This article is part of our Handicapping the NHL series.
The 2021-22 season will kick off Oct. 12 with a banner raising in Tampa Bay, as well as the debut of the NHL's newest Franchise the Seattle Kraken. With less than a week until Opening Night, RotoWire's AJ Scholz will take a look at player futures for the upcoming season courtesy of the DraftKings Sportsbook.
Regular Season Goal Total
Toronto - Auston Matthews O/U 52.5
Edmonton – Leon Draisaitl O/U 45.5
Edmonton – Connor McDavid O/U 44.5
AJ's Pick: It's a tall task to ask Auston Matthews to rack up over 50 goals in a season, especially considering he has never hit that threshold in his five-year NHL career. Still, the world-class center averaged .79 goals per game last season which would see him put up 64 goals in a full 82-game campaign. He also posted a seemingly unsustainable shot percentage of 18.5 (well above his career average of 16.2) but even if you drop that number back down, he should still be capable of reaching the 50-goal mark. He has the highest goal total of any player on the DraftKings Sportsbook but all signs point to him covering the over, which is why he is also the favorite at +300 to secure the Rocket Richard Trophy as the NHL's top goalscorer.
AJ's Non-Favorite Pick: Nathan MacKinnon's regular-season goal total prop sits at over/under 36.5. This feels really low considering the last two times the NHL played a full season, MacKinnon easily reached this total with 39 and 41 goals. Even in the shortened 2019-20 campaign, the Canadian center racked up 35 tallies. I wouldn't expect him to lead the league in goals (he's sitting at +2500) but he should get over the 36.5 total.
Hart Trophy Winner
Edmonton – Connor McDavid +200
Colorado – Nathan MacKinnon +650
Toronto – Auston Matthews +950
AJ's Pick: There is clearly a trend here in who is widely considered the top players in the NHL as the same names show up at the top of most award lists. While McDavid is the defending Hart Trophy winner, getting more than three times the value warrants giving MacKinnon a look. The Avalanche are expected to roll the Central Division (Colorado -250 to win the division) and are the league favorite to win the Presidents' Trophy for the best record in the league at +230. The fact that MacKinnon projects to be the best player on the best team while producing at least similar numbers as McDavid and Matthews makes him my pick to win the Hart Trophy.
AJ's Longshot Pick: Aleksander Barkov is fresh off signing an eight-year, $80 million contract with the Panthers on Friday and will no doubt be eager to show he was worth the long-term investment. If the Panthers can somehow win the Atlantic Division ahead of Toronto and Tampa Bay, which comes in at +425 on the DraftKings Sportsbook, it would likely require Barkov to repeat his 2018-19 numbers when he racked up 35 goals and 61 assists (both career bests). I'd still hedge my bet with MacKinnon but Barkov to win the Hart at +2500 is intriguing.
Vezina Trophy Winner
Tampa Bay – Andrei Vasilevskiy +380
Chicago – Marc-Andre Fleury +1000
Winnipeg – Connor Hellebuyck +1000
AJ's Pick: There is a reason that the odds are so heavily skewed in favor of Vasilevskiy. He's been the best goaltender in the league since becoming a full-time NHL starter. Over the last five seasons, Vasilevskiy has more wins (172) and more shutouts (24) than any other netminder while playing in the fourth most games. There were plenty of dissenters last year when Fleury was awarded the Vezina over Vasilevskiy in what some viewed as a career achievement nod for The Flower. With back-to-back Stanley Cup championships to his name, Vasilevskiy should be the pick to take home the Vezina.
AJ's Longshot Pick: To be perfectly honest, there just aren't any long-shots that are worth taking a look at here. Colorado's Darcy Kuemper also comes in at +1000 like Fluery and Hellebuyck and is fully capable of racing up wins behind that offense, but he won't be the guy to carry that team. If you truly need to take somebody outside of this four-pack, you might as well throw a hail mary and go with Mike Smith at +7500 or Tristan Jarry at +5000 as they are both expected to see the bulk of their team's starts.
Norris Trophy Winner
Colorado – Cale Makar +350
New York Rangers – Adam Fox +700
Tampa Bay – Victor Hedman +700
AJ's Pick: Last season, Fox finished second in total points with 47 (second-best in the league), racked up 23 power-play points and a fantastic +19, all of which combined to see him secure the Norris Trophy last season. Having said that, if Cale Makar had played in more than 44 games last year, he may have supplanted Fox as the Norris winner considering he averaged a point per game. This figures to be a tight race but at this point, there is nothing that I've seen to think Fox can't repeat as the league's best defenseman.
AJ's Longshot Pick: High point totals, quality plus/minus and power-play production are the recipes to taking home the Norris Trophy. One more player that embodies that from last season is Shea Theodore who racked up 42 points, a plus-28 rating and 15 points with the man advantage. He may not be able to match that level of production with Alex Pietrangelo taking a share of the power-play minutes. Getting value at for Theodore to take the Norris at +2000 if worth a long-shot bet.