With the NHL regular season over, speculation is circling some of the league’s most elite players. But the conversation around the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded to the NHL MVP, is becoming less and less of a debate.
Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid had an earth-shattering year, and he’s all but solidified his win, beating out Boston Bruins netminder Linus Ullmark, an early conversation piece, and San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson, who is dominating the blue line, among others.
The Hart Memorial Trophy, handed out at the end of every regular season, is given “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.” The winner is decided in a vote among the Professional Hockey Writers Association in all NHL cities.
Related: NHL power rankings
Let’s dive into the 2022-’23 NHL MVP race.
NHL MVP race: Who will win the Hart Memorial Trophy?
The latest NHL MVP odds are provided via BetMGM, with analysis provided on each of the top Hart Memorial Trophy candidates during the 2022-’23 NHL season.
|NHL MVP odds
|New Jersey Devils
|Toronto Maple Leafs
|Toronto Maple Leafs
|Tampa Bay Lightning
|San Jose Sharks
Related: NHL games today
Evaluating Hart Memorial Trophy candidates
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
The Edmonton Oilers captain is, by all accounts, the best player in the league right now. He’s tallied an insanely impressive 153 points in 82 games, and plays huge minutes for his club. He won both the Art Ross and the Rocket Richard trophies, awarded for most points and most goals, shattering records and ending nearly 30 points ahead of the second place player–his teammate, Leon Draisaitl.
The entirety of the season, naturally, saw him proving his on-ice magic yet again, despite the Oilers’ inconsistencies. As the NHL heads into the final stretch, he has all but guaranteed himself the Hart Memorial Trophy, essentially running away with the contest.
Tage Thompson, Buffalo Sabres
The young Sabres dynamo came out of nowhere to stun hockey fans with a season that is nothing short of magical, and at one point this season had skyrocketed to third on the NHL MVP odds list, though he removed himself from the conversation as his pace slowed slightly. In 78 games this season, Thompson had 47 goals — meaning he carried a pace that’s better than a goal every other game–and a total of 94 points.
Since Thompson emerged as a real offensive threat, Buffalo has improved at a drastic pace and has a fighting chance at the playoffs. So much of their offensive threat can be credited to the first line, which sees Thompson play alongside Jeff Skinner and Alex Tuch. A few seasons ago, Skinner was a healthy scratch struggling to find the net, and Alex Tuch was recently traded from Las Vegas. The emergence of Thompson as an elite player is directly related to the drastic improvement of the Buffalo Sabres, and that is certainly worth noting for the NHL MVP race.
David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
Obviously, the Bruins had an insane year, finishing with the President’s Trophy and having broken NHL records. In 82 games, the Bruins only lost 12 matchups, and David Pastrnak led the charge with a monster showing this season.
He finished with 113 points, with 37 of those having come on the power play. He added a +34 plus/minus and 407 shots, alongside a 15 shot percentage. He missed the first bit of last season with an injury, and Boston seemed to struggle early on. The change is proof enough of Pastrnak’s value.
Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
Fresh off a Stanley Cup victory, the Avalanche forward was faring well without captain and linemate Gabriel Landeskog, who is sidelined for the entire playoffs following knee surgery. But he too got injured, which virtually put him out of the running for the Hart Memorial Trophy.
Before he was sidelined, MacKinnon was among the top in the league in assists with 26, and now has a total of 111 points (and 69 assists) in 71 games. He plays a well-rounded, balanced game that’s instrumental in the Avalanche’s success. He was arguably playing some of his best two-way hockey before his injury, combining his speed and his hockey mind for some brilliant plays.
Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild
“Kirill the Thrill” is nothing short of impressive and an absolute blast to watch. He demonstrates the same scoring ability that Auston Matthews has, but at a younger age and on a team that certainly rosters fewer superstars. The Wild are picking up their offense again, competing for the top spot in the Central Division in a race that will go down to the wire.
Still, despite an injury that sidelined him for a time, Kaprizov ended the season with 75 points, including 40 goals, 67 games. He’s a former Calder Trophy winner, too, which could help his chances as his career progresses, especially if the Wild continue to compete in the Central Division every season.
Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks
Even though he’s not on the BetMGM odds list, Karlsson is making a strong case for the Hart Trophy. The 32-year-old blue-liner posted 100 points on the season (the first defenseman to do it since the nineties), which is especially impressive considering he’s on a struggling team that cannot seem to find wins or offense.
He’s seen a resurgence of sorts, after a few less-than-stellar seasons on the blue line. While he may not be helping his team win, he is garnering tons of trade talk, and could be used as a key bargaining piece in accelerating the Sharks’ rebuild. And, on the right team, he could be the difference maker in securing a playoff spot, or even a Stanley Cup.
NHL MVP: Hart Memorial Trophy history and recent winners
Last season, Auston Matthews was awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy, thanks in large part to a high-scoring season that saw him tally 60 goals in 73 games. The award was given to the NHL in 1960, according to the league’s website, “after the original Hart Trophy was retired to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The original trophy was donated to the NHL in 1923 by Dr. David A. Hart, father of Cecil Hart, former manager-coach of the Montreal Canadiens.”
Who is the current NHL MVP?
Historically, it is extremely rare for a player to win the award in back-to-back years. The last player to achieve that feat was Alexander Ovechkin in 2008 and 2009, so the odds are against Matthews winning for the second year in a row.
As it stands, Matthews is not enjoying his expected success this season–and was further derailed by an injury. What’s more, the Maple Leafs have failed to make it out of the first round since Matthews was drafted in 2016, meaning he has done nothing to change the team’s playoff woes (granted, playoffs are not considered for the Hart Memorial Trophy).
Instead, the current favorite is Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who is enjoying a strong start to the season despite Edmonton’s struggles. He opened the season with a hat trick, and had two four-point nights in the first four games. On the season, he ended with a total of 153 points, breaking salary cap era records. Stats like those are certainly MVP caliber.
Related: NHL scores
Hart Memorial Trophy winners
- 2021-’22: Auston Matthews
- 2020-’21: Connor McDavid
- 2019-’20: Leon Draisaitl
- 2018-’19: Nikita Kucherov
- 2017-’18: Taylor Hall
What is the Hart Memorial Trophy awarded for?
As mentioned, the award itself is given to the player judged to be the most valuable to his team. In most cases, that translates into a goal-scoring forward. And, the Hart only takes the regular season into consideration, with a separate award being given to the playoff MVP.
Related: NHL standings
Who has won the most NHL MVPs?
Wayne Gretzky won NHL MVP nine times, including eight consecutive seasons from 1980-87. He won the award as a member of both the Edmonton Oilers and the Los Angeles Kings, and is one of the only players (alongside longtime teammate Mark Messier) to win the award with more than one team.
Can a goalie win the Hart Memorial Trophy?
While a goaltender hasn’t won NHL MVP since Dominik Hasek won it with the Buffalo Sabres in 1997 and 1998, Linus Ullmark’s show-stopping play since he burst on the scene kept him in the MVP conversation.
If he can continue his incredible performance next season, he is a solid contender and could be in line to win the award in the blue paint for the first time in over 20 years. That said, he has some difficult competition in superstars like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, as well as Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar, all of whom are slated to be superstars in the league for many years.