What makes Connor McDavid’s season the best so far in the salary-cap era?

The NHL isn’t simple to play in, but Connor McDavid makes it seem that way. At this moment, he is dominating the rest of the league handily every game, and he is on track to post statistics that haven’t been seen in nearly three decades.

With 17 games left in the regular season, McDavid, the player who has made a number of big award contests into snooze fests, has set new career highs in goals (54) and points (124). He will soon surpass his previous career high in that statistic when he records his 80th assist.

Yet, it’s no longer simply about McDavid reaching new personal records.

With 68 goals, 88 assists, and 156 points, he is on pace to have the best regular season of the salary cap era. Nikita Kucherov’s 128-point season in 2018–19 would be the only other season in the same zip code if McDavid achieves those forecasts.

If McDavid keeps up his incredible pace of scoring, his 156 points would rank as the 14th-highest season in NHL scoring ever. The last time the NHL saw stats like that was in 1995–96, when Mario Lemieux won the Hart Trophy with 69 goals, 92 points, and 161 points.

Name Season Goals Assists Points
Wayne Gretzky 1985-86 52 163 215
Wayne Gretzky 1981-82 92 120 212
Wayne Gretzky 1984-85 73 135 208
Wayne Gretzky 1983-84 87 118 205
Mario Lemieux 1988-89 85 114 199
Wayne Gretzky 1982-83 71 125 196
Wayne Gretzky 1986-87 62 121 183
Mario Lemieux 1987-88 70 98 168
Wayne Gretzky 1988-89 54 114 168
Wayne Gretzky 1980-81 55 109 164
Wayne Gretzky 1990-91 41 122 163
Mario Lemieux 1995-96 69 92 161
Mario Lemieux 1992-93 69 91 160
Connor McDavid* 2022-23 68 88 156
Steve Yzerman 1988-89 65 90 155


As of right now, McDavid has already shown to be the best player in the NHL. It has been the situation for a while. McDavid will surpass 100 points for the sixth time in the 2022–23 season. In the 2019–20 season, which was cut short by the pandemic, he scored 97 points in 64 games.

For McDavid, the bar was already absurdly high entering the season, but he has easily surpassed it. The distinction is that, in addition to being a top distributor, McDavid has improved his game to become the best goal scorer in the league.

McDavid has already surpassed his previous career best in goals (44) and is currently leading the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy with 20% of the season still to play. In second place, David Pastrnak, who is having a phenomenal season in and of himself, is still 10 goals behind McDavid.

Although it might not come as much of a surprise, McDavid has always ignited the lamp quickly. McDavid has scored at least 30 goals every year since the 2016–17 campaign, and he has reached the 40-goal mark four times. With a career shooting percentage of 15.6%, McDavid has scored frequently even when looking at shots individually.

The fact that McDavid has prioritized shooting more frequently is what has made his 2022–23 season so exceptional. Consider McDavid’s shooting totals over the course of his career.

  1. 2015-16: 105 shots (2.33 shots per game)
  2. 2016-17: 251 shots (3.06 shots per game)
  3. 2017-18: 274 shots (3.34 shots per game)
  4. 2018-19: 240 shots (3.08 shots per game)
  5. 2019-20: 212 shots (3.13 shots per game)
  6. 2020-21: 200 shots (3.57 shots per game)
  7. 2021-22: 314 shots (3.93 shots per game)
  8. 2022-23: 288 shots (4.43 shots per game)

McDavid has become more daring with his shooting over the past two seasons, but this year he has really upped the ante. The most impressive aspect of this is that McDavid’s newfound enjoyment of taking lots of shots hasn’t degraded the caliber of his shots.

Although his shooting percentage is a career high (18.8%), McDavid is still receiving high-caliber opportunities from the middle of the slot and directly in front of the net. It’s not surprising that the best player in the world scores more frequently when he attempts more high-caliber shots, even while a small portion of this scoring spree is the result of shooting luck.

McDavid will need to bring a second bag to the NHL Awards in June because to his recent increase in shooting and scoring. As the league’s top goal scorer, he will win the Hart Trophy, the Art Ross Trophy, and his first Rocket Richard Award.

Bringing the Stanley Cup home to Edmonton would be the only thing that could make McDavid’s season even better, and if he keeps up his current form, the Oilers should be able to hoist their first banner since 1990.