ST. LOUIS -- Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon have been lighting up the NHL this season, and players who participated in the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game say each is a top candidate for the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player in the League at this point in the season.
McDavid, a center for the Edmonton Oilers, leads the NHL with 76 points and 49 assists in 49 games. MacKinnon, a center for the Colorado Avalanche, is third in points with 72 (30 goals, 42 assists).
"Those two guys, they've been phenomenal to start the year," Minnesota Wild forward Eric Staal said. "I see Nathan a little more obviously with Colorado, but both guys have had great starts."
San Jose Sharks forward Tomas Hertl, who plays in the Pacific Division with McDavid, agreed McDavid and MacKinnon are the favorites but gave the edge to the Avalanche center.
"Both are amazing players, but I think I'll go with Nathan MacKinnon this year," Hertl said. "He's still a little bit underrated [compared] to some players, but every year he's growing up, he's taking the lead even last year during the (Stanley Cup) Playoffs and it's really hard to play against him and I think he will be even better and better. So I think for now it's him."
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Leon Draisaitl, McDavid's teammate who is second in the NHL with 75 points (27 goals, 48 assists) also was named by the players polled. In fact, some had a hard time choosing between the two Oilers forwards, as well as Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak, who leads the NHL with 37 goals.
"The two guys in Edmonton are doing a great job," Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman said. "Pastrnak is having a great season. There's so many guys. It's tough to tell."
Philadelphia Flyers forward Travis Konecny gave his vote to Eastern Conference rival Pastrnak.
"I'm sure Draisaitl and McDavid, those guys, are unbelievable, but we don't see them as much," Konecny said. "And it seems like Pastrnak scored every time you check the score sheet. So, he's incredible."
St. Louis Blues forward Ryan O'Reilly also mentioned MacKinnon, and added former Buffalo Sabres teammate Jack Eichel, who had 31 points (16 goals, 15 assists) during a 17-game point streak this season. Eichel is ninth in the NHL with 62 points (28 goals, 34 assists) in 48 games.
"The two guys that stick out in my mind are McKinnon, watching him, what he's been able to do, the numbers he's put up there is very impressive," O'Reilly said. "Also, I could say Eichel would be the equivalent of that. The point streak, when we played him, how dominant he was. I would say it would be a tie between those two guys right now."
Hedman was the only player polled to name a defenseman, John Carlson of the Washington Capitals, who is 10th in the League with 60 points (13 goals, 47 assists). Carlson leads all defensemen, with Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators second with 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists). Though Hedman named Carlson, he gave the nod to McDavid and Draisaitl.
"Even John Carlson with the season he's having so far deserves to be up there," Hedman said. "There's so many guys that obviously could win it, but I would say one of the two in Edmonton."