The Stanley Cup final is taking place in Edmonton, Alberta, and Oilers star Leon Draisaitl made history on Monday night.
Only it had more to do with his homeland than his home arena.
Draisaitl was the first German player to win the Hart Trophy as an MVP after leading the league with 110 points in 71 games. He also won the Ted Lindsay Award for Most Outstanding Peer Voted Player.
Draisaitl joins former NBA star Dirk Nowitzki as the only German player to have received MVP honors in one of the four major North American professional sports leagues.
“Dirk was obviously someone I look up to, who I admire: the way he presents himself and how he has really achieved everything there is for a professional athlete in North America,”
Draisaitl was elected by the Professional Hockey Writers Association ahead of the Colorado Avalanche Center Nathan MacKinnon and New York Rangers winger Artemi Panarin. He scored 43 goals and his 67 assists were a career high despite the regular season being canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck won the Vezina Trophy as best goalkeeper, Nashville’s Roman Josi won the Norris Trophy as best defender and Colorado’s Cale Makar won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.
Draisaitl is the second Oilers player to win the Hart in the past four years, after Connor McDavid, who is widely regarded as the best hockey player in the world. Draisaitl played with and without McDavid this season and produced even more.
“I think Connor and I have a very healthy, great and competitive relationship and we try to improve each other every day,” said Draisaitl.
Edmonton was eliminated in the qualifying round of the extended playoffs with 24 teams, although he played games on his home ground – empty of course. Minutes before the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning competed in Game 2 of the final, Draisaitl practically accepted the Hart and Ted Lindsay from his home in Cologne, where it was early Wednesday morning.
Playoff performances do not count towards these awards, but Draisaitl had three goals and six points in Edmonton’s qualifying round against the Blackhawks.
Draisaitl couldn’t party with family members because they were asleep, and he’d rather be playing for a chance to win a title and adding another “NHL STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS” banner to the rafters at Rogers Place.
“It’s a nice personal reward,” said Draisaitl. “But there’s nothing ahead of the Stanley Cup. It’s the same for every player in the league. If I could return those two or three awards for a Stanley Cup, I would do it now, and I think so.” would everyone else. “
Hellebuyck is the first player from the Jets / Atlanta Thrashers franchise to win the Vezina. After stopping a Winnipeg team with an injury-related blue line, he ended the general manager’s vote in front of Tuukka Rask of Boston and Andrei Vasilevskiy of Tampa Bay.
The 27-year-old American, who said one of his goals was to win the Vezina, said, “It almost feels like a little monkey is falling off my back.”
Josi won his first Norris at the age of 30 after reaching career highs with 16 goals, 49 assists and 65 points. He finished ahead of Washington’s John Carlson and Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman, who was a finalist for the fourth consecutive year and a playoff MVP candidate.
“He’s one of those who could probably win this award every year,” Josi said of Hedman.
Makar ousted Vancouver defender Quinn Hughes in a close race for the calder. The 21-year-old played 21 minutes per game and was the Avalanche’s second top scorer after MacKinnon.
Makar, selected in the first round by UMass, led all first year defenders in goals (12) and finished second in assists (38) and points (50) to lead the Avalanche to the second best record in the west .
Like Draisaitl, Makar was (virtually) given the award by Wayne Gretkzy in an awards ceremony with an Oilers Flare. That made it even more special.
“Wayne Gretzky gave it to me, that was pretty cool,” said Makar. “I had never met him before, that was a pretty surreal moment for me.”
The Oilers actually designed three of the last four Hart winners. In addition to Draisaitl and McDavid, former Oilers striker Taylor Hall won the Hart with the New Jersey Devils in 2018.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.