2022 Hart Trophy Predictions

Hart Trophy Predictions
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Welcome to Last Word on Hockey’s 2022 award predictions series. As the regular season wraps up and the playoffs being, we’ll be taking a look at potential nominees and winners for the major NHL awards. The 2022 NHL Awards will be a one-hour show between Games 3 and 4 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final, hosted by the same city that will host those games. Today we look at our Hart Trophy Predictions.

2022 Hart Trophy Predictions

The 2021 season was a weird one, with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing just intradivisional play. That season, Connor McDavid was able to dominate, scoring 33 goals and 105 points in just 56 games. He was able to dominate the North division, earning his second Hart Trophy. This season, players return to playing against all teams in the NHL, but not a whole has changed in terms of the players being considered for the Hart.

Auston Matthews

Matthews has been talked about a lot this season, but for good reason. Auston Matthews scored 60 goals through just 73 games. An incredible pace, and just the third player to do so since the beginning of the salary cap era. He did this while also posting a top 10 defensive season as a forward in the NHL. There wasn’t a single flaw in Matthews’ game.

Data and visuals from Hockey Viz

Matthews was a beast at even strength, on the power play, and while he got little to no penalty kill time, that’s because he already played more minutes on average than almost every other forward except Mitch Marner. Matthews really had a historic season that is worthy of a Hart nomination.

Igor Shesterkin

It’s absolutely no stretch to say that the New York Rangers wouldn’t be in the spot they are without Igor Shesterkin. He leads the NHL in goals saved above expected, and by a wide margin at that. The Rangers had sub 50% corsi for and expected goals for percentages this season, yet are still a 110-point team that sits second in their division. That doesn’t happen without a god-like performance from the team’s goalie.

Data and visuals from Evolving Hockey

Shesterkin consistently outperformed what was expected of him, as we can see in the goaltender chart above. Based on the volume and frequency of shots Shesterkin faced on a nightly basis, he should’ve been around the league average, but instead, he thrived and was able to put himself into the Hart conversation. He’s having one of the best goaltending seasons since 2007-08, and is keeping the Rangers in the hunt. The New York Rangers are a completely different team without Igor Shesterkin.

Connor McDavid

What’s a Hart trophy list without Connor McDavid on it? He is consistently winning Art Rosses, and fights to keep the Edmonton Oilers relevant. McDavid’s offensive play has never been in question, however, ever since last season in 2020-21, his defensive impacts have improved considerably. This trend has continued into this season. While he continues to dominate play driving efforts offensively, McDavid is also no longer a liability in his own zone. He even provides some value there.

Data and visuals from Evolving Hockey

When looking at McDavid’s RAPM chart from Evolving Hockey (in which I had to double the y-axis limit to truly show his impact of xGF/60) we see just how much he does when he steps on the ice. Connor McDavid truly is a generational talent and a perennial contender on Hart trophy predictions lists. And this season is no different.

Winner: Auston Matthews

This was a hard decision between these three players, as all of them have a legitimate case to win the Hart. However, Matthews has just been a far more complete player than McDavid. Both 60 goals and 123 points are very impressive, but Matthews’ ability to be among the leagues best forwards defensively while also putting up these offensive numbers is something that is very rarely done in the NHL.

It’s difficult to compare skater numbers to that of a goalie, however, Matthews has been able to do some things that are unprecedented in this era of the NHL. Igor Shesterkin, while incredible, has elite comparables since 2007-08. This isn’t to take anything away from either McDavid or Shesterkin but rather shows how incredible of a season Auston Matthews has had.

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