Nikita Kucherov may have a 12-point cushion on Connor McDavid for the NHL’s scoring lead this season, but that doesn’t appear to be enough to change the minds of his peers about the best forward in the league.
McDavid topped the category as well as two others in the NHLPA’s 2018-19 player poll, which was released Wednesday. The annual survey asked more than 500 players to weigh in on a variety of hockey-related questions, including skills, teams and some off-ice topics.
McDavid — the back-to-back Art Ross Trophy and Ted Lindsay Trophy winner — took the lion’s share of the tallies in the best forward category, locking in 63.6 per cent of the votes, ahead of Sidney Crosby (17.2 per cent), Nathan MacKinnon (4.1 per cent), Kucherov (3.7) and Aleksander Barkov (1.7 per cent).
The 22-year-old Edmonton Oilers superstar was also designated the most difficult to play against, albeit by a smaller margin at 30.9 per cent, taking over from last year’s winner, Crosby, who received 16 per cent. Patrice Bergeron (9.2 per cent), MacKinnon (5 per cent) and Anze Kopitar (3.5) per cent rounded out the rest of the crop.
McDavid was again the top choice to start a franchise with by a landslide (60 per cent), with Crosby garnering 18.5 per cent, and Auston Matthews, Bergeron and MacKinnon trailing well behind at 4.3 per cent, 1.7 per cent and 1.4, respectively.
While his teammates Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point were shut out from any of the top spots, Victor Hedman was the No. 1 vote-getter in the category of best defenceman with 31.7 per cent of the tallies. The 2017-18 Norris Trophy winner beat out Drew Doughty (20.9 per cent), Brent Burns (10.6 per cent), Erik Karlsson (9.5 per cent) and Roman Josi (6.1 per cent).
In the midst of a resurgent 2018-19, Carey Price was voted best goalie, besting Pekka Rinne, Vasilevskiy, Marc-Andre Fleury and Sergei Bobrovsky.
The perennially overlooked Aleksander Barkov was voted the most underrated player over Nicklas Backstrom, Point, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Mikko Rantanen.
Olympic gold medallist Hilary Knight defeated fellow Les Canadiennes de Montreal star Marie-Philip Poulin in the question of best current women’s hockey player.
Unsurprisingly, Alexander Ovechkin took the mantle of best shot with 50.2 per cent of the vote, blowing away Shea Weber (14.6 per cent), Patrik Laine (12.6 per cent), Matthews (8 per cent) and Stamkos (1.9 per cent). Ovechkin is two goals away from an eighth 50-goal season, which would put him one behind all-time leaders Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy.
Grade-A “troll” Brad Marchand dominated the chirping categories, lapping up enough votes to take the titles of both best and worst trash talker. Marchand has ramped up his antics of late, particularly on social media, chiming in on Mitch Marner’s contract negotiations with the Toronto Maple Leafs and giving teammate Torey Krug a hard time, among other salvos.
Gritty, the season’s breakout social media star, garnered an overwhelming 69.4 per cent of the votes for best mascot.
In other light topics, Crosby won a close vote for who would make the best NHL GM upon retirement, topping Jason Spezza, Brooks Orpik, Mark Scheifele and Derek Stepan. P.K. Subban was voted most likely to make the best TV analyst when his NHL career has wrapped up. Subban also came second to only Henrik Lundqvist in the ranking of the league’s best-dressed players.
Karlsson may not be the best defenceman according to his peers, but they say he’s got the best locks. The two-time Norris Trophy winner — known for his silky-smooth mane and play on the ice — was voted as having the best hair, in front of Lundqvist, William Karlsson, Brent Burns and William Nylander.
Even though Vegas may be the league’s newest destination, the Golden Knights’ T-Mobile Arena and its fans have already made a big impression. The arena was most frequently cited (42.5 per cent) as having the best atmosphere, doubling the tallies for the Montreal Canadiens’ Bell Centre (21.2 per cent) and beating Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena (14.1 per cent), Chicago’s United Centre (10.9 per cent) and Winnipeg’s Bell MTS Place (3 per cent). T-Mobile Arena also finished fifth in the best-ice category, behind the Bell Centre, Edmonton’s Rogers Place, Bell MTS Place and the Minnesota Wild’s Xcel Energy Center.
Click here for the full results.