Nikita Kucherov; Leon Draisaitl lead small group that could challenge Connor McDavid for scoring title

It was another big season for Edmonton Oilers superstar, Connor McDavid. The 24 year-old won the Hart Trophy becoming the fifth player to win it multiple times before his 25th birthday, joining Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe and Alex Ovechkin.

He also won the Ted Lindsay award on two previous occasions (2016-17, 2017-18) and is the second straight Oilers player to receive the honor (Leon Draisaitl).

McDavid secured his third Art Ross Trophy after leading the league with 105 points (33 goals, 72 assists) in just 56 games — 21 more points than his nearest competitor, Oilers teammate Leon Draisaitl.

“My teammates are everything,” McDavid said. “I really wouldn’t be anywhere without them.”

McDavid is the clear cut favorite to win the scoring title again, with his 3 year average of 1.61 points per game. However, several other players should give him a challenge.

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Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov could challenge McDavid for the scoring title

nikita kucherov
Jun 5, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) works out prior to the game in game four of the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After spending the entire regular season on LTIR from hip surgery, Nikita Kucherov led all playoff skaters in scoring with a staggering 32 points in 23 games. I understand that 19 of those points come on the man advantage, but special teams are a key to winning playoffs games and Kucherov is the best there is at it.

The 28 year-old Kucherov won the Art Ross Trophy in 2019 on the strength of 128 points. If he can stay healthy for a full season, there’s a strong possibility he could be in the race with a chance to beat McDavid.

Over the last three seasons, Kucherov has averaged 1.42 points per game and isn’t that far off from McDavid’s pace.

Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers

Draisaitl won the Art Ross trophy two seasons ago, and enjoys the benefit of playing on the same team as McDavid. The Oilers boast the best dynamic duo since Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier owned the ice in Edmonton.

Last season, the 25 year-old pivot record 84 points in 56 games. It will be difficult for him to outscore McDavid, but both are often on the same power play unit. That’s where Draisaitl could pick up some extra points and at least make it close.

Over the last three seasons, Draisaitl has enjoyed a 1.43 points per game average.

Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

avalanche holden knights playoffs
May 30, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) skates at Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner (90) in the second period of game one in the second round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

MacKinnon, 26, is one of the game’s most fiercest competitors. His laser focus on winning means he is less likely to take a chance offensively, instead going for a higher percentage play with less risk. That doesn’t mean he isn’t one of the best forwards in the NHL, because his numbers clearly say he is.

This past season, MacKinnon potted 65 points in 48 games. His points per game average over the last three seasons is 1.29. Playing on a line with Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen makes hime a legit threat to McDavid’s scoring reign.

Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers

artemi panarin
Mar 30, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers left wing Artemi Panarin (10) celebrates his third period goal against the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Al Bello/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

The brightest star on Broadway put on an MVP-like performance in his first season in New York. Last season, amidst some controversy that forced Artemi Panarin to take a leave of absence. However he still scored 58 points in 42 games.

New York is now coming out of a rebuild phase and the younger players are starting to realize their potential. Last year it was Adam Fox, this season it could be Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafrenière. All this adds up to the 29 year-old Panarin benefitting on the scoresheet.

Over the last three seasons, Panarin has averaged 1.26 points per game.

Honorable Mentions: Patrick Kane (1.26 p/gp 3 avg), Brad Marchand (1.27), David Pastrnak (1.22)

*NHL Stats was used for this article.