Normally early March would mean that the trade deadline had passed and teams would be settling in for a final push to the playoffs. Not this year. With the late start and COVID protocols taking a bite out of what already is a shortened schedule, we’re only just closing in on the midpoint of the season.
1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
No player is playing better than the NHL’s 1st overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft Connor McDavid. Pacing towards what would be a 135 point 82-game season, McDavid has been torching opposing teams’ goalies and defense. The generational talent currently leads the NHL with 43 points in just 26 games, including 6 powerplay goals and 12 assists. Current NHL Odds have McDavid opened the season as the +275 favorite to win his second Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player. He’s now at an incredible -150 to take home the award.
2. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Chicago Blackhawk winger Patrick Kane is showing everyone he still has a lot of gas left in the tank. The 32-year old former 1st overall draft pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft is scoring at a 121 point pace, which would be a career-best. Currently second in scoring (11-26-37), Kane enters the weekend red hot with four goals and 11 points in his last five games. Over that 5-game span, his average odds to win the Hart Trophy shortened from +2400 to +750.
3. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
How much of Connor McDavid’s success is due to playing with Leon Draisaitl and vice versa? The eye test says some but not a lot, and the numbers tend to agree. Draisaitl does spend considerable time at five-on-five with McDavid particularly late in games when Edmonton shortens their bench. However, Draisaitl has been a point-a-game player over his entire career without McDavid, and like McDavid this season is torching opponents. Currently, the big pivot has 36-points, third in the league, and is at a 113-point pace, placing him third on our list.
4. Auston Mathews, Toronto Maple Leafs
In late February following seven goals in just four games, Auston Matthews moved to the second favorite to win the Hart behind McDavid with +325 average odds. The American-born center returned to the ice on Wednesday after missing three games to injury but did not record a point in the Leafs’ win against the Oilers. The first overall pick in the 2016 NHL draft has 31 points in just 23 games this season, including a league-leading 18 goals, which has him on a 64-goal pace this season.
5. Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
The biggest news out of Winnipeg this season was the trade of Patrik Laine in late January. Laine, the second overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, and forward Jack Roslovic were traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Pierre-Luc Dubois, the third pick in the same draft.
Flying under the radar of all that has been the stellar play of center Mark Scheifele, who’s putting up points despite posting the lowest expected goals for percentage (42.63) of his career. With 11 goals and 33 points in 24 games, Scheifele has outperformed what his Corsi For and Expected Goals leading the Jets to a 14-7-1 record, good for second in the North Division, and fifth on our midseason list.
Others high on our list include David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins (10-10-20), the Leafs Mitch Marner (10-24-34), Golden Knight Mark Stone (6-21-27), Chicago’s Alex DeBrincat (14-14-28), and the Flyers James Van Riemsdyk (10-16-26).