With his hat trick against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night, Connor McDavid jumped into the top spot in the NHL’s leaderboard with eight goals through eight games.
McDavid has an incredibly impressive trophy case, as he’s won two Hart Trophies, three Ted Lindsay Awards, and four Art Ross Trophies through the first seven years of his career. One of the major individual awards that he hasn’t won yet is the Rocket Richard Trophy for the NHL’s leader in goals. Could this be the year?
Since McDavid entered the league in 2015, we’ve seen his goal-scoring production increase year by year. There was a big jump after his first two seasons in the league and another jump during the pandemic-shortened All-Canadian Division season but he’s largely been hovering around a 40- to 45-goal pace for most of his career…
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  • 2015-16: 0.36 goals per game
  • 2016-17: 0.37 goals per game
  • 2017-18: 0.50 goals per game
  • 2018-19: 0.53 goals per game
  • 2019-20: 0.53 goals per game
  • 2020-21: 0.59 goals per game
  • 2021-22: 0.55 goals per game
  • 2022-23: 1.00 goals per game
 
McDavid has always been known more as a playmaker or driver as opposed to a pure scorer but the increase in his goal-scoring over time indicates that he’s developing into a player who’s more comfortable trying to find the back of the net himself.
He’s currently operating at a goal-per-game level and is on pace to score 82 goals. That obviously isn’t going to happen, but this older, more shot-oriented version of McDavid winning the Rocket Richard certainly isn’t an unreasonable bet.
Here’s what it’s taken to win the Richard in the seven seasons since McDavid broke into the NHL…
  • 2022: Auston Matthews, 60 goals
  • 2021: Auston Matthews, 41 goals (52-game season)
  • 2020: David Pastrnak and Alex Ovechkin, 48 goals (~70 game season)
  • 2019: Alex Ovechkin, 51 goals
  • 2018: Alex Ovechkin, 49 goals
  • 2017: Sidney Crosby, 44 goals
  • 2016: Alex Ovechkin, 50 goals
Based on recent history, in order for McDavid to win the Richard, he’d have to at least reach the 50-goal plateau for the first time in his career, which would require a six-goal increase on the career-high of 44 goals he set last season. Last season, Auston Matthews hit 60 goals and three other players reached the 50-goal mark, so it’s fair to assume winning the Richard this year would take more than 50 goals.
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While Matthews and Ovechkin, the usual names in the goal-scoring race conversation, are off to slow starts, there are a handful of players who are hot early on that could be in the mix down the stretch. Two-time Rocket Richard winner Steven Stamkos has seven goals in eight games, Andrei Svechnikov has seven goals in six games, and recent Rocket Richard winner David Pastrnak has six goals in eight games.
We’re only in October and a lot will change as the season goes along but this will be an interesting thing to keep an eye on. It seems like he’s on a mission this year to score more goals than he ever has before.
What say you, Nation? How many goals do you predict McDavid will score this season? Who do you think will end up with the Rocket Richard Trophy? 
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