NHL MVP candidates, a pair of Oilers
By JOHN WAWROW
AP Hockey Writer
The Edmonton Oilers’ resurgence placed Connor McDavid back in the NHL MVP conversation, along with teammate Leon Draisaitl.
Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon and Boston’s David Pastrnak made their case, too, during a pandemic-shortened season. And don’t forget Artemi Panarin, a late entry in the discussion after the New York Rangers finished 11th in the Eastern Conference, enough to qualify for the league’s proposed 24-team playoff format.
Difficult as it may be to remember the last time the puck dropped on March 11, the three months that have passed at least provided time for awards voters to pore over the numbers before submitting their ballots this week.
“This year, I’ve had more time than ever, honestly, because I haven’t been getting on airplanes,” joked NBC’s Pierre McGuire, who usually spends April through June hopping from one playoff matchup to another.
The only difficulty for McGuire was making projections on candidates because a full season wasn’t completed, and teams played an uneven number of games.
McGuire leaned toward favoring McDavid, who won the Hart in 2017, and Draisaitl by calling them “double-trouble” in helping the Oilers reach the playoffs for just the second time in 14 years. Centering separate lines, Draisaitl (43 goals and 110 points) and McDavid (37 goals and 97 points) finished 1-2 in the NHL point race.
That’s no disservice to MacKinnon, who had 35 goals and 93 points in helping the Avalanche overcome a rash of injuries and finish second in the Central Division. McGuire was equally impressed with Pastrnak posting career-highs with 48 goals and 95 points despite playing just 70 games.
Though Panarin is worthy of consideration, after finishing with 32 goals and 95 points, the knock on him is the Rangers season would be over if not for the expanded format.