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Offensive MVPs: Which NHL players have been the most important to their team’s attack?

Lightning sniper Nikita Kucherov might be leading the Art Ross Trophy race, but that doesn't mean he has been the most impactful offensive player this season.

In recent conversations about the Hart Trophy race, the definition of the award has been a talking point. The reason is that while several star players have made a case for the award, there's no clear-cut favorite, which makes it necessary to dive into a player’s value to his own team. After all, the Hart is supposed to go to the player who brings the most value to his own team, not just the one who dominates the league in scoring and wins the Art Ross.

So, while it's difficult to put an objective value on defensive or goaltending contribution, deciphering which players had the most impact on the offensive success of their team -- at least on a basic scoring level -- is a matter of some simple math. With that said, here are the 10 most offensively impactful individuals this season, based on the percentage of their team’s offense they’ve contributed to:

1. Connor McDavid: 42.6% 

(McDavid’s point total: 75 / Oilers’ total goals: 176)

What an incredible waste of another brilliant season. After winning the Art Ross Trophy with a 100-point campaign in 2017-18, McDavid has displayed remarkable dominance once again. In 63 games, he has 28 goals and 75 points, putting him on a 36-goal, 97-point pace. At the very least, that should allow McDavid to challenge for another Art Ross and it's not beyond reason suggest he’ll get hot enough to win the award again. If the percentage of Oilers goals that McDavid has factored in on doesn't do enough to convince you that it's been a one-man show in Edmonton this season, also take into consideration that he has scored nearly 16 percent of the Oilers' goal total.

2. Johnny Gaudreau: 40.1% 

(Gaudreau’s point total: 73 / Flames’ total goals: 182)

Gaudreau’s season has flown somewhat under the radar outside of Calgary, but ‘Johnny Hockey’ has already nearly surpassed his previous career-best season with several weeks remaining in the campaign. His 20 goals and 73 points in 64 games put him on pace to end the season with 26 goals and 94 points, which would see him eclipse his previous career year by more than a dozen points. A large portion of Gaudreau’s production — 50 points — has come at even strength, and only McDavid and Nikita Kucherov have been more productive when the teams are level. Gaudreau has also excelled on the power play, as he has three goals and 23 points on the advantage. 

3. Claude Giroux: 39.6% 

(Giroux’s point total: 74 / Flyers’ total goals: 187)

Given the standard Giroux had set from 2010-11 to 2014-15, a stretch that saw him score 119 goals and 376 points in 370 games, his production over the past two seasons have left much to be desired as he managed 36 goals and 125 points in 160 games. That’s well off the point-per-game-plus pace he was on in the prior campaigns. But Giroux caught fire early this season and hasn’t slowed in the slightest. The move to the wing seems to be greatly benefitting the veteran Flyers captain as he works his way towards career-best marks in goals and points. He’s on pace for 29 and 97, respectively.

4. Taylor Hall: 38.6% 

(Hall’s point total: 68 / Devils’ total goals: 176)

Hall has a Grand Canyon-esque gap between himself and his next-highest scoring teammate. In fact, the Devils star leads his team in scoring by the widest margin in the league, with 27 points separating he and Nico Hischier. What makes that all the more incredible is that Hischier has played five games more than Hall. Contributing at the level he has puts Hall into contention for the Hart, without a doubt, and if the Devils make the playoffs, it's going to be hard to vote against the player who is almost singularly responsible for their offensive output.

5. Anze Kopitar: 38.5% 

(Kopitar’s point total: 70 / Kings’ total goals: 182)

Do you think Kopitar could maybe use some help? After the worst offensive season of his career in 2016-17, the Kings captain has bounced back with 27 goals and 70 points through 64 games and is on pace for a 35-goal, 90-point campaign. But his tremendous year might be all for naught given he’s had little in the way of support. The next-best scorer in Los Angeles this season is Dustin Brown, who has 19 goals and 44 points to his name. For those scoring at home, that means Kopitar has a 26-point chasm between he and the next-best point producer in Los Angeles. Oh, and he has also single-handedly accounted for nearly 15 percent of the Kings’ total goals.

6. Evgeni Malkin: 36.9% 

(Malkin’s point total: 76 / Penguins’ total goals: 206)

If we were to limit this list to a month-by-month breakdown, Malkin would have been within a fraction of a percentage of first place in both January and February. He has been brilliant over the past two months, even by his own lofty standards. More than half of his point total has come in the past two dozen games, as he has accumulated 22 goals and 40 points since the start of January. The next-best player over that same span is teammate Sidney Crosby, but Malkin’s lead is seven points. One remarkable note about Malkin is that despite the Penguins boasting one of the league’s best attacks, he ranks third in percentage of team goals scored at 17.5 percent.

7. Jakub Voracek: 36.9% 

(Voracek’s point total: 69 / Flyers’ total goals: 187)

Some fans in Philadelphia would certainly take umbrage with the suggestion the Flyers are a one-line team, particularly at a time when their second unit, centered by rookie Nolan Patrick, is starting to pick it up. The reality, though, is that Voracek joins Giroux as the only pair of teammates on this list, and Sean Couturier, who spent much of the early season centering Voracek and Giroux, really isn’t that far outside the top 10. Voracek is an interesting case, though, because no player who made this list has a lower percentage of his teams goals. His 13 tallies account for just seven percent of the Flyers’ output this season, but Voracek has made up for it with a league-leading 56 assists.

8. Nikita Kucherov: 36.6%

(Kucherov’s point total: 82 / Lightning’s total goals: 224)

Kucherov was the early Hart favorite, but it's beginning to seem more and more likely that he misses out on the award. Not only has his lead in the scoring race diminished, but his standing on this list makes it abundantly clear that there are other individuals who, statistically speaking, have been more valuable on a team level. In a way, Kucherov has fallen victim to Tampa Bay’s success. If the Lightning weren’t the most lethal team in the league, Kucherov’s individual point total might rocket him up this list. However, the argument could also be made that if Tampa Bay wasn't as dangerous, Kucherov wouldn't be having the season he is.

9. Nathan MacKinnon: 36.6% 

(MacKinnon’s point total: 71 / Avalanche’s total goals: 194)

Injuries bite. Just ask MacKinnon. In the midst of a dream season, a campaign unlike any other in his young career, MacKinnon suffered an upper-body injury that put him on the shelf for eight games. At the time, he was right in the thick of the scoring race and his Hart candidacy was arguably the strongest in the league. Still, MacKinnon has been outstanding and he hasn’t missed a beat since returning. With 29 goals and 71 points, MacKinnon has already surpassed his previous career bests of 24 goals and 63 points and he’s on pace to destroy them. If he continues to score as he has, MacKinnon will end the season with 39 goals and 97 points. It’s a shame he fell injured, though, as a full 82-game slate would have put a 44-goal, 106-point campaign in his sights.

10. Alex Ovechkin: 36.4% 

(Ovechkin’s point total: 71 / Capitals’ total goals: 195)

Just when you think he might be done, he pulls you back in. Last season, Ovechkin had a mediocre campaign given what we’ve come to expect as he finished the year with 33 goals and 69 points. Given he skated in all 82 games, it was the worst goals rate of his career. But Ovechkin is making up for lost goals and staring down another Rocket Richard Trophy as he paces the league with 39 markers in 64 games, a total that accounts for exactly 20 percent of Washington’s offensive output. Ovechkin has to continue to score at this rate, though, if he wants to be an eight-time 50-goal scorer. He’s currently on pace to score No. 50 in Game 82.

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