Hart Trophy 2020: Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl has forced himself into conversation

For most of the season, the 2019-20 Hart Trophy discussion has centered around three forwards: the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid, the Boston Bruins’ David Pastrnak and the Colorado Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon.

The forgotten man in the conversation — Leon Draisaitl.

He’s not getting overlooked anymore after becoming the first player to break the 100-point mark and a four-goal outburst in Monday’s 8-3 win over the Nashville Predators.

Draisaitl by the numbers

Draisaitl has scored 24 points in his last 12 games to become the league-leader in assists (64) and fourth in goals scored (43). He leads the NHL in multi-point games (32) and is on pace to finish with 133 points this season. It would be the most points in a season since the 1995-96 season when Mario Lemieux scored 161 points and Jaromir Jagr scored 149.

It’s been an incredible season for the German, who gets overshadowed by the presence of McDavid. The two have combined for 201 points this season with the next closest duo being the Bruins’ Brad Marchand and Pastrnak (174).

ROCKET RICHARD: Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews keeps pace with Pastrnak

The McDavid Effect

There’s an argument to make of whether Draisaitl should be the Hart Trophy frontrunner. Working against Draisaitl’s candidacy is the partnership with McDavid on the league’s best power-play unit (29.7 percent entering Tuesday).

Draisaitl has scored an NHL-best 43 points on the power play this season; McDavid is second with 42. He’s clearly benefitted from playing with the game’s best player, even with McDavid missing some time this season.

Race to the finish

Pastrnak, who’s the Rocket Richard leader with 47 goals entering Tuesday’s games, deserves heavy consideration as well as MacKinnon. The Avalanche has seen injuries to forwards Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog — and MacKinnon has still produced 86 points in 65 games this season.

The next closest in points on the Avs is rookie defenseman Cale Makar with just 47. MacKinnon has put Colorado on his back and has them battling with the St. Louis Blues for the Central Division title.

Awarding the Hart Trophy may fall to whoever has the strongest finish. According to NHL.com, entering Monday’s games, Colorado has the toughest remaining schedule in the league and Boston the eighth-toughest. Edmonton, on the other hand, has a favorable finish having the 11th-easiest remaining schedule, meaning ample opportunities for Draisaitl to continue tallying points against weaker opponents.

With a little over a month remaining in the regular season, much is still to happen in the Hart Trophy race — but it’ll truly make for entertaining hockey down the stretch.

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