Leon Draisaitl Wins N.H.L. M.V.P. Award

The N.H.L. dished out its most prestigious awards on Monday before Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals. Because of the pandemic, teams played 68 to 71 of the 82 scheduled regular-season games, making this the first time a season was shortened to disparate extents from team to team since 1925, when Hamilton Tigers players staged a strike during the playoffs.

The Hart Trophy, for the league’s most valuable player; the Ted Lindsay Award, for its most outstanding player; the Norris Trophy, for its top defenseman; the Vezina Trophy, for its best goaltender; and the Calder Trophy, for its top rookie, were all handed out in a virtual ceremony that replaced the usual festivities in Las Vegas.

Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl became the first German-born player and ninth European-trained player to win the award. He had already captured the Art Ross Trophy as the league leader in points. Once overshadowed by his teammate Connor McDavid, Draisaitl balanced consistency and explosiveness to keep the spotlight on him this season. He topped the league in multiple-point games (33) and found the score sheet in 56 of 71 games. He received 91 of a possible 170 first-place votes.

“I know that there’s so many people that have helped me get to this point, and there’s so many people that I have to thank,” Draisaitl said. “Family, friends, coaching staff, they trust in me, my teammates, most importantly, the fans.”

Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, who led his team in scoring by the widest margin of any player and was the playoffs’ leading scorer for more than a week after his team was eliminated, finished second. Rangers wing Artemi Panarin finished third after leading the league with 71 even-strength points. Panarin and Draisaitl’s teams were both ousted from the postseason in its novel qualifying round.

As he became the second German-born player to win an M.V.P. award in a major North American sports league (the N.B.A.’s Dirk Nowitzki was first), Draisaitl took home the Most Outstanding Player Award as well.

“We’re producing more and more players, so hopefully this will somehow give little kids maybe some more joy of playing hockey and starting hockey instead of other sports,” Draisaitl said.

While members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association vote for the winner of the Hart Trophy, the Lindsay is determined by player voting. Seven times in the past 10 seasons, the same player has earned both honors. This season, the groups of finalists were identical, though Panarin finished ahead of MacKinnon among the runners-up.

Credit…Jason Franson/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

Connor Hellebuyck was chosen by the N.H.L.’s general managers as the league’s top goalie. He was the foundation of a Winnipeg Jets team that had massive turnover in its defense corps. He faced — and stopped — more shots than any other goalie, led the N.H.L. in shutouts and finished second in wins despite his team being a fringe playoff club that was eliminated in the qualifying round.

“This year was just such a mental grind, but was also so fun,” Hellebuyck said, adding that he looked forward to greater team success in the future.

Hellebuyck finished sixth in Hart Trophy voting. The last goaltender to win the Hart was Carey Price, with whom Hellebuyck tied for the league high in games played among goaltenders this season. Tuukka Rask finished second, posting the best goals-against average while anchoring a goalie tandem for the league’s best team by record, the Boston Bruins. Andrei Vasilevskiy, who won the Vezina last year and has his Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup finals, finished third.

The Nashville Predators’ Roman Josi was voted as the league’s best all-around defenseman. Josi overtook the Washington Capitals’ John Carlson, who was an early-season favorite, with a blend of skill, flair, headiness and consistency. Opposing players gave him votes of confidence throughout the season, and so did the writers on Monday. Josi finished second in every major offensive category and seventh in the M.V.P. voting. The last Hart winner on the blue line was Chris Pronger in 2000.

Like Draisaitl, Josi headlines a blossoming hockey program, that of Switzerland. He is the first Swiss player to win the award. Mark Streit’s eighth-place finish in 2009 had been the highest finish for a Swiss defender.

“I was looking at some of the names who have won it, and those are all names you’ve idolized,” Josi said. “When I was younger, Scott Niedermayer was a guy I looked up to. I really loved his game. Chris Pronger, Chris Chelios, so many guys. Obviously, Bobby Orr, it was long ago, but to be next to those guys is pretty cool. Growing up in Switzerland, they always seemed to be so far away; it’s unbelievable my name is on there beside so many greats who have won it before.”

Carlson, the top scoring defenseman this season, was the second-place finisher ahead of Victor Hedman of the Lightning. Hedman is currently in pursuit of the Stanley Cup and possibly the Conn Smythe Trophy as the postseason M.V.P.


Credit…Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Though the three finalists were fairly clear-cut, there was no shortage of debate regarding who was hockey’s most outstanding rookie. In the end, it was Colorado’s Cale Makar, who plunged into the pros last season, transitioning from the N.C.A.A.’s Frozen Four to the Stanley Cup playoffs over a weekend. In his first full season, he was hindered by injury at times, but superlative in most areas when he was on the ice. Though his physique is still a work in progress, his skating and puck-handling skills belie his boyish appearance and soft-spoken voice.

“We’re in a very exciting group, and we’re in a good spot,” said Makar, 21, taking the opportunity to defer credit to his team. “I know everybody’s just pumped to get back at it, that’s for sure.”

Vancouver Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes, 20, finished second. He led all rookies in scoring, assists and power-play points after missing only one game this season. Chicago Blackhawks wing Dominik Kubalik, 25, finished third. Kubalik, a Czech, was a lethal goal scorer in Switzerland’s top league last season and his touch translated to the N.H.L., where he led all rookies in goals (30) and even-strength points (38). Rangers defenseman Adam Fox finished fourth, narrowly missing finalist status.

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