the greatest single-season performances by a goaltender. If he hadn’t gone through a rough stretch of games, he may have been a lock. At one point, he held a .940 save percentage (SV%), which trailed only Jacques Plante for the highest in a season in NHL history. He since dropped to a .935 and finished the season with the fifth-highest SV% all-time by a goaltender who played 40 or more games. He also recorded a 2.07 goals against average, six shutouts, and a 44.9 goals saved above expected, which is incredibly high. This season rivaled Carey Price’s 2014-15 Hart Trophy season, but he had easier competition.
As for the players who didn’t get nominated, Draisaitl finished second in the NHL in goals with 55 on a line of his own while finishing the season as the only player to record 50-plus goals and assists. He finished fourth in scoring with 110 points, recorded the second-most power-play goals and points this season, and tied for the NHL lead in game-winning goals with 11.
Josi had an incredible season as a defenceman leading his team in points by 10 and finishing 12th in the NHL in scoring. He was very close to hitting 100 points on the season, and that mark may have swayed more votes in his favour. He was the first defenceman since Ray Bourque in 1993-94 to reach 90 points and the ninth blueliner to ever accomplish that in a season. He is a Norris Trophy finalist, so voters may have thought that was enough, but the Nashville Predators wouldn’t have come close to the playoffs without Josi’s excellent play in the offensive zone and his own end.
Huberdeau set many franchise records, but that clearly wasn’t enough and shouldn’t be considering the players can’t help the history of their franchise. He did finish the season tied in second in points with 115 and recorded the most assists in a season by a left winger in NHL history with 85. But he was also part of the highest scoring team in the NHL this season and one of the best offences we’ve seen in years.
Gaudreau led the best line in the NHL and also finished tied with Huberdeau at 115 points. He finished the season with a very high plus-64 plus/minus followed by his two linemates. Despite a great bounce-back season, his linemates and team as a whole were too good all around to single him out as a player that could have heavily impacted the Calgary Flames’ season.
With the incredible season McDavid had and winning the Art Ross Trophy in convincing fashion, he more than deserved to at least be nominated. There may be Oilers fatigue in the voting, but it can’t and didn’t let the fact that the same Oilers’ players will be at the top of the league year in and year out sway any decisions. People like change, but this season we may have a back-to-back Hart Trophy winner.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
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