We're still less than halfway through the 2021 NHL season and dozens of games have been rescheduled due to COVID-19. However, while the sample size remains relatively small, it's large enough to have a better idea of who's in the Hart Trophy running.
Two otherworldly players have put some distance between themselves and the field. While they each have a compelling case as the front-runner, one of them has been more valuable than the other so far.
Here are our top five MVP candidates at this juncture:
5. Nathan MacKinnon
MacKinnon hasn't lit the world on fire in terms of goal-scoring this season, but he remains elite at playmaking and driving possession. The perennial Hart Trophy candidate has produced exceptional analytic figures, recording a 61.52 Corsi For percentage and a high-danger Corsi For percentage of 55.
The Colorado Avalanche have played fewer games than many other teams due to COVID-19 postponements; perhaps those interruptions have made it tough for MacKinnon to establish his typical clockwork scoring. Nevertheless, he's still one of the league's best players, and he's been exceedingly valuable to a very strong Avalanche club.
MacKinnon has figured in on 39% of Colorado's goals this season, so even though he isn't lighting the lamp at his usual rate, he's still helped create more than one-third of his team's offensive output. He leads the Avalanche in points and has racked up four more than his next-closest teammate. These trends show how much even a deep team like Colorado heavily relies on MacKinnon's contributions.
4. Leon Draisaitl
Draisaitl isn't a top three Hart contender this time around, but the 2019-20 recipient has been excellent this season.
The German center has again proven he can excel without Connor McDavid at five-on-five, though he still benefits from playing alongside the 2017 MVP on the Edmonton Oilers' effective power play.