2021 Rocket Richard Trophy Odds and Picks: Who Is the Best Bet to Lead the NHL in Goals?
Alex Ovechkin is +600 to win the Rocket Richard Trophy. Credit: Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images
While most NHL awards have made their way around the league, the Rocket Richard Trophy, which is given to the player who scores the most goals in a season, has basically found a home with Alex Ovechkin in our nation’s capital. Ovechkin has won at least a share of the Rocket Richard in eight of the last nine seasons.
Just because Ovechkin has owned this market doesn’t mean that a longshot can’t come from the clouds to win. Remember Jonathan Cheechoo? Of course you do, he’s a damn legend.
The point is that just because the Rocket Richard seems pretty straightforward doesn’t mean it’s not worth it — or fun — to try and pick out a sleeper, especially since a 56-game season could open the door for some chaos.
Or you could just bet Ovechkin. That works, too.
Here are our three favorite bets to win the 2021 Rocket Richard Trophy.
Michael Leboff: Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins (+4000)
- Odds available at MGM [Bet Now]
The top of the board for this market makes sense. Ovechkin wins it every season. Auston Matthews is the heir apparent to Ovi’s throne. Connor McDavid is the best player in the world. Leon Draisaitl is the reigning MVP. Nathan MacKinnon may be both of those things by the time this season ends.
The new crop of superstars has pushed players like Malkin, who is still one of the NHL’s most dynamic offensive forces, to the fringes. That’s fine by me, since I think Malkin has as good a chance to win this award as plenty of the players in the +1500 to +2500 range. While Malkin has never won the Rocket Richard, he’s been a prolific goal-scorer for a long time.
Malkin has scored at least 33 goals in each of the last three seasons, including a 47-goal tally in 2018/19. He’s also got a 50-goal season to his credit. He has three more during which he netted 40.
It may be unlikely that Malkin tops the league in goals, but if he did nobody would be shocked.
Pete Truszkowski: Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (+600)
- Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
In the world of gambling, +600 odds imply a probability of 14.29%. Let’s lay out the following resume:
- No. 8 all time in NHL history for goals scored (and has a fighting chance of ending his career on top of this list despite losing a full season to a lockout, half a season to another lockout, and another half-season to a global pandemic).
- Has won the Rocket Richard trophy nine times in his 15 year career (60%)
- Has won the Rocket Richard trophy seven times in the last eight years (88%)
Do you think 14.29% might be a little low here? I sure do.
Some might immediately point out his age (35) as a warning sign for a potential decline. However, Ovechkin scored 0.71 goals per game last season, the second-best mark of his career and best since his 65-goal season in 2008.
In his previous shortened season, Ovechkin won the NHL’s MVP award, scoring 32 times in 48 games. Some might expect that the different season can impact performance, but Ovechkin has proven he can handle the odd circumstances.
Can this be the year that someone like Matthews finally takes over the throne? Of course, but Ovechkin is the best pure goal-scorer of our generation. The fact that Ovi is not the favorite for this award is borderline offensive. At +600, I make this bet every time.
Sam Hitchcock: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche (+1150)
- Odds available at DraftKings [Bet Now]
Follow my lantern as I chart the course for winning this bet. MacKinnon is a high-volume shooter. He led the NHL in shots the last two seasons. MacKinnon’s shooting percentage last year was 11%, but it has been higher. (In 2017-18, he had a 13.7% shooting percentage, albeit he had not quite reached his prolific shot-taking zenith then.)
If MacKinnon unloads shots at the same clip as he did last season, that is 4.6 shots per game or 377 shots over the course of an 82-game season. If he did it at 14- percent shooting, he would notch 52 goals. Prorated for the truncated 56-game season, that would mean 257 shots and 36 goals (if one rounds up).
But here’s the catch: Over the last four seasons. MacKinnon has seen his shots per game increase from 3.1, to 3.8, to 4.45, to 4.6. If MacKinnon hits five shots per game at a 14% shooting percentage, that could result in 39 goals. MacKinnon’s per game goal-scoring clip would be a tick lower than Ovechkin’s in 2019-20 and closely track what David Pastrnak achieved. Which is to say, if MacKinnon can shoot even more rubber on net, he can afford to have a shooting percentage that is a few tenths lower.
As usual, everything comes down to puck luck and health. But the attraction to MacKinnon is real because, unlike most mortals, MacKinnon has ineffable agency to shape his surroundings. The man can generate space and time at will.
In 2019-20, at 5-on-5, MacKinnon manufactured nearly 12 shots per 60 minutes. He also hurled just under 20 shot attempts on net per hour. In that category, he finishes below Ovechkin for attempted shots but is slightly above Pastrnak and Matthews.
On DraftKings, Matthews is +450, Ovechkin is +600 and Leon Draisaitl and Connor David are +800 and +900, respectively, for the Richard Trophy. At +1150, MacKinnon offers great value because, as long as he stays healthy, we know he will be firing the puck on goal every chance he gets.
From an awards standpoint, MacKinnon won the Lady Byng last season and the Calder Trophy in 2013-14. That is a relatively bare cupboard for a superstar at 25 years old. At +1150, I like MacKinnon’s odds to seize an award that has been mostly Ovechkin’s for the last decade.