At the end of every NHL season, the Professional Hockey Writers Association places their votes for the winner of the Hart Memorial Trophy. The winner is the player who is judged to be the most valuable to his team. It is essentially the MVP trophy of the NHL, but the wording of the award allows for a lot of debate.
In a shorted 2020-2021 season, Connor McDavid was voted the runaway winner of the Hart Trophy. He was just the second unanimous winner of the award, following the great Wayne Gretzky in 1982. Will McDavid win another Hart Trophy this year, or will he be unseated as the NHL’s MVP?
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MVP Betting Odds
We’re still a few months from the end of the NHL season, but more than enough time has passed for MVP favorites to emerge.
Here are the betting odds that DraftKings Sportsbook has for the NHL MVP.
- Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers) +200
- Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs) +400
- Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals) +475
- Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers) +650
- Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida Panthers) +750
- Igor Shesterkin (New York Rangers) +1600
Connor McDavid is the reigning NHL MVP and has already won two Hart Trophies in his young career. He has put himself in a good position to win a third, but he’s not nearly as big a favorite as he was last year. In 50 games played this season, he has 28 goals, 45 assists, and 73 points. That places him second in the league in scoring, but he’s first in points per game as he has played two fewer games than the points leader.
McDavid is never a bad pick for the Hart Trophy. He’s almost unanimously considered the best player in the NHL, but the MVP doesn’t always go to the best player. The biggest obstacle to McDavid winning another Hart Trophy is his team’s position. The Oilers currently sit in the second wild card in the Western Conference and could certainly miss the playoffs. Historically, voters do not like to vote for players that miss the playoffs unless they are having a historic season. If the Oilers miss the playoffs, McDavid’s individual accolades might not be enough for some voters.
Auston Matthews was one of the best players in the NHL the second he stepped onto the ice as a rookie. Famously scoring four goals in his first career game, his ascent to the top of the league was swift. Last season he finished second in Hart Trophy voting, and he won the Rocket Richard Trophy for leading the league in goals. This year he’s in contention to win the Rocket and Hart Trophies again.
Matthews currently leads the league in goals with 36 through 48 games, and he has tacked on 28 assists for a total of 64 points. His Maple Leafs sit third in the competitive Atlantic division but will be in contention to win it for the rest of the season.
The thing that separates Matthews from some other MVP contenders is his defensive ability. Advanced stats show that he is one of the best players in the league in his own zone, and his play in the neutral zone is phenomenal.
If anything is going to stop Matthews’ MVP candidacy it’s past playoff performance. Although this is a regular-season trophy and voters are supposed to remove bias, there’s no denying that voters remember what happened in previous seasons. Matthews and the Maple Leafs have become known as playoff chokers in recent years, notably blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round last year. Voters might not want to reward Matthews with an MVP before he proves himself in the playoffs. Fair or not, that’s a reality when people vote on trophies.
Alex Ovechkin has had a truly spectacular season. Every year analysts and fans think this will be the year that Ovechkin’s play finally falls off, but it never comes. This year, he shot out of the gates quickly, leading the league in goals early on in the season. While he has slowed down a bit as of late, he still sits fourth in goals with 32, and fourth in points with 64.
Ovechkin was voted the NHL MVP three times previously in 2008, 2009, and 2013. He’s also won a staggering 9 Rocket Richard Trophies as the league leader in goals. While these things will not play into the votes, his legacy certainly will.
At age 36, Ovechkin is having one of the best seasons of all time for someone of his age. Voters love a good story, and if he can remain in the top five of league scoring, that will certainly be a factor. Additionally, Ovechkin is encroaching on the all-time goals record set by Wayne Gretzky. While he won’t break that this season, the fact that he is getting close will play in the minds of voters. You never know if this is the last season that Ovechkin will be amongst the best in the league, and many voters might want to take this opportunity to give him another trophy.
Leon Draisaitl is an interesting candidate because while he is without a doubt one of the best players in the NHL, he’s in McDavid’s shadow. He has 35 goals, 38 assists, and 73 points in 51 games this season, equaling McDavid in points. Despite being equal with McDavid on paper, almost everyone in the hockey world views McDavid as the most dynamic player.
As a result, while Draisaitl sits fourth in the odds, he’s not necessarily the best pick for the MVP. If McDavid got injured and Draisaitl brought the Oilers to the playoffs, he would be a leading contender. That’s what happened in 2020 when Draisaitl won the MVP, but betting on an injury is not the best strategy.
The first four names that we looked at today have all either won the Hart Trophy or been in serious contention in previous seasons. While Jonathan Huberdeau has been a phenomenal player for several years now, he hadn’t entered the MVP conversation in any serious way until this year. Part of that has to do with his Florida Panthers failing to make the playoffs in most seasons, but his play and point totals have improved drastically this year as well.
Huberdeau currently sits as the league leader in points with 74. His Florida Panthers are leading the competitive Atlantic Division, and they have done so with Huberdeau as their best player. If he keeps up his scoring pace and the Panthers remain amongst the league’s elite, voters might be tempted to vote for the new face in the MVP conversation, Jonathan Huberdeau.
Igor Shesterkin is one of the most interesting MVP candidates because he’s a goalie. A goalie hasn’t won the Hart Trophy since Carey Price in 2015, and before that, you need to go back to 2002 with Jose Theodore. Goalies don’t win the MVP unless they have spectacular seasons, but that’s what Shesterkin is having.
Shesterkin leads the league with a 0.940 save percentage, and his 1.98 GAA ranks second behind Ville Husso who has played 14 fewer games. He has 25 wins in 32 starts, and he’s doing so on a New York Rangers team that gets outshot a lot. He might only be sixth in the odds, but Shesterkin is an interesting MVP pick.
Our MVP Prediction
Looking at the numbers, it’s hard to ignore McDavid as the leading MVP candidate, but it’s important to remember that he got out to an incredible start. He was scoring at a 180 point pace for the first month of the season, and he’s slowed down since then. Add on the fact that his Oilers aren’t a lock to make the playoffs and McDavid doesn’t look as likely to win the Hart Trophy.
Conversely, Auston Matthews had a slow start to the season, but even with that slow start, he has taken the league lead in goals. He’s also top five in points despite missing a few games with injuries earlier in the year. To top it off, Matthews is one of the best defensive forwards in the world, and his Maple Leafs are a lock for the playoffs.
With all that in mind, our prediction is for Auston Matthews to win the MVP this season. He’s getting hot as we enter the final third of the season and seems like his time for recognition.
Who’s the Best Value MVP Pick?
While Matthews is our prediction, he’s second in odds, so he isn’t really a value pick. So, our value pick goes to Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers. With +1600 odds, Shesterkin is an excellent bet to make. He looks like a lock for the Vezina Trophy, and if his play keeps up, voters will definitely consider him for the Hart. The odds aren’t going to get better than +1600, so if you want to bet on Shesterkin, bet now.