Hart Trophy Insights: Plenty of Value Beyond Connor McDavid
There probably aren’t too many people who will dispute that Connor McDavid is the best hockey player in the world. The Edmonton Oilers’ phenom plays the game faster than anyone else, with an impressive hockey IQ to match. That’s why McDavid finds himself at the top of the Hart Trophy futures board, priced at +400.
However, the Professional Hockey Writers Association may be reluctant to give McDavid the award, considering his lackluster performance and his team’s dismal effort.
As such, we’re casting a wider net to see what other candidates are worth backing.
Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado Avalanche
Hart Trophy Odds: +2000
Eleven years into his professional career, Nathan MacKinnon has yet to win the NHL’s MVP award. The Colorado Avalanche center has knocked on the door on a few occasions but has yet to claim the Hart Trophy. This could be the season that it all comes together for MacKinnon.
MacKinnon has come infinitesimally close to earning this distinction. The former first-overall selection has finished the runner-up twice and has been in the top six in five of the past six seasons. He’s well on his way to getting new scoring benchmarks, and ongoing team success validates his position as the best player in the NHL.
MacKinnon has totaled 26 points through the first 20 games of the season. Extrapolating that over an 82-game schedule puts him close to matching last season’s career-best total of 111 points.
Moreover, the 28-year-old is a progression candidate. MacKinnon’s shooting percentage has dipped to 7.4%, the worst since 2016-17, despite ongoing analytics success. If we see a spike in scoring, we could see MacKinnon shoot to the top of the futures board. But even if he maintains production, it’s just a matter of time before people take notice.
We think MacKinnon presents the best value on the board.
Artemi Panarin – New York Rangers
Hart Trophy Odds: +1500
Artemi Panarin has quietly asserted himself as one of the most dominant players in the league. In five seasons with the New York Rangers, Panarin has averaged 1.3 points per game. However, his best has yet to come as the Russian is on pace for a career year.
Panarin has leveled up his output in 2023-24. The left winger is up to 29 points through the first 19 games of the year, putting him on pace for a monstrous 125-point season. Arguably, the most impressive factor has been Panarin’s five-on-five scoring. Nine of his 11 goals and 17 of his 29 points have come at even strength, putting Panarin ahead of most other scorers in the league.
If voters are looking for an alternative to McDavid, Panarin checks all the boxes.
William Nylander – Toronto Maple Leafs
Hart Trophy Odds: +3600
There is no shortage of media types willing to stand up on their soap boxes for the sake of the Toronto Maple Leafs. But one player is often overlooked in the Toronto frenzy. William Nylander leads a team of perennial All-Stars and award winners but is still priced at +3600 to win the Hart Trophy.
So far this season, Nylander is six points clear of Auston Matthews and seven points better than Mitch Marner and John Tavares. Like the other value players, Nylander projects well into the future. The Swedish winger could be up to 116 points before the end of the year, smashing his previous high of 87. There’s something to be said about playing in a contract year, and Nylander is showing that he’s due for a hefty raise.
Winning this award for Nylander would be akin to Leon Draisaitl claiming the trophy back in 2019-20. Although he is often overshadowed by others on the team, Nylander has established himself as the best player on the Maple Leafs this season and is at least deserving of being in the conversation as MVP.
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