Gaudreau moving into Hart Trophy consideration with standout season

Mar 2 2022, 11:05 pm

It’s time to talk about Johnny Gaudreau as a full-on Hart Trophy candidate.Ā 

No, he isn’t going to lead the National Hockey League in scoring, and a 10-point gap between the sixth-place Gaudreau and Connor McDavid — the current pace-setter — probably isn’t going to substantially close over the course of the remaining 30 games of the season.Ā 

But the Hart is more open to interpretation than the Art Ross or Rocket Richard nods, as its annual award given “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.”

And Gaudreau’s case is certainly starting to stack up with the likes of McDavid, Auston Matthews, Alexander Ovechkin, or even Igor Shesterkin.Ā 

Let’s be clear. He isn’t the favourite.Ā 

Yet his season is still worth tossing into the mix among the league’s best.

First off, while he’s sixth overall in league scoring with 67 points (20 goals, 47 assists), no individual player has amassed more even-strength points than Gaudreau. In fact, Gaudreau has just 13 points on the power play this season — the lowest among the league’s top eight scorers. He’s doing the strong majority of his goal-scoring damage at five-on-five, too, with 18 of his 20 goals coming at even-strength.

It’s surprising, considering Calgary’s power-play — which runs through Gaudreau and his playmaking ability — is 10th in the NHL at 23.2%.Ā 

Gaudreau just so happens to be the anchor on one of, if not the best first-line currently cooking in the NHL. He, along with Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm, are each within the NHL’s top 20 in scoring.Ā 

He’s second in the league, behind Huberdeau, with 2.94 assists per 60 minutes. He’s second in points per 60, too, at 4.41.Ā 

His contributions haven’t solely been offensive, either.Ā 

Gaudreau’s offensive zone starts trail most other scoring leaders inside the league’s top 20, and his plus-40 rating leads all forwards.

The mere suggestion of Gaudreau being a 200-foot player a year ago probably would’ve been met with some snickers. Not anymore.

And, most importantly, Gaudreau is the key cog in a team that sits in the top spot in the Pacific Division, a full five points clear of the Los Angeles Kings and six points up on the Vegas Golden Knights. That’s with two games at hand over each, too.Ā 

More impressively, is that the Flames are sitting atop the division with 70 points through 52 games. Calgary had just 55 points over the full 56-game schedule in 2020-21. That’s a 15-point improvement with four fewer skates.Ā 

For an award that judges itself as going to the player most valuable to his team, it’s certainly not hard to make a case for the 5-foot-9, 165-pound left-winger who remains on pace for his most fruitful season to date, and Calgary’s most productive season since Hakan Loob hit 106 in the 1987-88 season.

Despite this, Gaudreau remains a longshot.Ā 

He nets +3,300 odds on Bet365 to capture the award (tied for eighth), and has the seventh-best odds on Bodog, at +2,500, and Sports Interaction, at +2,135.

Long odds.Ā 

Still, he’s in the conversation.Ā 

Aaron VickersAaron Vickers

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