If you were to poll hockey fans about who would win the Art Ross Trophy this season, the vast majority would say Connor McDavid. The same could be said in regards to the Hart Trophy, though McDavid finished behind Auston Matthews for that honour last year.
Speaking of Matthews, the majority of hockey fans would also vote in favour of him winning the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy this season, something he has done in each of the two past campaigns. As far as players who could challenge him, the two most common names to pop up would likely be Leon Draisaitl and Alex Ovechkin, both of whom are regarded as elite snipers. Oddly enough, few would say McDavid, despite him being one of the game's best goal scorers since entering the league eight seasons ago.
Over that time, McDavid’s 243 goals rank fourth among all NHLers, trailing only Draisaitl (253), Matthews (260), and Ovechkin (305). In the 2021-22 season, his 44 tallies ranked him seventh in the NHL, just three shy of both Kyle Connor and Kirill Kaprizov for fifth. And while 44 is an impressive total, there are some who believe he is capable of plenty more.
One of those individuals is Draisaitl, who has proclaimed on a number of occasions in the past that McDavid could be the game’s best goal scorer if he developed more of a shoot-first mentality. In fact, he told Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman this summer he believes the Oilers captain can put up 60 this season.
“This summer I said to him that he needs to score 60 goals, because I know that he can, and I think he should every year,” Draisaitl said. “He’s just that unselfish.”
“This summer I said to him that he needs to score 60 goals, because I know that he can, and I think he should be every year.”@EdmontonOilers’ Leon Draisaitl spoke to @FriedgeHNIC about his ‘brutally honest’ relationship with Connor McDavid, expectations for this season, & more. pic.twitter.com/OD4speEXA0
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) October 13, 2022
Draisaitl went on to say McDavid himself knows he is capable of doing so, and based on some numbers we saw from him last season, there may be reason to believe it. His 5-on-5 shooting percentage of 10.63 was the lowest of his career, and even so resulted in him putting up a career-high 44 goals.
What bodes well for that number increasing even more in 2022-23 is that after years of passing up shooting opportunities, McDavid displayed some of that selfishness Draisaitl suggested he needs to show more of. His 314 shots on net over the 80 games he suited up for last season were not only a career-high, but good enough for fifth in the entire league. That said, Matthews led the way in that category with 348 in just 73 games, proving McDavid still has room to improve on his total if he wishes. Judging from the early results of the 2022-23 campaign, it appears he is looking to do just that.
While the Oilers have been a bit shaky as a group through their first two games of the season, McDavid looks as good as ever. Four of his five points are goals, and that includes an opening-night hat trick. Those four tallies have him tied with Nino Niederreiter and Steven Stamkos for the league lead.
By no means will McDavid’s quest to win the Rocket Richard this season be an easy one. Despite being the greatest player on the planet for a number of years now, he has yet to win the award. He doesn’t have the laser accuracy of Matthews, nor the one-timer power of Ovechkin.
That said, it seems that based on comments from both himself and Draisaitl he is keen on upping his goal-scoring numbers moving forward. Keep in mind this is a player who has shown again and again he is capable of doing anything he sets his mind to. Who’s to say this won’t be the year he leads the league in not just points, but goals?
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