We aren’t even 40% into the NHL regular season at this point, but we are once again getting an opportunity to dive into some season-long futures.
Prior to the season, we were able to get some predictions in on the biggest NHL awards that are presented shortly after the conclusion of the Stanley Cup Finals.
There’s no confirmed date for the awards at this point, however for now we can at least take a look into the odds and make some predictions on who will be given the hardware sometime in the second-half of June. For each award, I’ll be giving out a prediction as well as a value pick in case you want to roll the dice on a longshot.
*Unless otherwise noted, odds are courtesy of BetOnline.
Art Ross Trophy
The Art Ross Trophy is given to the NHL’s point leader. As it stands right now, the Edmonton Oilers’ dynamic duo of Connor McDavid (+225) and Leon Draisaitl (+275) are the favorites, and for good reason. McDavid leads the NHL with 51 points at the moment while Draisaitl sits one point behind with 50.
Interestingly, it’s a dynamic duo faceoff right now as Boston’s Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak both sit with +500 odds to win the award with 43 and 42 points, respectively. It should be fun to watch these duos go toe-to-toe in the points race as the season moves along.
Prediction: Connor McDavid (+225)
As I did before the season – at increased +275 odds – I’ll simply go with McDavid here as he has proven to be the best hockey player in the world at the moment, not to mention his current eight-point lead on anyone not wearing an Oilers uniform.
Sure, there is some in-house competition with Draisaitl, but the sustainability of his production – while interlocked with McDavid as they skate together on the team’s top line and top power play unit – is in greater question than McDavid.
McDavid has tallied at least 100 points in three straight season and is coming off a career-high of 116 from last season while Draisaitl’s career-high of 105 came last season. His 0.95 points per game in his NHL career to this point falls well under the 1.34 points-per-game McDavid has put forth for his career.
You wouldn’t be wrong to attempt to grab a little extra value with the big German, however I don’t see much reason to avoid McDavid given the value in his odds as well.
Value Pick: Nathan MacKinnon (+500)
To be honest, barring injury, there’s only a tiny chance that anyone catches the McDavid/Draisaitl duo. If anyone can though, my money is on Nathan MacKinnon.
While Oilers’ and Bruins’ dynamic duos have spent the entire season lighting it up together, MacKinnon sits tied with Pastrnak for fourth in the NHL scoring with 42 points on the season without his partner in crime, Mikko Rantanen.
Rantanen and MacKinnon came out of the gate hard together last season and while they eventually were slowed down, they haven’t gotten their chance to redeem themselves in the scoring race as Rantanen missed 15 games with a lower-body injury.
Prior to getting hurt, Rantanen was well on his way to another career-year with 16 points in 10 games – good for a 131-point pace over a full 82-game season. his previous career-high was 87 points from last year despite missing eight games that season as well.
It didn’t take Rantanen long to find his game as he scored a goal and added three helpers for four points in, get this, 10:43 of ice time against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. In that same game, MacKinnon notched a goal and two helpers, giving him four goals and 10 points over his last four games.
MacKinnon has as many points as Pastrnak while skating the majority of the season with player such as Joonas Donskoi, Andre Burakovsky and Nazem Kadri. Those are all fine players, but they aren’t superstars such as McDavid, Draisaitl, Marchand or Pastrnak.
With his main partner in crime back in action, perhaps MacKinnon can make an underdog run to the top of the NHL scoring race.
The Hart Trophy is a fancy name for MVP. This one certainly has strong ties to the Art Ross Trophy, especially if the player leads his team to the postseason – which is what the top point-getters in the league are doing at the moment with the Oilers, Bruins and Avalanche comfortably inside the playoff picture while the latter two are Stanley Cup contenders, as per their odds at BetOnline.
Prediction: Connor McDavid (+200)
I’m a little miffed at the odds list at BetOnline for this award as Leon Draisaitl doesn’t even appear on it. At the moment, that makes things quite easy as Draisaitl is currently the biggest threat to McDavid’s scoring title and would seemingly be a candidate to steal the Hart away from him if he were to accomplish that feat.
If McDavid wins the scoring race and the Oilers get into the playoffs – they currently lead the Pacific Division with 37 points, second-best markin the Western Conference – there’s no way he doesn’t win the Hart Trophy. Considering the Oilers missed the playoffs by 11 points last season, their captain leading the league in scoring while carrying them into the postseason is one heck of a resume to win his second career Hart.
Value Pick: Alex Ovechkin (+1200)
Of course, I like MacKinnon as a value play here as well at the same +500 odds he’s listed at to win the Art Ross, however I’ll go a little deeper here and take a look at the Great 8.
For one, Ovechkin’s Capitals are among the very best teams in the NHL right now as their 43 points are tied with the Bruins, although Boston holds the advantage with a game and hand and three more regulation + overtime wins.
Still, the longevity and consistency of this guy will get some attention if he continues to fill the net and the Capitals can somehow get their hands on the Presidents’ Trophy as the league best regular season team.
As it stands right now, Ovechkin sits behind only David Pastrnak with 20 goals on the season, although that’s still five behind the Bruins’ star winger. Still, if I were to choose whose pace is more sustainable I am going with Ovechkin by a landslide as his current 14.8% shooting percentage is much more reasonable than Pastrnak’s massive 23.1% mark. Pastrnak is shooting 8.2% above his career 14.9% mark and Ovechkin is shooting just 2.2% above his 12.6% career mark.
He’ll likely need the Rocket Richard Trophy to win the Hart, but he’s won the Hart three times already in his career (2008, 2009, 2013) despite pacing the league in points in just the 2007-08 season.
Rocket Richard Trophy
Speaking of the Rocket Richard Trophy, there aren’t actually odds for this award at BetOnline as these ones are courtesy of MyBookie.
The NHL goals leader has seen very little volatility since the aforementioned Ovechkin has entered the league. I mean, the dude has paced the league in goals in eight of the last 12 seasons and in six of the last seven seasons. Could this be the year that he gives up the crown to someone like Pastrnak or can he overcome a five-goal deficit to win his ninth career goal-scoring title?
Prediction: David Pastrnak (+225)
At the moment, Pastrnak owns a five-goal advantage on Ovechkin for the NHL’s goal lead with 25 while names like McDavid (19), Marchand and Draisaitl (18), MacKinnon (17), and Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel (16) lurk behind.
Still, Pastrnak’s five-goal lead is substantial and he isn’t even the favorite at MyBookie with Ovechkin sporting +200 odds to make the comeback.
As a result, maybe it’s not automatic that Pastrnak’s shooting percentage regresses substantially. In fact, I would suggest that his 23.1% mark 28 games into the season is proof enough that he’s going to shoot at a very, very high rate this season. He plays with an elite playmaker in Brad Marchand and his one-timer on the dominant Bruins power play allows for high-percentage shots.
I’ll take the increased value with the NHL’s current goal-scoring leader.
Value Pick: Nathan MacKinnon (+1800)
Here’s a little chart here that tells you all you have to know about the value of MacKinnon at this number.
As you can see, he ranks seventh in goals with 16 on the season, nine behind Pastrnak, but as mentioned, has done so without Rantanen by his side. Now that his super-skilled winger is once again riding shotgun to his right, a goal-scoring binge, or at least a continuation of his current one, is certainly in the cards.
His current +1800 odds offer substantially increased value over the likes of Matthews – who actually sits one goal behind him – and the rest of the names that are just 1-3 goals ahead of him.
This is guy who gives himself a chance to score every night by piling up the shots as his 127 shots ranks second only to Ovechkin’s 135 at this point. Like Ovechkin, MacKinnon has scored on a very reasonable 13.4% of his shots this season.
I can’t help but think there’s a ton of value upside here at these odds considering the current stats and the odds of his peers.
The final award being offered at BetOnline is the Calder Trophy which is presented to the NHL’s Rookie of the Year.
To me, this one isn’t even close and I think we’re getting wonderful value with this pick.
Prediction: Cale Makar (+200)
MacKinnon’s teammate in Colorado Cale Makar is having a rookie season for the ages among defensemen.
The NHL’s all-time leader in points by a rookie defensemen was Larry Murphy who tallied 76 points in 80 games with the 1980-81 Los Angeles Kings. That’s actually the record by quite a wide margin as Brian Leetch’s 71 points for the 1988-89 New York Rangers ranks second.
Looking at Makar’s numbers, he’s tallied eight goals and 26 points in as many games, putting him on pace, of course, for 82 points this season if he continues this precise point-per-game pace and skates in all of the club’s regular-season contests. In other words, he’s on pace to be the NHL’s all-time scoring leader among rookie defensemen. That would make him a lock for this award.
He’s doing so in a modest 20:10 of average ice time per game. Consider this: he ranks 86h in ice time among NHL defensemen but ranks third in points. This is thanks to his power play ice time as the lone defenseman on the Avs’ dangerous top power play unit. However, once again, that unit has been absent Rantanen for a long time and it stands to reason that Makar’s production could enhance from here.
If the season ended today, he’s a slam-dunk Calder winner, and I don’t see any reason to believe he won’t be, barring health, come season’s end.
Value Pick: Quinn Hughes (+350)
To be clear, I wouldn’t consider anyone for the Calder at this point other than Makar, so this pick would be insurance in case his health doesn’t hold up over the course of the season. In other words, if he gets injured.
Quinn Hughes is a quality plan B. The Canucks’ 20-year-old blueliner has exceeded expectations to this point, and like Makar, is being trusted with running a talented top power play unit. In fact, Hughes’ 4:06 of average power play ice time per game ties him for ninth in the entire league, 16 seconds ahead of Makar’s 3:50 mark.
Hughes has notched two goals and 23 points in 27 games on the season while that 70-point pace would rank him third on the current all-time rookie points by a defenseman leaderboard. He’s notched 13 of those 27 points on the power play while his 20:30 of ice time is almost right in line with the 20:10 Makar has averaged.
Perhaps Hughes can out-play Makar down the stretch, but to me he’s certainly a second option at this point in time.