NHL 2022-23 futures: Best bets to win the Hart Trophy
No player has won the Hart Trophy in consecutive seasons since Alex Ovechkin in the late 2000s.
Can Auston Matthews buck that trend and repeat as the league's MVP, or does the value lie elsewhere?
Let's take a look as we zero in on a few of the standout candidates.
Auston Matthews (+400)
Having led the league in goals since entering the NHL and outscoring the next closest player by 16 tallies over the last two seasons, Matthews is unquestionably the best finisher in the NHL.
He's also an elite point producer and play driver, and his defensive game has grown leaps and bounds from where it was two or three years ago. He's a legitimately dominant two-way player.
The Maple Leafs figure to - once again - be one of the league's best offensive teams. Barring a barrage of injuries, they'll also comfortably make the playoffs.
As much as people want to point the finger at goaltending, the team ranked 27th in five-on-five save percentage a year ago, and that didn't stop them from finishing third in the league with 54 wins.
The Leafs are going to win a lot of games, and Matthews will be at the forefront at both ends of the ice. That's going to get him a lot of recognition.
Nikita Kucherov (+2200)
Kucherov has missed his fair share of time with injuries over the last couple of years. That's the only explanation for him being priced so egregiously.
When healthy, he has been as dominant - and productive - as anybody in the league. It's not a stretch to say he has been in the same world as the likes of Matthews, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Nathan MacKinnon.
Over Kucherov's last three seasons of regular-season play, he has piled up 282 points in 197 games. That equates to a whopping 117 points per 82.
If you want to throw the 2018-19 Hart campaign out the window and focus on his last couple of years, he has still averaged 110 points per 82 games while playing for a team that wins consistently.
So long as Kucherov is healthy, he's going to be an ultra-productive player for one of the NHL's best teams.
Jack Hughes (+5000)
Hart Trophy candidates generally need to produce 90-plus points and play for a contender or lead a surprise team to the playoffs. The Devils certainly don't fit into the contender category, but I think they could surprise this season. If they do, it'll be Hughes leading the charge.
He quietly was remarkably efficient when healthy a season ago, producing at a 44-goal, 94-point pace at just 20 years old. Natural progression should help him hit another gear this season. So should an improved supporting cast, headlined by free-agent acquisition Ondrej Palat and the expected promotion of top prospect Alexander Holtz. Not to mention, the Devils brought in Jack Adams finalist Andrew Brunette to run a power play that looked completely out of sync during Mark Recchi's tenure with the team.
All signs point toward Hughes taking the next step to superstardom. If he can flirt with 100 points and the Devils sneak into the playoffs, he would surely be one of the prime candidates for the Hart.
Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.
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