Smartest picks for award winners

Smartest picks for award winners

11:00 AM ET

The ballots will be out soon for the 2021-22 NHL Awards, which means it’s time to start locking in some bets.

As a Professional Hockey Writers Association voting member, I do not personally wager on the NHL Awards. I have a monthly platform in our NHL Awards Watch that chronicles how the voters are thinking about each award and also features my own analysis on the awards. I’ve seen that analysis help shape opinions of other voters before, so betting on the awards feels a little too like “insider trading” for me.

But for you? There’s money to be made in the awards voting, if you can tell where the wind is blowing.

Let’s get something out of the way: Don’t waste your money on the Vezina Trophy voting. Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers is -1000 to win the award. He has over 70% of the handle. He’s going to win in a walk.

Now, on to the other more contentious awards …

Hart Trophy

Favorite: Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (-350)

Runner-up: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers (+400)

Long shot: Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers (+2200)

Matthews has this thing pretty much sewn up.

There’s a reason he has over 51% of the handle in MVP betting. His 58 goals is a Toronto Maple Leafs single-season record, and anytime someone sets a new standard for an Original Six team it’s pretty big news. He has a remarkable 2.00 goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play and a points per game average (1.46) in line with McDavid (1.47). Matthews has also never won the award, finishing second for the Hart last season. The voters love making a new king.

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The voters are also prone to recency bias, and that’s why Shesterkin is now a substantial long shot, trailing Matthews, McDavid, Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau (+1600) and Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau (+1600) in the odds. He carried the Rangers for three quarters of the season, but down the stretch the goalie’s numbers have slipped a bit while New York has really found a groove as a team. He has a .935 save percentage, which is exceptional but not an all-timer benchmark. Shesterkin probably needed an “all-timer” to overcome the fact that he’ll have only appeared in around 65% of his team’s games, which is far fewer games than other goalies who have won the Hart in the past 25 years.

McDavid, it should be said, has his name on more tickets (26.1%) than does Matthews (19.8%), but we imagine much of that wagering happened earlier this season before Matthews went on his goal-scoring tear.

Norris Trophy

Favorite: Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche (-160)

Runner-up: Roman Josi, Nashville Predators (+135)

Long shot: Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning (+5000)

Makar was the preseason betting favorite to win the award for best defenseman (+400) and remains there as the season draws to a close. He has rewarded that confidence with 82 points in 71 games, skating to a plus-48. In other words, he has done nothing to discourage what was seemingly predetermination from the voters before the season to give the Colorado defenseman his first Norris. Which is why 70.1% of the handle belongs to Makar.

But there’s real value in taking a chance on Josi at those odds. He might not have had the all-around season that Makar has had, but that could be overshadowed by having one of the best-ever offensive seasons by a defenseman. The Predators have six more games. If Josi picks up six more points to finish with 94, he will crack the top 20 single-season point totals for a defenseman in NHL history. That would be the best offensive output for a defenseman since the 1990-91 season.

There’s a chance that historic offensive season, and the late hype Josi has gotten as a potential MVP candidate, trumps Makar’s candidacy. But he did win the Norris in 2020, while Makar is seeking his first.

Calder Trophy

Favorite: Moritz Seider, Detroit Red Wings (-250)

Runner-up: Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks (+500)

Long shot: Michael Bunting, Toronto Maple Leafs (+750)

One of the most fascinating awards on the docket. Seider has had the inside rail for the past few months, and that’s reflected in his percentage of the tickets (44.6%) and the handle (65.3%). The Red Wings defenseman leads all rookie blueliners in points (47) and ice time per game (23:05). He has been steady while playing in all situations for Detroit. He’s a solid choice but not a spectacular one such as Zegras, a winger who has amassed 57 points in 70 games and has appeared on more highlight reels than any other NHL player this season.

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For the record: One of Seider’s teammates, forward Lucas Raymond, actually has better odds than Zegras at +450 but hasn’t had the strongest finish to his season.

But Zegras and Raymond both trail Bunting in the rookie scoring race; he has 63 points in 76 games and is even better analytically with 25.9 goals scored above expectation — more than McDavid! He has only 2.7% of the handle right now.

There’s a ton of value here. Rookies who lead their peers in goals and points usually win this award. The reason Bunting isn’t the favorite is because he’s 26 years old, and there’s an inherent bias against “older” rookies. But I expect that debate to play out during the voting, and for Bunting to potentially win that debate — and rookie of the year.

Our favorite weekend

Chalk’s David Purdum noted this weekend that NHL favorites went 14-0 on Saturday. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, it was the first time all the favored teams won on a 14-game slate since they started tracking such things in the 2017-18 season.

But the domination by favored teams actually goes well beyond that. Favorites went 2-0 on Friday. They went 6-0 on Sunday, as the Buffalo Sabres’ moneyline moved very late into favorite territory before their win over the Flyers.

In three days, favorites went 22-0 in the NHL.

It’ll be interesting to see how this moneyline trend tracks for the next few weeks as playoff teams continue to push for higher seeding or, in the Western Conference, clinch postseason berths. Meanwhile, the “have-nots” are playing out the string of an exhausting season, both mentally and physically.

4dGreg Wyshynski

14dGreg Wyshynski

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Trick or Trend

Leon Draisaitl shot props

The most stunning thing about the Edmonton Oilers’ 4-0 win over Vegas on Saturday night wasn’t the final score but their star center’s shot total: zero, marking only the fourth time this season and the second time in 2022 that Draisaitl failed to generate a shot. After clearing 3.5 shots in six straight games, he has gone under in three of five games. That’s an easy TRICK, however: Draisaitl is one of the NHL’s top volume shooters who is trying to chase down Auston Matthews for the league goal-scoring title this season.

Buffalo Sabres second period over

Chris Otto notes that the Sabres have had a ton of action in their second periods. The Sabres’ games have gone over 1.5 goals in eight straight second periods and in 14 of 15 games overall. Buffalo averages 1.12 goals per game in the second period, while they give up an average of 1.27 goals per game in the middle frame. We’ll go ahead and say this is a TREND worth following as the season heads to a close.

Columbus Blue Jackets under total

Columbus lost to Anaheim 6-4 on Sunday. It was a total that was a bit of an outlier: That game marked only the second time in seven games that the total had gone over in a Blue Jackets’ contest. Which is wild when you consider that, before this stretch, Columbus had gone 43-21-5 against the total. They still have the highest percentage of games (62.5%) that went over this season, so we’ll say this blip is a TRICK for the action-heavy Jackets.

Source: ESPN NHL


Author: Ellen Garcia