To mark the halfway point in the season, NHL.com is running its third installment of the Trophy Tracker series. Today, we look at the race for the Hart Trophy, the award given annually to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team as voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Nathan MacKinnon keeps raising his own bar, so much so that the Colorado Avalanche center has now firmly established himself in the debate over who is the best player in the NHL.
He is the favorite among NHL,com writers for the Hart Trophy at the midpoint of the season, receiving 80 voting points, including 12 of the 18 first-place votes.
Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid was second in the voting with 63 points, including four first-place votes, and Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel was third with 51 points. Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak and Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl received the other first-place votes.
"I don't want to have just one good year and kind of fade away after that," MacKinnon said. "Being consistent is a tough thing in pro sports. Tough schedule, there are a lot of variables, but I definitely pride myself on consistency."
MacKinnon has intensified his level of consistency this season, which comes on the heels of his two best seasons in an NHL career that began in 2013-14.
He has 64 points (25 goals, 39 assists) in 42 games and is on pace for 50 goals, 76 assists and 125 points, which would all be NHL career highs.
Video: STL@COL: MacKinnon beats Binnington on breakaway
He had NHL career highs in goals (41) and points (99) last season, and his NHL career high in assists is 58, set in 2017-18 and matched last season.
This season, he's fourth in the League in goals, tied for fourth in assists, third in points, first in points per game (1.52), tied for fourth in even-strength goals (17), tied for first in even-strength points (41), fourth in power play points (23), second in shots on goal (194) and eighth in ice time per game among forwards (21:00).
What makes what he's done this season all the more impressive is the Avalanche (25-13-4) are second in the Central Division behind the St. Louis Blues and considered a legitimate Stanley Cup contender despite having no one remotely close to MacKinnon in terms of production.
The next closest in points is rookie defenseman Cale Makar, who has 32, half as many as MacKinnon albeit in eight fewer games. Next in goals is forward Nazem Kadri with 15. MacKinnon has 16 more assists than anyone else (Makar has 23) and 90 more shots on goal than his next closest teammate (Kadri has 104).
Some of his statistical dominance is a result of linemates Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog each missing 16 games with respective injuries, including an overlap of each being out for 14 straight games from Oct. 30-Nov. 29.
Rantanen has 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists) and Landeskog had 17 (10 goals, seven assists) in 26 games.
"Give him all the credit in the world," Dallas Stars coach Rick Bowness said. "With the year he's having, the year the team is having and his linemates missing for great parts of it, that's how good of a season he is having."
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche, 80 points (12 first-place votes); Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers, 63 (four first-place votes); Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres, 51; David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins, 29 (one first-place vote); Leon Draisaitl, Oilers, 21 (one first-place vote); John Carlson, Washington Capitals, 13; Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes, 5; Brad Marchand, Bruins, 4; Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers, 4
NHL.com correspondent Rick Sadowski contributed to this story