And although the Stanley Cup, the trophy the Edmonton Oilers captain most craves, still eludes him, the 26-year-old is not taking his individual success for granted.
“Certainly, it’s not lost on me what these trophies mean in the grand scheme of our game,” McDavid said. “To do it a number of times, it means a lot to me. Obviously, it’s not the motivating factor, but it’s special still. I know the 5-year-old me would be [upset] if I was taking it for granted or something like that, because I’m not. It’s special.”
What made the evening even more special for McDavid was having the Hart Trophy presented to him by the family of Oilers superfan Ben Stelter, who died in August from glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, at the age of six.
McDavid was not aware the Stelter family, which included Mike, Lea and their daughters Dylan, 15, and Emmy, 5, would be presenting him with the award.
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“It really was a surprise and obviously emotional seeing them there,” McDavid said. “Everything they’ve been through, we obviously miss our buddy Ben, but the Ben Stelter Fund is doing such great things keeping his memory alive.”
McDavid earned 195 of 196 first-place votes (1,951 points) for the Hart Trophy, which is awarded to the most valuable player of the NHL. Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak, who received the other first-place vote, finished second with 1,053 points, and Florida Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk was third with 741 points.
McDavid won the Ted Lindsay Award, which is given annually to the most outstanding player in the NHL as voted by members of the NHL Players’ Association, over Pastrnak and San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson.
“I really feel that (the Ted Lindsay) is the most prestigious award that is given out here tonight in terms of hockey awards,” McDavid said. “To have your peers recognize you, they’re the ones you go to battle with every night, and for them to single you out, obviously, it’s really, really special.”
McDavid was recognized after he had a season for the ages. He won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer with 153 points, the most since Mario Lemieux had 161 for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1995-96. McDavid also won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the League’s leading goal-scorer with 64, and he led the League with 89 assists, becoming the fifth different player in NHL history to outright lead all three categories in one season. The others were Howie Morenz of the Montreal Canadiens (1927-28), Gordie Howe of the Detroit Red Wings (1950-51, 1952-53), Phil Esposito of the Boston Bruins (1972-73), and Wayne Gretzky of the Oilers (1981-82, 1982-83, 1983-84, 1984-85, 1986-87).
All three totals were career highs for McDavid, who was selected by the Oilers with the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. And looking toward a banner with a picture of himself on his draft day in the interview area at Bridgestone Arena, McDavid could not help but reflect on his career thus far.
“That makes me think about my teammates, that makes me think about my past teammates as well, everybody that I’ve played with or I continue to play with,” McDavid said. “It just as easily could have been [Leon Draisaitl] standing on the stage as well, he’s that good. Obviously, playing with a special power-play unit, I think about those guys and just the entire group. I wouldn’t be standing up there without each and every single one of them, and I truly mean that, because everybody brings something to that group and has brought something to me as a person, and that’s players past and present.”
The next trophy McDavid will look to win now is the Stanley Cup, something Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who won the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award on Monday, believes he will in a matter of time.
“He has that desire and that drive,” said Stamkos, who won the Cup in 2020 and 2021. “Those individual awards are great in the trophy case, but he’ll be the first one to tell you winning a championship is the one you want. Those individual awards become a little nicer when you put the Stanley Cup beside them, and that’s how I’ve looked at it.
“We’ve won Presidents’ Trophies and Eastern Conference Championship trophies, and once you win a Stanley Cup, those become the ones that are on the shelf next to that, and you’re even more proud of those.”
Edmonton fell short of that this season, losing to the Vegas Golden Knights in six games in the Western Conference Second Round. It was the second consecutive season the Oilers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the eventual Stanley Cup champion. They were swept by the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Final in 2022.
For McDavid, those disappointing results will fuel him and the rest of the team through the summer and training camp, but that can wait until tomorrow.
“It’s a long way away, there is a lot of work that needs to go into the summer,” McDavid said. “But on a night like tonight, you just try to enjoy it.”