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Why Oilers C Leon Draisaitl Should Be Unanimous NHL Hart Trophy Winner

The NHL season is on pause but that doesn’t mean the Hart Trophy discussion should be…

The National Hockey League is amid a postponement due to the coronavirus that has spread to the United States and Canada. COVID 19 has put the NHL as well as just about every sports and entertainment business on hold. If this is more than a hold and the NHL doesn’t finish their season, one thing needs to be made clear. Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers was the best hockey player in the 2019-20 season.

It may come as a shock to the casual fan that might just hear the name Oilers and instantly turn their attention to Connor McDavid, however, Draisaitl was incredible this season and even turned it up more when aforementioned McDavid was sidelined with an injury. In 71 games played, Draisaitl scored 43 goals, added 67 assists which added up to the league lead in points with 110. He’s taken 218 shots on goal and has scored 10 game-winning goals this season.

What more does the German star have to do? He plays on both power-play units and the argument to be made against him is flawed because it’s either the fact that McDavid is his teammate or that he has a negative plus/minus rating. First off, who cares about plus/minus? That’s the worst stat in sports. It’s an entirely misleading stat because it’s based on goals scored for and against when you were on the ice. That does count a line change that you are making if you don’t get off the ice in time. So, that is a flawed metric in itself. The second problem with that is how McDavid was not only hurt but for the majority of the year, the two only played on the power play or overtime unit together. Draisaitl for nearly most of the season has played on his line.

Draisaitl happens to be…

  • Tied for the lead in games played (71)
  • 4th in goals scored (43)
  • 1st in assists (67)
  • 1st in points (110)
  • 1st in points per game (1.55)
  • 20th in shots on goal (218)
  • 3rd in qualified shooting percentage (19.7)
  • Tied for 1st in game-winning goals (10)
  • 2nd in power-play goals (16)
  • 2nd in power-play assists (28)
  • 1st out of all forwards in ice time per game (22:37)
  • 10th in the league in faceoff wins (661)
  • On a playoff team: 37-25-9 (2nd in Pacific Division)

The arguments against him can be deflected easily and they tired narratives. Before this season, could you have said Draisaitl might have benefitted a decent amount of his production from Connor McDavid? Of course. However, it’s time to realize Draisaitl isn’t Robin, the Edmonton Oilers indeed do have two superstar players. The crazy thing is that this year Draisaitl happens to be the best one.

Who else could rival Draisaitl in the Hart Trophy competition? Let’s take a look…

Boston Bruins RW David Pastrnak

  • 70 Games
  • 48 Goals (1st)
  • 47 Assists (13th)
  • 95 Points (T-3rd)
  • 1.36 Points per Game (5th)
  • 279 Shots on Goal (5th)
  • 17.2 Shot percentage
  • +21 in plus-minus (10th)
  • 10 game-winning goals (T-1st)
  • 20 power-play goals (1st)
  • 18 power-play assists (T-13th)
  • 18:58 average ice time per game among forwards (47th)
  • On a playoff team: 44-14-12 (1st in Atlantic Division)

New York Rangers LW Artemi Panarin

  • 69 Games
  • 32 Goals (13th)
  • 63 Assists (T-2nd)
  • 95 Points (T-3rd)
  • 1.38 Points per Game (4th)
  • 209 Shots on Goal (21st)
  • 15.3 Shot percentage
  • +36 in plus-minus (1st)
  • 4 game-winning goals (T-52nd)
  • 7 power-play goals (44th)
  • 17 power-play assists (12th)
  • 20:36 average ice time per game among forwards (16th)
  • On a playoff bubble team: 37-28-10 (4th in Eastern Conference Wild Card)

I think that both contenders are having great seasons and if the season is canceled than these will hold up as top-five seasons in the NHL this year. However, the only one that is comparable to Draisaitl is his teammate Connor McDavid because when you look at his numbers and the fact he’s only played 64 games it’s hard to argue against him being this year’s second-best player. Draisaitl is doing special things this season though and so he should get the unanimous nod.

When you look at what Artemi Panarin brings to the table it’s all-around playmaking ability and he would argue that he does not always play on the same line as star Mika Zibanejad similar to Drasaitl not playing on McDavid’s and vice versa. However, with Pastrnak, he plays on the line that has been called the perfection line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. When the season came to a pause Draisaitl was on the line with trade deadline acquisition Tyler Ennis and 21-year-old call-up Kailer Yamamoto. Not star Connor McDavid and not star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Why did the Oilers do it that way? Because Draisaitl elevates everyone around him. Pastrnak and Panarin certainly do that but if you need an all-around playmaker Draisaitl is the better option over those two while Pastrnak probably has the edge as a pure goal-scorer. Even that is up for debate.

Now, you see why I mentioned earlier that plus-minus is entirely a ridiculous stat to keep Draisaitl out of the Hart conversation. The fact is, he’s the conversation. The only one that you could argue is McDavid but the stats don’t add up for that to make sense. Do you know why the Oilers (if this season resumes) are headed back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017? Mainly Draisaitl. This has not been an easy playoff race as the standings practically change each night. It’s been very competitive so the Oilers needed to maintain their pace while McDavid was out and Draisaitl did just that.

I’m hoping we see a 2020 conclusion of the magnificent NHL season that was going on not long ago. However, if we don’t and even if we do, the only thing that is a guarantee is that the Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl was, in fact, the league’s MVP.

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