Draisaitl, MacKinnon, Panarin Named Finalists for NHL’s Hart Trophy
Mar 8, 2020; San Jose, California, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) during the second period against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
The NHL announced on Tuesday that the three finalists for the 2019-2020 Hart Trophy are Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl, Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon and New York Rangers left-winger Artemi Panarin.
The award is given annually to the player judged to be most valuable to his team. The winner will be announced during this year’s Conference Finals.
Draisaitl, MacKinnon and Panarin were also named the finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award, which is given to the player deemed most valuable to his team as judged by the players, whereas the Hart Trophy is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Draisaitl has already locked up the Art Ross Trophy, as he led the league with 110 points (43 goals, 67 assists) in 71 games. He became the first German-born player to win the Art Ross Trophy. He was also the only player this season to finish the regular season with 100-plus points. His own teammate, Connor McDavid, finished in a distant second with 97 points. Granted, McDavid missed some time in February and Draisaitl does benefit from playing next to him, but he showed that he can carry the team with McDavid out.
Draisaitl also ranked first in points per game (1.55) and power-play points (44). In 71 games played, he had at least one point in 56 of them and had 33 multi-point games. The only true knock against Draisaitl is his lack of defense. He finished the regular season with a plus/minus of negative seven.
Edmonton’s record when Draisaitl scored? 24-5-2. When he didn’t score? 13-20-7. They finished in fifth place in the Western Conference and will play against the No. 12-seeded Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.
MacKinnon, meanwhile, finished the regular season with 93 total points (35 goals, 58 assists) in 69 games, which was good for fifth place amongst all players.
While Draisaitl had the help of McDavid almost all season, MacKinnon lost Mikko Rantanen for most of the season. He also finished with 43 points more than Colorado’s second-highest scorer, defenseman Cale Makar (who is a finalist for the Calder Memorial Trophy).
That’s not to take anything away from Colorado, who also boasts the talents of Gabriel Landeskog and Rantanen and finished second in the Western Conference, but MacKinnon really put this team on his back.
Plus, MacKinnon opened the year with a 13-game point streak. If not for the coronavirus pausing the regular season, MacKinnon would have most likely exceeded 100 points for the first time in his career.
MacKinnon improved his defensive game this season and only accrued 12 penalty minutes.
Finally, Panarin proved his doubters wrong and was worth every penny of the seven-year, $81.5 million contract that the New York Rangers gave him last offseason.
Despite missing part of the season (active for 69 total games), he finished with career-highs in both goals (32) and points (95). Just like Draisaitl and MacKinnon, Panarin finished with far-and-away more points than any of his teammates (Mika Zibanejad ranks second on the Rangers with 75 points).
He led the NHL in even-strength points as well with 71 and finished first among forwards in plus/minus with a ridiculous plus-36. Of his 69 games played, he had at least a point in 54 of them and had 28 multipoint games.
On the defensive side of the ice, Panarin consistently showed his creativity, picking opponents pockets which led to goals on the rush. Take this play against the New York Islanders as a prime example:
One knock against Panarin, who is the most all-around player of the three finalists, is that the Rangers were out of the top-eight in the Eastern Conference at the season pause (just barely out but still out nonetheless).
The Rangers (No. 11 seed) will face off against the No. 6 seed Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, beginning on Aug. 1.
Some notable players that weren’t named finalists for the Hart are McDavid and Boston Bruins right-winger David Pastrnak, who tied with Panarin for third in the league in scoring with 95 points (48 goals, 47 assists) as the Bruins finished in first place in the Eastern Conference.
Last year’s winner was Tampa Bay Lightning right-winger Nikita Kucherov.