With the season on hold for the time being, there’s no telling what would have happened with the 2019-20 NHL Awards. Sure certain players had leads but the race for most awards were tighter than what showed on the surface. This is especially true when looking at the underlying stats, which bring up some exciting cases. In this series, the Last Word on Hockey team will decide who should have won each award based on the advanced numbers. Today, we’ll look deeper at the 2019-20 NHL awards, turning our attention to the Hart Memorial Trophy.
These awards articles are not who we believe will win the award, rather who we believe should win based on multiple stats that were available.
Deciding the 2019-20 NHL Awards: Hart Memorial Trophy
Here is the big one for the 2019-20 NHL awards. The award that garners the most debate. It is the award that’s all-encompassing, every player is included regardless of position. The award is given “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team”.
Some ground rules to go over before getting into the winners and nominees, however. There has been much debate on what the criteria of “most valuable to his team” should be. In this article, the playoff position and overall standings will not be factored in. I will not look to punish great players on terrible teams for not making the playoffs. Similarly, I will not punish players just because they are on a strong team. With that out of the way, let’s see who we have winning the most prestigious individual award in the NHL.
Winner: Artemi Panarin
When the New York Rangers won the Artemi Panarin sweepstakes on July 1st, 2019, they couldn’t have hoped for a better first season with him. While the team has struggled mightily this season, Panarin has not.
Looking at his RAPM charts, we can see how strong his scoring abilities were from the GF/60 category (so much so I had to increase the z-score from three to five just to view it). This is odd, however, compared to his adequate xGF/60 of 2.8. This could be because of the type of player Panarin is and how xG doesn’t account for passing types. He is an extremely strong player in this regard and a model built to include this may look upon him more favourably. Even disregarding this, he has shown a production rate that is unmatched.
Panarin also leads the league based on Evolving Hockey’s WAR model. While I won’t use this stat to make a decisive choice for a player, it’s a good statistic to acknowledge. We can see that Panarin is primarily here based on his spectacular offence, but he also has above average defensive capabilities. This differs from a lot of elite offensive players and potentially what is able to separate him from the rest of the pack.
Runner-Up: Brad Marchand
This season’s runner-up for the Hart at Last Word on Hockey is Brad Marchand. Like or dislike the player, there is no denying his skill as an NHL player. He often gets lumped in with Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak because they all play on “The Perfection Line” together. This season, however, Marchand has been a step above. With this line it can be hard to isolate each of their impacts due to the amount of time they play together. This is especially true for the Marchand/Bergeron duo who play together on the PP, PK, and 5v5. What has been isolated, though, shows Marchand to be absolutely fantastic.
We can see with Micah Blake McCurdy’s tool from HockeyViz that he provided the most offence of the three and even nearly matched Bergeron in defensive ability.
With an xGF% of 57.11 at 5v5, that puts Marchand within top 20 in the entire NHL. With his xGA/60 being below 2 at just 1.98 (among only 26 players with a sub 2 xGA/60 with at least 750 minutes played), this proves his combination of elite offence and elite defence.
The RAPM chart shows Marchand’s capability across every category better than just mentioning numbers could. He thrives in nearly every category both 5v5 and on the powerplay. While Marchand may have strong linemates, he certainly is not just a product of them.
Third Place: Elias Pettersson
Sophomore slump? Where? Not here for Elias Pettersson, that’s for sure. Elias Pettersson had large expectations to live up to after winning the Calder Trophy in 2018-19 with the Vancouver Canucks. Pettersson not only met those expectations, but he exceeded them. With an xGF% of 53.91, Pettersson has shown how dominant he is. Pettersson had 53 primary points this season, surpassing his totals from last year.
Pettersson had an extremely strong year offensively, similar to Panarin, while still being strong, above replacement level defensive player. He provides a strong presence on the powerplay for the Canucks in both GF/60 and xGF/60.
Pettersson also ranks second, just behind Panarin with Evolving Hockey’s WAR model. This is a result of his strong even strength and power-play offence he provides, respectable defence, and his ability to draw penalties and take few. All of this leads to him ending up third on our Hart rankings.
Fourth Place: Leon Draisaitl
This was a tough placement as this will upset both traditional hockey fans for being too low for Draisaitl, and people in the analytics community for being high. While I believe points can be very overrated in the hockey world, they are still something. A more telling figure would be to look at a player’s primary points, and Draisaitl still leads the league in that category as well with 82. The biggest drawback for Draisaitl (and a reason he was considered being placed lower) is his defensive abilities. Draisaitl is a liability to have on the ice when he’s not scoring and that really holds him back.
Similar to Panarin, the z-score had to be increased from 3 to 5 on this chart, so his defence may not look as bad as it truly is. It had to be changed to fully show his success on the powerplay.
A better example of his defence is looking at his 5v5 unblocked shot rates, and he comes in at +11% over the league average, whereas the Edmonton Oilers are -5% without Draisaitl on the ice.
Despite the bashing of his bad defence, Draisaitl was still incredible this season. This was especially true on the power-play, which is where his talents really came through. He was 14th in the league in xGF/60 on the power-play, and was second in the league in power-play goals while being tied for first in primary points on the man advantage.
Fifth Place: Auston Matthews
Auston Matthews really had a great year with the Toronto Maple Leafs. He scored 48 goals this season, 30 of which were at 5v5 (the most in the league). He had the sixth-highest iXG in the league according to Evolving Hockey in all situations. Matthews also significantly improved his defensive play from prior seasons.
Toronto’s 5v5 shot rates with and without Matthews really shows how important his offence was to the team. Matthews was able to generate 64.48 CF/60 at 5v5, showing that he was able to contribute in quality and quantity.
People may knock Matthews by saying he had the benefit of playing with either Mitch Marner or William Nylander (and even John Tavares on the power-play). As previously mentioned, however, the quality of team doesn’t affect these rankings. Matthews has also proven he is elite in his own right without other players around him, and his individual and isolated stats prove he should be here on this list.
It’s really difficult not having Eichel in the top 5 this season because he did, in fact, have a truly incredible year on the Buffalo Sabres. He barely misses out on the cut on this list. However, there is absolutely an argument to be had that Eichel could be in the top 5.
It’s hard to stress how good of a season Hellebuyck had with the Winnipeg Jets last season. His season was good enough to win him the Vezina in our eyes, and he deserves to be mentioned along with the Hart candidates here.
Boy, this was hard to create a Hart top-5 and leave off Nathan MacKinnon. He is a phenomenal player that had a fantastic year, like all the players on this list. This year he just barely misses the top cut for this list.
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