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Trophy Thursday: Art Ross Trophy

The race for Ross awards the NHL's leading scorer for the regular season, this season featuring two teammates at 1-2, plus maybe history for an Original Six franchise

by Bob Condor / @NHLSeattle_ / NHLSeattle.com

Most of the NHL's annual trophy winners are voted in by groups such as players, general managers or members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The Art Ross Trophy bucks the trend, awarding its nameplate on the one-and-only trophy to "the player who leads the NHL in scoring points at the end of the regular season."

Straight up, the player who piles up the most goals and assists wins the Ross. Going into Thursday's games, that would be Connor McDavid with 74 points (25 goals, 49 assists) closely followed by his Edmonton Oilers teammate Leon Draisaitl with 73 points (27 goals, 46 assists). Three more NHLers clearly in the Art Ross race: Colorado's Nathan McKinnon (27g, 41a), the New York Rangers surging scorer Artemi Panarin (26g, 41a) and the league's leading goal scorer, Boston forward David Pastrnak (36g, 30a).

If two or more players complete the regular season with the same number of points-not hard to fathom for any of us watching McDavid and Draisaitl rack up the numbers-there are tiebreakers: No. 1 is the player with the most goals. The No. 2 tiebreaker would be the individual who played fewer games (missing time for injury or illness). If there is still a tie, then the Art Ross goes to whichever player scored his first earliest compared to the other(s).

Phew, maybe not so straight-up. But it is always fun to check the league leaders tab on the NHL app to forecast who is trending up or down. While McDavid and Draisaitl are 1-2 in overall scoring, they ranked 8th and 6th among goal scorers with Toronto's Auston Matthews now second with 34 goals thanks to a recent tear through opponents defensive zone. The young Maple Leafs barely cracks the top scorers at the No. 10.

Assists clearly make the difference in the Art Ross Trophy race: The Hockey Writers (thehockeywriters.com) website points out only nine winners in seven decades have won the Ross finishing the season with more goals than assists. The last active player to do it is, surprise, Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals in 2007-08 before Ovi signed a 13-year that most media members thought Caps owner Ted Leonsis to look crazy to offer. 

Some legendary hockey names dot the more-goals-than-assists Ross winners: Detroit's Gordie "Mr. Hockey" Howe twice. Chicago's slapshot artist, Bobby Hull, twice. Montreal's Bernie "Boom Boom" Geoffrion twice, plus the late and beloved Canadiens captain Jean Beliveau during the 1955-56 season. Calgary's Jerome Iginla rounds out the list, accomplishing the feat in 2001-02.

Here's one more fact from The Hockey Writers: Despite being "Original Six" franchises, no player from neither the Toronto Maple Leafs nor the New York Rangers have won a Ross. Hard to believe and this year looks most cloudy for Toronto despite Matthews' goal prowess. Too many assists wizards in front of him among league leaders. NYR's Panarin (nicknamed the "Bread Man") is a intriguing possibility. No pun intended, well, maybe, Panarin has been piping hot of late: Four goals and eight assists in his last four games alone, including a five-point night against rival New York Islanders Monday night at Madison Square Garden. The New York teams stage a rematch Thursday night on Long Island. 

Amid all of this scoring chatter, fun fact: Art Ross was a defenseman who started playing professional hockey 12 years before the NHL was founded in 1917. Ross did have a flare for offense, though. He was the first defenseman to stickhandle or carry the puck up the ice from the defensive zone. Before Ross, D-men moved the puck to forwards to begin the "rush" toward the other goal.

Ross only played a handful of games in the NHL. But he won two Stanley Cups in the pre-NHL days, plus became the first coach and general manager when the Boston Bruins were formed in 1924. He coached the B's for three different stints and remained GM until 1954. Boston finished in first place 10 times during his tenure and won three Stanley Cups (twice with Ross behind the bench as coach). 

In 1947, Ross presented a trophy to the NHL that become the Art Ross Trophy. Montreal's Elmer Lach won the first Ross nameplate in 1948 and NHL legend Wayne Gretzky secured the Ross a record 10 times, including seven straight seasons from 1980-81 to 1986-87. Gordie Howe won it six times, same for Pittsburgh Penguins star center and now owner, Mario Lemieux. 

Gretzky did all of that scoring for Edmonton, so McDavid and Draisaitl have big skates to fill. McDavid has already won it twice, back-in-back in 2017 and 2018. There's lots of season left to see who collects the Ross.

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