Posted in: NHL
For the first time since the offseason and the eve of the NHL regular season, we get some odds, courtesy of Bovada, on the NHL’s individual awards.
While the awards aren’t held until the Stanley Cup final is over in June of 2019, we can certainly make some predictions on who will be taking home some hardware from Las Vegas when it’s all said and done.
We are through the first quarter of the season and are quickly approaching the halfway mark, so now is a good time to search out some value and cash in along with the award winners.
For part one of the two-part series, we are going to focus on the offensive awards, namely the Art Ross Trophy (points leader), Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy (goals leader) and the Calder Trophy (Rookie of the Year).
While the Calder Trophy can indeed be won by a defenseman, it’s historically belonged to a standout forward and goals and points certainly are weighted heavily in the criteria, so we will include this award on the offensive side of the spectrum.
While the full list of odds can be found in the NHL Futures section at Bovada, we will be listing some of the favorites’ odds for each award and some follow up odds on players we believe hold some value in hunting down these awards.
With that in mind, let’s get started!
*Odds as of 12/5/2018
The biggest surprise in this list of favorites would be Rantanen despite notching 84 points in 81 games last season. Rantanen didn’t keep pace with linemate Nathan MacKinnon last season when the latter posted 97 points en route to his Hart Trophy runner up finish, but he currently leads the league with 46 points and sits three points ahead of MacKinnon this time around.
Another surprise, if you want to call it that, is Marner who has taken his game to a whole new level after posting 69 points in 82 games a season ago. New centerman John Tavares has helped Marner’s cause while his play on the power play has been spectacular. Marner currently ranks fourth in league scoring.
Brayden Point has been the best center on the Lightning this season, which means he’s been better than Steven Stamkos. Wheeler and Schiefele are teaming up to do major damage on one of the the league’s best offenses while it would be tough to rule out Sidney Crosby who has cumulatively been the best player in the league since entering it in 2005-06.
Tavares gets Marner by his side in all situations while Gaudreau has quick-strike ability on a much-improved Flames offense this season.
If you are waiting for the Avalanche’s top line to cool off, I wouldn’t hold your breath.
These guys are simply doing major damage just about every night they take the ice. There isn’t a better line in the league at this point than the Rantanen/MacKinnon/Gabriel Landeskog trio and if they can stay healthy, I see one of Rantanen or MacKinnon winning this race, and I’ll give Rantanen the edge due to his current three-point lead and slightly better odds.
Of his 28 games played this season, Rantanen has been held off the scoresheet in just five of those games. He began the year by tallying at least one point in his first name games and finished the month of October with a whopping 21 points in 11 games. He has 15 multi-point games on the year and he leads the league with 35 assists, two clear of second-place Marner.
Good, bad, or indifferent, this line is punishing opposing defenses on a nightly basis, and there’s zero reason to believe that will change at any point, at least in the regular season. With a current 11-point lead on the heavy favorite McDavid, I think Rantanen is a fine play as one of the favorites to win this award.
I’ll begin my case for Gaudreau by knocking a few of my value candidates above. Brayden Point has certainly made a name for himself this season, but he’s scored 20 goals on an unsustainable 26.3% shooting percentage. Last season, the highest shooting percentage among qualified players in the league was 23.4%, shared between Vegas’ William Karlsson and Colorado’s Alexander Kerfoot. That number isn’t going to hold up and should settle well under 20%.
Scheifele is also doing his damage on a high 20.5% shooting percentage, and Wheeler has benefited mostly from Patrik Laine’s damage on the power play with 16 power play assists, and zero power play goals. Crosby has played 4-6 fewer games than the rest of these guys, and while I wouldn’t completely rule him out, he’s currently 17 points out of the lead, a big hill to climb. Lastly, Tavares’ production could curtail with the return of Matthews and fewer minutes up for grabs.
That leaves me with Gaudreau who has some attractive odds given he ranks eighth in the league scoring and one point behind McDavid and his +170 odds.
After a four-point night in Columbus on Tuesday, Gaudreau has tallied 35 points in 28 games, which puts him on pace for 102.5 points this season, which would have been good for second place last season.
The Flames are tied for the league’s fifth-best offense with 3.57 goals per game, a dramatic increase over last season. He’s the keyest of cogs on that offense and is over a point-per-game both at home and on the road.
Of the value options at Bovada, I think Gaudreau carries the most value in the Art Ross race.
Three of the top six goal scorers from last season are in this list in Ovechkin, Laine and McDavid, and three new candidates have emerged as well.
I mentioned Point’s unsustainable shooting percentage above, so he is out in my opinion. The biggest surprise here would be Skinner who scored just 24 goals all of last season, a mark he could surpass by the halfway-point this time around. I expected a bounce back year playing alongside Jack Eichel in Buffalo, but his 20 goals in 29 games have been impressive nonetheless.
There is some star power that lingers just a handful of goals out of the lead right now, and they bring some value to the table as a result.
Tavares has a chance thanks to an elite playmaker by his side in all situations in Marner. MacKinnon could very well lead the league in goals and points and carries a reasonable 16% shooting percentage at the moment. Matthes has missed 14 games, but he has still scored 15 goals in 14 games, albeit on a 30% shooting clip. Forsberg and Monahan are a hot streak away from getting near the top of the leaderboard while Cam Atkinson sits just two goals back of the league lead thanks to one of those hot streaks.
He’s the most obvious pick as the favorite as per the odds, but Laine’s odds still hold plenty of value in my opinion despite this clearly being a wide open race.
We knew Laine scores in bunches, but I don’t think anyone saw 18 goals in one month coming, or this five-goal effort he put together against the Blues a couple weeks ago.
As a result, Laine leads the league with 21 goals, but has six players all within two goals of his league lead. What I like about Laine at the moment is the fact that is sitting with a shooting percentage in close proximity to his career mark. His current 20.0% clip isn’t outrageously higher than his 18.4% career rate. In comparison, Alex Ovechkin has 20 goals, one behind Laine, but his 19.4% shooting percentage this year is miles over his 12.5% career mark.
Laine’s quick-strike ability allows him to score in bunches. If you’re interested, I broke this down here.
At the end of the day, Laine is going to be right there when it’s all said and done, and he hasn’t been helped all that much by puck luck to lead the league in goals to this point. I think there’s tremendous value here despite him being the favorite.
I have based my arguments around shooting percentage to this point, but let me throw that argument aside for a minute as I explain my reasoning with Matthews.
First, Matthews ranks 13th with 15 goals despite playing in only 14 games this season, 13 fewer than Laine. Yes, Matthews has a 30% shooting percentage this season, and that’s definitely an unsustainable number. However, like Laine, Matthews thrives off a high shooting percentage (career 17.2%) thanks to owning one of, if not the best wrist/snap shot releases in the world.
For example, check out the overtime winner he scored in Buffalo on Tuesday night.
I mean, the guy pulls the puck towards his own feet and rifles it into the top corner. He’s also one of the few players in the league who thrives on his natural side of the ice on the power play, the complete opposite of the Laine/Ovechkin/Stamkos approach, although it’s on the same side of the ice with Matthews being a left-hand shot.
The most amazing thing about Matthews’ ability to put the puck in the net is he does so when the goaltender is fully prepared and in the right spot to face his shot, as per the clips above. Most players score when the goalie is at a disadvantage or caught out of position, but this guy scores regardless.
As a result, it wouldn’t surprise me to see his shooting percentage finish north of 20%. He’s got some work to do to catch Laine and co. at the top, but there’s not much he can’t do right now and I see value in taking him at his +2500 odds to lead the league in goals.
This award has the least amount of drama, barring injury.
That’s because Elias Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks is lighting it up as a rookie, and he’s the odds-on favorite by a mile to win the Calder at -500. If he can stay healthy, he’s going to win the award. If you are willing to roll the dice on his health and lay down coin at -500, that’s your call.
For the purpose of this piece, I am going to select who the next man in line is if Petterson, heaven forbid, went down with a notable injury like his teammate Brock Boeser did last season which all but sealed the Calder for Mathew Barzal. It was likely Barzal’s to lose anyway, but Boeser was robbed of his chance at the upset due to a scary season-ending back injury.
While my hope is that Pettersson remains healthy and continues to produce at an elite level, I also want to break down my pick for the Calder if something unforeseen takes place with the front runner.
First, the odds, aside from Pettersson and his -500 odds.
I fear that Dahlin would come in and steal the Calder if Pettersson were no longer a candidate due to his notoriety as the first overall pick combined with his solid play as an 18-year-old defenseman in a league that eats up young blueliners.
That said, I have been wowed by the impact Tkachuk is having in his first NHL season with the Ottawa Senators.
You wouldn’t know Tkachuk is a rookie given his hulking 6’3” frame and his nine goals and 16 points in 17 games, but the guy plays with a purpose and is a difference-maker.
Tkachuk starred as a Freshman as Boston University last season when he scored eight goals and 31 points in 40 games for the Terriers. After the Senators drafted him with the fourth overall pick in this past June’s NHL Entry Draft, Tkachuk pondered whether he should develop for another year at BU, move to the Canadian Hockey League or make the jump straight to the NHL. It appears he made the correct choice.
Skating on a line with fellow youngster Colin White and established star Mark Stone, Tkachuk has been the power forward the Senators hoped he would develop into, but he’s done so in about a month’s time. He can score, he can hit and yes, he can fight.
Opposing teams, if they don’t already, are going to hate playing against this kid, similar to the way they hate playing against his brother Matthew of the Flames. Their styles are a lot alike, and while Matthew is budding into a full-blown star out west, Brady is carving out his role as a top-six, do-it-all winger with the Senators in the east. Father Keith would be proud.
If you want some value in your Calder Trophy pick, I would roll with Tkachuk as your best option.