The new hockey season is finally upon us and after the first weekend of play, it's just great to have hockey back.
Here is a look at the top 50 players in the NHL and their projected statistics for the 2013 NHL season. Projections are based on players appearing in all 48 games (except for goalies).
Keep in mind that the top 50 players are not necessarily the 50 highest scorers in the league. The list includes goalies and defensemen.
The rankings are also based on the players' all-around games, not just their point totals, so it is possible that the 15th ranked player has a lower projected point total than the 21st ranked player.
Feel free to comment on the list and state where you think players belong. Also, you can mention any player you feel I wrongfully omitted from the top 50. Please make your argument as to why the player you are advocating for belongs on the list and where.
A shorter season could help a veteran like 42-year-old Teemu Selanne.
It also should help "The Finnish Flash" that this is likely his farewell NHL season and the fans of Anaheim and fans around the league admire the talent, skill and effort Selanne has demonstrated over his 20 NHL seasons.
Selanne is a leader and he clearly has something left in the tank.
The signs are promising that Jeff Skinner will bounce back from an injury-plagued sophomore season and return to his Calder Trophy-winning form.
The 20-year-old Markham, Ontario native is healthy and is now surrounded by more talent since the Hurricanes added Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin to their lineup. The result will be that opposing teams cannot concentrate solely on slowing down Skinner while his scoring chances rise.
Skinner's best hockey remains ahead of him and he should thrive in this year's sprint to the playoffs.
Keith's numbers have dipped since he won the Norris Trophy in 2009-10, the same year Chicago won the Stanley Cup.
Despite the slight drop in offensive production, Keith remains a valuable part of the Chicago lineup, playing key minutes and improving his play in his own zone.
Keith has great on-ice vision and is one of the league's better passers among defensemen.
Price has a new contract and most likely an improving team in front of him this season.
Even when the Canadiens finished last in the conference last season, Price was a bright spot, putting up respectable numbers and stealing some games.
Look for him to be the Habs' most valuable player this season.
Patrick Kane scored 30 goals and 88 points in 2009-10 and helped lead the Chicago Blackhawks to their first Stanley Cup title in nearly 40 years.
Since then, the enigmatic Buffalo native has made almost as many headlines for his off-ice indiscretions as he has for his exciting play during hockey games.
If Kane returns to his previous form, it would be a huge boost for the hockey fans in the Windy City. At 24, it's time for Kane to mature and prove how good he can be.
Pacioretty had a breakout season in 2012-13, topping the 30-goal mark for the first time in his NHL career.
He had great chemistry last season with linemates David Desharnais and Erik Cole. The Habs have a little more scoring depth this season, but not enough to take opponents' attention off the top line.
Still, expect the 24-year-old Pacioretty to continue to produce steadily for Montreal this season.
The Maple Leafs will be relying on forward Phil Kessel to lead their offense again this season.
Kessel has been a reliable goal scorer since being acquired from Boston. In fact, the Wisconsin native has four straight seasons of 30 or more goals on his resume.
Kessel will continue to be on the Leafs' top line and No. 1 power play unit. Expect his productivity to continue.
The lockout helped Marian Gaborik in one way: he is healthy and ready to start the 2013 season.
The Rangers sniper suffered a shoulder injury in last year's playoffs and would have missed the first two or three months of the season anyway had it started on time.
Gaborik scored 40 goals last year after the Rangers added setup man Brad Richards. This year, they added another scorer in Rick Nash to take some of the pressure off Gaborik.
Either way, the Slovak star should have another productive season on Broadway.
Flames captain Jarome Iginla remains the best skater on that team and Calgary's unquestioned leader.
However, at 35, he is beginning to slow down a bit and his numbers in two of the last three seasons have reflected that.
A shorter season may help Iginla's numbers a little bit, and while he is still a good player, but his best days are clearly behind him.
Coyotes' defenseman Keith Yandle has topped 10 goals and 40 points in each of the last three seasons.
If he played in a larger market team, Yandle would be widely recognized by fans as one of the game's best blueliners.
He continues to log major minutes and play at a high level in the desert, and should do that again this season.
Patrick Sharp has been a consistent and steady force for the Blackhawks for the past five seasons.
In a full season, you can usually count on Sharp for 25-30 goals and 65-70 points.
Sharp is in his prime at 31 and still playing on a deep and talented team. Expect similar numbers (pro-rated of course) in 2013.
The Sabres will need a solid season from Thomas Vanek if they hope to return to the playoffs this year.
The Austrian has four 30-plus goal seasons to his credit, but fell off to 26 in 2011-12.
Vanek is still only 29, and he should get plenty of ice time and plenty of chances to produce points for Buffalo in 2013.
He may not pile up points, but Ryan McDonagh's strong defense and smarts with the puck earned him a spot on this list.
Adding another sniper in Rick Nash should help the Rangers score more goals this season, and that should aid McDonagh's offensive numbers, as well.
Sharks center Joe Thornton is a bit underappreciated by fans, a fate shared by many setup men throughout NHL history.
While Thornton's 100-point seasons are probably behind him at 33, he is still capable of scoring at close to a point-per-game pace.
San Jose remains a talented hockey team and Thornton remains on the Sharks' top line.
Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn are the two offensive cornerstones the Dallas Stars are rebuilding around.
The 27-year-old Swede is in the prime of his career and has already had three straight seasons of 70 or more points.
The addition of Ryan Whitney and Jaromir Jagr should give Eriksson some additional scoring chances and some veteran leadership, as well.
James Neal looked very strong last season after playing his first full year in Pittsburgh.
The Whitby, Ontario native scored 40 goals and 81 points, a huge jump from his previous career highs.
Playing with either Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby (or occasionally both) on both regular shifts and on the power play should only help keep Neal's totals high this season.
Martin St. Louis may be 37, but he remains one of the best passers in the NHL.
Playing on a line with Tampa Bay sniper Steven Stamkos will only help St. Louis remain productive. He will again play on the Lightning's top line and top power play unit this season, which will also help keep his point totals high.
San Jose's Logan Couture is just 23 and already has back-to-back 30-plus goal seasons to his credit.
The London, Ontario native should continue to be one of the Sharks' top offensive players. Expect Couture to enter his prime and to become one of the league's top goal scorers in the recent future.
Corey Perry and the rest of the Ducks' top line slumped last season. While it wasn't the only reason Anaheim missed the playoffs, it was a major reason the club stumbled.
Perry himself saw his productivity drop from 98 points in 2010-11 to just 60 last season. If Perry can return to his past form (along with similar seasons from Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf), the Ducks should be improved.
Jason Pominville and the Sabres top line are off to a quick start this season, and that's good news for Sabres fans.
The addition of Cody Hodgson should benefit Pominville and give him more quality scoring chances. Having a little more grit in the lineup, courtesy of Steve Ott, and a little more toughness, thanks to John Scott, won't hurt either.
Jordan Eberle is the most advanced of the Oilers' talented young group of forwards.
The 22-year-old scored 34 goals last season in Edmonton, and got off to a torrid start in the AHL during the lockout by scoring 25 goals and 51 points in just 34 games with the Oklahoma City Oil Barons.
Expect Eberle to lead the Oilers in scoring and to make a nice jump in productivity this season.
Eric Staal had a slow start to the season, but finished with a flurry and still totaled 70 points.
This year, the additions of Eric's brother Jordan and Alexander Semin to the Hurricanes' lineup should help Staal be even more productive.
Look for a fine season from the 'Canes captain this year.
Patrice Bergeron is one of the most popular Bruins for his work ethic and steady play in all three zones. The L'Ancienne-Lorette, Quebec native is one of the best defensive forwards in the game today.
Bergeron is 27 and in his prime. Expect him to continue to be a steady force for Boston this season.
David Backes is one of the Blues' best offensive players, and the additions of a healthy Andy McDonald and David Perron, and the arrival of rookie Vladimir Tarasenko, should improve the Blues' team offense.
Sure, Coach Ken Hitchcock's system will remain defense-first, but it shouldn't stop the 28-year-old Backes from being productive.
Kings captain Dustin Brown lifted the Stanley Cup last spring, and hopes to have a repeat performance this year.
Brown is a known for playing the body and is one of hockey's better leaders.
Expect consistent production from the 28-year-old Ithaca, N.Y. native.
Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo is one of the NHL's up-and-coming stars.
Last season, the King City, Ontario native had career-high totals in goals (12) and points (51).
Pietrangelo is learning to control the tempo of games and is becoming very good at quarterbacking the Blues' power play.
Expect the 23-year-old to continue to improve his level of play.
Marian Hossa is back after suffering a devastating injury in the playoffs against Phoenix.
The lockout actually helped make sure that Hossa was ready to start the new season on time, and he has gotten off to a fast start.
The Blackhawks are one of the NHL's deepest and most talented teams, and Hossa again will be receiving plenty of ice time and power play minutes.
Look for the Slovak to continue to shine as long as he is healthy.
This is a big year for Ryan Suter.
Many players press when they receive large contracts, trying to live up to the big bucks they are suddenly earning.
Suter has plenty of talented players on the Wild to produce points, including Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Devin Setoguchi and fellow free-agent addition Zach Parise.
He should get off to a solid start for his new team.
Erik Karlsson had a breakthrough year for the Senators last year, winning the Norris Trophy after scoring 19 goals and 78 points. No other defenseman came close to matching that offensive production.
The swift Swede is only 22 and his best hockey remains in front of him. It may be tough to match last year's outstanding scoring pace, but expect Karlsson to be at or near the top of the league's scoring defensemen again this season.
Welcome to Broadway, Rick Nash.
The former Blue Jackets sniper suddenly has two things he didn't have in Ohio: a talented supporting cast and the pressure to win right away.
With Brad Richards feeding him the puck and Marian Gaborik to take pressure off of him, Nash should be very productive for the Rangers.
Center Jason Spezza remains the pivot on the Senators' top scoring line.
The 6'3" native of Mississauga, Ontario remains a dangerous player at 29, and should continue to see a lot of ice time on the power play.
Spezza has produced near the point-per-game mark the past three seasons and should remain a consistent player in this area.
Playmaker Henrik Sedin has seen his point total decrease in each of the past two seasons, but he still had 81 points in 82 games last season for Vancouver.
Sedin and his twin brother Daniel are inseparable on the ice and continue to be one of the NHL's most dangerous duos.
They should have at least one or two more seasons of top end production left at the age of 32.
John Tavares is the best player on the New York Islanders and continues to work hard to improve his all-around game.
When he came into the league, critics questioned Tavares' skating ability and lack of physical strength, but each year he has worked to improve, and his statistics reflect that effort.
Last year, Tavares had career-highs in goals (31) and points (81). He should continue to improve on those numbers.
Ilya Kovalchuk remains one of hockey's most dangerous offensive weapons.
He has a hard shot and a quick release which strike fear in the hearts of opposing goaltenders.
Kovalchuk has even become a better defensive player since joining the Devils, and was a major reason New Jersey reached the Stanley Cup Final last season.
Expect Kovalchuk to continue to be an elite scorer, even without Zach Parise in the Devils lineup.
Sure, Ryan Suter is gone, but the Nashville Predators still have star defenseman Shea Weber and one of the best goalies in the NHL in Pekka Rinne.
Rinne takes up a lot of net with his 6'5" frame. He has a hard-working team in front of him that plays a defense-first style of play.
All of this should add up to continued success for Rinne, who is in his prime at the age of 30.
Daniel Sedin is the goal-scoring half of the Vancouver Canucks duo of star Swedish twins.
Sedin missed 10 games last year because of injury but still reached the 30-goal mark. He has uncanny chemistry with his twin brother, Henrik, and at 32, remains in the prime of his career.
If he stays healthy, Daniel should battle back and return to his customary rate of production.
Like fellow teammate Ryan Suter, Zach Parise has a huge free-agent contract to live up to. But the former captain of the Devils is used to that kind of pressure and should thrive in the Twin Cities.
Consistency has been the hallmark of Parise's game. Even if his offensive numbers tail off, his leadership and intangibles still help his club win hockey games.
Expect another solid season from Parise.
Shea Weber will certainly miss his former defense partner, Ryan Suter, but the Predators captain remains one of the league's top defensemen.
He plays in a defensive-oriented system with a coach who knows Weber well and gets the most out of him on the ice.
Expect Weber's minutes to go up slightly without Suter. His plus-minus may suffer, but his production should remain about the same.
Drew Doughty raised the level of his game in the playoffs.
The Kings' defenseman got off to a slow start after signing a big contract last season, but his play improved as the season progressed, and Doughty was a major reason the Kings won the Stanley Cup last June.
Can Doughty play an entire season at the same level he played at in last year's playoffs? Maybe not yet, but he can certainly come close.
Without Nicklas Lidstrom in the lineup, Pavel Datsyuk will be an even more important leader in the Motor City.
The veteran Russian remains productive and is one of the most well-rounded players in the game today.
Expect his point-per-game production to continue.
Jonathan Toews is already one of the best leaders in the NHL. At the age of 24, he already has a Stanley Cup championship, a Conn Smythe Trophy and a pair of 30-goal seasons.
Toews is the rare player who makes those around him better. He should continue to get better as he enters the prime of his career.
Zdeno Chara remains the tallest player in the NHL and one of the best.
At 6'9", Chara has a great reach and the strength to clear opponents out from in front of his team's goal.
Last season, Chara remained one of the league's most productive defensemen, as well, scoring 12 goals and 52 points. He may not be able to keep up that pace as he hits his late 30s, but he'll still be a very productive player.
Henrik Lundqvist finally won a Vezina Trophy last year. Now he has his sights set on a Stanley Cup.
The Swedish netminder is one of the league's most consistent forces. He has won 30 or more games in each of the last seven seasons, which will end because of the lockout.
The Rangers have a good defense corps and a team that blocks a lot of shots for Coach John Tortorella. Expect Lundqvist to continue to shine in the Rangers' nets this season.
Anze Kopitar is the best offensive weapon on the Los Angeles Kings, and he should be back in the team's lineup very shortly.
The big Slovenian has great hands and a powerful stride, and has great vision to see the ice. At 25, Kopitar is just entering his prime, and that's bad news for the Kings' opponents this season.
Can Jonathan Quick do it again?
The Milford, Conn. native has become one of the best goalies in the league. He has cat quickness and plays his angles extremely well.
At 27, Quick is in his prime, and he has a deep and talented team in front of him. Look for another strong season from the Kings' netminder.
There are two things that should help Alex Ovechkin return to prime form this season: a healthy Nicklas Backstrom and a new, more offensive-minded coach in Adam Oates.
The Russian sniper is only 27. He scored 40 points in 31 games in the KHL, and appears ready to recommit himself to being one of the world's best hockey players.
The rest of the NHL better look out for Claude Giroux. The new Flyers captain is 25 and seems to be reaching a new level of excellence on the ice.
Last season, the Hearst, Ontario native scored 93 points. He should be even more productive this season.
Look for Giroux to be at or near the top of the league's scoring leaders.
Sidney Crosby has only played in 63 games total over the past two seasons, but when he's been in the lineup, he has remained extremely productive (1.63 ppg).
If Crosby remains healthy this season, expect his offensive production to remain outstanding. At 25, Crosby should be entering his prime now. He is a hard worker and a good leader who is paving the way to the Hall of Fame if he continues to keep this offensive pace for the next several years.
Steven Stamkos won the Rocket Richard Trophy last year with 60 goals. No other player in the league scored more than 50.
Stamkos has the most dangerous shot in the league, and with Martin St. Louis feeding him passes, he should continue to get plenty of opportunities to put more pucks in the net.
The scary part is that the Markham, Ontario native is only 22 and can still get better.
Evgeni Malkin remains the best player in the league as we start the 2013 season.
The talented Russian scored 50 goals and 109 points last season.
During the lockout, he 65 points in just 37 KHL games, proving he wasn't even coming close to slowing down.
Having a healthy Sidney Crosby in the lineup should only make Malkin more dangerous.
Expect another big season from "Geno" in Pittsburgh this year.