2022-23 NHL Preview: Best Bets to Win Rocket Richard Trophy
AP Photo/Derik Hamilton. Pictured: Auston Matthews
There is one NHL award that is completely objective and that is the Rocket Richard Trophy, given to the player who scores the most goals. As you’d expect after what we saw last season, Auston Matthews is the favorite to repeat in this market, but bookmakers are also pretty high on Leon Draisaitl, Kyle Connor and Kirill Kaprizov.
Here are our favorite bets to win the Rocket Richard:
Carol Schram: Connor McDavid, +1200 (FanDuel)
In seven seasons, McDavid has won four scoring titles and two Hart Trophies. Is 2022-23 the year he leads the NHL in goals for the first time?
Don’t rule it out. During the player media tour in Las Vegas in September, McDavid told Sportsnet he aims to become a more dangerous scorer this year. His 44 goals last season were a career high, but were also well back of Auston Matthews’ impressive 60-goal campaign.
McDavid dialed things up big-time in the playoffs last spring and led all scorers with 33 points, even though his Edmonton Oilers were knocked out in the Western Conference Final. That playoff performance included 10 goals in 16 games, a rate of 0.625 goals per game.
If we project that rate over an 82-game season, it would get McDavid to 51.25 goals.
Another stat also suggests McDavid has more to give: his shooting percentage, which is at 15% in the regular season over his career. McDavid had been between 16.0% and 17.1% accurate over the three seasons prior to 2021-22, when his success rate dropped to 14%.
With luck playing as big a role as it does in the NHL, shooting rates generally regress toward their averages over time. For McDavid, even a 1% improvement in shooting accuracy would generate another three goals if he maintains last year’s rate of 3.925 shots per game.
Over the summer, McDavid has been putting in the work to step up his scoring game. With a betting line that’s currently set to pay in the ballpark of four times as much as a repeat win for Matthews, are you really going to bet against McDavid?
Tony Sartori: Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild +1400 (DraftKings)
There is no doubt this is Auston Matthews’ award to lose. Coming off a 60-goal season, the 24-year-old may still be waiting to hit his prime.
That being said, if anyone is going to give him a run, I could see it being Kaprizov, who finished sixth in the league last season with 47 goals scored.
Ranking in the 100th percentile in WAR amongst forwards over the past two seasons, Kaprizov has developed into one of the league’s best players. Playing in Minnesota under Dean Evason has been a blessing for Kaprizov as the bench manager has done a terrific job maximizing the Russian’s potential.
Specifically, Evason has ensured that the offense always runs through 97 when he is on the ice. Their rush offense is specifically tailored around Kaprizov catching the puck in the middle of the ice and carrying the zone, from which he will either drive play toward the net or dump it off to a winger.
Surrounded by a talented cast, Kaprizov and Minnesota should have no problem putting up goals at a high clip. Last season, the Wild finished second in GF and second in Finishing.
If Kaprizov continues to get better and the team continues to score, I wouldn’t be shocked if he puts up 50-55 goals this season. If he is in that range, he’ll certainly will be one of the top finishers for this award, making 10/1 an intriguing proposition.
Greg Liodice: Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets +1200 (bet365)
To say the Winnipeg Jets year last season was messy is a bit of an understatement. All you have to do is look at Mark Scheifele’s end of season presser to realize that. Amidst all of that, Connor was one of the few bright spots in snowy Manitoba. The reigning Lady Byng winner is seen as one of the best pure goal scorers in the league and, had it not been for a shortened season two seasons ago, he would’ve had 30+ goals in five straight years.
What’s astounding though is that Connor broke out even more in 2021-22, as he tallied 47 goals. Typically, that would suffice for a Rocket Richard, but with the talent this league has, 47 goals was only good enough for fifth.
Winnipeg’s roster is certainly deep, but ever since their run in 2017-18, things haven’t been the same. Last year they endured a coaching change that set them back, dealt with perceived locker room issues and couldn’t keep their heads above water. However, they’re bringing in Rick Bowness as head coach who, based on his time in Dallas, is a locker room “fixer,” which could be a big help moving forward.
With better team luck and another year under his belt, I expect Connor to have another dazzling season and think 50 goals is a very real possibility. For someone who’s considered one of the best goal scorers in the league, snagging Connor at +1200 could be a steal.