Trophies are true representatives of success, whether earned via scoring the most points or by being voted by league members to be the most valuable player. Trophies can also represent a truer team stat, though some goalies deserve nods for being the reason behind their teams’ success.
Below is the first installment of updates on trophy tracking various accolades throughout the NHL. This article provides a more significant analysis of assessing the point awards, the Art Ross, the award given to the league’s top scorer, and the Rocket Richard, granted to the league’s leading goal scorer. This article also reveals potential Hart Trophy nominees, given to the league’s most valuable player (MVP), and the Calder Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s top rookie.
Art Ross Trophy
The Art Ross Trophy is presented to the NHL player who collects the most points and is one of the more challenging awards to garner due to the talent throughout the modern NHL. Every year since the 2019–2020 season, this award has been won by a member of the Edmonton Oilers. Leon Draisaitl took home the trophy for the 2019–2020 season while Connor McDavid won the next two seasons.
As of today, McDavid is again leading this category by leaps and bounds. He did add to his total by scoring against the Seattle Kraken, beating the lone current representative of my hometown, Carson Soucy, wide before burying it past Martin Jones.
Ahead of teammate Draisaitl by 15 points, McDavid is currently on a 155-point pace across an 82-game season, a total not seen since Mario Lemieux in 1995–96. Part of the reason for both McDavid and Draisaitl’s success is attributed to the Oilers’ vaunted NHL best powerplay, currently succeeding at 32.12%, as only slightly above half of both players’ point totals have come from even-strength play.
Following the two leaders are the Dallas Stars’ Jason Robertson, the resurgent Erik Karlsson, and Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov. Although a single point only separates the three, Robertson has set himself apart due to his goal-scoring ability. In contrast, Karlsson has refound his form and is currently leading all defencemen in goals, assist, and points. Kucherov has played fewer games than his counterparts. Still, his continual feeding of Steven Stamkos on the powerplay predicts that Kucherov will always remain a threat to the NHL point leader.
Rocket Richard Trophy
Similar to the Art Ross Trophy race, McDavid also leads this category, although not to the same degree. McDavid is shooting well above his career shooting percentage of 15.6%, but this could be a sign of McDavid’s willingness to attack and take advantage of defender’s perceptions to view him as a passer rather than a shooter.
Interestingly, over half of McDavid’s goals are coming at even strength, almost the pace of the second-ranked Tage Thompson. Break-out star Thompson has closed the gap with McDavid even further due to netting another hat trick tonight. Though similar to McDavid, Thompson also shoots roughly 5% above his career average, a lesser extent than McDavid’s 7%.
Not far behind Thompson is the ageless wonder Alex Ovechkin, who has now set his sights on becoming the greatest scorer in NHL history after recently passing the late Gordie Howe. Behind Ovechkin is the Vancouver Canuck’s top trade candidate, Bo Horvat, and already discussed break-out stud, Robertson. Only a single goal currently separates the three players.
Although Ovechkin is shooting slightly above his career shooting percentage, it seems sensical to predict that he will continue to score at this current 50 to 55 goal pace. His powerplay prowess and the ability for other teams to not solve him from his usual left hashmark indicates he will continue his torrid pace.
Similar to Ovechkin, Robertson is an individual who can also increase his goal total as he is currently shooting slightly below his career average shooting percentage and is also now on pace for 55 goals with the potential for more. Horvat is shooting well above his career norm by 10%. Although he is currently on pace for 59 goals, it is fair to expect regression due to the unsustainable shooting percentage and high powerplay goal volume.
Hart Memorial Trophy
Hart Trophy voting and predictions can prove difficult as almost every fanbase believes their superstar is deserving of holding the league’s most prestigious award. The argument cannot be made that McDavid is not the most deserving of the award after being snubbed last year. Still, night in and night out, McDavid is consistently the reason why the Oilers are within reach of winning every game, and his statistics back up this claim. As addressed earlier, McDavid’s torrent scoring pace, his league norm C% and XG%, and him being the focal point of the league’s top powerplay has taken him to another level by leading the league in point share, a statistic similar to baseball’s WAR that estimates the number of wins created by each player.
Other competitors for the award include the aforementioned Robertson, who has possessed some of the best underlying metrics in the league and ranks second league-wide in point shares, third in points, and fifth in goals scored. An additional candidate is the reinvigorated Karlsson, who leads all defencemen in almost every offensive statistical category, including goals, assists, and points. He ranks eighth in C% and possesses above-average expected goals percentage, alongside placing third in wins created among all players.
Two new candidates are introduced include David Pastrnak and Connor Hellebuyck. Pastrnak ranks at or near the top of a variety of categories, including first in shot attempts, third in expected goals, third in expected goals%, third in created expected goals, sixth in expected goals/60, fifth in actual goals, seventh in points, and sixth in wins created.
Hellebuyck is given the nod to Linus Ullmark for two reasons, although the margins of selection are very slim. First, he has started three more games; second, Hellebuyck has almost half a win more created, 7.1, over Ullmark’s 6.5. Though either could be a toss-up, each goalie represents at or near the top of every statistical category, including wins, goals-against average, save percentage, goals saved above expected, and goals saved above expected.
(Honourable mentions to goalies Ullmark, who has taken over the Boston Bruins and has a staggering 20–1–1 record, and Ilya Sorokin, who is playing some of the best goaltending in hockey.)
Calder Memorial Trophy
The Calder Trophy has much greater variability in its week-to-week play due to rookie play, time on ice changes, call-ups, and line-up adjustments. Therefore, although Matty Beniers is regarded as the top favourite for leading the rookie scoring race, three of the top spots are filled by goalies due to stealing starter opportunities and enhanced play. The final spot is filled by Owen Power, though it should belong to second-place scorer Matias Macelli. He, unfortunately, suffered a long-term injury, requiring dropping from the rankings.
Beniers is the clear positional favourite, as his point total gap is above five over the second-ranked and now-injured Matias Macelli. Along with stellar point production at a roughly 60-point pace, Beniers has also posted above-league-norm shot quality and control metrics while leading the underdog Kraken to surprising season successes.
Where the rankings likely differ is between the orders of the three rookie goalies. Although Logan Thompson has registered the most wins and starts, he does not possess the best underlying metrics. Pyotr Kochetkov, who may be relegated to backup duty with the return of Frederik Andersen, retains the league’s best GAA and SV%, but that can be reasoned due to the solid defensive structure of the Carolina Hurricanes.
The play by Stuart Skinner has been most surprising; he stole the starter’s crease from Jack Campbell and posted a GSAx of 9. In contrast, his counterpart Campbell has posted a -10 due to Edmonton’s woeful defensive structure. Furthermore, Skinner has posted GAA and SV% marks that are an entire goal and a half better than Campbell and SV%, which is better by 40 basis points.
Although this is the first of its series, the following installment will cover various other trophies, including the Norris, Vezina, Jack Adams, and Selke. Further updates on the trophy races listed above will be revisited in a later on.
All stats courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com and MoneyPuck.com.
Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire