Ten Tuesday Thoughts: Trade Talk, the Hart Trophy Race and More

Photo credit:Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
4 months ago
I love this time of year in the NHL. We are through the dog days of January. The NHL trade deadline is in 17 days, playoff races are heating up, NHL trophy contenders are emerging and then we are into the playoffs. Buckle up baby. It is going to be fun.
— We’ve seen one trade in February, but that will change in the coming weeks. Sean Monahan is getting comfortable in Winnipeg and scored a natural hat-trick during the Jets’ loss to the Flames yesterday, but he was dealt on February 2nd, and we are patiently waiting for the next deal. There will be some big deals in the next 17 days.
The Pittsburgh Penguins should move Jake Guentzel. They are 3-6-1 in their last 10 and seven points out of the second wildcard spot, and would need to pass four teams just to be in eighth place. I was told teams are concerned about Guentzel’s injury and there will be lots of interest. He would help the Oilers, but I don’t see him re-signing in Edmonton, and I’m not sure they will give up the assets needed to acquire him, knowing he likely won’t re-sign.
Noah Hanafin will be traded. He told the Flames in the summer his preference was to play in the USA, so will Toronto or Vancouver take a run at him, knowing he won’t re-sign? Teams would rather give up multiple assets for players with term, or a player they feel they can re-sign. The Tampa Bay Lightning have done this with Nick Paul, Tanner Jeannot and Brandon Hagel.
— With every passing game it becomes more apparent to me the Oilers have to improve their fourth line. I’m bullish on my Nic Dowd and Beck Malentsyn proposal, but if not Dowd, then other options like Oscar Sundqvist and Sam Carrick make sense. Dowd could be a third-line centre, if the Oilers want to play Ryan McLeod with Leon Draisaitl.
— The race for Hart trophy is the most competitive I’ve seen in years with Nikita Kucherov, Nathan MacKinnon, Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews each making strong cases. There is still over 33% of the season to play, so lots can change between now and the end of the season. When you look at the four candidates, each has a pretty solid case.
Let’s start with total points, including points/game and their production at home and on the road.
It is ranked by points and in how many GP with points/game in parentheses.
Kucherov94 in 56 (1.68)47 in 27 (1.74)47 in 29 (1.62)
MacKinnon91 in 56 (1.63)55 in 26 (2.11)36 in 30 (1.20)
McDavid83 in 50 (1.66)51 in 23 (2.22)32 in 27 (1.19)
Matthews73 in 53 (1.38)38 in 26 (1.46)35 in 27 (1.30)
Kucherov, MacKinnon and McDavid are all with .05 PPG of each other. McDavid has five games in hand on Kucherov and four on MacKinnon. Matthews had three and two on Kucherov and MacKinnon. As I noted last week, it has been a bit of an odd year for McDavid, in the sense he is producing significantly more points at home than on the road. The past two seasons he had the exact same point totals at home and on the road, similar to what Kucherov is doing this season.
— Matthews is having an unreal goal-scoring season. He has 49 goals in 53 games and is on pace for 74. He’d become the sixth player to reach 74 goals in a season and the first since Alex Mogilny and Teemu Selanne each had 76 in 1993.
PlayerGoal TotalHomeRoad
Matthews49 in 53 (0.92)28 in 26 (1.07)21 in 27 (0.77)
Kucherov36 in 56 (0.64)20 in 27 (0.74)16 in 29 (0.55)
MacKinnon33 in 56 (0.59)22 in 26 (0.85)11 in 30 (0.37)
McDavid21 in 50 (0.42)13 in 23 (0.57)8 in 27 (0.30)
Matthews has 13 more than Kucherov and is averaging over a goal/game at home. Impressive.
— McDavid has 62 assists in 50 games and is on pace for 99. If he reaches 99 or 100 assists he’ll be only the fourth player to do it, joining Wayne Gretzky (11x) while Bobby Orr (102) and Mario Lemieux (114) did it once.
PlayerAssist TotalHomeRoad
McDavid62 in 50 (1.24)38 in 23 (1.65)24 in 27 (0.89)
Kucherov58 in 56 (1.03)27 in 27 (1.00)31 in 29 (1.07)
MacKinnon58 in 56 (1.03)33 in 26 (1.27)25 in 30 (0.83)
Matthews24 in 53 (0.45)10 in 26 (0.38)14 in 27 (0.52)
It is great to see players on track to move into such elite groups.
— Nathan MacKinnon now has the second-longest home point streak to start a season in NHL history at 26 games. Only Gretzky, 40 in 1989, had a longer streak. MacKinnon leads the NHL in 5×5 points.
MacKinnon, McDavid, Kucherov and Matthews are the only players in the NHL with 40+ points at 5×5. Unlike some people, I don’t discount PP points. Kucherov has been crushing it on the PP, but it is interesting to note how MacKinnon has almost 102 more minutes of PP time than McDavid and 95 more than Matthews. The Avalanche are second in the NHL with 3.68 PP opportunities per game, while Edmonton and Tampa Bay are tied for 22nd at 3.02 and Toronto is 28th at 2.87.
— Kucherov is having an amazing season. He leads the NHL in points, and he has 36 more than his closest Tampa teammate, Brayden Point, who has 58. MacKinnon is 21 ahead of Mikko Rantanen in Colorado, while McDavid has 15 more than Leon Draisaitl and Matthews is one point ahead of William Nylander. Kucherov is carrying more of the offence in Tampa Bay. All four of the candidates teams are in the top-eight in goals/game: Colorado is third at 3.70, Toronto is fourth at 3.57, Edmoton is fifth at 3.56 and Tampa sits at eight with 3.39 goals/game.
Kucherov has factored in on 47.2% of Tampa’s goals, while McDavid has chipped in on 44.9% of Edmonton’s, MacKinnon has been involved in 44% of Colorado’s and Matthews 37.8% of Toronto’s goals.
— Here is a look at the four player’s possession numbers.
McDavid leads in all the categories except GF%, where Matthews is first at 63.29%. Not a surprise Matthews has the best on-ice SH%, but that is due to his amazing goal scoring prowess this season. MacKinnon has fired 259 shots overall and scored 33 times (12.7 SH%), while Kucherov has 36 goals on 234 shots (15.4 SH%), Matthews has 49 goals on 228 shots (21.7%) and McDavid has 21 goals on 165 shots (12.7%).
It will fascinating to see how the voting plays out, and if any of the players can create a clear separation over the final 33% of the season.
— The Calder trophy (best rookie) is also intriguing to me. Connor Bedard is garnering a lot of attention, and understandably so, with 17 goals and 39 points in 42 games. He missed 14 games due to injury, and that has made me look at other options. Brock Faber is having one of the best rookie seasons by a defencemen the NHL has even seen.
He is averaging 24:55/game which would be the highest TOI/game for a rookie since the NHL started tracking TOI. Drew Doughty averaged 23:50, while Duncan Keith logged 23:26. Tobias Enstrom is currently second at 24:28 games. Not only is Faber playing huge minutes, he is playing loads against the best players. He is currently 10th in minutes v. Elite opposition (via PuckIQ) at 392 at 5×5. And of those top-10 minute eaters he ranks third in DFF%. Damn impressive for a rookie, who has had to play more minutes due to the injury of Tyler Spurgeon.
Playing that many minutes overall, not to mention that many v. elite forwards and doing well, is damn impressive for any defender, never mind a rookie. Overall, Faber has logged the 11th-most minutes 5×5 with a total of 1015, and he has the best DFA (dangerous Fenwick against) off the top-11 minute-munchers. Josh Morrissey is next at 742. When Faber is on the ice the Wild don’t give up many high danger chances.
I usually lean towards offence more, but when you watch Faber, and look at his numbers, and realize that since December 1st he leads the entire NHL by averaging 26:15 TOI/game, his season has been incredibly impressive, and if he continues to play this well down the stretch, he should be strong considering for the Calder.
— The race for home ice advantage in all four divisions is shaping up to be great.
Boston leads Florida by one point for first in the Atlantic and Florida has one game in hand. They play each other twice down the stretch.
The Rangers lead Carolina for first in the Metropolitan division and each has 27 games remaining. They only have one game head-to-head, but Carolina plays Boston and Florida twice each, while the Rangers face Florida twice and Boston once. First place in the East is up for grabs as Boston is only two points up on the Rangers and New York has one game in hand.
The Central is the best, as Dallas, Colorado and Winnipeg are battling for first and second. Dallas has 76 points, followed by Colorado with 72 and Winnipeg with 71. The Jets have three games in hand on Dallas and Colorado. Colorado plays Dallas twice, while the Stars and Jets clash two more times.
Vancouver (80 points) has a comfortable 10-point lead for first in the Pacific, although Vegas has two games in hand, and Edmonton has five. Vegas (70 points) is three ahead of the Oilers, but Edmonton has three games in hand. The race for second will be very close, and if one of them gets hot it could put pressure on Vancouver.
Vancouver plays Dallas once and Colorado and the Jets twice in the race for first in the West. The Canucks also play Vegas three times and the Oilers once. The Oilers and Golden Knights face off once. Edmonton has three games v. Colorado, which could impact home ice advantage in the third round, if both make it that far.
The final 58 days of the regular season are going to be intense. I can’t wait.

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