Predicting Who Will Lead NHL in Every Major Stat Category in 2013-14 Season
After an amazing Stanley Cup playoffs that ended with the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup, hockey fans have already started counting down the days until the 2013-14 NHL season begins on October 1.
With the activity on the free-agent market decreasing by the day, we have reached one of the most boring stages of the summer for hockey fans.
But it's never too early to make some predictions for next season.
Let's take a look at the players with the best chance to lead the league in every major statistical category in 2013-14.
Goals: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
The best goal scorer in the NHL is Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos. The 23-year-old superstar has scored a league high 185 goals since the start of the 2009-10 season, and he already has two Rocket Richard trophies already on his resume.
After scoring 60 goals during the 2011-12 season, Stamkos found the back of the net 29 times last year, which ranked second among all skaters.
There's no reason to believe that Stamkos will fail to win another Richard Trophy next season, especially since he's finished first or second in goals scored in each of the last four years.
He plays on a line with reigning scoring champion Martin St. Louis and receives plenty of power-play time each game. His line might get even stronger next year if top prospect and No. 3 overall draft pick Jonathan Drouin makes the NHL roster as a left winger.
Stamkos could even challenge the 70-goal mark next season, which hasn't been reached since 1992-93.
Assists: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
No player has better vision, passing skill or playmaking ability than Sidney Crosby.
The Pittsburgh Penguins center finished two assists behind Lightning winger Martin St. Louis for the league lead despite missing a quarter of last season (12 games) because of a broken jaw.
Not only is Crosby the most talented playmaker in the NHL, he plays in a Penguins offense that led the league in goals scored last year. There are plenty of quality goal-scoring wingers for Crosby to play with on the top two lines, including James Neal, Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz.
Pittsburgh's power-play is also one of the league's best, and Crosby's ability to create scoring chances is a major reason for this success. If he is able to stay healthy for a full season, it would be surprising if Crosby didn't tally 60 or more assists for the fourth time in his career.
His 0.90 assists per game average is the highest among all active players.
Points: Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby gets so much praise for his playmaking skills, which is well deserved given his 427 assists in 470 career games. But one area of his offensive skill set that sometimes gets overlooked is his goal-scoring ability.
When Crosby decides to be aggressive and looks for his offense by increasing his shot total, he's able to become a dominant goal scorer. This is why he's scored 30-plus goals four times in his career. During the 2010-11 season, the Penguins superstar was on pace to find the back of the net 64 times before injuries ended his season after just 41 games.
It's hard to pick against Crosby when predicting a scoring leader for next season. His four 100-point seasons are the most since the 2004-05 lockout and his 1.60 points per game average over the last three seasons is the best among all players.
The key for Crosby is health, but even if he misses 5-15 games next year, Pittsburgh's captain is still capable of winning the Art Ross Trophy. He's that good.
Plus/Minus: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Patrice Bergeron is the best defensive player in the NHL and prevents goals in so many ways, some of which include winning faceoffs (led the NHL in FO% in 2013), killing penalties (Bruins ranked 4th in PK% in 2013), back checking consistently and playing a physical style of hockey.
He was awarded the Selke Trophy in 2012 as the league's best defensive forward and finished second in the voting in 2013. When you combine that level of defensive ability with the 50-65 points he tallies as a second-line center, it's not surprising that Bergeron has become one of the leaders in plus/minus.
The Quebec native finished sixth (plus-24) in plus/minus last season, one year after leading all players with a plus-36 rating in 2011-12. Bergeron is also a plus-80 over the last three years.
As a top defensive forward on a team with a great blue line and an elite goaltender, expect Bergeron to lead all players in plus/minus next season.
Power-Play Goals: Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
When goaltenders see Steven Stamkos winding up a slap shot from his favorite position in the left faceoff circle, all they can do is stick a glove in the air and hope for the best.
There is no better power-play goal scorer in the NHL than Stamkos, who leads the league with 63 goals on the man advantage since the start of the 2009-10 season. In fact, he's finished first or second in power-play goals in three of the last four years.
With plenty of offensive talent around him and the opportunity to get a lot of power-play ice time, expect Stamkos to lead the NHL in goals scored with the man advantage in 2013-14.
Wins: Corey Crawford, Chicago Blackhawks
Corey Crawford reached elite status last season as he led the Chicago Blackhawks to a record-breaking regular season and a Stanley Cup championship.
He went 19-5-5 with a .926 save percentage and a 1.94 GAA for the Presidents' Trophy-winning Blackhawks, then posted a 16-7-2 record with a .932 save percentage and a 1.84 GAA in the playoffs.
The departure of veteran backup Ray Emery will give Crawford more starts next season, and there's no reason he should fail to win 35-45 games.
Chicago finished first in GAA and second in goals scored last year. After not losing any core players from that championship roster, this team will likely contend for the Presidents' Trophy again next season. Even when Crawford has a bad game, there's a good chance that his team's high-powered offense will bail him out and add a victory to his total.
As a top-tier goalie who has a great group of defensemen in front of him, Crawford should set a career high in wins next season, while also leading the league in this category.
GAA: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist is arguably the best goaltender in the world and has been a finalist for the Vezina Trophy five times.
The New York Rangers have a tremendous group of defensemen that will kill penalties consistently, block shots, play physical and make opposing forwards work incredibly hard to create quality scoring chances on Lundqvist.
New York's No. 1 goalie has a combined 2.02 GAA over the last two seasons, and as a team, the Rangers have ranked in the top five of GAA in each of the last three years. Lundqvist had a 2.05 GAA in 2013 despite getting little help from his teammates for the first month of the year.
As an elite goalie in the prime of his career playing for a new contract, expect a monster year from Lundqvist in 2013-14.
Save Percentage: Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins
Tuukka Rask has the highest save percentage of any goalie who has played in 100 or more games since the 2005-06 season.
The 26-year-old finished third in save percentage (.926) last season, and led all goalies in the playoffs (.940). In the two seasons he's been a full-time starter at the NHL level (2009-10 and 2013), Rask has increased his save percentage with 10 total shutouts (he led the league with five last season).
As an athletic goaltender with quick reflexes and no major weaknesses for opposing forwards to target, Rask has the best chance to lead the NHL in save percentage next season. It also helps that the Bruins have a talented group of defensemen who won't force Rask to make 40-50 save each game. Boston allowed only 28.6 shots per game last year.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also a credentialed writer at the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Final, as well as the 2013 NHL draft.