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Hart Trophy favorites include Matthews, McDavid

Stone, Vasilevskiy among writers' choices as most valuable player @NHLdotcom

Who was the most valuable player in the NHL during the 2020-21 regular season? That will be officially decided when the Hart Trophy, voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, is revealed during the 2021 Stanley Cup Final. Though the regular season isn't scheduled to end until May 19, staff writers already have their candidates for the award.

Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

Matthews is one player capable of convincing voters that Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid isn't a lock for the Hart Trophy. The 23-year-old center became the first NHL player to score 40 goals in fewer than 50 games (49) since 1999-00, when Pavel Bure scored 40 in 48 for the Florida Panthers, and is the third player in Maple Leafs history to do so (Frank Mahovlich, 48 games in 1960-61; Rick Vaive, 49 games in 1983-84). It's harder to score a goal than get an assist, and many of McDavid's assists are from goals scored by 2020 Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl. Matthews leads the NHL in goals (40), even-strength goals (30) and game-winning goals (12) and is tied with Ottawa Senators forward Brady Tkachuk for the most shots on goal (214). Not since 2007-08, when Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin scored 65 goals in 82 games, has there been a more prolific goal-scorer in one NHL season than Matthews. He's first in 5-on-5 goals per 60 minutes (1.93) and fifth in 5-on-5 points per 60 minutes (3.07) among skaters having played at least 30 games. McDavid is tied for 18th in goals per 60 (1.24) and leads Matthews by 0.53 in points per 60 (3.60). -- Mike G. Morreale, staff writer

Video: MTL@TOR: Matthews rips a shot from circle for 40th


Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Most seasons there is a legitimate debate about the worthiest Hart Trophy candidate. This should not be one of those, since McDavid is not only the most valuable player to his team, he's the most dominant player in the NHL. The 24-year-old Oilers captain has scored 102 points (33 goals, 69 assists) in 54 games, has a 21-point lead in the scoring race on Draisaitl and is 33 points ahead of Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand. There have been plenty of stellar performances this season, but none match McDavid's impact or the engine he provides the Oilers. He has scored points in 43 of 54 games and scored or assisted on 57.3 percent of Edmonton's goals. With skill and speed that is pushing the boundaries of what's possible on the ice, the fourth 100-point season in McDavid's NHL career is his most impressive. -- Tim Campbell, staff writer

Video: EDM@MTL: McDavid buries overtime winner on breakaway


Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights

Stone isn't the flashiest scorer in the NHL, even though he leads Vegas with 61 points (21 goals, 40 assists) in 54 games. With an average of 1.13 points per game, he's one of 11 NHL players this season to average at least 1.10 points playing at least 50 games. Stone averages 19:06 of ice time per game, including 1:22 shorthanded, on a penalty kill that's first in the NHL (86.7 percent). He's as good at helping prevent goals as he is at scoring them. He's been on the ice for 45 more goals scored than allowed, including plus-27 at even strength, which is tied for second among NHL forwards behind Draisaitl (plus-32), and his 57 takeaways are first. There isn't an element of the game that Stone doesn't affect for the Golden Knights, the first-place team in the Honda West Division -- Adam Kimelman, deputy managing editor

Video: VGK@MIN: Stone buries a wrist-shot past Talbot


Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

Yes, I am an unapologetic member of the goaltending union and I also know that there have been seven goalies to win this award since it was first handed out in 1924, including Dominik Hasek for the Buffalo Sabres in back-to-back seasons (1996-98). So the odds of Vasilevskiy winning the award are minuscule, but it won't stop me from making the argument that he should be the first goalie since Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens in 2015 to win the Hart. Vasilevskiy has dominated at his position for the defending Stanley Cup champions and may be the primary reason why Tampa Bay battled for the Discover Central Division crown into the last week of the season. His 31 wins are first among goalies who have played at least 25 games. He's made the second-most saves (1,144) behind Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets (1,165) and has the fourth-best save percentage (.925). Price had a .933 save percentage when he won the Hart, but more importantly than the raw numbers, Vasilevskiy gave the Lightning confidence while they endured a Stanley Cup hangover, the season-long absence of forward Nikita Kucherov and the end-of-season injury to forward Steven Stamkos. That, to me, is a deserving resume to be in Hart conversation. -- Shawn P. Roarke, senior director of editorial

Video: DAL@TBL: Vasilevskiy blanks Stars in 3-0 win

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