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Connor McDavid continues to dominate the NHL but the NHL continues to dominate the Oilers

Connor McDavid continues to dominate the NHL. His team? Less so. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press/Associated Press)
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Connor McDavid is having a season for the ages. The 21-year-old center and captain of the Edmonton Oilers has a league-leading 103 points, putting him alongside seven other players who have produced two 100-point seasons in the NHL before their 22nd birthday: Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky, Dale Hawerchuk, Mario Lemieux, Joe Sakic and Denis Savard in addition to Sidney Crosby and Jimmy Carson. McDavid is also one of seven players since 2005-06 to score 100 points with at least 30 of those coming off goals at even strength. He joins just Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin as players who have accumulated 100 points while scoring at least 35 even-strength goals — McDavid leads the NHL in this category (35) heading into Friday night’s games.

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If you adjust McDavid’s 2017-18 production to account for different schedule lengths, roster sizes and scoring environments, he is tied with Bryan Trottier for the fifth-best campaign by a 21-year-old in league history, with just Gretzky, Bobby Orr, Eric Lindros and Malkin ahead of him.

Player (season as a 21-year-old) Adjusted points (actual points)
Wayne Gretzky (1981-82) 156 (212)
Bobby Orr (1969-70) 124 (120)
Eric Lindros (1994-95) 121 (70)
Evgeni Malkin (2007-08) 115 (106)
Connor McDavid (2017-18) 111 (103)
Bryan Trottier (1977-78) 111 (123)
Steven Stamkos (2011-12) 109 (97)
Sidney Crosby (2008-09) 106 (103)
Paul Kariya (1995-96) 104 (108)
Dale Hawerchuk (1984-85) 103 (130)

Typically, the winner of the Art Ross Trophy, given to the NHL points leader at season’s end, has done well in voting for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player — except when his team doesn’t qualify for the postseason, like Edmonton. The Oilers are 17 points out of the final wild-card spot in the West. Since 2005-06, the only Art Ross winners to finish outside of the top two in voting for MVP are Jamie Benn (2014-15 Dallas Stars) and Martin St. Louis (2012-13 Tampa Bay Lightning), two players who also did not see their team qualify for the postseason. If McDavid wins the Art Ross, he will become just the sixth player since the league expanded beyond the Original Six in 1967 to lead the league in scoring and miss out on the playoffs.

Season Art Ross winner Playoff team MVP voting result
2016-17 Connor McDavid Yes 1st
2015-16 Patrick Kane Yes 1st
2014-15 Jamie Benn No 12th
2013-14 Sidney Crosby Yes 1st
2012-13 Martin St. Louis No 9th
2011-12 Evgeni Malkin Yes 1st
2010-11 Daniel Sedin Yes 2nd
2009-10 Henrik Sedin Yes 1st
2008-09 Evgeni Malkin Yes 2nd
2007-08 Alex Ovechkin Yes 1st
2006-07 Sidney Crosby Yes 1st
2005-06 Joe Thornton Yes 1st

His value goes beyond just goals and assists. According to Hockey Reference’s point shares, an estimate of the number of points contributed by a player, McDavid is the most valuable player this season, worth 12.8 standings points in 2017-18. Malkin is second (12.1) followed by Hart contenders Nathan MacKinnon (11.8) and Nikita Kucherov (11.4). McDavid also has the highest game score in 2017-18 (104.9), a statistic created by Bill James for baseball that has since been adapted for hockey, incorporating much of what we see on the ice — goals, shot attempts, faceoffs and penalties — into a single number.

We don’t even have to imagine how bad this Oilers team would be without McDavid this season. He is responsible for 19 percent of their goals scored and 17 percent of their primary assists and creates more high-danger scoring chances — those in the slot or crease — than anyone else on the team. With its superstar on the ice, Edmonton has outscored opponents 115 to 83, which translates to a 113-point season over 82 games. With McDavid on the bench, the Oilers are outscored 105 to 166, a 57-point pace. That’s the difference between the Lightning (51-22-4, 106 points in 76 games) and an inferior version of the Arizona Coyotes (27-40-11, 65 points), the worst team in the NHL this season.

Not only is McDavid on a non-playoff team, you could argue he is having the best season for one of the worst teams we’ve ever seen in the salary-cap era. After you adjust Edmonton’s margin of victory for strength of schedule, it is the 11th-worst team in the league this season (minus-0.3). Only 100-point campaigns by Ovechkin and Crosby in 2005-06 occurred while playing for teams whose adjusted margin of victory ranked lower. And McDavid’s adjusted point total is higher than those of both of those players with four games left to play in 2017-18.

Player Points Adjusted points Adjusted margin of victory rank
Sidney Crosby (2005-06) 102 99 29th
Alex Ovechkin (2005-06) 106 104 27th
Connor McDavid (2017-18) 103 111 21st
Alex Ovechkin (2007-08) 112 122 19th
Vincent Lecavalier (2006-07) 108 111 19th
Martin St. Louis (2006-07) 102 104 19th

It remains to be seen how much the Oilers can improve next season — McDavid’s eight-year, $100 million extension starts in 2018-19, leaving them less money under the salary cap to add difference-makers to the lineup. It is quite possible McDavid continues to shine for a team that fails to meet expectations with any regularity. And that’s a shame, because his performance deserves to be celebrated in the center of the hockey world rather than a footnote for a team outside of contention.

Correction: A prior version referred to Bryan Trottier as “Bobby” in the text. This has been corrected.

More on the NHL:

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