Auston Matthews leads Richard race; what are his Hart, Selke chances?

Auston Matthews leads Richard race; what are his Hart, Selke chances?
Andrew Lahodynskyj/NHLI via Getty Images

With 56 goals, Auston Matthews holds a commanding lead over Leon Draisaitl (50) and everyone else in the race for the Maurice Richard Trophy. Along the way, Matthews has been making history, scoring a lot of goals, and angering opposing fans here and there.

Beyond the sheer sniping supremacy, Auston Matthews impressed because he’s been more than “just” a great goal-scorer this season. His all-around play warrants recognition, which likely explains why Matthews could end up with more than just the 2022 Maurice Richard Trophy.

It’s not outrageous to picture Matthews smiling with the Hart Trophy, and maybe even the Selke. (Assuming voters wouldn’t willfully spread the wealth.)

Not surprisingly, Matthews scoring 49 goals in 49 games has people talking about history, and also the golden moment that is this present. Yet, as memories fade, it’s the records, awards, and Stanley Cups that stick with people.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s focus on awards Auston Matthews could end up winning.

An updated look at Matthews and the rest of the field in the Maurice Richard Trophy race

Entering Saturday’s NHL games, Matthews holds at least a six-goal lead on anyone else in the Maurice Richard Trophy race. For the sake of simplicity and realism, the cut-off point is 40+ goals. Click here for a more extensive goals list.

Auston Matthews: 56 goals, 11 games remaining
Leon Draisaitl, 50 goals, 10 GR
Chris Kreider, 47 goals, 10 GR
Alex Ovechkin, 44 goals, 11 GR
Connor McDavid, 42 goals, 10 GR
Kyle Connor, 41 goals, 10 GR
Kirill Kaprizov: 41 goals, 12 GR

As you can see, Kirill Kaprizov is the only player with an extra game remaining. Otherwise, Matthews and the Maple Leafs could play an extra game, assuming Toronto doesn’t rest its superstar sniper.

(Such rest may honestly boil down to whether or not Draisaitl, Kreider, or an even less likely competitor reaches a boil and makes this race more interesting.)

Pondering possible cold streaks, Matthews’ torrid pace feels less prone to a slump than his two closest competitors. Granted, not by much: Matthews’ shooting percentage is arguably a bit high at 17.8%, while Draisaitl and Kreider are both at 20. Such puck luck tends to slip … again, it tends to. Draisaitl may just be borderline-immune to such slumps, as his shooting percentage hasn’t dipped below 18.5% overall through the last four seasons.

To reiterate: injuries, slumps, and other strange things happen. Matthews has opened up about as comfortable a Maurice Richard Trophy lead as you can ask for, though.

Pondering quick cases for and against Matthews as Hart Trophy winner

There’s some beauty in the objective nature of the Maurice Richard Trophy and Art Ross Trophy. You score the most goals/points, you win. Aside from sometimes-fuzzy tiebreaker debates, that process is cut-and-dry.

That’s also what makes those awards boring once the races are over. Can’t really bash someone on Twitter at their Art Ross pick when the award’s been decided by cold, hard facts, right?

So, with both the Hart Trophy and the Selke, Auston Matthews’ viability comes down to a ton of factors.

If you just look at point totals (or, just glance a column over to [ugh] plus/minus), you may roll your eyes at Auston Matthews Hart Trophy talk.

Connor McDavid: 108 points, +22
Jonathan Huberdeau: 103 points, +32
Leon Draisaitl: 101 points, +20
Johnny Gaudreau: 99 points, +54
Auston Matthews: 97 points, +14

In mid-March,’s staff pegged Jonathan Huberdeau as its Hart Trophy leader, and that was before Huberdeau surged past 100 points. Yet, other metrics don’t have Huberdeau in the top 10, sometimes giving Matthews the edge over, say, Gaudreau.

Some of that logic is based on the argument that, when you dig into deeper stats, Huberdeau’s defense looks shabby while someone like Matthews seems polished. Consider this single-season RAPM chart via Evolving Hockey, comparing their even-strength work:

Beyond the many ways people assess a player’s value (and defensive aptitude), there are sub-debates for the Hart Trophy. What happens when a team has two potential MVP-caliber players; could they steal votes from each other? Are people going to get tripped up by assigning meaning to “value” versus picking “the best player?”

Oh, and how do you weigh a historic season for Auston Matthews vs. a goalie like Igor Shesterkin or Frederik Andersen? How do we compare all of them to Roman Josi playing out of his mind, for that matter?

Truly, this year’s Hart Trophy race may boil down to something like when Corey Perry won one: who makes the best impression late in the season. Maybe that impression will be Matthews dropping a hat trick on the Lightning, Huberdeau generating five points the next night, or some splendid performance we haven’t even seen yet.

Matthews probably shouldn’t be top Selke candidate, but he fits the mold

In early February, PHT released its staff Selke “ballots,” and Patrice Bergeron won by a mile.

At times, Selke voting feels like it’s just a step slow. Sean Couturier‘s put together Selke-caliber work, just less so when he actually won it. Pivoting to a different award — yet one that emphasizes defense — Nicklas Lidstrom is a legend, yet his last Norris Trophy was more a lifetime achievement award than a measure of that specific season of his.

Remarkably, Bergeron’s just been astounding this season, with incredible defense leading the charge alongside productive offense. Seeing Bergeron’s RAPM chart (this time both even-strength and on the power play) made me chortle; it’s majestic.

No forward’s even close when it comes to Bergeron in defensive wins above replacement (9.8), with teammate Brad Marchand a distant second at 6.9. Matthews impresses at third place (5.7), but if you truly lean on defense, Bergeron’s close to a no-brainer.

Again, though, different voters look at different things.

A Selke voter may determine that, with Bergeron “limited” to 55 points in 63 games, they may opt for Matthews’ supernatural scoring and still-quite-sound defense. Using those Evolving Hockey RAPM charts one more time, consider that Matthews’ 2021-22 work basically looks like an enhanced version of 2021 Selke Trophy winner, Aleksander Barkov.

Some Selke voters will be wowed by Matthews’ mix of offense and defense, indeed adhering to two-way standards. Others will note just how superlative Bergeron’s been at limiting chances against, while still contributing on offense. Others (wince) will look a plus/minus for way too long.

Maybe most crucially, plenty will weigh how much a candidate kills penalties. That would be the area that hurts Matthews the most.

Thus far, Matthews has only averaged four seconds of penalty kill per game. Generally, that’s the domain of a defensive-minded Maple Leafs forward like David Kampf (2:30 shorthanded TOI per game) and SHG threat Mitch Marner (1:59).

If you want Selke candidates with two-way reputations who kill penalties, you’d swing back to Barkov, Couturier, J.T. Miller, Marchand, and Bergeron.

In many ways, it’s unfair to ding Matthews for his lack of PK time. That’s ultimately a coach’s decision. Frankly, it makes a lot of sense to conserve Matthews’ energy for even-strength and power-play reps. Yet that will register with Selke reps, and arguably that’s fair, particularly when splitting hairs among the elite.

Wrapping up Matthews’ chances at Hart, Richard, and Selke

So, Matthews has a hearty lead in the Maurice Richard Trophy. When it comes to the Hart, my guess is that it’s anyone’s game, and likely comes down to these final weeks of the season.

Personally, I wouldn’t hate Matthews at least getting more mentions as a Selke candidate. Patrice Bergeron deserves it this year, easily, and that’s not an insult to anyone else. He’s just been that great. (A phrase you can utter about Matthews in an impressive array of contexts.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    NHL top prospect Connor Bedard draws comparisons to Connor McDavid as draft approaches

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    Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports

    BUFFALO, N.Y. — The NHL is going to have another Connor to contend with very shortly.

    For everything two-time NHL MVP Connor McDavid has accomplished in Edmonton since being selected No. 1 in the 2015 draft, Connor Bedard is on the same trajectory in being pegged as this year’s top eligible draft prospect, Central Scouting director Dan Marr said Friday.

    “He’s right up there with Connor McDavid, it’s just the next generation,” Marr said in touting Bedard’s quickness, shot and ability to read and adapt. “So Connor McDavid started that trend, and Connor Bedard is going to lead it into the next trend.”

    The annual NHL pre-draft combine in Buffalo, New York, is resembling more of a coronation for the 17-year-old Bedard, who has spent the past two years putting up generational numbers with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League while also shining against his peers on the international stage.

    “I think you can use a lot of adjectives to describe it,” Regina coach John Paddock told The Associated Press recently in comparing Bedard’s production at the same age level to McDavid and Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

    “That’s quite a high ceiling,” said Paddock, a former NHL coach and player. “But there’s no indication he’s not going to do that based on what he’s done to date.”

    The Chicago Blackhawks own the No. 1 pick, and are highly anticipated to use it on Bedard when the draft opens in Nashville, Tennessee, on June 28.

    Bedard held his latest meeting with the Blackhawks at the combine in a relationship that began at a top-prospects camp in Toronto last summer.

    Bedard’s arrival would coincide with the franchise in transition, with Chicago moving on from its aging core after trading 2007 No. 1 pick, Patrick Kane, and with captain Jonathan Toews’ future uncertain.

    “Yeah, it’d be awesome,” Bedard said of the possibility of being selected by the Blackhawks. “The history of that organization, that city with sports would be unbelievable. We’ll see what happens, but to be selected, that would be a huge honor.”

    Bedard said he’s following McDavid’s advice to stay in the moment and not peak too far ahead. He added, his dream to play in the NHL began no different than those of his colleagues: the moment he picked up a hockey stick growing up in North Vancouver, British Columbia.

    What separates Bedard, however, is his exceptional skating ability and a hard shot, which is even more lethal given his quick release.

    With Bedard the likely top pick, the intrigue at the draft is likely to revolve around who rounds out the remainder of the top five selections.

    University of Michigan’s Adam Fantilli is second among North American skaters on Central Scouting’s final list, followed by top American prospect, William Smith, who played for USA Hockey’s developmental program. The top two European skaters are also considered in the mix with Sweden’s Leo Carlsson and Russia’s Matvei Michkov.

    Anaheim is scheduled to pick second followed by Columbus, San Jose and Montreal.

    Marr gives the edge to Bedard while also being impressed with Fantilli – just the third freshman to win the Hobey Baker Trophy awarded to college hockey’s top players – in a draft class considered very deep with offensive-minded forwards.

    “You’re going to win with both,” Marr said. “And whoever gets these two players they’re going to help define a franchise.”

    What distinguishes Bedard, who doesn’t turn 18 until next month, has been his consistency.

    Last season, his 71 goals in just 57 games were the most in the WHL since Pavel Brendl scored 73 in 1998-99. Bedard’s 143 points were the most in the CHL since three players topped that mark in 1995-96. And it was a season in which he enjoyed 10 games with five or more points, and just five games in which he failed to register a point.

    In 2020-21, Bedard became just the third WHL 16-year-old to reach 100 points, and was the youngest to score 50 goals in finishing with 51.

    He’s also made a splash on the international stage. Bedard led Canada with nine goals and 23 points at the world juniors last winter, and his combined production of 17 goals and 36 points in just 16 games ranks fourth on the career tournament list.

    Bedard has honed his talent by spending countless hours practicing shots in his backyard, which he referred to as his “Happy Place.” He was so dedicated to work on his shot that he preferred practicing than joining his family for a vacation to Disneyland, and eventually vacationed in Hawaii but only after he was allowed to bring his inline skates and sticks to practice.

    Noted for being soft-spoken, Bedard said he’s not yet allowed himself to envision being drafted or making his NHL debut yet.

    “It’s hard kind of think of that. But of course, I’ll work as hard as I can to try to achieve that goal,” he said. “And hopefully I do.”

    Blue Jackets acquire D Damon Severson from Devils after he signs 8-year deal

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    Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

    The Columbus Blue Jackets acquired Damon Severson from the New Jersey Devils on Friday after the veteran defenseman and soon-to-be free agent signed an eight-year $50 million contract.

    Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen sent a third-round pick, 80th overall, in this month’s draft to the Devils for Severson, who will be under contract through the 2030-31 NHL season.

    Severson had 58 goals and 205 assists in 647 career appearances with the Devils since making his NHL debut in 2014-15. He scored seven game-winning goals and averaged more than 21 minutes of playing time during his nine seasons. The 28-year-old had seven goals and 26 assists this season, including two game-winning goals, in 81 games.

    “Damon is a versatile defenseman who has great vision, moves the puck extremely well, has good size and can play heavy minutes at both ends of the ice,” Kekalainen said.

    The Canadian was selected in the second round in the 2012 draft. He has collected 30 or more points five times in his career and twice notched 11 or more goals. He played in every game in three straight seasons from 2018-21 and has played 80 or more contests four times in his career.

    With the addition of the third-round pick, New Jersey now has six selections in the draft, including its own picks in rounds two, four, five, six and seven.

    Matthew Tkachuk returns from big hit in Stanley Cup Final, adds more playoff heroics

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    Matthew Tkachuk was down, out briefly and then back with plenty of time to make a difference.

    The Florida Panthers star left early in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final after a big hit from Vegas Golden Knights forward Keegan Kolesar, and he missed most of the first period and didn’t return immediately following intermission while being evaluated for a concussion. After looking as if he might be lost for the night, Tkachuk returned in the second and then came through with more of his now trademark playoff heroics.

    Tkachuk scored the tying goal with 2:13 left in regulation, forcing overtime and giving the Panthers new life. He then provided the screen on Carter Verhaeghe‘s OT goal for a 3-2 victory that cut Florida’s series deficit to 2-1.

    The 25-year-old said he knew he was coming back when he left the game, pulled by concussion spotters. That absence felt like a long time ago in the aftermath of another big win he was largely responsible for.

    “I felt great – I feel great,” Tkachuk said. “I’m ready to go. Everybody’s excited that we’re in this position right now.”

    Florida is in this position rather than facing elimination in Game 4 on Saturday thanks in large part to Tkachuk, who also set up Brandon Montour‘s goal that opened the scoring less than five minutes in.

    Not long after, Tkachuk stumbled getting up after the hit from Kolesar and skated to the bench. He took a shift on Florida’s power play before going down the tunnel at the demand of concussion spotters mandated by NHL protocol.

    At that point, there was zero clarity, even on the Florida bench.

    “You’re not informed at all: It’s a complete shutdown,” coach Paul Maurice said. “You are completely in the dark on those. You don’t know when the player’s coming back. There’s not an update.”

    Players insist they were not worried. Montour called it a no-brainer.

    “He’s going to come back no matter what,” captain Aleksander Barkov said. “He’s really tough guy, and he’s going to battle through everything.”

    Tkachuk rejoined his teammates on the bench a few minutes into the second. When he stepped back onto the ice for his first shift since leaving, fans cheered and chanted, “Chucky! Chucky!”

    The crowd was even louder and threw rats when Tkachuk scored his biggest goal of many during this run to tie it. He didn’t get an assist on Verhaeghe’s goal but made it happen with a tape-to-tape pass in the neutral zone and was in front of Adin Hill when it happened.

    Asked if he was happy Tkachuk returned, Maurice joked that it was after midnight.

    “It was fine,” he quipped.

    Panthers rally, top Golden Knights 3-2 in OT of Game 3 of Stanley Cup final

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    Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports

    SUNRISE, Fla. — Carter Verhaeghe scored 4:27 into overtime and the Florida Panthers pulled off some more postseason dramatics to beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday night.

    Matthew Tkachuk tied it with 2:13 left in the third period for the Panthers, who got the franchise’s first title-series game win in seven tries. Florida had to fend off a power play to start overtime, and Verhaeghe got the winner from the slot to get the Panthers within 2-1 in the series.

    Game 4 is Saturday night.

    Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 shots for Florida. Adin Hill made 20 saves for Vegas, but got beat on the only shot that came his way in overtime.

    Brandon Montour also scored for Florida, which pulled Bobrovsky down 2-1 late in the third for the extra attacker and Tkachuk — who left for parts of the first and second periods after taking a big hit — made that move pay off when he tied the game.

    His goal breathed life into a very nervous building. But the Panthers were furious — and replays showed they had a case — when Gustav Forsling was sent to the box with 11.2 seconds remaining for tripping. Florida survived that scare, and a few minutes later, had life in the series again.

    The odds are still long, but the Panthers at least have a bit more statistical hope now. Of the previous 55 teams to trail 2-1 at this point of the Stanley Cup Final, 11 have actually rallied to hoist the trophy.

    It’s improbable, sure. So are the Panthers, who were the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference, were down 3-1 to Boston in Round 1, were 133 seconds away from trailing this series 3-0 — and now have tons of reasons for optimism.

    Jonathan Marchessault and Mark Stone each had power-play goals for Vegas.

    Marchessault’s goal was his 13th in his last 13 playoff games, his fourth of this series and his third with the man advantage.

    As if all that wasn’t enough, there was a little history in there as well. Vegas joined the 1980 New York Islanders as the only team with at least two power-play goals in three consecutive games in the Cup final. And Marchessault became the third player in the last 35 years to score in each of the first three games of a title series — joining Steve Yzerman in 1997 with Detroit and Jake Guentzel with Pittsburgh in 2017.

    But it wasn’t enough to give Vegas a 3-0 lead in the series.


    Before Thursday, Florida’s last home game in the title series was June 10, 1996, when Uwe Krupp scored in the third overtime for a 1-0 win as Colorado finished off a four-game sweep of the Panthers for the Cup. … Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was in the crowd, as was NBA great Charles Barkley, and former Dolphins star Dan Marino was the celebrity drummer to welcome the Panthers onto the ice.