2022-23 NHL Season Preview: Hart Trophy Picks & Best Bets

2022-23 NHL Season Preview: Hart Trophy Picks & Best Bets article feature image

Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images. Pictured: Minnesota Wild player Kirill Kaprizov

Oddsmakers believe that it's a two-horse race for the Hart Trophy this season. Connor McDavid is once again the favorite to win the award at +280, but Auston Matthews is right behind him at +400.

Rather than back the chalk, our NHL betting experts are looking a little further down the board for some value.

Here are our favorite Hart Trophy bets this season:

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Michael Leboff: Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders (+15000, Bet365)

Ilya Sorokin comes into the season as the third-favorite to win the Vezina Trophy at +800, which is too short to have any value, but it shows how the market views the 27-year-old netminder.

The ceiling for Sorokin is sky-high, and there’s a realistic chance he provides the Isles with best-in-class goaltending in 2022-23. If he does that, there’s every chance the Islanders get back into the postseason, which will get the discussion going over whether or not Sorokin deserves some MVP hype.

The last goaltender to win MVP was Carey Price back in 2015, and it’s happened only four times since 1997 (Dominik Hasek twice, Jose Theodore and Price), but Shesterkin came close last season, finishing third behind Matthews and McDavid.

While that may seem discouraging since Shesterkin put up absolutely eye-popping numbers and still came up short, it did start to get tongues wagging about whether voters overlook goaltending when it comes to picking the league’s Most Valuable Player.

Playing into that narrative — that a goalie is “due” to win the award — could provide quite the payday.

To put it simply: If you were interested in playing Sorokin to win the Vezina Trophy at +800, that means you were betting that he’ll have a better season than Shesterkin, Vasilevskiy and Juuse Saros. If he does that, he’ll almost certainly be in the conversation to be the league’s Most Valuable Player, especially if the Isles have a strong season when everyone has counted them out.

Nick Martin: Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche (+1500, FanDuel)

Cale Makar's 2021-22 campaign was one for the ages as the Avalanche superstar cleaned up the Norris Trophy, Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup with some otherworldly play at both ends of the ice.

Lots of talk was made throughout the postseason that a Hart Trophy could be in Makar’s future as he dominated game after game both defensively and with his spectacular ability to drive offense, especially as he and the Avalanche trounced McDavid and the Oilers in four games.

The modest 23-year-old is known for having an incredible attitude and tremendous work ethic, and I have little doubt that we have not yet seen him at his true peak at this point in his career, which is downright scary for everybody else in the league.

Playing on a team that features another legitimate contender in the race for this award – Nathan MacKinnon– is a knock, as is the fact that a defenseman hasn't taken home the Hart since 2000 (Chris Pronger). But the upside of Makar's skillset outweighs those concerns, especially as he trends toward his prime. I actually believe those factors are leading to us grabbing a better price than we may otherwise.

My belief is that only McDavid, Matthews and arguably Leon Draisaitl deserve to be favored over Makar to take home the Hart entering this season, which leads us to a stellar price with him.

At +1500 I believe we are getting tremendous value to back one of the most unique stars we have ever seen as he looks to build on what was an incredible campaign last year, and this is far and away my favorite option in this market.

Carol Schram: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche (+1500, Caesars)

It’s been a big summer for Nathan MacKinnon, who won his first Stanley Cup and signed a $100.8 million contract extension that will make him the highest-paid player in the NHL’s 2023-24 season.

A lesser mortal might be content to rest on his laurels, but that’s not the way MacKinnon is wired. Now that he’s had a taste of winning, he wants more — and that won’t just mean saving himself for the playoffs.

MacKinnon has been a Hart Trophy finalist three times in the last five years. In 2018, he led the regular season with 12 game-winning goals but narrowly lost out to Taylor Hall of the New Jersey Devils. In 2020, he finished second to Leon Draisaitl, and in 2021 he was third, behind Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews — and just ahead of his friend and idol, Sidney Crosby.

Notoriously driven, MacKinnon is going to want to show the world why he deserves his massive payday, and that’s going to mean playing at the top of his game every night. After center Nazem Kadri’s free-agent departure from the Avalanche, MacKinnon should also help pick up some slack in the middle as 21-year-old Alex Newhook is groomed for a larger role following a strong rookie season.

That could mean more defensive assignments, where he can showcase his two-way game. And MacKinnon will still see plenty of offensive opportunity, including big minutes on what should once again be one of the league’s best power plays.

If MacKinnon cracks the 100-point plateau this season and flirts with 50 goals, he’ll get MVP attention as one of the game’s top regular-season players. And he has now accomplished what McDavid and Matthews haven’t thus far: winning a championship.

Greg Liodice: Nathan MacKinnon

Who has it better than Nathan MacKinnon?

He’s coming off that coveted Stanley Cup victory and is fresh off signing the shiny new extension to make him the highest-paid player in the league. Even after finding new wealth, MacKinnon is not settling and has his eyes on yet another Cup.

Colorado is still a deadly squad, even after losing Kadri, and it could pose yet another high-scoring season for MacKinnon.

The 27-year-old's dealt with injuries throughout his career but is always available when it matters. Given that, it’s a big reason he’s at +1500 instead of being listed as an overwhelming favorite.

Last season was a slow start, but he managed to score 88 points in 65 games, which is an absurd pace. Give MacKinnon a full season, and it could be problematic for the league.

In three of the past five years, he’s received top-three votes for the Hart Trophy (runner-up in 2019-20), and there’s no reason to believe he won’t be there again.

Sure, he has to duke it out with the McDavids and Matthews, but he’s still one of the elite players, and it’s hard to overlook him.

Jonny Lazarus: Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild (+1500, Bet365)

The MinnesotaWild are a fine team, and we saw them achieve plenty of success last season, but if you really look at this roster, they have only one guy who is considered a star. That guy is Kirill Kaprizov.

Kaprizov had a career season last year, tallying 47 goals and 61 assists for a total of 108 points in 81 games. The Wild should be a team that can make the playoffs yet again, but in order to do so, they are going to need Kaprizov to replicate his strong play from last season.

Kaprizov as of now is set to play on a line with Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Hartman, the same line he played with for most of last season. He and Zuccarello have created incredible chemistry and could be considered one of the best dynamic duos in the NHL.

Last year as a team, the Wild finished with the league's fifth-best offense while averaging 3.72 goals per game, in large part thanks to Kaprizov and Zuccarello.

It is evident that Kaprizov has become the heartbeat of this Minnesota Wild team, and if they are going to have any success this season, it will be dependent on him.

Getting Kaprizov at +1500 is pretty solid value considering the fact that he finished fifth in points last season in the NHL. I expect another strong year from the Russian forward and I think he is a great bet to win the Hart trophy.

Tony Sartori: Jack Eichel, Vegas Golden Knights (+6000, Caesars)

Following the buying-low trend from my Vegas pick in our sleepers article, this year is a tremendous opportunity also to buy low on Jack Eichel.

Plagued with injuries over the past few seasons, he has not played more than 34 games since the 2019-2020 campaign.

But in that season, he finished with 78 points in 68 games, and you obviously need to be north of a point-per-game player if you want to be in the Hart conversation as a forward. With the 26-year-old presumably 100% healthy, it feels as though this year needs to be the one that Eichel proves he belongs in the superstar conversation.

When he has been on the ice, he has proven that he's at that level in terms of talent. Now, we just need him to stay healthy and return to his form pre-injuries, which I believe he will do.

When he has played over the past three season, Eichel ranks in the 94th percentile in WAR. In his career, he is just south of a point-per-game, and that includes six years spent with a Sabres team that was rebuilding while he was also dealing with some health issues.

Now, Eichel is fully healthy and has a strong supporting cast around him.

We know how much the media loves a narrative, especially those who vote for the NHL awards. If Eichel stays healthy (he should), Vegas makes the playoffs (likely, see my prediction for them above), and he is able to throw up 90+ points in his first full season back since 2019-20, do you think he will get some votes? Absolutely.

Ryan Dadoun: Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning (+2500, Caesars)

If I were simply stating who I thought was most likely to win the Hart Trophy in a vacuum, I’d say Connor McDavid – not because he’s predestined to win it, but just because he’s consistently one of the best. So if you want safety, he’s as close as you’ll get.

If, however, you’re looking for a little bit of higher risk and potentially higher reward from someone who has shown he can rival the likes of McDavid, then Kucherov is an interesting choice.

The obvious drawback here is his injury history. In my mind, those injuries are the only reason why he’s at +2500 instead of around +500, and that’s completely fair. You can’t escape the fact that he missed the entire 2020-21 campaign and he was limited to 47 games in 2021-22. However, it’s worth noting that those injuries haven’t significantly hindered his production when he has been on the ice.

He still managed to score 25 goals and 69 points in his 47 games last season, and he added another eight goals and 27 points in 23 playoff contests. Similarly, while he missed the 2020-21 regular season, he was his usual dominant self during the 2021 postseason with eight goals and 32 points in 23 games.

That’s encouraging because some players are never quite the same after major injuries, but in Kucherov’s case, there’s still room for optimism. If he stays healthy – and yes, that’s not an insignificant "if" – then he should have one of the best seasons in the league.

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