If Sidney Crosby can stay healthy, he'll lead the NHL in points this year. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
T-minus three days until the start of the shortened NHL season – and fantasy drafts are consuming hockey poolies. The trick this year is to figure out how the 48-game schedule will impact certain players or teams and to recognize what will be considered strong goal and point totals.
In THN’s double-issue updated season opener, we got break downs on each 30 teams and larger features on key players to watch this year (Stamkos, Ovechkin, Schultz), but we’ve also give insight for poolies who are searching for any edge they can get towards earning bragging rights against their friends.
This week’s THN.com Top 10 focuses on point projections for the top NHLers for this year. Who will be the elite of the elite and what will their final totals be? Check out our list:
Ever-present on these lists, the assist machine is still San Jose’s driving force on offense. He finished 14th in league scoring last season with 77 points and though he’ll likely never hit 90 points again, he’s still an efficient point gatherer with a big body that’s difficult to defend.
The Islanders franchise player should be in mid-season form when the puck drops, considering he spent most of the lockout piling up goals and points with Bern of the Swiss League. Tavares also was a leader on Canada’s Spengler Cup winning team, a valuable experience for the face of a struggling NHL franchise. Whenever the Islanders take the next step, it will be because of Tavares – and that moment seems to be near.
The Canucks have been bitten by the injury bug early and often in training camp, which is a bad sign for the team in a season where one losing streak could spell the end. However, the Sedins’ offensive contributions can be counted on, rain or shine. Daniel is the goal scorer of the duo, so if your pool weighs those more than assists, his value will increase.
There was a time when placing Ovechkin at No. 7 on these lists would have been considered laughable, but his lack of adaptation has shaved some of the domination out of his game. Last season, you had to scroll to Page 2 before you saw The Great 8’s name on the league’s scoring list, but that should be considered more of a blip than the norm.
You knew when Daniel appeared on this list, Henrik wouldn’t be far. The assist-accumulator of the two, Henrik is the captain of the Canucks and their leading scorer last season. While he gets most of his acclaim from his helpers, Henrik showed he was capable of being a goal scorer in 2009-10 when his brother missed 19 games with an injury. That year, Henrik recorded 29 goals and earned the Hart Trophy.
Last season, Perry watched his point totals drop by 38 from his MVP season of the year before, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, the entire Ducks team went through a nightmarish campaign. He still managed to put up 37 goals, the second-highest mark of his career, so expect his assist totals to come up to par as the Ducks aren’t as bad as they looked in 2011-12. The Perry-Bobby Ryan–Ryan Getzlaf line is too big and talented to have consecutive off years.
The EA Sports NHL ’13 cover boy burst onto the scene as an elite scorer in 2011-12 and helped Jaromir Jagr balloon his totals in an NHL return. The newest Flyers captain will be looking to build on that and establish himself among the elite names of Crosby, Malkin and Stamkos and get the Flyers over the hump, a year after their castoffs won a championship in Los Angeles.
For the record, a total of about 35 goals in 48 games would equate to a 50-goal season, so Stamkos will be aiming for that figure. THN projects him to finish just shy at 32, but as long as Martin St-Louis is feeding him rubber, the possibility exists. Stamkos is among the top three players in the NHL and worthy of consideration to go No. 1 overall in any pool.
The label of ‘Best Player on the Planet’ seems to be a three-horse race between Malkin, Stamkos and Sidney Crosby these days. The Hart Trophy winner from last season, Malkin seems to always take his game to a whole different level of domination when the team is without Crosby and needs to rely on him. His combination of size and supreme skill is extremely rare, so expect Malkin to keep writing his resume as an all-time player, to be judged at a (much) later date.
Bring on the haters. To slight or diminish Crosby’s contributions is a fool’s game and to pass on him for anyone other than the No. 2 and 3 names on this list is a fast way to the basement in your pool. While he has seen very limited action the past two years, No. 87 is in the best shape of his career and the hunger that all elite athletes have has gone ravenous in this one who has been robbed of time. Take your pick between Crosby and Malkin and you can’t go wrong, but we’re taking Crosby this season.