TRAIKOS: Will anyone be able to put up more points than Connor McDavid this season?

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A race to be the runner-up.


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That’s how most gamers are already viewing the pre-season MVP debate — which isn’t a lot a debate as it’s a one-sided argument — after Connor McDavid torched the league final yr with 105 factors in simply 56 video games.

Wanting again, they had been ridiculous numbers. At that tempo, McDavid may need completed with 154 factors had it been a full season. Perhaps he would have had much more. In spite of everything, with 21 factors within the remaining eight video games, it’s not like he was slowing down. And contemplating that he had a 21-point lead on the next-highest scorer for the Artwork Ross Trophy, it’s not like anybody was going to catch him.

Now that he has a pair of legit first-line wingers in Zach Hyman and Jesse Puljujarvi to feed him the puck, don’t anticipate that to alter.


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“Clearly, Connor is particular,” Hyman mentioned throughout final month’s NHL Media Tour in Toronto. “He’s doing issues which can be unprecedented. To be a part of his profession and doubtlessly play with him is unquestionably one of many causes that I selected Edmonton.”

It’s additionally one of many explanation why McDavid heads into the season as not solely the favorite to win his fourth scoring title in six years, but in addition the Hart Trophy as league MVP. Not that there isn’t loads of competitors.

Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl, who completed second in scoring with 84 factors final season, received the Artwork Ross Trophy in 2019-20 with 110 factors in 71 video games. Earlier than that, Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov led all scorers with 128 factors in 82 video games. After which there’s Toronto’s Auston Matthews, who led all gamers with 41 objectives final yr whereas rating amongst the top-5 with 66 factors, alongside linemate Mitch Marner (67 factors), in addition to Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, Chicago’s Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers.


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“There’s a whole lot of proficient guys that may put up huge factors,” mentioned Montreal’s Nick Suzuki, “however it’s exhausting to not decide McDavid proper now.”

Certainly, the query isn’t whether or not McDavid will win the scoring title, however slightly by how a lot? Can he attain 150 factors? Is that magical variety of 200 factors inside attain?

“It is going to be exhausting for him to do what he did final yr,” mentioned Ottawa’s Thomas Chabot. “However whenever you have a look at these guys like McDavid, you by no means know.”

One factor is for certain: Nobody from the opposite six Canadian groups goes to overlook taking part in in opposition to him for 9 torturous instances this yr.

“Yeah, that can be good that he’s again on the west coast,” mentioned Chabot.

From McDavid capturing for one more MVP to Matthews gunning for one more goal-scoring title to the Tampa Bay Lightning searching for one more championship, this could possibly be a yr of repeats and three-peats. Right here’s a have a look at a number of the pre-season trophy favourites:


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Favorite: Tampa Bay Lightning

It has been 40 years since a staff received three straight championships. But when anybody can pull it off it could possibly be Tampa Bay. Yeah, the Lightning misplaced its complete third line to free company and the enlargement draft. However they nonetheless have an all-star staff led by Kucherov, who had 32 factors in 23 video games throughout final yr’s playoffs, Conn Smythe Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy, Victor Hedman, Brayden Level and Steven Stamkos — in addition to a head coach in Jon Cooper who will steer Canada’s finest on the upcoming Olympics.

“I do know they misplaced some guys, however they’ve probably the greatest goalies within the league and the issues he can do,” mentioned Montreal’s Tyler Toffoli. “So it’s important to assume they’re the favourites proper now.”


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Groups to look at: Carolina, Colorado, Toronto and Vegas


Favorite: Auston Matthews, Toronto

Like McDavid’s level whole, Matthews put up some unimaginable numbers when he led the league with 41 objectives final season. At that tempo, he may have completed with 65 objectives. So long as his wrist holds up, reaching the 60-goal mark is a risk.

Gamers to look at: Connor McDavid (Edmonton), Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay), Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado), David Pastrnak (Boston)


Favorite: Cale Makar, Colorado

Makar, who had 44 factors in 44 video games and was a plus-17 final season, completed second in Norris Trophy voting. Had he not missed these 12 video games, it’s probably he would have edged out Adam Fox as the most effective defenceman. Both means, with Makar, Fox, Miro Heiskanen and Quinn Hughes all beneath the age of 23, it seems that we’re coming into a brand new golden age for D-men.


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Gamers to look at: Adam Fox (NY Rangers), Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay), Miro Heiskanen (Dallas) and Quinn Hughes (Vancouver)


Favorite: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay

Vasilevskiy, who has been a Vezina Trophy finalist for every of the previous 4 seasons, has additionally led the NHL in wins for the previous 4 seasons. However with a save proportion that by no means has dipped beneath .917 throughout that span, it’s not like he has been using on his teammates’ coattails.

Gamers to look at: Marc-Andre Fleury (Chicago), Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg), Robin Lehner (Vegas) and Semyon Varlamov (NY Islanders)


Favorite: Cole Caufield, Montreal

Calling the 20-yer-old a rookie is a bit deceptive. In spite of everything, he had 17 factors in 30 video games for the Habs final season, the place he emerged as one of many staff’s finest gamers within the post-season. However as a result of he performed solely 10 of these video games within the common season, Caufield remains to be eligible for the Calder Trophy.


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Gamers to look at: Bowen Byram (Colorado), Jamie Drysdale (Anaheim), Vitali Kravtsov (NY Rangers) and Trevor Zegras (Anaheim)


Favorite: Aleksander Barkov, Florida

Barkov edged out perennial favorite Patrice Bergeron because the league’s finest two-way ahead final yr. Some considered it as a very long time coming. However so long as the Panthers can stay a playoff staff — and stay related within the eyes of voters — he shouldn’t have an issue successful once more.

Gamers to look at: Patrice Bergeron (Boston), Joel Eriksson Ek (Minnesota), Yanni Gourde (Seattle) and Mark Stone (Vegas)


Favorite: Gerard Gallant, New York Rangers

If he can do for the ready-to-compete Rangers what he did for the Golden Knights and the Panthers, then the two-time Jack Adams finalist could have no bother being named coach of the yr.

Coaches to look at: Rod Brind’Amour (Carolina), Jeremy Colliton (Chicago), Dave Hakstol (Seattle), Sheldon Keefe (Toronto)



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