The New Jersey Devils will go as far as Jack Hughes takes them in 2022-23. That may be an oversimplification since the Devils need to sort out their goaltenders, but the fact is another step up from Hughes will go a long way in determining whether or not New Jersey plays meaningful games this spring.
After an encouraging, yet disappointing season – Hughes played at a 94-point pace in 2021-22, but the Devils struggled and he was limited to just 49 games thanks to two separate injuries at opposite ends of the season – Hughes is currently sitting at +7000 to win the Hart Trophy this NHL season. This puts him behind other local stars like Mika Zibanejad (+5500) and Artemi Panarin (+5500), but in the same range as Mat Barzal (+7000) and ahead of stars like Steven Stamkos (+8000) and Jason Robertson (+8000).
These odds and the society around Hughes tell you he’s done enough to get himself on the radar, but the market is still waiting for him to make the leap.
Claim a risk-free first bet up to $1,000
New customers only. Must be 21 years or older. AZ, CO, IA, IL, IN, LA, MI, NJ, NY, PA, TN, VA, WV, WY only. (Welcome offer not available in NY and PA) Full terms and conditions apply.
First bet up to $1,250 on Caesars
New users only, 21 years or older. NY, CO, DC, IA, IN, IL, MI, NV, NJ, PA, TN, VA, WV only. Full terms and conditions apply.
Bet $5, Win $150 in Free Bets
21+. New customers only. AZ, CT, IA, IL, LA, MI, NJ, NY, PA, TN, WV, WY only. T&Cs apply
Can he do it this season? And even if he does, will the Devils be good enough to bring Hughes into the Hart Trophy conversation?
Handicapping the market for any price in a season is more art than science. You’re not only trying to predict whether or not a player can rack up the point totals needed to attract votes, but you also have to consider the competition and award criteria.
Let’s start with the competition. While it’s true that Hughes’ ceiling might be higher than anyone else outside of the top 10 favorites, he’ll have to find a way to beat a handful of generational talent to even be nominated for this award.
As tradition has it, Connor McDavid is the consensus favorite at +250 and you could say that a bet on McDavid is essentially a bet on whether he will stay healthy for an entire season. The two-time winner has 228 points in his last 77 games and has finished first, fifth, third, fifth, first and second in Hart voting for the past six seasons.
After McDavid, there’s Auston Matthews, who won the hardware last spring with a 60-goal season, at +500. 2020 Hart Trophy winner Leon Draisaitl is the third seed at +800. Nathan MacKinnon (+1200) has yet to be named MVP, but he’s close to winning one at some point and just won the Stanley Cup in June. Just beating these four players seems like a monumental task, but there are also a host of stars in the next lineup like Kirill Kaprizov, Cale Makar and Nikita Kucherov.
Bet on sports?
And even if Hughes posts stunning numbers and trails in the goalscoring race with the favorites, that may not be enough. He will also need the Devils to succeed.
It is very rare for a player from a non-playoff team to be named MVP. Leon Draisaitl did it in 2020, but it was a technicality as the Oilers were the No. 5 seed in the bubble but were eliminated in the qualifying round of this unique playoff structure. If we draw a line through Draisaitl, then we have to go all the way back to 1988 and Mario Lemieux to find the next player to win league MVP without making the playoffs. So, barring something truly extraordinary, a punt on Hughes is also a bet on the Devils to get in on the action.
The good news is that an MVP-caliber season and the Devils entering the playoffs are somewhat correlated. While one could happen without the other, if Hughes makes a star turn, the Devils should be relatively competitive even in the deep Metropolitan Division.
The purpose of this exercise is not to discourage people from taking a flyer on Hughes to win the Hart Trophy. It’s more about explaining the odds he has to overcome and what you’re actually betting against. Often when people bet on the rewards they are just supporting the player. This helps pave the way for success in these markets.
And heck, the long shots win the Hart Trophy from time to time. You only have to go back to 2018 when Taylor Hall won the award with the Devils to remember that (it’s also worth noting that Igor Shesterkin came close to winning the award at a high price last season).
Ultimately, betting should be a fun business. And if you believe in the Devils (who are +150 to make the playoffs), that means you believe in Hughes. And if so, a +7000 ticket on the #1 Global Pick 2019 isn’t a bad way to spend some lunch money.