NHL Awards: Top Rocket Richard Trophy candidates in 2020

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 26: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals celebrates after scoring a goal in the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes at Capital One Arena on March 26, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 26: Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals celebrates after scoring a goal in the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes at Capital One Arena on March 26, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Rocket Richard Trophy, which goes to the NHL’s top goal scorer, is one of the most prestigious NHL awards. Let’s preview the top candidates.

One of the only NHL awards that is decided before the awards show is the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. It’s one that is truly a fan favorite. After years of the points leader winning a trophy and the goals leader going empty-handed, since 1999, the goal-scoring leader in the NHL gets a trophy named after one of the best goal scorers ever. Let’s talk about the Rocket Richard Trophy, for most goals.

The odds to win the Rocket Richard Trophy, according to sportsbettingdsime.com, have Alex Ovechkin as the best bet, followed by John Tavares and Connor McDavid. Vegas odds are often correct, but not always. Here’s my prediction for the Norris Trophy in 2019-20.

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Runner Up: Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay Lightning

It actually surprised me to find out that Steven Stamkos ranks 17th all-time in goals per game and second among active players. After starting his career slowly as a rookie, he broke 50 goals the next season. Stamkos has also cracked 60 goals and is one of only five players to win more than one Rocket Richard Trophy.

There have been some injury issues and the occasional offensive woes with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but overall, not too many have been more consistently at the top of the goal-scoring race than Stamkos. Almost no one is more lethal in the faceoff dot.

Now with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, he is arguably on the best line of his career and, although all three scored 40 goals last season, Stamkos is the true sniper of the bunch. As the two youngsters get better if you can imagine that, so will Stamkos’ chances of claiming his third goal-scoring title.

Runner Up: Auston Matthews – Toronto Maple Leafs

The second 1st overall on the list, Auston Matthews has been simply dominant in the NHL.  After living in the basement for years, Matthews has helped the Toronto Maple Leafs move into the penthouse.  It’s not a coincidence that the Leafs missed the playoffs ten out of eleven times before Matthews put on the blue and white, but since then, they’ve played past 82 every time.

When he has the puck on his stick, there aren’t too many feared more than Matthews.  Using a combination of speed, power and one of the greatest set of hands in the league, goalies are constantly baffled as to how to stop the phenom from California.

The only issue is his health.  When healthy, Matthews is always among the goal scoring leaders on the board.  In the past two seasons, Matthews has missed 34 games, yet he ranks 12th in goal scoring during that time.  If he can pull off a full season, now with so much more experience, it’s only a matter of time until he holds the trophy.

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Wild Card: Jake Guentzel – Pittsburgh Penguins

When you are placed in the right opportunity, sometimes it decides how well you will do. Make no mistake, Jake Guentzel is massively talented, but playing with Sidney Crosby is one of the ultimate opportunities.

If you didn’t know, Crosby ranks fifth all-time in assists per game. He is only bested by Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, and Peter Forsberg. Bottom line is that whoever plays with Sid the Kid is going to benefit.

Aside from his linemate, Guentzel is lethal, no doubt. He’s seen his goal totals climb from 22 to 40 in the last two seasons and, bear in mind, he is only 25 years old. If the Pittsburgh Penguins ever manage to create a complete elite line, Guentzel may be near unstoppable in the Rocket Richard race.

Winner: Alex Ovechkin – Washington Capitals

Here’s one of my boldest statements ever – Ovechkin is the greatest goal scorer of all-time. Before you bring out your torches and pitchforks, I don’t say this lightly. Ovechkin joined Gretzky and Mike Bossy last season as the only players to record eight 50 goal seasons. The feat is even more impressive when you consider the way the game is played today.

During the high scoring era of the late ‘70s and ‘80s, when Gretzky and Bossy accomplished the feat, scoring was much higher. From 1978 to 1989, in those 12 seasons, when they did it, there were a total of 19 players who scored at least 60 goals and 63 players who scored at least 50 goals.

Even when you add two seasons to the total, between 2006-2019, there have been exactly two players who scored at least 60 goals and only 18 who scored at least 50. There were even three seasons where no one scored even 50 goals.

Since he came into the league, Ovechkin has won it eight times out of a possible fourteen; that adds up to winning greater than every other season. Insanely, in the last seven seasons, he’s taken it home all but once. And even before the trophy existed, there was never a player who won the goal-scoring title eight times.

After winning the trophy eight times before his 34th birthday, Ovechkin is not done yet. When the season began, he only needed 236 goals to break the all-time record. Minus the 2012-13 season, he has never played less than 78 games in any season.

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If he plays until he’s 40 years old, he can break a seemingly unbreakable record with less than 40 goals a season. Some may wonder when he’ll slow down but, make no mistake, he isn’t done yet. He will win the award this year.