To mark the start of the 2020-21 NHL regular season, is running its fifth and final installment of the Trophy Tracker series. Today, we look at the race for the Hart Trophy, the annual award given to the player judged most valuable to his team in the NHL as selected in a Professional Hockey Writers Association poll.As Nathan MacKinnon was dominating the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, his name all over the score sheet in just about every game the Colorado Avalanche played, former NHL players, coaches and executives working as analysts voiced their appreciation of the center.
“You’d have to dig deep to see if there is anybody more impactful than him, but I don’t think so,” former NHL coach Bruce Boudreau said.
[Trophy Tracker: Norris | Vezina | Calder | Jack Adams]
TSN analyst and former Calgary Flames general manager Craig Button said, “I think he’s become the best player on the planet.”
MacKinnon scored 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 15 games in the playoffs, this after scoring 93 (35 goals, 58 assists) in 68 regular-season games.
“Absolutely, Nathan MacKinnon is the best player in the entire National Hockey League,” NBC Sports analyst and former NHL forward Eddie Olczyk said. 
Voters for’s preseason trophy trackers agree. 
MacKinnon is the favorite to win the Hart Trophy, awarded to the NHL player voted to be the most valuable player to his team. He received 16 of the possible 19 first-place votes and 91 voting points, 18 more than Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, who was the only other player to receive a first-place vote (three).
“Last year, I did all of Colorado’s games in the bubble in Edmonton, and there’s no question in my mind he is the best 200-foot player in the game,” NBC Sports analyst and former NHL coach Pierre McGuire said. “He’s one of the most passionate and dynamic leaders both on and off the ice. His level of excellence and how he pushes his teammates to get to that next level is phenomenal.
“I would echo and agree with Eddie on MacKinnon being right now the best player in the National Hockey League.”
Video: Top 10 Nathan MacKinnon plays from 2019-20
The challenge for MacKinnon this season might very well come down to how he helps the Avalanche meet high expectations. 
MacKinnon has already acknowledged that he thinks Colorado is the favorite to win the Stanley Cup.
“Play well every night, grow, fix the things and hopefully head into the playoffs flying,” MacKinnon said early in training camp. “It’s all about the Cup for me and I think guys on the team.”
The Avalanche had a similar feeling last season but lost to the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Second Round. MacKinnon scored 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in the memorable seven-game series, but the Avalanche had to use third-string goalie Michael Hutchinson for Games 5-7 because of injuries to Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz.
Grubauer and Francouz are back and healthy to start this season.
“To me, the Avalanche absolutely, 110 percent they are the favorite [to win the Stanley Cup], they should be the favorite,” Olczyk said. “The question is, do they have enough in goal to be able to get them over the top? That’s my only question mark, but Nathan MacKinnon has gone to another level and what I look at as the complete hockey player, he has become just that.”
Voting totals (points awarded on a 5-4-3-2-1 basis): Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche, 91 points (16 first-place votes); Connor McDavid, Oilers, 73 points (three first-place votes); Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers, 30 points; Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs, 20 points; Brayden Point, Tampa Bay Lightning, 20 points; Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres, 14 points; Leon Draisaitl, Oilers, 10 points; Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks, 9 points; Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes, 6 points; David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins, 5 points; Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals, 3 points; Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers, 3 points; Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets, 1 point