The nominations are in, and Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid has been named a Hart Trophy finalist alongside Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets). In what’s been an exciting year for the Oilers, McDavid could potentially be Edmonton’s first Hart Trophy winner since 1989-90.
Mark Messier was the last Oiler to win the award after captaining Edmonton to what’s known as their lone Stanley Cup win without Wayne Gretzky. Not to be outdone, Messier finished second in league scoring with 129 points and led the NHL in playoff scoring with 31 points. Fast-forward 27 years and McDavid could be just the third Oiler ever to win league MVP honors. Gretzky won eight straight from 1979-80 to 1986-87 in Edmonton.
Gretzky, Messier, and now possibly McDavid—that’s some pretty elite company for the 20-year-old. In just his second season, McDavid took the NHL by storm and was the only player in the league to hit the 100-point plateau. He won the Art Ross Trophy and finished the scoring race with an 11-point lead. He also led the league in assists (70) and became the first Oiler to win the NHL scoring race in 30 years.
No One Comes Close to McDavid
Sportsnet reporter Dimitri Filipovic ran some analytics on the Hart Trophy contenders in late March. If there is one thing we can take away from Filipovic’s findings, it’s that no player in the league, not even Crosby (plus-5.7 percent relative to the Penguins without him), came close to generating the amount of scoring chances McDavid (plus-15.4 percent) did. Even Filipovic admitted McDavid looked like he was running away with the award.
If you take Crosby out of the Penguins’ lineup, they likely would still be a relatively well-equipped team and still one of the stronger ones in the NHL. If you take McDavid out of the Oilers’ lineup, you’re talking about two very different hockey clubs.
|Combination||Shots For %||Chances For %||Goals For %|
|TBL With VS Without Kucherov||+3.98||+9.82||+17.89|
|SJS With VS Without Burns||+3.37||+0.04||+13.63|
|EDM With VS Without McDavid||+4.86||+15.4||+12.28|
|BOS With VS Without Marchand||+7.72||+5.95||+9.76|
|OTT With VS Without Karlsson||+2.55||+0.33||+4.48|
|PIT With VS Without Crosby||+4.24||+5.72||+3.34|
|CHI With VS Without Kane||+0.4||-5.99||+0.38|
|WSH With VS Without Backstrom||-0.75||-2.67||-1.28|
*Stats courtesy of Corsica, data compiled by Dimitri Filipovic.
As good as all of those guys have been, it’s pretty tough to make a case that any are more qualified for the Hart Trophy than Connor McDavid, whose performance has checked all the boxes. Aesthetically speaking, there’s no more singularly electrifying talent than McDavid right now. What he’s able to do on the ice is unparalleled.
Simply The Best
Take it out of a Tina Turner song from the 1990s, and it still rings true today. When the Oilers drafted McDavid first overall in 2015, they were hoping they’d get a lifetime of promises and a world of dreams. In just two short seasons with Captain Connor, Edmonton has gone from the laughingstock of the league to a potential Stanley Cup contender.
What might be the most impressive about McDavid’s season is that he never went three games without appearing on the scoresheet. He was as consistent as they come from the start of the year right down to the very end. While most players fizzled out as the season came to a grueling end, that’s when McDavid set the hockey world on fire with 28 points in the final 18 games of the season.
McDavid’s a game changer, he’s a generational talent and a TV rating bonanza, and this is just the beginning. The 20-year-old has surpassed the likes of Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Patrick Kane as the most exciting player in the sport, and with that, he’s become the most valuable player to the league itself.