Trophies are true representatives of success, whether earned by scoring the most points or by being voted by league members as 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 fifth installment of a biweekly update on trophy tracking various accolades throughout the NHL, with statistics updated from the morning of February 28. 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 is 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.
|Rank||Prev Rank||New Rank||GP||G||A||P||EVP||EVP%|
|1||Connor McDavid||Connor McDavid||60||50||65||115||55||47.8%|
|2||Leon Draisaitl||Leon Draisaitl||58||36||53||89||44||49.4%|
|3||Nikita Kucherov||Nikita Kucherov||59||23||62||85||51||60.0%|
|4||David Pastrnak||David Pastrnak||58||42||38||80||51||63.8%|
|5||Tage Thompson||Tage Thompson||58||40||39||79||49||62.0%|
McDavid is pacing the league scoring, unchanged since the last writing. With the gap in fact, widening ahead of teammate Leon Draisaitl by 26 points. Since the last update, McDavid has regained his 150-point pace, currently set to finish the season with 157 points across an 82-game season. Part of the reason for both McDavid and Draisaitl’s success can be defined by the even strength point percentage metric (EVP%), which provides an indication of what point portion occurs when teams are evenly matched. As both players’ EVP% is below 50%, providing an indication of just how imperative to the player’s success; Edmonton’s NHL-best powerplay is currently succeeding at just over 31%.
The players following the two leaders remain unchanged, as the order still follows as such: Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, Boston Bruins’ David Pastrnak, and breakout player of the year, Buffalo Sabres’ Tage Thompson. Since the last writing, the gap between the third and fifth is still close but has expanded somewhat.
Kucherov continues to set himself above his peers due to his play-making and passing ability, sitting second league-wide in assists, ranking only behind McDavid. Pastrnak has maintained his point pace via his goal-scoring, currently ranking second in goals, also only behind McDavid, with roughly 64% of his points coming at even strength. Thompson, who is willing Buffalo to a wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference juggernaut race, 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.
Dallas Stars’ Jason Robertson has substantially dropped off within the race. Following the top five are five players spread out by only five points—former Calgary Flames pest, Matthew Tkachuk, sitting one point behind Thompson; next is the resurgent Erik Karlsson, a streaking Elias Petterson, Maple Leafs Mitch Marner, and New Jerseys heart and soul Jack Hughes.
Unsurprisingly McDavid also in the lead for the Rocket Richard
|Rank||Prev Rank||New Rank||GP||G||EVG||EVG%||S%|
|1||Connor McDavid||Connor McDavid||60||50||29||58%||18.0%|
|2||David Pastrnak||David Pastrnak||58||42||28||66.7%||15.1%|
|3||Tage Thompson||Tage Thompson||58||40||22||55.0%||17.5%|
|4||Mikko Rantenen||Mikko Rantenen||57||38||30||78.9%||17.4%|
|5||Jack Hughes||Kirill Kaprizov||60||37||21||56.8%||16.3%|
Like the Art Ross, McDavid continues to lead the Rocket Richard race, although the gap between him and the competition is much closer. However, it should be noted McDavid has scored two goals in five straight games, willing him and the Oilers to the playoffs. McDavid is still shooting above his career shooting percentage by 2.5%, though it has proven sustainable over the season. This continues to signify McDavid’s drive and attack method towards the net, taking advantage of the defender’s perceptions to view him as a playmaker rather than a shooter, as they assume a cross-ice feed that ends up in the back of the net.
As pinpointed in the Art Ross conversation, over half of McDavid’s points have not come at even strength this season. However, this does not hold true for scoring goals—over half of his goals have come at even strength—providing the foundation for an exciting debate surrounding McDavid’s vast year-over-year improvement at even strength.
David Pastrnak has maintained his climb through the ranks, from not being within the top five two months ago to now sitting second behind McDavid, with two-thirds of his goals coming at even strength. Unlike many in the top five, Pastrnak is not shooting well above his career average, maintaining within one percent of his career average.
The third and fourth place remains unchanged. Thompson still ranks third, though showing no signs of shooting regression, even though his shooting percentage is 5% above his career average. Next is arguably Colorado’s true MVP of this season, Mikko Rantanen. Unlike McDavid and Thompson, Rantanen is pacing his goal-scoring with mostly even-strength goals and almost 80% of goal production stemming from 5v5 play.
Previously Jack Hughes held fifth place, but has since been replaced by Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov. Unlike Hughes, Kaprizov is not providing most of his goal tallies at even strength but has netted eight goals within the past ten games, vaulting him into the fifth place in the rankings. Furthermore, a few notable names have been nipping at the heels of Kaprizov. This list includes names such as Brayden Point, Leon Draisaitl, Jack Hughes, Bo Horvat, and Jason Robertson.
Could McDavid also take home the Hart?
|Rank||Prev Rank||New Rank||GP||G/W||A/L||P/Rec||C%/SV%||XGF%/GAA||PS/GSAA|
|1||Connor McDavid||Connor McDavid||60||50||65||115||59.3%||64.3%||13.2|
|2||David Pastrnak||David Pastrnak||58||42||38||80||60.5%||66.7%||10.7|
|3||Jason Robertson||Kirill Kaprizov||60||37||34||71||63.6%||65.1%||8.8|
|4||Linus Ullmark||Linus Ullmark||37||1/30||4||30-4-1||.938%||1.86||9.6/35.1|
|5||Erik Karlsson||Erik Karlsson||60||19||58||77||58.3%||58.5%||10.4|
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 Hart argument surrounding who is regarded as the league’s Most Valuable Player should begin and end with McDavid. No matter the hockey team or market, everyone league-wide knows and gameplans due to how dynamic of a player he is. McDavid is constantly why the Oilers have pushed for the playoffs, and his statistics back up this claim.
Not only in the conventional metrics listed above indicate McDavid’s dominance and torrent scoring pace, but his above NHL norm Corsi (C%) and Expected Goal Percentage Percentage (XG%) imply he continually succeeds at both ends of the ice; he leads the league in point shares by a substantial margin that only increases throughout writing these articles. For reference, a player’s point share is a statistic similar to baseball’s WAR that estimates the number of wins each player creates.
Other competitors who maintain a strong case for the award, if not for McDavid, would include Pastrnak. Pastrnak’s play this season has also been utterly dominant, contributing to Boston’s unbelievable season. He possesses some of the best underlying metrics at all strengths in the league this season, ranking second league-wide in point shares, fourth in points, and second in goals scored.
One individual requiring discussion is Kirill Kaprizov, who streaked into the rankings due to his torrid pace and scoring over the past few weeks. Though he does not have the highest total in wins created compared to Jason Robertson, he has scored eight goals in the last ten games, producing 44% of his teams goals in that span, and has scored 21.7% of Minnesota’s season goal total, and has factored in on 15.6% of the team’s point total.
Fourth place is once again reserved for a goalie. However, this is not just any goalie, but the Vezina finalist pacing the league’s best team, setting career and personal best metrics, and netting a goalie goal. Linus Ullmark should be recognized for how integral he is to the Bruins’ success. Although Connor Hellebuyck has started more games and is worth slightly more wins created, Ullmark leads almost every statistical goalie category. The list includes wins, goals-against average, save percentage, goals saved above average, and goals saved above expected.
Additionally, Ullmark has not lost in regulation within the last month, improving his record from 25–4–1 to 30–4–1. Not only that but to provide further supporting arguments, review his last game played against the Calgary Flames. Boston was outshot 57 to 20 but still won 4–3 in overtime, thanks to Ullmark’s play.
The last candidate,—who should be placed higher but unfortunately a player from a non-playoff team has not won the MVP in a few decades, is the reinvigorated— “almost Oiler” Erik Karlsson. Karlsson’s argument is strong, with a seasoned resume that includes leading all defencemen in almost every offensive statistical category, including goals, assists, and points. Additionally, he possesses above-average expected goals and Corsi percentage and places fifth in wins created among all players.
Beniers dominating the Calder race
|Rank||Prev Rank||New Rank||GP||G/W||A/L||P/Rec||C%/SV%||XGF%/GAA||PS/GSAA|
|1||Matty Beniers||Matty Beniers||57||19||23||42||55.0%||57.3%||4.3|
|2||Logan Thompson||Mason McTavish||59||13||19||32||51.4%||55.4%||2.2|
|3||Stuart Skinner||Matias Maccelli||41||4||25||29||49.0%||50.8%||2.2|
|4||Cole Perfetti||Cole Perfetti||51||8||22||30||57.3%||57.5%||2.8|
|5||Calen Addison||Stuart Skinner||33||15||12||15-12-4||.912%||2.90||6.5/7.1|
Unlike the above-listed awards that maintained some semblance of consistency amongst its rankings, 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, one similarity from the last writing is Matty Beniers continued dominance atop the podium, proving to himself, his team, and the league that he should be considered the Calder favourite. This includes leading the rookie scoring race in goals and points, being second in assists, and has produced the most point shares among rookies.
Spot two and three are usually reserved for the battle between the rookie goaltenders. Still, due to injuries and play decline, the next two spots are held by Anaheim’s Mason McTavish and Arizona’s Matias Maccelli. McTavish sits second in goals and points among rookies while maintaining positive puck possession and shot quality control on a lottery Anaheim Duck team. Maccelli’s ranking may surprise individuals unfamiliar with his name due to either playing in Arizona or a long injury stint. Although his possession metrics are not to the standard of players ahead of him on the list, he has produced admirably on a talent-deficient Arizona team. Maccelli has 29 points in 41 games played, which is 16 games less than Beniers; equivocating his point total relative to the same amount of games played, Maccelli would only sit two points behind Beniers for the rookie scoring race, a feat many would think unimaginable before seasons beginning.
Cole Perfetti remains in the fourth spot of the rankings. Though Perfetti has put up a solid first season to date and exceeded expectations in both underlying metric categories (being above league norm in XGF and C%), it will be challenging to cover the widening gap between himself and Beniers’ solid two-way game and extremely mature puck sense. Perfetti has produced slightly more points than Maccelli, but Macelli’s point per game begets his higher ranking.
Both goalies have fallen off from previous rankings, with Logan Thompson’s being due to not having played due to injury. Stuart Skinner still ranks comparable to Logan Thompson in several rookie goalie categories. However, Jack Campbell and Skinner’s recent inability to keep the puck out of the net for Edmonton has decreased his ranking though he maintains the top three performance among rookies in wins, starts, GSAX, and GSAA.
The following review will focus on recovering previous topics, including Norris, Vezina, Jack Adams, and Selke. Further updates on the abovementioned trophy races will be revisited in a month. Will the front runners still be the same in four weeks?
As an Aside
Unfortunately, this is my farewell to my current writing tenure at The Oil Rig Faithful. It has been a splendid opportunity to write and create content as a lifelong Oiler fan for my hometown team for the past few months. It has been a wonderful experience, and I want to thank everyone for reading my articles!
All stats courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com, MoneyPuck.com, and naturalstattrick.com
Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire