The award is voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and is awarded to the “player judged most valuable to his team.” Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov took home the honor in 2019.
All three 2020 finalists put up impressive numbers in a season shortened by the coronavirus pandemic in March.
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the German-born Draisaitl beat out his teammate Connor McDavid with 110 points in 71 games — including 43 goals — to lead the league in scoring. His success was directly tied to his team’s success as well, as the Oilers went 24-5-2 when Draisaitl scored in a game versus a record of 13-20-7 when he did not. In addition to being named a finalist for the Hart Trophy, he was the recipient of the 2020 Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer through the regular season.
MacKinnon put up 93 points in 63 games, good enough to finish fifth in the league in scoring while having 29 multi-point games to his name. The Canadian center was also named a finalist for this year’s Lady Byng Trophy, which recognizes “the NHL player who best combines sportsmanship, gentlemanly conduct and ability.” Being named a Hart finalist gives MacKinnon his first shot at a major NHL award since receiving the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2014 as the league’s rookie of the year.
Panarin, who was in the first year of his lucrative seven-year contract with the Rangers, notched 95 points in 69 games, including 32 goals. The Russian native also led the league in even-strength scoring, with 71 of his points coming during 5-on-5 action. Like MacKinnnon, Panarin took home outstanding rookie honors in 2016 and the Hart represents his next end-of-year award opportunity.
Colorado, considered a championship contender by many since the start of the season, begins the newly-formatted playoffs on a bye after finishing second in the Western Conference behind the St. Louis Blues.
Edmonton will take on the Chicago Blackhawks in the Qualifying Round, a team which beat Draisatl and company in two of their three regular season matchups this year.
New York must get past the Carolina Hurricanes in order to advance to the next round, whom the Rangers beat all four times when they squared off in regular season play, but were unable to edge out in the overall standings.
In addition to the Hart, the same three players were named as finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award, where the NHL Players Association votes for whom they believe to be the most outstanding player.