NHL

NHL Betting: Art Ross Trophy Value Picks for 2019-20

Does Nathan MacKinnon offer some value when betting on the Art Ross Trophy? Who else should we consider for the league's top point-scorer?

The Art Ross Trophy is awarded annually to the NHL player who leads the league in points at the end of the regular season. Nikita Kucherov set the bar high last season totaling 128 points, the highest mark since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96. What surprised me the most about Kucherov’s point total was the 87 assists he collected along the way. Consequently, I started to wonder, what is the anatomy of the league’s highest point-getter?

Three things jumped off the page when I took a deeper dive into the numbers. First, since 1966-67 there have been only two Art Ross Trophy winners who recorded more goals than assists in the year they won the award. Second, time on ice (TOI) is generally 20+ minutes a game. Lastly, there have only been five skaters over the age of 30 who have led the league in scoring. They are Martin St. Louis, Mario Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky, Phil Esposito, and Gordie Howe. Basically the greatest hockey players of their respective generations and very clearly the exception, not the rule. That means, for the most part, that players who win this award are in prime hockey years mid to late 20’s, with the average age of the recipient being almost 26 years old, are among the most skated forwards on the team and have an assist-first mentality.

With all that in mind, there is one player who exemplifies exactly what you should look for in an Art Ross Trophy winner – Connor McDavid. Although on the younger side of his 20’s, he’s increased his point production year over year since coming into the NHL; he’s an assist-first player with a nearly 2:1 ratio of assists to goals and he is perennially one of the league leaders in TOI for forwards. Consider also that numberFire has McDavid projected to lead the league with 117 points, 12 more than the next best skater. In consolidating the anatomy of a league-leading scorer with numberFire’s projections McDavid is the guy to beat.

Bettors tend to agree as McDavid is currently listed as the odds on favorite, +290 at FanDuel Sportsbook, to win the Art Ross Trophy. That being said, I have painstakingly watched the Edmonton Oilers over the years and noticed a thing or two about McDavid’s production. Notably, he normally finds his sixth gear come December. This is reflected in his point totals as well. Over the first 30 games of the last two seasons McDavid has mustered 43 and 35 points respectively; good enough for 78 total points or 1.3 points per game. To end those seasons he’s totaled 147 over 101 games, or 1.45 points per game. So although the metrics point towards McDavid as the eventual winner, if you sit tight you might be able to get a better price come December.

Here are three value plays you can consider as a part of your Art Ross Trophy winner portfolio:

Nathan MacKinnon +1200

numberFire projections 45 goals, 59 assists, 104 points

Nathan MacKinnon and his linemates, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, were one of the most productive forward lines last season. They combined for 261 total points and were the engine that drove the Colorado Avalanche offense. numberFire projects that MacKinnon will finish third in league scoring behind the aforementioned Kucherov and McDavid. As such, he’s rightfully priced with their third-best odds at +1200.

Here’s the thing, the Avalanche have an unproven commodity in goaltender Philipp Grubauer and will likely find themselves in some high scoring contests this season. As you saw last year, there’s plenty of production to be shared on this line. Don’t be surprised to see MacKinnon eclipse projections and be in the Art Ross Trophy race at the end of the season.

Steven Stamkos +3600

numberFire projections 44 goals, 56 assists, 100 points

Stammer deserves better than what he’s got to this point in his career. Plagued by injuries and bad luck, he hasn’t achieved the level of success that he seemed destined for at the start of his career. I, for one, am holding out hope that this is the year that it all comes together for him.

Given the talent he’s surrounded with Stamkos has evolved from a natural goal scorer to an accomplished passed, recording more assists than goals in each of the last three seasons. He’s in the twilight of his prime years but still gets close to 20 minutes of ice time a game. Considering that he’s paired with the defending Art Ross winner and phenom Brayden Point most of the time I would expect in excess of the 100 points he’s projected to get. Even more appealing is the +3600 price that comes with him.

Mark Scheifele +4900

numberFire projections 38 goals, 45 assists, 83 points

Hear me out on this one!

He checks all the boxes. He’s a pass-first forward, who played almost 22 minutes a game last season, he’s surrounded by talent and he’s right in the Art Ross Trophy age range wheelhouse at 26 years old. What I find most compelling are the advanced metrics. Last season he saw a steep drop off in his Corsi For % to 48.1% bringing his career average down to 51.3%. I expect major progress in that department. Even if he gets back to average, you can expect a positive net difference in his point total. Consider also that 56.8% of his zone starts came in the opponent’s end. That will certainly lead to increased goal scoring opportunities.

The Winnipeg Jets as a whole are feeling the pressure to win now. For many years they’ve been touted as a team that should compete for Lord Stanley’s mug but up to now, they’ve failed to deliver. They locked up stud Kyle Connor and brought back Finnish sniper Patrik Laine on a two year show me deal. The pressure is on in Winnipeg and expect Scheifele to lead the charge. The numberFire projections don’t inspire a ton of confidence at +4900 it’s worth the gamble.