If you whaled on Connor McDavid’s future during the preseason, you’re likely sweating bullets. McDavid and his Oilers are stinking up the joint. It’s shocking to see this team 31st in the NHL with a 2-8-1 record. But even more stunning is that McDavid only has 10 points in nine games. He’s not even close to being among 2023’s top NHL scorers. But we bet you didn’t guess who the current top man is.
Canucks Leading the NHL Art Ross Trophy Race
McDavid opened with the shortest odds to score the most points and win the 2023-24 Art Ross Trophy as he’s done in the last three seasons. At even odds to win on the NHL Vegas lines, it’s not looking great now with “McJesus” only having 10 points in nine games. He’s got a lot of ground to catch the current leader: Vancouver’s Elias Pettersson.
The Swede has 21 points in 12 games and is on pace to hit the 140-point plateau assuming he plays over 80 games. Petersson opened in the preseason at around the 25-1 mark to win the prestigious trophy. His previous career high in points is 102 from last season, which is also the only time he’s averaged over a point per game.
But Petersson’s lead is shaky at best. Several others are just behind him with three tied at 20 points: Nikita Kucherov and the Hughes brothers: Jack and Quinn. The latter is Petersson’s teammate and the only defenseman in the 2023 NHL top 10 scorers list.
Jack Hughes of the Devils had a Wayne Gretzky-like scoring streak to start the season with 17 points in just six games. While he’s managed “only” three in his last four, he could catch fire again and unseat Petersson.
As for Quinn Hughes, 13 of his 20 points have come in four games against two opponents: Edmonton and San Jose. Still, seven points in eight games is a prolific average and he and Petersson are why Vancouver leads NHL team stats in goals per game at 4.5.
And last but not least is Kucherov, the former Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner of Tampa Bay. He exploded for nine points in his last two games. Since 2017-18, he’s trailed only McDavid for the best points-per-game at 1.39.
Matthews is Still The Best Goalscorer
After scoring “just” 40 goals last season, Auston Matthews is now back in front of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy race. The Maple Leaf opened with the shortest odds to win the trophy at +130. And since he came into the NHL in 2016-17, he has scored the most goals with 312. Now, his 13 goals in 12 games put him at a pace to score over 80.
Matthews may slow down at some point. But it’s unlikely that Brock Boeser, who is second with 10 goals for the Canucks, catches up. Eight of Boeser’s goals came against Edmonton and San Jose. He’s been the recipient of Petersson and Hughes on the power play (PP), in which he leads the league with five PP goals.
Still, it would be quite a tale if Boeser can keep it up and challenge Matthews for that lead. Oddsmakers either had Boeser at longshot odds of 100-1 or not even at all to win this trophy. He’d be one heck of an NHL betting pick today.
Boeser is not the only longshot to be in the running this early. Alex DeBrincat, Travis Konecny, and Frank Vatrano are tied with David Pastrnak and David Kucherov with nine goals each. “Pasta” was just behind Matthews on the preseason odds at +500 while Kucherov was in the +5000 range.
But the likes of DeBrincat, Konecny, and Vatrano were not even on the board if you look at most books. DeBrinCat, now with Detroit, was a two-time 40-goal scorer with the Blackhawks. But Konecny (Philadelphia) and Vatrano (Anaheim) have never even hit the 40-goal mark in any of their past seasons. While these three can stay in the 2023 NHL top 10 scorers list, it’s unlikely they sustain this pace.