It’s no secret that Nathan MacKinnon is a leader in the MVP race this season. It took a little longer than deserved to get the hype train rolling, but it’s moving at full steam (as it should). He’s up to 36 goals and 50 assists in 63 games on a playoff-bubble team that would be unfathomably different without him. He is every definition of what an MVP candidate needs to be. The problem is, most of that praise also applies to Taylor Hall or Anze Kopitar, also having outstanding seasons. These are by no means the only MVP candidates, just three with something in common.
The factor working in all these players’ MVP favors from day-one was the fact that they stand well above their teammates in terms of contribution to the team’s success. All 3 have put their teams on their backs and lugged them into the playoff bubble despite notable scoring problems below them on the depth chart. But that’s changing in Colorado thanks to the strong play of Mikko Rantanen.
Don’t get me wrong, Rantanen has been playing well all season long. But he’s been “MacKinnon’s talented linemate” good, not necessarily a team-carrier. Let’s take a look:
October: 10 points in 11 games
November: 10 in 12
December: 13 in 15
January: 16 in 11
February: 10 in 13
March: 18 in 9 (!!)
Lately, he’s been on another level, putting up 18 points in his last 10 games (now 77 in 71 games this season). That’s beast-mode Rantanen, and it’s drawing him quite a bit of attention around the twitterverse.
This might be bad news for MacKinnon. Depending on who you follow online, he’s neck-and-neck with Taylor Hall for MVP considerations; Hall is inexplicably 30 points ahead of Nico Hischier for the team lead in points. A dark horse candidate Kopitar is 29 points ahead of Drew Doughty. With Rantanen’s breakout, MacK’s lead amongst teammates is only 11 points. Is this enough of a difference to hurt MacK? Probably. But he still has a healthy point- and goal-total lead on the others in the same “team-carrying” category, and the benefit of playing on a team that came dead last only a season ago on a team that traded away a big-name scorer.
It will be a tight race, let’s hope the voters choose wisely.