Rick Zamperin: Race for NHL’s Hart Trophy is closer than you think

There is zero doubt in my mind that Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid is going to win the NHL’s Hart Trophy as league MVP this season for the second time in his career.

However, Toronto Maple Leafs sniper Auston Matthews is definitely giving his North Division rival a good run for his money and should be given serious consideration for the most prestigious individual award in all of hockey outside of the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Entering Thursday night’s slate of National Hockey League games, McDavid leads all players with a remarkable 93 points in 51 contests, leaving him seven points away from the century mark with five games left to play.

Not since the Pittsburgh Penguins’ super duo of Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in 1995-96 has a player amassed 100 points in 56 or fewer games.

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The Oilers captain, who collected “only” 97 points in 64 games last year, has at least one point in all but 10 games this year and is averaging 1.82 points per game this season.

McDavid has more assists (62) than all but six players have points this season, and his 31 goals are second only to Matthews.

Without McDavid, the Oilers would probably be in a dogfight to get into the playoffs, but instead, they are comfortably sitting in second place in the North.

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The league’s top goalscorer, Matthews, is also making a compelling case for the Hart.

The 23-year-old American has netted an impressive 39 goals in 48 games — including 18 in his last 18 — and is averaging a ridiculous 0.81 goals per game, a number we haven’t seen since the turn of the century.

The Maple Leafs star also leads the NHL with 12 game-winning goals and 29 even-strength tallies this season, and Matthews has scored 22.4 per cent of his team’s goals, more than any other player on any team this season.

Where would the Leafs be without their stud centre? Likely not atop the all-Canadian division.

McDavid has 30 more points than Matthews this season, and that’s a big spread, but the bulk of that difference has come via the power play.

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The Oilers’ star has a league-leading 32 points with the man advantage compared to Matthews’ 13.

That gap is a testament to the talent level of the 24-year-old McDavid, but when we compare five-on-five statistics, the 30 total point advantage that McDavid enjoys over Matthews shrinks dramatically.

McDavid has 22 goals and 39 assists for 61 points at even strength, while Matthews has potted 29 goals and 21 helpers for 50 points, a difference of just 11 points.

Click to play video: 'Catching up with Leafs winger Nick Robertson'
Catching up with Leafs winger Nick Robertson

They are two sensational superstar players who are having an incredible season and both have been incredibly fun to watch, but only one player will be awarded the Hart Trophy.

McDavid will win it, but Matthews shouldn’t be that far behind in the voting.

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Rick Zamperin is the assistant program, news and senior sports director at Global News Radio 900 CHML.

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