NHL futures: Best bets for the Hart Memorial Trophy
Andrew Berkshire runs through the top contenders for the NHL's most valuable player award and makes his predictions, including a value pick at a big price.
Visit the Betway Insider NHL picks page for tips and predictions throughout the season.
Barring injury, there’s a pretty easy narrative for this year’s Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player in the NHL. It’ll likely be going to the player who has won it twice in the last five years, and probably should have won it four times. The fact that he didn’t, though, is why it isn’t a sure thing.
Last year’s winner Connor McDavid is the clear favorite to win the Hart, with +200 odds, and unless something catastrophic happens it’s very worth placing that bet considering his growth as a player.
Looking at the last three seasons of McDavid’s career and plotting his primary point production in rolling 20-game intervals, it’s downright shocking how offensively dominant he has become.
Keep in mind that primary points do not count second assists, these are just primary assists and goals, and he finished last season close to FIVE every 60 minutes of ice time. No one in the league last year was producing at that high a level even with second assists added in!
The linear trendline is steeply sloped upwards, and McDavid is in his prime at just 24 years of age. In addition, the Oilers have made some nice moves to bolster their forward group, with Zach Hyman in particular having the potential to create some extra opportunities for McDavid through forechecking and net front presence.
Now, if you’re a bit more of a risk taker, there are some fun opportunities presenting themselves this season.
At forward, Nathan MacKinnon at +600 and Auston Matthews at +800 are both intriguing, as both players are coming off playoff disappointments for their respective teams and should be extremely hungry to prevent that this year.
MacKinnon may be the second-best player in the NHL after McDavid, and has a vastly superior supporting cast, while Matthews scored at nearly a 65-goal pace last season with a wrist that needed surgical repair this offseason.
Matthews may miss the first few games of the season, but if he flirts with 70 goals he would be the first person to get there since Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny did it in 1992-93, and that could easily overshadow McDavid’s point production.
Also worth noting is that McDavid’s partner in crime and the 2019-20 Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl isn’t getting the respect of some of his top peers so far, as he’s slotted at +1600 to win the Hart. Draisaitl has a greater hurtle than most to clear to win the award as he must outshine McDavid in the eyes of voters, but it’s worth noting that he’s already done that once before because of his ability to score goals.
However, the most interesting possibility to me doesn’t come from the NHL’s elite and exciting group of forwards, it comes from the goal crease. Fresh off a Conn Smythe Trophy winning performance and his second-straight Stanley Cup, Andrei Vasilevskiy has become the most respected goaltender in the sport. He plays tons of games, has some of the best numbers of any goalie in the league, and his team is a contender once again.
What may tip the scales for Vasilevskiy though, is that the Lightning lost their entire second-line this offseason due to a salary cap squeeze and the expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken. They’re still a great team, but the expectation is that they’ll take a step back from being the best in the NHL. If they don’t slide much, that will be seen as largely due to Vasilevskiy’s brilliance in net, and at +2200 to win the Hart Trophy, I love the value here.
I can already see the narrative as the Lightning post another brilliant regular season and head into the playoffs as the favourites in the Eastern Conference, and there’s nothing that sells awards voting like a great narrative!