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 third installment of a biweekly update on trophy tracking various accolades throughout the NHL. This article provides a more significant analysis of assessing the point awards: the Art Ross, the Rocket Richard, potential Hart Trophy nominees, and the Calder Trophy.
McDavid still in the lead for Art Ross
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.
Ahead of teammate Draisaitl by 16 points, McDavid has slightly fallen off of the 150-point pace at last writing, currently set to “only” eclipse 147 points 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 Edmonton’s dangerous NHL-best powerplay, currently succeeding at 32.0%; slightly under half of McDavid’s points and just above half of Draisaitl’s point totals have come at even-strength play.
Following the two leaders is the Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, Boston Bruins’ David Pastrnak, and breakout player of the year, Buffalo Sabres’ Tage Thompson. Although the gap between third and fifth has expanded somewhat since the last report, Kucherov has set himself apart due to his play-making and passing ability. Pastrnak keeps pace via his goal-scoring in contrast to Kucherov’s play-making, currently ranking second in goals, with roughly 60% of his points coming at even strength. Thompson may not be as well known as his counterparts ahead of him in the Art Ross race, but Thompson’s ability to generate chances at even strength has elevated both his shot and play-making ability.
Since the last edition of the trophy tracker, Dallas Stars’ Jason Robertson and the resurgent Erik Karlsson’s point placement has slightly decreased, each sitting two points behind Thompson at 66 points.
Rocket Richard race also led by McDavid
McDavid continues to lead the Rocket Richard race, although the disparity between him and the competition is not to the same degree. McDavid is still shooting well above his career shooting percentage of 15.6%, besting his current mark by 4%. Still, as previously discussed, this could signify McDavid’s willingness to attack and take advantage of the defender’s perceptions to view him as a passer rather than a shooter, as they unsuspectingly wait for the cross-ice feed that ends up in the back of the net.
Although most of McDavid’s points have not come at even strength this season, over half of his goals have. This provides an interesting debate surrounding McDavid’s subtly improved even-strength play.
Also, since last writing, Pastrnak has risen through the ranks, from not within the top five to now sitting second behind McDavid. Unlike many on the list, Pastrnak is not shooting well above his career average, only one percent above his career average.
Breakout star Thompson places third, though similar to McDavid, Thompson is also shooting roughly 5% above his career average, a lesser extent than McDavid’s 7%.
Following Thompson is Colorado’s true MVP of this season, Mikko Rantanen. Unlike the top three players on this list, Rantanen is pacing his goal-scoring via even-strength goals, with almost 80% of goal production stemming from 5v5 play.
Jack Hughes, another player providing most of his goal tallies at even strength, rounds out the top five rankings. Akin to Thompson, Hughes is proving to many fans that he is not a bust, indicating why he was such a high draft pick, though he is 3% above his average shooting pace.
Fallen off since the last writing includes three names: ageless wonder Alex Ovechkin, Jason Robertson, and Bo Horvat. With each being attributed to either regression, in the case of the recently traded Horvat, or just falling behind the torrid pace of Rantenen, Pastrnak, and Hughes.
Is McDavid also deserving of the Hart?
Illustrated by consistent arguments, 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 surrounding who is regarded as most deserving should begin and end with McDavid. It is very apparent McDavid is constantly the reason why the Oilers have maintained an eight-game point streak since the calendar switched to 2023, and his statistics back up this claim. Not only in the conventional metrics that indicate McDavid’s torrent scoring pace, but his above NHL norm C% and XG% imply he continually succeeds at both ends of the ice, including leading the league in point shares, a statistic similar to baseball’s WAR that estimates the number of wins created by each player.
Other competitors for the award include Pastrnak, who has possessed some of the best underlying metrics at all strengths in the league, ranks second league-wide in point shares, fourth in points, and second in goals scored. Another less discussed individual within this article is Jason Robertson, who, like Pastrnak, ranks at or near the top of a variety of categories, including seventh in shot attempts/60, ninth in controlling high danger chances, 14th in shot quality, sixth in goals, seventh in points, and fourth in wins created.
Although last time, the nod was given to Connor Hellebuyck over Linus Ullmark, this time, it is vice versa, although the margins of selection are again very slim. First, although Hellebuyck has started and is worth one win more created, Ullmark leads almost every statistical category, including wins, goals-against average, save percentage, goals saved above average, and goals saved above expected. Additionally, Ullmark’s record has paced the Bruins to the league-leading record, currently possessing a 25–4–1.
The last candidate is the reinvigorated Karlsson, who leads all defencemen in almost every offensive statistical category, including goals, assists, and points. He possesses above-average expected goals and Corsi percentage, placing fifth in wins created among all players
Beniers is the front runner for the Calder
The Calder Trophy produces more significant variability in its week-to-week play due to rookie streakiness, time-on-ice changes, call-ups, and line-up adjustments. However, since the last writing, Matty Beniers has proven himself as the league-wide favourite, including leading the rookie scoring race. Though since Pyotr Kotchekov’s demotion upon the health of Frederik Andersen, the following top spots are filled by only two goalies who were producing and were stealing starter opportunities but have begun to tail off. The final places are held by the streaking Cole Perfetti and young defenceman Calen Addison, the rookie scoring leader for defenceman and fourth among all rookies.
As noted, Beniers is the clear positional favorite, as the point disparity between himself and second place has risen to seven over Cole Perfetti. Along with stellar point production, increasing to a 63-point pace over an 82-game season, Beniers has continued to post above-average shot control and quality metrics while leading the Seattle Kraken to a potential playoff spot.
The rankings likely differ between the orders of the two rookie goalies, as both have fallen off in recent weeks. As of last writing, Stuart Skinner ranked ahead of Logan Thompson, but due to Jack Campbell’s improved play, Skinner has, for the time being, taken a back seat in Edmonton’s crease. Meanwhile, Thompson has registered the most wins and starts, and holds the best underlying metrics for rookie goalies, such as GSAA. Additionally, Thompson retains a better GAA and SV% than Skinner and owns more significant point shares. However, it will be both rookie goalies minding the net for the Pacific Division All-Stars, a notable accomplishment for both.
Although Perfetti and Addison have put up good seasons to date, and exceeded both underlying metrics (being above league norm in XGF and C%), it will be challenging to cover the widening gap with Beniers’ solid two-way game and extremely mature puck sense.
The following review will focus on recovering previous topics, including Norris, Vezina, Jack Adams, and Selke. Further updates on these trophy races listed above will be revisited in a month. Will the front runners still be the same in four weeks time?
Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire