Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews, centre, celebrates his goal with teammate Mitch Marner during third period NHL hockey action against the Calgary Flames, in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, April 4, 2021. Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, Leafs centre Matthews and Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon have been named the finalists for the 2021 Hart Trophy.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal

Oilers’ McDavid, Leafs’ Matthews, Avs’ MacKinnon named Hart Trophy finalists

Oilers’ McDavid, Leafs’ Matthews, Avs’ MacKinnon named Hart Trophy finalists

NEW YORK — Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, Toronto Maple Leafs centre Auston Matthews and Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon have been named the finalists for the 2021 Hart Trophy.

The award is given out annually by the NHL to “the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.”

McDavid, considered by many to be the front-runner for the award, dominated the 2020-21 scoring race with 105 points (33 goals, 72 assists) in 56 games — 21 more points than runner-up and Oilers teammate Leon Draisaitl, who won the award last year.

The 24-year-old from Newmarket, Ont., — who won the Hart Trophy in 2016-17 and finished third in voting in 2018-19 — is seeking to become the fifth player in NHL history to capture the award multiple times before his 25th birthday after Wayne Gretzky (6x), Bobby Orr (3x), Gordie Howe (2x) and Alexander Ovechkin (2x).

A McDavid win also would make the Oilers the first team with different Hart Trophy winners in consecutive seasons since the Boston Bruins in 1968‑69 (Phil Esposito) and 1969-70 (Bobby Orr).

Matthews scored a league-leading 41 goals in 52 games to help Toronto earn the top seed in the North Division. He became the first Maple Leaf to lead the league in goals since Gaye Stewart in 1945-46.

The 23-year-old Scottsdale, Ariz., native is Toronto’s first Hart Trophy finalist since Doug Gilmour finished second in voting in 1992-93. Babe Pratt (1943-44) and Ted Kennedy(1954-55) are the only other Leafs to have won the award.

MacKinnon placed fourth in the NHL with a career-high 1.35 points per game (20 goals, 45 assists in 48 games) to propel the Avalanche’s top-ranked offence to the franchise’s third Presidents’ Trophy.

The 25-year-old from Cole Harbour, N.S., is a finalist for the second straight year and third time overall after second-place finishes in both 2017-18 and 2019-20.

He is looking to become the third Avalanche/Nordiques player to claim the Hart Trophy, following Joe Sakic(2000‑01) and Peter Forsberg (2002-03).

This year’s NHL award winners will be revealed during the Stanley Cup semifinals and final, with exact dates and times to be announced.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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