NHL Maurice 'Rocket' Richard Trophy odds and value bets
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David Pastrnak can't stop scoring.
The Boston Bruins forward sits comfortably atop the NHL's goal leaderboard with 25 through just 31 games, putting him on pace for 66 this season. The last player to reach that mark was Mario Lemieux in 1995-96.
If Pastrnak can continue scoring at this rate, he'll unquestionably win the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy in a landslide after opening the season at 25-1 odds. However, the jury is out on whether he's capable of continuing his historic output, and the underlying numbers suggest he isn't.
Pastrnak's 12 power-play goals are a huge reason he's No. 1 in the league, and perhaps the greatest contributor to his success is the fact that he's converting on 34.2% of his shots on the man advantage, which is nearly double his 18% average from the last three seasons. It's hard to imagine that number doesn't come down significantly during the remainder of the season.
At five-on-five, his shooting percentage is a more sustainable 16.7%, though that's still a significant improvement from the past three years - 10.4%, 12.6%, and 13.6%. There's room for regression across the board.
That's reflected in his expected goals count (ixG), which sits at 11.7 - eighth in the NHL below the likes of Alex Ovechkin (15.8), Leon Draisaitl (12.8), and Connor McDavid (11.8). His ixG at five-on-five is just 5.86, which ranks 26th in the NHL.
Pastrnak is a remarkable player and has fully established himself as one of the league's premier talents, but it's too much to expect him to continue this rate of production. The "Rocket" Richard race isn't settled in December, so don't start cashing those tickets just yet.
Connor McDavid (7-2)
McDavid is on pace for a career-best 49 goals thanks, in large part, to a significant uptick in power-play production. His eight markers with the man advantage through 32 games is one shy of his career best of nine, which he potted in 78 games last season.
The Edmonton Oilers superstar has done so with a 27.6% shooting percentage, which is well above his career average. However, unlike Pastrnak, McDavid is shooting more than he has in the past.
He has 29 power-play shots in 32 games after averaging 45 during the last three seasons. It'll be tough for him to sustain his shooting percentage, but even keeping it above 20% puts him on pace for another nine goals on the man advantage.
His five-on-five shooting percentage is right in line with his career average and he's firing pucks on net at the same rate as he has in the past, so there shouldn't be much of a downtick in production there.
McDavid is on pace to add another 18 tallies at even strength, which would put him at 46 for the season when combined with his power-play projections. It might be tough for him to reach 50 unless he can maintain that 27.6% power-play shooting percentage - which isn't out of the question for the best player in the world - and muster some goals at four-on-four or when shorthanded.
Alex Ovechkin (7-2)
It wouldn't be a proper "Rocket" Richard race without Ovechkin in the thick of it. The Washington Capitals sniper has won the award in six of the past seven seasons and remains Pastrnak's closest competitor with 21 goals through 32 games.
It's been a fairly standard season thus far from Ovechkin, whose power-play numbers are right in line with his career averages. His five-on-five shooting percentage is a tad low, sitting at 10% - he's been above 12.8 in each of the last two seasons - but otherwise, he's again meeting expectations.
Ovechkin's on pace for 54 goals right now and it's entirely realistic to expect him to reach that number. If so, it would be his best mark since amassing 56 tallies in 2008-09. Whether or not that's enough to best Pastrnak depends entirely on how much the Bruins forward regresses.
Auston Matthews (7-1)
Matthews endured a slow November following a scorching-hot October, leaving him seven goals back of Pastrnak for the scoring lead.
Like Ovechkin, Matthews' numbers are generally in line with his career averages. However, he is getting significantly more power-play shots this season, averaging just over one per game - a significant increase from the 0.63 he managed through his first three campaigns. The Maple Leafs want him shooting more, which suggests this jump is intentional.
The one area that's slightly down for Matthews is his power-play shooting percentage, which sits at 15.6% on the season, nearly 3% below his career average of 18.4. If Matthews can reverse that trend, he could be in for a monster second half of the campaign. Working in his favor is the Leafs' power play under head coach Sheldon Keefe. The team has converted 41.7% of its opportunities with the man advantage under Keefe, compared to just 17.6% of its power-play chances under Mike Babcock. Now it's just a question of whether or not Matthews has dug himself too big of a hole to climb out of.
Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.
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