Avalanche superstar Nathan MacKinnon is not here for your Hart Trophy vote. He’s not losing sleep about winning the Art Ross Trophy either.

That time has passed.

In a season where MacKinnon and the Avalanche have a legitimate shot at making some noise in the playoffs, his mind is set on one task: Winning the Stanley Cup.

“That stuff is out of my control,” MacKinnon told me. “I’ve lost it before, I definitely was more caught up with it back then. I really wanted to win it that year but since then I don’t really care and I realize that you can’t really control some voters and who they vote for. I’m just focused on helping this team win the Stanley Cup.”

MacKinnon was a finalist for the Hart at the conclusion of the 2017-18 season. He played a large role in turning the franchise around and single-handedly willed the Avalanche to their first playoff appearance in four years. In the end, the Hart Trophy went home with former New Jersey Devils forward Taylor Hall.

“I try to remember that not all the best players have won the Hart Trophy,” MacKinnon said. “I think Sid (Crosby) only has two and he’s been the best player for 15 years. My focus is to win as many Cups as I can.”

MacKinnon has certainly strung together an MVP-type of season through the first 33 games. The three-time Avs leading point producer has scored 20 goals and recorded 51 points. He is on pace to shatter his career-high of 99 points and is ranked third in the NHL behind Oilers forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl for the NHL scoring title. This all comes despite MacKinnon playing with what seems like different wingers every game.

“I don’t know if I’ll catch the Edmonton guys in points, they’re pretty amazing players,” he told me. “But obviously the team we have is so deep, we can mix things around and be successful.”

And that’s exactly what Avs coach Jared Bednar has done. With his forward core finally healthy, outside of the forgotten Colin Wilson, who is out long-term, Bednar has continuously flipped the forwards in the top six, searching for the perfect lines to move forward with.

MacKinnon’s regular wingers Mikko Rantanen and Gabe Landeskog each missed 16 games due to injury. When they returned, they were paired with MacKinnon before Bednar flipped his top two centermen and played the two wingers with center Nazem Kadri.

The other two wingers that round out the top six, Andre Burakovsky and Joonas Donskoi, were paired with MacKinnon—something they were used to when the Avalanche were dealing with injuries.

Now, Bednar has made one more move, bringing Rantanen back to MacKinnon’s wing and dropping Donskoi onto a line with Landeskog and Kadri.

Burakovsky and Rantanen have both played with MacKinnon at times this season but never together. So it’s only fair to expect that the trio can provide the Avalanche with a formidable scoring unit.

“A lot of speed and puck control and clean entries,” MacKinnon said, describing the new line. “Burky is one of the best players in the league in controlled entries and he’s so good at carrying the puck into the zone. He’s such a smooth skater with great vision. In the offensive zone, he holds onto the puck pretty nicely. Same with Mikko, his play speaks for itself. He is one of the best passers in the league. We try to be aggressive and make some plays—it’s a good mix. We just got to play good defensively. None of us are up for a Selke that’s for sure but I think the offense will come.”

Bednar has had the opportunity to fiddle with his top six because Colorado has depth throughout its four lines for the first time in his tenure as coach. On the third line, Newcomer Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and winger Matt Calvert have provided the Avs with solid offensive scoring, paired with former first-round pick Valeri Nichushkin. Nichushkin has scored six goals over the last 11 games after going scoreless in 91.

Colorado’s fourth line is made up of J.T. Compher, Tyson Jost and Matt Nieto.

“Even if they don’t score, we got two or three lines that are going to hem teams in and create momentum for us,” MacKinnon told me. “We had some help at times in the past but now every game one of those are lines are buzzing and they help us so much with momentum and zone time. They get the other team tired and on their heels and then we come out and we score. So they don’t always get the credit but they create space for us. It’s awesome to have that.”

Colorado ranks second in the NHL in goals with 119, trailing three behind the Washington Capitals. The Avalanche’s 3.61 goals per game is tops in the league.

Despite falling to the St. Louis Blues on Monday, the Avs still have their eyes set on first in the Central Division. Colorado trails St. Louis by three points but has two games in hand.

An opportunity to have home-ice advantage through at least the first two rounds is crucial for a team that fell in Game 7 of their second-round series against the San Jose Sharks last season.

“Our division is tough and so tight but we feel like we’re in the mix, especially when we have everyone healthy,” MacKinnon said. “If we get Cale (Makar) and EJ back and finally have a healthy roster we’re going to be a tough team to beat. Even if we don’t get that first place spot, we’re going to be a tough out for sure.”

“We have a chance to win it all. This is the first time I’ve ever been on a team like this in like seven years, it doesn’t happen often and hopefully for the rest of my career, it does. But home-ice is key. If we had home ice against San Jose last year we have a far better chance so hopefully that happens this season.”