Connor McDavid Will Be Rocket Richard Trophy Front Runner This Season

Since 2015, Connor McDavid has been regarded as the best player to enter the league since Sidney Crosby, and needless to say— he’s come as advertised. In his six short years since entering the league, he’s amassed 574 points in 407 games, ranking him 4th all-time in NHL points-per-game (P/G). Not only that but he’s collected some serious hardware over his young career.

McDavid has won the Art Ross Trophy in three of the six years, leading the NHL in points. He’s also won the Hart Memorial Trophy twice— awarded to the most valuable player of the NHL by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. He’s added the Ted Lindsay Trophy on three occasions— awarded to the NHL’s most outstanding player in the regular season, as judged by the members of the NHL Players’ Association.

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid celebrates a goal
Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid celebrates a goal (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

As McDavid enters his seventh season, his overall goal is to undoubtedly add a Stanley Cup to his already illustrious career. Yet, on a personal level, he has a chance to add another award to his resume, the trophy granted to the leading goal scorer of the NHL— the Maurice “Rocket” Richard.

McDavid is Taking More Shots

Arguably the best playmaker of his generation, It’s hard to imagine any flaws in McDavid’s game. However, earlier on in his career, the knock on him was his pass-first mentality and that he needed to shoot more in prime scoring areas.

In 2019-20, McDavid played 64 games with 337 shot attempts (prorated to 431 shots in a full season). Last year, he played in 56 games and attempted 314 shots (prorated to 459 shots in a full season). Simply put, he’s putting more pucks on net— creating more scoring opportunities.

Confidence In McDavid’s Prime Years

A study completed by Gabriel Desjardins in 2010 focused on forwards and their per-game scoring rates, and it found that the peak age for an NHL player is approximately 25 years old. McDavid, who turns 25 in January, will be entering his seventh NHL season in his prime age. One year older, wiser and after an astonishing 105 points in 56 games— a whole lot more confident.

As we saw last season, McDavid terrorized the entire NHL North Division. As he approached the 100-point mark—by the seeing eye test— it was clear how much more confident the two-time Hart Trophy winner was becoming with his varying attacks.

On the power play, for example, instead of gaining the zone to set up a play and look for an open man, he showed a killer instinct and chose to attack the defenders head-on. Last season, he dismantled the opposing team’s penalty kill units.

As well with the man advantage, it was noticeable that McDavid was taking more one-timer opportunities, something that was lacking in his bag of tricks earlier on in his career. On two-on-one chances, instead of opting for the immediate pass, he used his teammates as a decoy—looked them off— and buried it.

McDavid’s Linemates Should Help

The Oilers are entering the 2021-22 season with one of the deepest set of players in recent memory, and they have a multitude of line combinations. Early predictions are suggesting that it will be Zach Hyman and Jesse Puljujarvi that get the first look on McDavid’s line.

Hyman was known as a hardworking forechecker with the Toronto Maple Leafs; someone that did the dirty work to get the puck to last years’ Rocket Richard trophy winner, Auston Matthews. With Puljujarvi, an underrated element to his game is his long reach and exceptional ability to keep plays alive in the offensive zone.

With Hyman battling along the boards, and Puljujarvi’s ability to sustain offensive pressure, it should result in more scoring opportunities for McDavid.

McDavid’s Desire to Be the Best

What separates the legends of the game from the rest is their desire to want to achieve more— they’re never satisfied. In 2009, a young Crosby was entering his fifth season. Up until that point, he’d never won a Rocket Richard Trophy and his highest goal-scoring total was 39 goals. That season, he took off. He fired 298 shots on goal (60 more than the previous season) and scored 51 goals to win a share of the Rocket Richard Trophy with Steven Stamkos. He flicked a switch and just “decided” that he was going to be an elite goal scorer.

Sidney Crosby Connor McDavid
Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby gets off a backhand pass with Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid defending (THE CANADIAN PRESS/ AP/Gene J. Puskar)

Could this be the year McDavid follows in the steps of his childhood idol? There’s a good chance. Players like McDavid and Crosby are of the same ilk. They’re superstar players, that are a level (or two) above their peers, with the desire to be the best in every facet— including leading the NHL in goals.

While the Oilers are trending in the right direction, it’s realistic to believe they aren’t perennial Stanley Cup contenders, just yet. However, McDavid still has a chance to add a new trophy to the collection. Now— more than ever may be the season that he leads the NHL in goals and captures the Rocket Richard trophy.

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