Connor McDavid is letting the league know he’s the best player in the league this year.
Through 20 games to start the year, he’s scored 12 goals and added another 25 assists totalling 37 points on the year — the latter two both leading the league at the time of writing.
He’s got an extra jump in his step this season and it’s showing with him having a seven-point lead on his next closest competitors in the scoring race, Leon Draisaitl and Mitch Marner, who both came into Monday night’s games with 30 points, respectively.
When you break down his scoring rates on a per hour basis in all situations, there are a few things that jump out at you:
- McDavid is scoring more goals than he ever has. His goals/60 rate has jumped from his previous career-high 1.46 in 2019-20 to 1.61 this year.
- His assist rates, too, have spiked considerably year-over-year. In 2019-20 he posted a 2.7 total assists/60 rate and a 1.63 first assists/60 rate. Those have jumped to career-highs of 3.36 total assists/60, and 2.29 first assists/60.
- His total points per hour, too, is at an all-time high with him scoring 4.98 points/60.
His underlying numbers, too, are the best we’ve ever seen from him. At 5×5 he’s posted a 55.28 CF%, a 58.33 GF% and an xGF% of 62.5. With McDavid on the ice at 5×5, according to hockeyviz.com, the Oilers contribute offence at a 45 (!) percent rate above league average and defence at a 13 percent rate below league average. All in all, McDavid is tearing up the NHL.
Okay so those are great numbers, but how can you tell it’s one of the best of all time?
The NHL is a fickle league at times when you discuss the all-time greats of the league. Many people say that Gordie Howe is the unfiltered king of the league. He’s played the most games in NHL history, has the fourth-most points of all-time, and truly revolutionized the game with his all-around play on the ice. Simply put, he was far ahead of his time.
There’s also an argument for Wayne Gretzky, my NHL GOAT vote, for being the best player of all-time. He’s scored the most goals (894), assists (1963) and points (2857) of anyone to play the game and has 1000 more points than anyone else in history, a record that will likely never be broken. Not only that, but he holds dozens of more records that will likely stand the test of time. He was the league’s most talented offensive weapon in the 1980s and ’90s, and that can’t be ignored.
But one of the biggest differences and arguments that complicate things is that both of these players played at very different times. When Howe played, the league was much smaller and teams saw much more of each other, given there were only six teams for the overwhelming majority of his career.
So how do you compare these two players? You adjust for the eras that they played in by doing some math.
It’s done by the legendary website Hockey Reference and adjusts all statistics to account for “different schedule lengths, roster sizes, and scoring environments” of different eras. Those statistics are adjusted to an 82-game schedule with a maximum roster size of 18 and league averages of six goals per game, and 1.67 assists per goal.
You can read more about it here.
So what’s so special about this year?
Well, when you adjust for eras across the history of the NHL for single seasons heading into Monday night’s game, McDavid’s era-adjusted points accumulate to 158 — the ninth-best single season in NHL history.
You can see from the list to the right here that he’s in pretty incredible company. Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr are all players who make multiple appearances on this list, as down Howie Morenz who was one of the NHL’s best players in the league’s infancy.
Credit where it’s due, there are a few other impressive era-adjusted sessions happening around the NHL right now, too. Marner has 134 era-adjusted points, placing him in a tie for 26th with Joe Primea’s 1930-31 season, while NHL goal leader Auston Matthews 131 era-adjusted points put him in a five-way tie for 31st on the list.
Leon Draisaitl has 127 era-adjusted points this year placing him in a tie for 46th place. The full list can be seen here.
You obviously have to set an asterisk beside McDavid’s 2020-21 campaign given it’s a smidge over a third of the way through, but given his incredible start to the season it’s going to be fun to keep an eye and see if he can climb into the top-five.