Jack Hughes was right behind Connor McDavid as the frontrunner for MVP. Then, he got hurt. Now, he’s looking at another uphill battle to get the top award in the NHL.
Just a week ago, Jack Hughes was pushing Connor McDavid as a favorite for the Hart Trophy, awarded to the NHL MVP. He was scorning at will and led the league in points. Hughes was the only reason the Devils were winning despite an injury to Nico Hischier and slow starts from Timo Meier, Dawson Mercer, the defense, penalty kill, and goaltending.
He deserved to be in the MVP race. In fact, despite the odds still pushing for McDavid, if the season ended after a few weeks, Hughes would be the Devils second Hart Trophy winner.
Then, Hughes got hurt. We did learn good news on Monday, after it was confirmed that it was a shoulder injury. The worst-case scenario was avoided, and instead of being out weeks or months, Hughes is already on the road to recovery.
So, if Hughes misses the minimum on this timeline, which is about three weeks, that brings him back for the November 28 game against the New York Islanders. If he misses four weeks, that puts him at December 1st, which is against the San Jose Sharks. To be honest, that’s a good landing spot for him. The Sharks are the worst team in the league.
That would mean Hughes misses a total of 12 games. No matter what Hughes in the other 70 games, he would likely be out of the Hart Trophy race.
This isn’t the NBA, where Joel Embiid can win the MVP with just 66 games played. NHL voters take availability seriously when it comes to awards. Unfortunately for Hughes, that likely means he’s out of the race already.
Hughes is still tied for the league lead in points. Elias Pettersson tied him at 20 recently. Jesper Bratt and Artemi Panarin are tied for third with 18 points. Hughes will fall down the list as time goes by. He might not be in the top 20 in points by the time he gets back. Actually, it could be much worse.
Last season, 20 points would have been good for 67th in the league on December 1st, tied with the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Blake Wheeler, and Chris Kreider. Those are great names, but they aren’t anywhere near the MVP at this time of their careers. On December 1, 2022, McDavid had 41 points.
Hughes could cut the gap once he returns, but for him to overtake the likes of McDavid, Auston Matthews, Pettersson, or David Pastrnak, he has to wildly outduel them all. It’s just far from likely, and the Devils star might have to settle for another Lady Bing nomination.