Nathan MacKinnon, Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid were named finalists for the Hart Trophy on Thursday.
The award is given annually to the NHL player voted to be most valuable to his team by the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The winner will be announced as part of the 2021 NHL Awards presented by Bridgestone during the Stanley Cup Semifinals or Stanley Cup Final.
MacKinnon finished eighth in the NHL with 65 points (20 goals, 45 assists) and was plus-22 in 48 games. Among skaters to play at least 10 games, the Colorado Avalanche center was fourth with a points-per-game average of 1.35, third in power-play points (25) and shots on goal (206) in 20:22 of average ice time per game. MacKinnon scored 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) during a 15-game point streak from March 27-April 28, the longest in the NHL this season. He was second on the Avalanche in scoring, one point behind Mikko Rantanen, after leading them each of the past four seasons.
MacKinnon helped the Avalanche (39-13-4) win the Presidents’ Trophy with the best record in the NHL and qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the fourth straight season. A Hart finalist for the second straight season and third time in four seasons, MacKinnon was the runner-up to Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers last season and Taylor Hall of the New Jersey Devils in 2017-18. He would be the third Avalanche player to win the award and first since Peter Forsberg in 2003. Joe Sakic won it in 2001.
Matthews led the NHL with 41 goals in 52 games to become the first Toronto Maple Leafs player to do so in 75 years (Gaye Stewart, 37 goals; 1945-46) and the first United States-born player in 24 years (Keith Tkachuk, 52; 1996-97). The center, a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award as NHL MVP as voted by members of the NHL Players’ Association on June 2, led the NHL in game-winning goals (12) and shots on goal (222), was second in even-strength points (53; 31 goals, 22 assists), and his 66 points were tied for fifth with Rantanen and Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane.
Matthews helped Toronto (35-14-7) finish first in the Scotia North Division and qualify for the playoffs for the fifth straight season. He is a first-time finalist and would be the third Maple Leafs player to win the award and first since Ted Kenney in 1955. Babe Pratt won it in 1944
McDavid led the NHL with 105 points (33 goals, 72 assists), 21 ahead of Draisaitl (84, second). The center led the NHL in assists, even-strength points (68; 24 goals, 44 assists) and power-play points (37; nine goals, 28 assists), and was second in goals and game-winning goals (11). McDavid scored at least one point in 45 of 56 games and had 33 multipoint games, including 18 with at least three points. A Ted Lindsay Award finalist, it was the third time McDavid led the NHL in scoring (100 points in 2016-17; 108 in 2017-18).
McDavid helped the Oilers (35-19-2) finish second in the North to qualify for the playoffs. A three-time finalist, he was MVP in 2016-17 and would be the second straight Oilers player to win the award. The captain can also become the second Edmonton player to win it multiple times. Wayne Gretzky won it eight straight seasons from 1979-80 to 1986-87.