With under 20 games left in the regular season for NHL betting, the races for playoff seeding and individual player awards are in full swing.
Toronto center Auston Matthews is at the forefront in the race for two individual awards. Matthews is currently the Ontario sports betting favorite for the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded to the league MVP, and the Rocket Richard Trophy, awarded to the league’s top goal scorer.
The race for the Richard Trophy is much more straightforward with goals scored being the only requirement. With a last-second empty net goal Sunday night, Matthews took the lead with 48 on the season, also setting a new career-high for himself.
Matthews has the Maple Leafs in position to become the first Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup since 1993. You can check out the favorites here.
Richard Trophy for Most Goals
Matthews is currently a heavy -200 favorite to hold on to that lead, according to bet365. Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers sits right behind him at 47 goals after a hat trick in a 9-5 loss to Calgary on Sunday. Draisaitl is currently +175 to win the award.
Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers, at +600 with 44 goals, and Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (+1200 with 42 goals) are realistically the only other two in consideration for the award.
Of the four, only Matthews has missed time this year, getting to 48 in just 60 games while the others have all played at least 65 games this season. If their goals per game averages continue through the end of the regular season, Matthews lead only stands to grow, making him the rightful favorite here.
Matthews is also the best 5-on-5 scorer of the bunch, with just 13 of his coming on the power play as opposed to 22 and 20 for Kreider and Draisaitl. With power plays fewer and farther between as the NHL gets closer to the playoffs, Matthews is in the best position of all to add to his lead.
NHL Goal Leaders
|⭐ Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs||48|
|⭐ Leon Draisaitl, Oilers||47|
|⭐ Chris Kreider, Rangers||44|
|⭐ Alex Ovechkin, Capitals||42|
|⭐ Kyle Connor, Jets||41|
Hart Trophy for MVP
The Hart Trophy is a different story entirely. It is an award given "to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team." The winner is selected in a poll of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association in all NHL cities at the end of the regular season.
When you are betting on this award, you are not simply betting on who you think the best player has been, you are betting on who the voters deem to be most valuable. Matthews is also the favorite for this award, with odds of +175 on DraftKings Sportsbook Ontario. He is followed closely by New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin at +400, Connor McDavid of the Oilers at +450 and a host of other players between +800 and +2000.
The case for Matthews is quite simple. His team sits eighth overall in the league, so the team success is there. He leads the league in goals and also sits fifth in points with 83. Matthews is also having the best all-around season of his career, sitting fifth in the entire league in Corsi For percentage at even strength (among all players with at least 500 minutes played, as per naturalstattrick.com), a stat used to determine which team has possession of the puck when a player is on the ice.
Matthews is also third in expected goals for percentage, which is a similar stat but factors in the quality of chances created and surrendered while a player is on the ice. He is clearly having his usual offensive impact but his defensive play has taken a huge step forward this season as well.
Race for the Hart Trophy
|⭐ Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs||+175|
|⭐ Igor Shesterkin, Rangers||+400|
|⭐ Connor McDavid, Oilers||+450|
|⭐ Field (all other players not listed)||+600|
|⭐ Leon Draisaitl, Oilers||+800|
Goalie Trails Matthews
Sitting second on the odds board (+400) is Shesterkin, who is looking to become only the third goalie since the year 2000 to win the Hart. His numbers are phenomenal, with a .936 save percentage and a 2.11 GAA en route to compiling 31 wins in 43 appearances. With the great offensive seasons Matthews, McDavid and several others are having, though, it is unlikely he’ll get the votes required.
In 2002 when Jose Theodore won the Hart, there were just four players above 80 points in the entire season and the leading scorer that year wasn’t even on a playoff team. In 2015, when Carey Price won, the leading scorer of the league had 87 points. This season 11 players have already eclipsed 80 points and have at least 15 games remaining, making it unlikely Shesterkin will get the votes required to win.
McDavid sits at +450 and should be considered Matthews’ biggest threat for the award. He leads the league in points, and the Oilers have moved comfortably into a playoff spot. McDavid is the defending champion, has won the award twice and is widely considered the best player in hockey.
As long as the Oilers hang on to their playoff spot he will be at the center of any Hart Trophy conversations. Draisaitl is also high on the odds board (+800), but with McDavid on his team he isn’t even the most valuable player on his own squad.
Jonathan Huberdeau (+1000) and Ovechkin (+1600) are the only other players under +2000 at the moment, but they will need really strong finishes to sway voters. As it stands, look for this to be a two-horse race between Matthews and McDavid.