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Rick Zamperin: NHL’s young stars aiming for Rocket Richard Trophy

Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid is one of a handful of NHL stars who are capable of winning the Rocket Richard Trophy.
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid is one of a handful of NHL stars who are capable of winning the Rocket Richard Trophy. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Graham Hughes

Among the National Hockey League’s individual awards, the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy is one of the most coveted.

Since the 1998-99 season, the trophy has been awarded to the highest-scoring player in the regular season after it was presented to the league by the Montreal Canadiens in honour of Richard, the iconic Habs goal scorer who became the first player to score 50 goals in 50 games and 500 in a career.

In the 20 years that it has been handed out (the 2004-05 season was wiped out by the lockout), 12 players have had their names inscribed on the trophy.

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Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, Calgary’s Jarome Iginla and Florida’s Pavel Bure have each led the NHL in goals twice since the ’99 season, but the trophy has been owned by Washington super sniper Alexander Ovechkin.

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The Capitals’ captain has won the trophy a record eight times, including the last two seasons and six of the last seven years.

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The top challengers are some of the league’s best young players ⁠— Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov and Toronto’s Auston Matthews.

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All five of them are capable of getting to 50 which is a virtual must if they have any hope of dethroning “The Great 8.”

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But keep this in mind. Only five times has the Rocket Richard Trophy winner failed to crack the big 5-0, a fitting stat for the legend it’s named after.