It’s nearly October. The leafs, they’re changing colors. The air, it feels crisper and the hockey, it is around the corner.
As our season preview series rolls on, we shift gears from the team toward the individual and measure up the market for the NHL’s 2017-18 Hart Trophy (MVP) race.
According to the prices provided at Odds Shark, the bookies see this as a two-horse race between the best hockey players on the planet. The trophy holder, Connor McDavid, is the odds-on favorite at +150, with two-time winner Sidney Crosby just behind him at +250.
Reigning Rookie of the Year Auston Matthews is listed at +850, which pits him third, just ahead of Alex Ovechkin and his +900 price. Rounding out the top five is 2015-16 MVP Patrick Kane, who will go off at +1400.
Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues +1500
The talismanic Blues forward has scored 73, 74 and 75 points in each of the last three seasons, respectively. The 25-year-old Russian has finished in the top 15 of MVP voting three years on the bounce, and Tarasenko seems primed to tick things up a notch in 2017-18. Over his 341-game career, Tarasenko owns a shooting percentage of 13.8 percent.
Tarasenko played a majority of his career under the defensive-minded Ken Hitchcock, so a full season away from that system — even if Mike Yeo isn’t exactly a yin to Hitchcock’s yang — could see more volume, and thus, more goals from Tarasenko.
Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars +6000
Last year, the Dallas Stars were sunk by a combination of bad injuries and poor play in their own end. In Seguin’s case, his season was derailed by bad luck. Going into 2016-17, Seguin was a career 11.8 percent shooter. That number dipped to 8.6 last year, his worst mark since his rookie season. Even in a "down" year, Seguin still managed to notch 26 goals and 72 points.
Besides some positive regression, another thing Seguin has going for him is the addition of Alex Radulov to a first line that already boasts Jamie Benn. Radulov is a premier set-up man, and if those three can stay healthy, they figure to be one of the league’s most dangerous units.
It is worth mentioning that the Stars hired the aforementioned Hitchcock over the offseason, but it would be surprising to see Hitchcock try and force his shell style of hockey on a team whose clear strength is with their high-end forwards.
[Photo: Jerome Miron, USA Today]