Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Going into last season, Justin Abdelkader would have been a shock to be on such a list. Prior to last season, he had a career-best eight goals over a full season. To the surprise of everyone, he scored 10 times in only 48 games last season.
This was after a very cold start to the season. He did not score a goal until the 24th game of the season, and that was an empty net goal. With some line adjustments, he found himself playing next to Datsyuk, and his stat line exploded as he scored nine goals in the final 20 games of the season.
While many credit playing next to Datsyuk for his scoring outburst, he has shown flashes earlier in his career. In college and in the minors he was not only a consistent goal scorer but also did well with assists.
During his first two full seasons with the team, he was not playing in a scoring role. With the team struggling last season, he was called upon to do more, and he responded well. In college and the minors he averaged .36 goals and .76 points per game. Those numbers dropped to .09 and .26 respectively during those first two seasons with the Wings.
While his goals jumped last season, his assists total took a big hit, as he only had three. This season he will need to show if last season was a fluke or something that he will be able to build on. Based on the pace that he finished last season with, he could score 36 goals over a full season.
That seems a bit optimistic, even for the most ardent of supporters, but if he manages to get into the 20-25 goal range and more than 50 points, then he will definitely became a major contributor and part of the top six forwards on the team.