There are several candidates outside of the five favorites who have a solid chance of winning the Hart Trophy, one of the NHL’s most lauded individual honors.
According to NHL betting lines, Connor McDavid (+300), Auston Matthews (+450), Leon Draisaitl (+650), Nathan MacKinnon (+1000) and Nikita Kucherov (+1400) are the early Hart Trophy frontrunners.
While it will take a supremely accomplished season for anyone outside of those five favorites to win, the list of candidates is bursting with talent and MVP potential. Here’s four of the best 2022-23 Hart Trophy sleepers picks.
4. Sidney Crosby (+3000)
The only thing preventing Sid the kid from winning a third Hart Trophy is his inability to play a full regular season. Crosby missed 108 games between 2010 and 2012 due to a concussion or concussion-related symptoms.
In 2016-17, he suffered another concussion which forced him out of the lineup for six games. Just as he was playing his best hockey in years, Crosby took a heavy hit from Jacob Trouba in Game 5 of the Pens’ 2021-22 first-round series against the Rangers and was forced to miss Game 6.
Wrist surgery and Covid-19 kept the 34-year-old out of the lineup for 13 contests last season. Crosby hasn’t managed to play a full slate of regular season games since 2018-19.
If he stays healthy, Crosby has every chance of winning his first Hart Trophy since 2014. He was on pace for 100 points last season and has the ability to further ramp up his offensive production.
The 2022-23 season could represent Crosby’s last solid chance to join the exclusive three-time Hart Trophy club.
3. Steven Stamkos (+3000)
Steven Stamkos is still searching for his first Hart Trophy. The Lightning captain, akin to Crosby, has suffered an extensive list of injuries. The 32-year-old, who led the Lightning with 106 points in 81 games, enjoyed a resurgent 2021-22 campaign.
He looks primed for another sensational year, which invariably will be aided by Nikita Kucherov’s presence.
Kucherov missed just under half the 2021-22 season with a low-body injury, but returned in the playoffs and led the Lightning in points en route to the Stanley Cup Final. According to NHL odds, he is the fifth favorite to win his second Hart Trophy. With Kucherov healthy and firing on all cylinders, expect Stamkos’ offensive production to rise.
While Stamkos’ 106 points was a career best, he has the offensive ability to eclipse that mark, especially with a healthy Kucherov and Brayden Point alongside to accentuate his skills. At +3000, Stamkos offers excellent value.
2. Cale Makar (+2000)
It’s staggering to think of what Cale Makar has accomplished in his first three years in the NHL. Makar managed only 57 and 44 games, respectively, in his first two seasons, but enjoyed an astonishingly proficient breakout season in 2022-23.
Makar scored 86 points in 77 games, won the Norris Trophy, the Conn Smythe Trophy and the Stanley Cup. Anyone who doesn’t think he’s capable of winning the Hart Trophy in his fourth NHL season obviously hasn’t seen him play.
Makar is the first defenseman since Nicklas Lidstrom in 2002 to win the Norris and Conn Smythe in the same season. He also finished second among defenseman in scoring, behind only Roman Josi, who finished the 2021-22 campaign with 96 points.
Still only 23 years old, it’s a matter of time before Makar wins the Hart Trophy. If the 2021-22 campaign is anything to go by, 2022-23 appears more likely than his +2000 odds give him credit for.
1. Aleksander Barkov (+1600)
Aleksander Barkov’s superlative 2021-22 campaign set a precedent and buoyed his status as a Hart Trophy contender. The 26-year-old Panther amassed 88 points in 67 games, scoring 39 goals and adding 49 assists. He also finished with an impressive plus-36 rating.
Last season’s point haul fell eight shy of his career best, a mark he set in 2018-19. Barkov played alongside Jonathan Huberdeau on occasion during 2021-22, but the dynamic duo were often separated to evenly distribute the Panthers’ top offensive weapons.
Barkov will almost certainly line up beside new arrival Matthew Tkachuk, who is coming off a career year in Calgary. Tkachuk notched 104 points in 82 games with the Flames before being traded to Florida for Huberdeau and others. If Tkachuk and Barkov find chemistry together and intermesh like a finely woven garment, the Finnish center is in with a viable shot of winning the Hart Trophy.
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