To mark the end of the regular season, NHL.com is running its fifth and final installment of the Trophy Tracker series this week. Today, we look at the race for the Hart Trophy, the annual award given to the player judged most valuable to his team in the NHL as selected in a Professional Hockey Writers Association poll.
Leon Draisaitl meant more to the Edmonton Oilers this season than he did last season, which says a lot about the impact made by the center.
Draisaitl, who was chosen in a panel of 18 NHL.com writers as the Hart Trophy winner as MVP this season, won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL leader with 110 points (43 goals, 67 assists) in 71 games, five more points in 11 fewer games than he scored last season.
"I think I've always been more of the pass-first type of guy but I knew early on in my career in the NHL that I have to be a threat to shoot once in a while, too, otherwise I'm too predictable," Draisaitl said Friday. "It's just something I've worked on constantly during the summer, in season, whenever it was, so it's something I had to put into my game."
Draisaitl finished with 12 first-place votes and 83 voting points. Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (64 points) had four first-place votes, and forward David Pastrnak (45 points) of the Boston Bruins and center Connor McDavid (34 points) of the Oilers each received one first-place vote.
Video: EDM@NSH: Draisaitl dazzles with four-goal game in win
Draisaitl was also first in points per game (1.55), assists, and power-play points (44). He was first among forwards in ice time per game (22:37), tied with Pastrnak for first in game-winning goals (10), and second in even-strength points (66) and power-play goals (16).
Draisaitl had 33 multipoint games, including 14 with at least three points. He had three four-point games and two five-point games.
"Tremendous accomplishment by Leon," Oilers general manager Ken Holland said of him winning the scoring title. "It's a credit to his commitment, his passion the hard work that he's put in and the determination over the course of the last three, four five seasons to continue to take steps forward in his career."
More importantly, the Oilers became a winning team this season in large part because of Draisaitl, who moved away from McDavid to center his own line, giving Edmonton two dangerous scoring lines.
The Oilers, who were 37-25-9 (.585 points percentage) when the season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus, finished fifth in the Western Conference after finishing seventh in the Pacific Division last season.
Edmonton was 24-5-2 when Draisaitl scored this season and 13-20-7 when he didn't. Their record was worse when he scored in 2018-19 (16-19-4 when he did, 19-19-5 when he didn't) even though he scored 50 goals.
"You dream of these things, no question, but until you do it, it seems so far away," Draisaitl said. "I'm proud in a way of course but I know that I still have lots of things to work on. ... There's many things in my game I can improve so I am looking to do that every year."
Draisaitl's hot start this season helped the Oilers get going in the right direction. He scored a League-high 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 19 games through Nov. 10, and the Oilers were 12-5-2.
He and Edmonton closed strong too. Draisaitl scored 33 points (16 goals, 17 assists) in 21 games from Jan. 31 to the time the season was paused, and the Oilers were 11-7-3, their 25 points second-most in the Pacific Division in that time behind the Vegas Golden Knights (29).
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Leon Draisaitl, Oilers, 83 points (12 first-place votes); Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche, 64 points (four first-place votes); David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins, 45 points (one first-place vote); Connor McDavid, Oilers, 34 points (one first-place vote); Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers, 30 points; Roman Josi, Nashville Predators, 6 points; Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning, 2 points; Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets, 2 points; John Carlson, Washington Capitals, 1 point; Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres, 1 point; Brad Marchand, Bruins, 1 point