Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy Prediction, PART ONE

In a league that has prided itself on parity over the last decade, it is a quite a dichotomy that the list of elite goal scorers has been such a short one. Over the last eleven seasons, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Steven Stamkos have captured the Richard trophy for leading the league in goals ten times. Corey Perry and his 50 goals in 2010-11 would be the only exception.  Recent history aside,  the young goal scoring talent in the league is exceptional, this year’s winner could very well come from an elite crop of under 25 NHL superstars. Here is a look at some of the top contenders and a sneak peek at how I think the race for the Rocket will shake out.

Patrick Laine – Winnipeg

Laine seems to be everyone’s “sleeper” this year to win the trophy although his 36 goals in 73 games as a rookie would hardly qualify him as an under the radar pick. Laine possesses a release on his shot that is generational and has an incredible knack to find open spaces. Playing with perhaps the most underrated player in the league in centerman Mark Scheifele should help boost his goal totals. If healthy the sky’s the limit, but I can see Laine missing 10-15 games and suffering a little bit of a sophomore slump. Prediction:  36 goals

Auston Matthews – Toronto

40 goals as a rookie including four opening night. It was quite a first act for Matthews and he should only get better along with Nylander, Marner, and the rest of the high-flying Leafs. I am not sure that 40 goals will happen again. However, the Leafs will be rolling three solid lines and Matthews may be looking to expand into more of a playmaking center role. His all-around game should get better, but I can see a dip in goals. Prediction:  32 goals

Connor McDavid _ Edmonton

Anytime you are discussing the “best” at something in the league, McDavid’s name should come up. 100 points almost seems a foregone conclusion. The speed and hands are indicative of a player who can score 50, but McDavid is a playmaker at heart which will keep him on the outside looking in for the Richard trophy. The Hart Trophy is more likely.  Prediction: 39 goals

Alex Ovechkin – Washington

Will Ovie be able to bounce back from his worst statistical season of his career at age 32? The body has taken a beating and the mental challenge of having to continually answer questions for the Caps postseason failings must be draining. Throw in a little turmoil over the NHL players not going to the Olympics, and you have the recipe for another regression. I might be in the minority outside of Beltway residents, but I think Ovie bounces back with a vengeance.  Prediction: 41 goals

Jamie Benn – Dallas

Benn and Dallas are everyone’s chic picks for breakout campaigns in 17-18 with the Stars feeling like they have finally solved their goaltending issues having acquired Ben Bishop. Benn is one of the game’s great all-around leaders and players, but I don’t see a lot more upside. I see a hard-working player who gets the most out of his ability. Benn will bounce back off of a somewhat disappointing 17-18, but he will not eclipse his prior career high for goals. Prediction: 35 goals

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