The NHL Season is set to continue in mid-January with an anticipated start date of the 13th. While there are still a few hurdles in returning to play, including division formats, number of games, and the overall schedules, one thing we can start looking at is their odds to win the Hart Trophy (NHL’s Most Valuable Player). With that in mind, let’s get to it so you can start planning your bets against their NHL odds.
Sleeper MVP Picks for The 2021 NHL Season
The usual suspects of Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, and Alexander Ovechkin all appear at the top of the list, and rightfully so. Instead, we’ll be looking at three dark horse candidates to win the award.
Taylor Hall, Buffalo Sabres
The Buffalo Sabres are in desperate need of a playoff berth. They currently have the longest playoff drought; missing this year would make 10 straight seasons without a berth. With elite center Jack Eichel growing increasing impatient with Buffalo’s ineptitude, the front office made a splash this offseason, bringing in Taylor Hall on a one-year, $8 million contract, which includes a full no-movement clause. No stranger to playoff futility, Hall has made the playoffs just once in his career. To say the two of them are the hungriest in the league for a playoff berth may be an understatement.
Hall, the first overall pick in the 2010 Draft, is taking a big gamble on himself with the one-year deal, and potentially setting up for another massive payday if he posts a strong 2020-21 campaign.
Already a Hart winner in 2018, Hall could be the perfect compliment for Eichel on the wing. Hall has played most of his career without an elite center, and Eichel has played most of his without a high-scoring, shoot-first winger. Eichel could also be a strong MVP candidate, but there’s an inherent bias towards goal scoring with NHL awards (regardless of category… looking at you, Norris Trophy…), which may tip the scales to Hall’s favor over Eichel.
Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights
Vegas is built for another run to the Cup Final and are co-favorites with the Colorado Avalanche to win the Cup, according to MyBookie, at +700. Stone finished with the second-highest point total for Vegas last season, trailing linemate Max Pacioretty by three points when the season paused. He was also Vegas’ highest scoring forward in the playoffs.
Even more than his offensive prowess, Stone is one of the NHL’s best defensive forwards. He has finished in the Top 5 in Selke Trophy voting each of the past two seasons, finishing second in 2018-19 and fifth in 2019-20, which is a particularly difficult feat for a winger. The last non-center to win the Selke was Jere Lehtinen in 2002-03. As defensive metrics and advanced stat tracking is more utilized in awards voting, Stone’s skills continue to put him higher into both the Hart and Selke conversations. Another high-scoring season with the shutdown skills on display could put Stone at the top of the awards conversation, especially if Vegas wins their division, however the alignment shakes out.
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
Another Top 10 vote-getter for the 2020 Hart Trophy, Connor Hellebuyck has an excellent chance to be the top goalie in the new Canada Division. Because the U.S.-Canada border is still closed due to COVID-19, and NHL teams are not exempt as essential workers, to keep playing, the NHL is realigning conferences, likely for just this season. With only Canada teams to compete against and without a strong backup, Hellebuyck should see another heavy workload this year, especially against the offensively gifted Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks.
Hellebuyck was awarded the 2020 Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender, posting a 31-21-5 record, leading all goaltenders in games played. He also had a 2.57 GAA and a .922 save percentage. While he posted reasonable numbers in the playoffs, Winnipeg was decimated by injuries and a lack of defensive depth. With a healthy squad in front of him, a shortened season, and a chip on his shoulder, last season could’ve been a taste of what is to come for the 27-year-old netminder.