Toronto Maple Leafs: Matthews or McDavid as the Hart Front-runner?

Mar 9, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) tries to knock the puck away from Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 9, 2019; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) tries to knock the puck away from Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (97) during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports /
facebooktwitterreddit
Prev
4 of 4
Next
TORONTO, ON – JANUARY 06: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers fires a shot against Martin Marincin #52 of the Toronto Maple Leafs  (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON – JANUARY 06: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers fires a shot against Martin Marincin #52 of the Toronto Maple Leafs  (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

The Frontrunner

As of this moment, I have to give a slight edge to McDavid. He leads the league in total points and even-strength points as well as the all-encompassing Goals Above Replacement model, according to Evolving-Hockey.

Some voters will look at the Leafs’ first line and notice Matthews has played 86% of his five-on-five minutes with Mitch Marner and will use that as an argument against him. With McDavid, only 12% of his five-on-five minutes have come alongside Draisaitl.

While some may personally disagree with using linemates as a factor when submitting your Hart ballot, including me, the truth of the matter is some will, which hurts Matthews’ argument.

Now, as of this writing, the Oilers sit in second place in the division. That is largely on the back of an incredible run by an almost 39-year-old Mike Smith, who has a 6-0-0 record with a 1.73 goals-against average and a .944 save-percentage (stats; NHL).

That is bound to regress at some point, closer to Smith’s 2019-20 numbers of 2.95 and .902.

With that in mind, it is entirely possible the Oilers’ current stretch is masking some of their weaknesses and the team will fall back to earth soon enough. It is quite telling that using Luszczyszyn’s “NHL Stanley Cup playoff chances and projected standings” tool, the Oilers’ probability of making the playoffs sat at 60% on February 17th. Nine days later, during this hot streak, that number has jumped all the way up to 94%.

If the team was to fall back, possibly even out of the playoff picture, and the Toronto Maple Leafs continue rolling, it would be hard to crown McDavid MVP at that point. Matthews would be the rightful recipient.

Next. 4 Marlies that Deserve Being Called Up to the Toronto Maple Leafs. dark

But for now, we are being given an absolute treat to be able to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs face off against the Edmonton Oilers another five times this season. One thing is for certain – the race is on.