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Revisiting the Hart Trophy race after the first few weeks of the 2023-24 NHL season

How have the odds shifted and which players are worth betting on to win NHL MVP after the few two weeks of the regular season.

Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks to pass in the first period during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on October 21, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

We’re just about two weeks into the 2023-24 NHL regular season and there’s been quite a bit of movement in the Hart Trophy odds market. Edmonton Oilers C Connor McDavid opened as the no-surprise favorite by a wide margin on DraftKings Sportsbook. He was -105 to win NHL MVP for a second straight season. The next-best odds belonged to Avalanche C Nathan MacKinnon at +900. Needless to say (well we already said it) but there’s been plenty of movement. Let’s look at some trends and how to approach betting the market now.

NHL MVP 2023-24: Hart Trophy odds movement

Connor McDavid

Preseason -105 — Now +200

The Oilers don’t appear to be very good at the moment. The ship could get right at some point but there are pretty bad defensive issues and the goaltending doesn’t appear to be a strength. Stuart Skinner emerged last season to make up for the miserable Jack Campbell contract. Through six games, the two goalies have split starts and have a combined 4.00 GAA with a .868 SV%. Edmonton also has allowed six power-play goals in five games.

It feels like the Oilers have been trying to find a top defenseman for ages now and can’t get it right. Evan Bouchard is good offensively but gets exposed in his own end. Mattias Ekholm can be steady but is aging and injury-prone. Darnell Nurse is fine but can never make the jump to a true No. 1 two-way defense. Blue line aside, the forward group lacks depth in the bottom-six and the top-6 isn’t difficult to play against.

As a result, Edmonton is 1-3-1 and while it’s still early in the season, things aren’t looking good given the competitiveness of the NHL. If the Oilers don’t turn things around, even if McDavid leads the NHL in points, it wouldn’t be enough to repeat as Hart Trophy winner. It’s also been five games and McDavid is at eight points (two goals). Last season, McDavid had five goals and five assists in the first four games.

The Oilers can recover and McDavid can get on track but the fact he’s going to miss 1-2 weeks isn’t good. Still, if we wait, it could mean McDavid’s odds go to +250 or +300 depending on how the other favorites shake out. But he’s not on a historic pace again and Edmonton could be mediocre most of the season. We’re not rushing to get McDavid at +200 if he could drop a bit down.

Jack Hughes

Preseason odds +1800 — Now +400

Hughes has the early lead for points with 10 through the first four games of the season. This is mostly thanks to the Devils’ top-ranked power play, which accounted for all four goals in regulation last week vs. the Islanders. Hughes would go on to score the game-winner in OT to secure the win for New Jersey.

Despite all that, the Devils have had their issues early on. Defensively, the team needs to get better at 5v5 and on the penalty kill. The blue line lost Ryan Graves and Damon Severson. Rookie Luke Hughes, Jack’s younger brother, has struggled to start the year. The forward group also isn’t playing up to standards and needs to make adjustments.

Still, the Devils are 2-1-1 and Hughes is on pace for over 200 points (which won’t happen but is always fun to look at). If New Jersey can get hot and take off like last season (when the team won 13 straight), Hughes could get a lead in the points race and look more like the favorite for NHL MVP.

Shameless plug: Hughes was one of my favorite picks for MVP before the season began.

Auston Matthews

Preseason odds +1600 — Now +650

Matthews’ odds entering this season were perplexing. He won MVP two seasons ago after scoring 60 goals. He struggled out the gate in 2022-23 with just eight points (three goals) in the first month of the season. He never really recovered and finished with 85 points (40 goals). The Leafs also came in second in the division and were fourth in points in the NHL at 111.

After scoring back-to-back hat tricks in the first two games of the season, Matthews’ odds jumped up from the preseason line. The problem with betting it now is Matthews is scoreless in three games since with a -4 plus/minus. The Leafs are also 3-2-0 and starting goaltender Ilya Samsonov has been awful. The Atlantic Division is also significantly tougher from last season, which is hard to believe considering the Bruins had the most points by a team ever. So while Toronto should make the playoffs, it may not be a guarantee/easy.

You just shouldn’t be rushing to bet on Matthews right now. While he’s still on a very good goal pace and could win the Rocket Richard, If he isn’t scoring, at least right now, he isn’t involved in much offense. Scoring 60 goals again shouldn’t cut it unless the Maple Leafs run away with the Presidents’ Trophy, which likely won’t be the case. Matthews’ odds to win MVP should regress back again and if the Leafs get hot, then we can jump on a better number.

Other trends

I’m not saying go throw a bunch of units of these bets but the Detroit Red Wings should be able to continue their success the rest of the season. Center Dylan Larkin (+30000) and W Alex DeBrincat (+13000) currently lead the NHL in scoring. DeBrincat has eight goals in six games and should compete for the Rocket Richard if he keeps this up. Larkin is a great two-way player and has 11 points so far this season. A sprinkle on either of them makes a lot of sense because if the Red Wings keep this up, one or both could get into the MVP convo.

The Vancouver Canucks may not be all that bad this season and C Elias Pettersson is among the top-5 scorers through the first few weeks. Pettersson is +3000 to win MVP and it isn’t all that surprising to see him scoring at this rate. He hasn’t even started shooting yet. Through five games, Pettersson has 10 points (two goals) but only 12 shots on goal. Last season, Pettersson had 257 SOG, which ranked 27th in the NHL. So we should see the center start to shoot and score more. Getting the Canucks to the postseason while being a leader in points gives Pettersson a strong MVP case.

Admittedly, I’ve been low on the Bruins the past few years. Last season, I thought the Bruins would regress and that was very wrong. So far this season, same deal, Boston isn’t going away and is 5-0-0. Now, the Bruins haven’t played anyone good in 2023. That will change so we’ll see if the B’s start losing. But if the Bruins are among the top teams in the NHL again and win the division again, David Pastrnak (+1400) could run away with MVP. His odds have gone from +2000 up to +1400 since the start of the season. He’s got eight points (five goals) in five games. Aside from Jack Hughes, I think Pastrnak is the best bet to make in the Hart Trophy odds market at the moment.