The NHL playoffs are still in full swing, as the Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning get set for a pivotal Game 4 on Wednesday night. However, the league took advantage of Tuesday's off-day by hosting their annual awards ceremony. The awards show in every sport is an exciting day for bettors, as their futures tickets are finally graded. For a lot of people, this money has been tied up since September.
There were no real surprises in terms of winners of the awards this year, but there were some close races. Let's take a look at who won each of the major awards, how the betting market moved throughout the season and how bettors ended up doing in each market.
Auston Matthews wins MVP
Auston Matthews won the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP after receiving 119 of 195 potential first place votes. Matthews won the award relatively comfortably, as Connor McDavid and Igor Shesterkin received just 29 and 24 first place votes respectively en route to finishing 2nd and 3rd in voting.
Matthews finished the regular season as a -350 favorite to win the award, but it did not start that way. The Maple Leafs' forward opened the season at +700 to win the award, the third best odds behind Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon. Entering the season, Matthews received just 4.3% of the bets in the Hart Trophy market.
McDavid opened the season as the favorite to win the award at +300. Bettors were all over the Oilers' star in the preseason, as he received nearly 55% of the bets and over 87% of the money before the season began. McDavid held the favorite role until early March, when Matthews finally overtook him and never looked back.
Matthews had a tremendous season, becoming the first player since Steven Stamkos in 2012 to reach the 60-goal mark. He finished 6th in the league in points and was a big part of the reason why Toronto had the fourth best record in the league during the regular season. By the end of the regular season, Matthews was the biggest liability at BetMGM in the Hart Trophy market, receiving nearly 21% of the bets and over half the total money bet.
The five most popular Hart Trophy bets at BetMGM this season were McDavid, Matthews, Shesterkin, MacKinnon and Alexander Ovechkin. Matthews, McDavid and Shesterkin finished first, second and third in the voting. Ovechkin finished 10th, while MacKinnon did not get a single MVP vote.
Igor Shesterkin wins Vezina
Coming off back-to-back Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, Andrei Vasilevskiy was a common-sense proposition to enter the season as the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy, which is given to the league's best goalie. Vasilevskiy opened at +400 to win the hardware.
However, Vasilevskiy wasn't the most popular preseason bet. That honor belonged to Darcy Kuemper, the goaltender the Colorado Avalanche had just acquired from Arizona during the offseason. Kuemper received nearly 35% of the bets and nearly 24% of the money in the preseason Vezina market.
While both goalies had solid seasons and are currently competing for the Stanley Cup, they didn't cash in for bettors in terms of Vezina Trophy bets. The Vezina winner ended up being Rangers' goaltender Igor Shesterkin, who came into the season as a mid-range value play at 20-to-1. Entering the season, Shesterkin received just 5.5% of bets. That was less betting action than Carter Hart and just a little more action than the likes of Elvis Merzlikins and Alex Nedeljkovic received.
Shesterkin was absolutely brilliant this past season, leading the NHL in save percentage, goals against average and goals saved above expected. He carried a good, but flawed, Rangers team to the 7th best record in the league. However, Shesterkin did not become the Vezina favorite until late January. By the start of March, he was -150 to win the award. At the end of the season, Shesterkin was -1000 to win the Vezina.
It took a while for oddsmakers to recognize how dominant of a season Shesterkin was having, and bettors cashed in. Over 71% of the money was backing Igor to win the award by the end of the season, and it wasn't even a contest by the end of it. Shesterkin ended up receiving 29 of 32 first place votes for the award.
Cale Makar comes through for bettors
Cale Makar had a phenomenal season for the Colorado Avalanche, leading all NHL defensemen in goals with 28, and finishing second amongst defensemen in points with 86. The young defenseman has developed into one of the very best players in this league, and that's on full display in these playoffs. Makar is the current favorite to win the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP.
Entering the season, expectations were high for Makar. He opened as the favorite to win the Norris Trophy, which is given to the league's best defenseman. In the preseason, Makar received 47% of the action.
Bettors continued their love affair for Makar throughout the entire season, as he was the favorite to win the award throughout. By the end of the season, Makar was -185 to win the Norris Trophy. He had received over 60% of bets and 75% of the betting handle throughout the season. He was far and away the biggest liability at BetMGM in the market.
Makar did win the Norris on Tuesday night, edging Roman Josi of Nashville. Makar received 1631 points, compared to the 1606 Josi received. Josi actually received more first place votes, getting 98 of them compared to just 92 for Makar.
Josi opened the season at 15-to-1 to win the award. He finished the season at +150 after getting over 21% of bets. He almost stole the award from Makar and bettors, but Makar held him off and his backers could celebrate a winning ticket.
The other awards
How did the other awards shake out?
Calder: Moritz Seider ended up winning the Calder Trophy rather comfortably as rookie of the year. Seider closed the season as a -250 favorite to win the award, and received over 65% of the money bet in the market. Seider opened the season at 12-to-1 to win the Calder, which was tied for the fifth-best odds. Preseason favorite Cole Caufield finished 9th in voting.
Jack Adams: Darryl Sutter won the Jack Adams as coach of the year, cashing in as a 50-to-1 long shot from the preseason. Jeff Blashill of Detroit was the most popular preseason bet to win the award, but rather than win the award, he was fired. Barry Trotz and Bruce Cassidy opened the season as co-favorites alongside Jon Cooper to win the award. Trotz and Cassidy were also both fired following this past season.