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NHL Notebook: Jonathan Toews ‘taking time away’ from hockey and who could catch Connor McDavid in next years Hart Trophy race?

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Photo credit:Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
7 months ago
Former Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews announced he is ‘taking time away’ from hockey this season as he continues to reevaluate his ability to play.
In an Instagram post on Thursday, Toews said it didn’t mean he was retiring.
“I am not fully retiring, but I am taking time away from the game again this season,” Toews said. “I cannot deny my love for the game of hockey and still feel the passion for competing at my highest level.
“However, these last few seasons have been very difficult considering my health challenges. My focus is to give myself the time and space to fully heal and enjoy life to the fullest once again.”
Here’s more from Daily Faceoff’s Steven Ellis:
Toews has not played a full season since 2018-19, and was limited to just 53 games in 2022-23. He missed all of 2020-21 while dealing with health issues, but bounced back to record 37 points in 71 games in 2021-22.
Toews again missed significant time this season amidst rumors he was on the trade block. Toews returned to the lineup after dealing with symptoms of long COVID on April 1.
“Along the way I have met several people who have struggled with health issues pertaining to long COVID, chronic immune response syndrome, and other similar cases that are quite complex,” Toews continued.
“I now recognize the importance of one day sharing the details of my health journey with you all. Thank you to all of you who have supported me and respected my privacy in the process.”
Toews is sixth in all-time scoring among Blackhawks with 883 points and fifth in games played at 1,067. He is the longest-serving captain in Blackhawks history, being the only one to hold the honor over a 10-year span.

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Who’s chasing Connor?

There’s no denying Connor McDavid’s greatness. Now a three-time Hart Trophy winner after his 64-goal, 153-point season last year, he’s the front-runner once again.
As of Thursday afternoon, Betway has McDavid at the far-and-away favourite at +100. The next closest two are Auston Matthews and Nathan MacKinnon at +1000.
Over at Daily Faceoff, Anthony Trudeau took a look at some risers and fallers in the race to chase McDavid:
Risers
Even by the lofty standards of first-overall picks, the pressure for Jack Hughes to succeed has been outstanding since he joined the New Jersey Devils in 2019. As if changing the fortune of a proud franchise in a lengthy dry spell was not enough responsibility, Hughes’s obvious good looks and impressive lineage (brothers Quinn and Luke were also blue-chip prospects) made him the NHL’s choice to carry America’s hockey torch.
Things did not only go smoothly in that department initially; Hughes’s first two pro seasons were more than respectable for a teen but hardly enough to justify the at-times unfair hype machine built around him. After showing his true promise during an abridged 2021-2022 campaign, during which he scored 26 goals and 56 points in just 49 games, the USNTDP alum exploded for another 43 goals and 99 points in 78 games last season. A fully-realized superstar on a rising team, the center’s game-changing ability (the Devils controlled 61.2% of high-danger chances and 58.6% of expected goals with Hughes on the ice) finally matches his still-growing celebrity.
Fallers
When the dust settles on the current era of NHL hockey, will any superstar player go more underappreciated than Nikita Kucherov? Despite generational offensive creativity, his unimpressive athleticism and frequent injury (see: cap) absences have allowed him to go underrated despite two Stanley Cups and a 128-point season in 2019.
If Kucherov has flown under the radar, that is where he will stay as he enters his 30s. The Russian wizard is still unstoppable on the powerplay and during the postseason, but the hard truth is that his Tampa Bay Lightning have finally fallen off. After three-straight Eastern Conference titles gave way to a first-round exit last season, depth pieces Colton and Alex Killorn left Florida over the summer.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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