Leon Draisaitl is walking a path very few Edmonton Oilers have walked before him.
Wayne Gretzky, Grant Fuhr, Mark Messier and Connor McDavid are the only other Oilers to have been finalists for the Hart Trophy. On Tuesday, Draisaitl joined them.
“Obviously, amazing players. Legends of the game, no question about it. It’s a big honour to be part of that group for sure,” Draisaitl, who topped the NHL in scoring in 2019/20 with 110 points in 71 games, said on Tuesday.
“We all saw, points-wise, how he can dominate, what he did this year,” Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “At the same time, he also drove our team, energy-wise, and really dialed it in defensively, too. He really put it all together.”
“That whole core has continued to mature. They’re the core that drives our team. The leadership they show is both on the ice and off the ice,” head coach Dave Tippett said.
“The motivation to win off the ice has to come through also. That’s where I see Connor, Leon, Nuge, all these guys, I see them continue to grow because they want to win.”
Draisaitl proved he can produce regardless of his linemates. After playing the first half of the season with Connor McDavid, he joined up with Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto in the new year.
Draisaitl racked up 48 points in the final 29 games of the regular season.
“The rest of the NHL finally realized the impact Leon was having on the Oilers when Connor went down with an injury and Leon put the team on his back,” said 630 CHED Oilers analyst Rob Brown.
“Leon will win the Hart. He was the best player in the NHL this year. Period.”
“He was great this year, huge for us in all situations,” McDavid said.
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“I think every player wants to get better every summer,” said Draisaitl. “I’m no different. This season seemed to work out. Hopefully, we can bring that into the playoffs as a team.”
The other Hart finalists are Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche and Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers.
The winner will be announced during the Conference Finals, with the exact date, format, and time to be determined.