Predicting Every NHL Team's Top Scorer in the 2014-15 Season
From year to year, you can almost guarantee certain NHL players will lead their teams in scoring: Alex Ovechkin, Phil Kessel and anyone named Sedin is very likely going to finish with the most points on their respective teams.
But with other teams, it's more of a mystery. Sure, Sidney Crosby is the best player in the world, but Evgeni Malkin is no schlub either. Which one will play more games? That question usually decides which player leads the way for the Penguins.
No matter how inept an offense may be—looking at you, Florida, Arizona and Nashville—someone will lead the way. Will it be a defenseman? A rookie? Maybe a second- or third-year player who has a breakout season?
It's time for a look at each team's predicted leading scorer for the 2014-15 season. While it's very likely...actually, it's pretty much guaranteed that I go 30-for-30 with this slideshow, please do not use this golden information for gambling purposes unless it is legal in the place you are betting. This type of genius is only meant to spark debate and provide enjoyment during the doldrums of August.
Anaheim Ducks: Corey Perry, RW
Corey Perry has not led the Ducks in scoring since he won the Hart Trophy in 2011. He had 50 goals and 98 points that season but has watched teammate Ryan Getzlaf lead the way the past two seasons with Teemu Selanne having the honor in 2011-12.
The 29-year-old Perry fell five points short of catching Getzlaf last year, and he will make up that ground this season. Why? Probably because Getzlaf will miss a couple of games and a few more secondary assists will fall onto Perry's ledger.
Runners-up: Getzlaf will finish a close second, with newcomer Ryan Kesler finishing third.
Arizona Coyotes: Oliver Ekman-Larsson
The Artists Formerly Known as the Phoenix Coyotes are a bit of a mess offensively. Last year's leading scorer was defenseman Keith Yandle, who had 53 points in 82 games, and second-leading scorer Radim Vrbata left via free agency.
Throw in the fact that fifth-leading scorer Mike Ribeiro had his contract bought out, and the Coyotes are sorely lacking for offense.
That's where 23-year-old defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who had 15 goals and 44 points last season, will fill the void. The offense will have to come from somewhere, and the rising star on the back end is as good a player as any in the lineup.
Runners-up: Antoine Vermette and Mikkel Boedker will finish right behind Ekman-Larsson.
Boston Bruins: David Krejci, C
As the team's top playmaker, David Krejci looks primed to lead the team in scoring for a second straight season. He will once again center the team's top line and feature heavily on the power play, and he will have the greatest motivator behind him: money.
Oh, you may think it's winning, but man, money is great. Sure, these guys would all play the game for free, but they'd do so after they got done with their day jobs that paid them money. What I'm trying to say here is Krejci is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this season, which means we're talking about a talented player in a contract year. He will rack up a mess-load of points.
Runners-up: Patrice Bergeron will come in second, with Reilly Smith emerging as the team's third-leading scorer.
Buffalo Sabres, Sam Reinhart, C
Breaking news: The Buffalo Sabres are going to be very bad this year. Maybe not as bad as they were last year, when Cody Hodgson led the team with 44 (44!) points, but they will still be in the mix for the league's worst record.
The spoils of last year's brutal season will lead the way this year, as second overall pick Sam Reinhart will make an immediate impact in Buffalo.
Reinhart had 36 goals and 105 points in 60 games last season with the Kootenay Ice of the OHL and is instantly the Sabres' most talented player. As long as he makes the team, he'll take over as leading scorer.
Runners-up: Hodgson and Matt Moulson will have relatively good seasons and finish second and third in scoring, respectively, on the team.
Calgary Flames: Sean Monahan, C
As an 18-year-old rookie, Sean Monahan posted some decent numbers last season. He had 22 goals and 34 points in 75 games, which doesn't sound like much, but it was fifth-most on the Calgary Flames. Third-leading scorer Mike Cammalleri left via free agency, so there's room for growth this season.
The odds-on favorite to lead the way again this year is Jiri Hudler, who had 57 points last season, but the talented Monahan has a shot at a breakout season.
Runners-up: The aforementioned Hudler will be a close second, with Mikael Backlund landing in third.
Carolina Hurricanes: Jeff Skinner, C/LW
After a dominant rookie season in 2010-11, when he had 33 goals and 63 points and won the Calder Trophy, Jeff Skinner has been somewhat of a disappointment. It's been partly due to injuries, growing pains and a coach who utilized him as a third-liner at times despite his top-six talent.
This will be Skinner's fifth season in the NHL and the one where he finally exceeds that 63-point total for the first time. He will also lead the team in scoring, as (here comes another prediction) captain Eric Staal will get dealt during the season, which will allow Skinner to flourish on the top line.
Runners-up: Alexander Semin will benefit from a full season and come in second, while Jordan Staal will rediscover his form after a down 2013-14 season.
Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane, RW
Patrick Kane's best individual season was in 2009-10, when he had 88 points in 82 games. His numbers were pretty good the past two years, as he had 69 points in 69 games last season playing mostly with Michal Handzus as his center.
No disrespect to Handzus, but he is not good enough to be a second-line center in the NHL and very likely hurt the overall numbers of Kane because of his ineptitude as a playmaker.
OK, maybe that was a little disrespectful.
This year, Kane will likely have Brad Richards as his regular center. Sure, Richards isn't what he was a few years ago, but he's a much better offensive player than Handzus and will be a big reason why Kane has a massive scoring season.
Runners-up: On a team stacked with talent, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa will be right behind Kane.
Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon, C/RW
Nathan MacKinnon had 63 points as an 18-year-old last season, which were the ninth-most points by an 18-year-old in the history of the NHL.
With Paul Stastny gone via free agency, MacKinnon figures to have more opportunities to contribute offensively. MacKinnon finished just seven points behind Matt Duchene for the team lead last season and will eclipse him in that department this season.
Runners-up: Duchene and Ryan O'Reilly won't be far behind MacKinnon.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Ryan Johansen, C
This one is a no-brainer, as Ryan Johansen is far and away the top scoring threat on the Columbus Blue Jackets. He had 63 points last season, which were 12 more than the next-closest player, James Wisniewski.
Of course, if Johansen's contract negotiations spill into the regular season, this ceases to be a no-brainer and becomes a partial-brainer.
Runners-up: Cam Atkinson and Nathan Horton, who will start the season healthy after missing a lot of time last year recovering from shoulder surgery, will be up there as well.
Dallas Stars: Tyler Seguin, C
The Dallas Stars' leading scorer in 2014-15 will be either Tyler Seguin or Jamie Benn. It's basically a coin flip and will probably come down to which player misses more games with an injury. Last season, Seguin beat out Benn 84-79 for the J.R. Ewing Trophy, which is awarded to the team's points leader that I just made up right now.
Seguin is one of a handful of players with 100-point potential in the league, so the nod goes to him over Benn this season.
Runners-up: In case you weren't paying attention, Benn will come in second, while Valeri Nichushkin will be a distant third.
Detroit Red Wings: Henrik Zetterberg, C
Last season, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, the Red Wings' top two forwards, missed nearly half the season with injuries. This season, health won't be an issue for Zetterberg, as he will return to being the team's leading scorer.
Despite missing 37 games, Zetterberg finished one point off the scoring lead held by Daniel Alfredsson and Niklas Kronwall, who amassed an unimpressive 49 points. As long as Zetterberg's back is healed, he'll run away with the scoring honors this season.
Runners-up: Datsyuk will be right behind the Red Wings captain, with Gustav Nyquist landing in third.
Edmonton Oilers: Taylor Hall, LW
Taylor Hall, who some influential hockey minds (Hockey Canada) feel isn't as good as Chris Kunitz, had 80 points in 75 games last season to run away with the team scoring crown. He bested second-place finisher Jordan Eberle by 15 points and will increase the distance over this year's No. 2 by even more points.
Hall, who will turn 23 in November, is entering his prime scoring years. A 100-point season isn't out of the question for Hall, who hopes to one day be a better hockey player than Kunitz.
Runners-up: Ryan-Nugent Hopkins and Eberle will complete the Edmonton scoring trifecta.
Florida Panthers: Aleksander Barkov, C
Nick Bjugstad led the way with 38 points last season, which was the lowest for any team leader. Some of that had to do with injuries, one of which occurred to promising rookie Aleksander Barkov at the Sochi Olympics.
Barkov had 24 points in 54 games as an 18-year-old, so it's not exactly a leap to say he can ascend to the top of the scoring leaders this season. Bjugstad will be right there as well, but this will be the season that Barkov becomes a household name outside of retirement homes in the Miami area.
Runners-up: Bjugstad and Jonathan Huberdeau, who had a disappointing sophomore campaign, will help carry the scoring load.
Los Angeles Kings: Anze Kopitar, C
Unless Anze Kopitar misses at least 25 games, he will win his team's scoring crown for an eighth straight season. That seems like a crazy sentence to type, only because I can't believe that Kopitar has been in the league this long already. Life is once again proved to be a slow march toward the grave for all of us.
But yeah, Kopitar is probably in the middle of a Hall of Fame career. Jeff Carter was the Kings' next-best scorer at 50 points—20 points fewer than Kopitar—so let's not overthink this one.
Runners-up: Carter and Tyler Toffoli, who had 29 points in 62 games last season, will round out the top three.
Minnesota Wild: Mikael Granlund, C
Maybe this one is a bit stretchy; after all, the Wild have Jason Pominville and Zach Parise and just signed Thomas Vanek this summer.
But the 22-year-old Mikael Granlund looks poised for a breakout season. He had eight goals and 41 points in 63 games last season and added four goals and seven points in 13 playoff games. The ninth pick in the 2010 draft is leaking talent from every orifice, which sounds painful but actually does not require medical attention.
Runners-up: Bank on Vanek and Parise having excellent seasons as well.
Montreal Canadiens: Alex Galchenyuk, C
OK, now this is the real Stretch Armstrong on the list. Alex Galchenyuk finished eighth on the Canadiens last season with 31 points in 65 games, which isn't exactly going to get people in Montreal to start a riot of joy, but the future looks bright.
Arpon Basu at NHL.com looked at what could be expected from Galchenyuk in this third NHL season, and it looks pretty good.
Overall, the 20 forwards who made the jump between 2005-06 and 2011-12 averaged 0.56 points per game in their first season, 0.65 per game in their second season and 0.74 per game in their third season. Galchenyuk's averages were 0.56 in his rookie year and 0.48 last season as he struggled with injuries and finding consistency, with three five-game pointless streaks sprinkled in among his 65 regular-season games played.
If Galchenyuk averages 0.74 points in 82 games this season, that's good for about 61 points, which is one more than team leader Max Pacioretty had this past season.
Runners-up: Pacioretty and P.K. Subban will slot in behind Galchenyuk.
Nashville Predators: Shea Weber, D
The Nashville Predators added James Neal, Derek Roy and Mike Ribeiro this summer, but for the third straight year, defenseman Shea Weber will put up more points than anyone else on the roster.
Even with Barry Trotz gone and Peter Laviolette in, this team doesn't figure to provide much offense. Neal benefited greatly from having Evgeni Malkin as his center, while Ribeiro and Roy are probably better suited for third-line work than the top-six minutes they will be earning this season.
Weber will use his booming shot on the power play to once again lead the way.
Runners-up: Neal and Craig Smith will have solid enough seasons to be part of the top three.
New Jersey Devils: Patrik Elias, LW/C
Injuries limited the 38-year-old Patrik Elias to 65 games last season, after he missed a total of two games in the previous three seasons. He still posted 18 goals and 53 points to finish second on the Devils in scoring, showing that as long as he's healthy, he's still a very dangerous scorer.
Perhaps it's a gamble to predict a player of Elias' age will play 75 or more games, but the 42-year-old Jaromir Jagr played 82 games last season, so really, anything is possible in this magical ride that we call life.
Runners-up: Adam Henrique and the newly signed Michael Cammalleri will also be at the top of the team leaderboard.
New York Islanders: John Tavares, C
Here are some of the scenarios that might prevent John Tavares from leading the Islanders in scoring:
- Tavares, suffering hallucinations brought about by dehydration, decides he's Willy Wonka and opens a chocolate factory. He leaves the Islanders to wear a purple velvet suit and boss around Oompa Loompas, who are actually just neighborhood children but look orange to the deranged Tavares.
- In the first recorded instance of a wormhole, a 10-year-old Tavares shows up on the doorstep of the 23-year-old Tavares. The child Tavares reminds the adult how much he enjoyed designing clothing before he was bullied into hockey. It opens a flood of emotions for Tavares, who finds happiness by taking a job with Vera Wang and leaving the brutality of the NHL in his rearview mirror.
- He misses 23 games with an injury, which opens the door for Kyle Okposo to claim the team scoring title.
OK, so that third one happened last year, but it's probably just as likely to happen again as the first two options. Tavares has averaged 0.90 points per game in his career, which involved him missing three games in his first four seasons before an Olympic injury ended his 2013-14 campaign. A healthy Tavares will run away with the Islanders scoring title this season.
Runners-up: Okposo and Mikhail Grabovski will provide the support for Tavares.
New York Rangers: Chris Kreider, LW
The New York Rangers were a weird team when it came to scoring last season. Third-liner Mats Zuccarello led the way with 59 points, while top-line center Derek Stepan was second with 57. A concussion helped limit Rick Nash to 39 points in 65 games, and Martin St. Louis had just one goal and eight points in 19 games after averaging nearly a point per game with the Tampa Bay Lightning before the trade.
So it only makes sense that Chris Kreider, who will very likely spend the entire season on the top line, takes over the scoring lead for the Rangers in 2014-15.
The 23-year-old had just 37 points in 66 games last season, but he took off in the playoffs for five goals and 13 points in 15 games. As long as Kreider stays healthy, he will reach 70 points this season.
Runners-up: Stepan and St. Louis will provide the two-three punch, if that's even a thing.
Ottawa Senators: Erik Karlsson, D
With Jason Spezza gone, the door seems open for Erik Karlsson to run away with the team scoring lead this season. He led the way with 74 points in 82 games a season ago, and there doesn't seem to be many worthy contenders to the throne.
Bobby Ryan's career best in points is 71. Kyle Turris had 58 points in 82 games last year, while Alex Chiasson had—oh man, the Senators are going to be really bad this season, aren't they?
Runners-up: Kidding aside, Turris will have a nice season with Spezza gone, and Ryan will nestle in as the team's third-leading scorer.
Philadelphia Flyers: Claude Giroux, C
Claude Giroux has led the Flyers in scoring for four consecutive seasons, and it's doubtful that anyone on this roster will sneak up behind him and squeeze him out of his spot this season.
Giroux ran away with the team scoring lead last season after a slow start, beating out Jakub Voracek by 24 points. Barring injury, he could win the title this year by an even wider margin. As talented as the Flyers forwards may be, Giroux is head and shoulders above all of them.
Runners-up: Voracek and Wayne Simmonds will once again finish second and third, respectively, on the Flyers in points.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby, C
Hmmm...Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin? Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby? I'll go with...*throws dart*...Crosby!"
This will be decided by which player is healthy and which one suffers an injury that costs him 15-20 games. Malkin last season had 72 points in 60 games, which rates out to a 98-point season if he plays in all 82 games. Crosby had 104 points in 80 games last season on his way to Hart and Art Ross trophies.
Here's to believing Crosby and Malkin will both play 80 games this season. In that case, Crosby will eke out the world's second-best player for the Penguins' scoring lead.
Runners-up: Malkin and, by default, Chris Kunitz will be behind Crosby.
San Jose Sharks: Joe Thornton, C
Joe Pavelski (79), Joe Thornton (76) and Patrick Marleau (70) were the Sharks' top point producers a season ago, and that doesn't figure to change much this year. But I'm going to give Thornton the nod only because he won't wear the captain's "C" this year.
The fact that Thornton will be more aerodynamic on the ice is what will give him in the edge in the team scoring race. Pavelski is very likely going to wear an "A" this season, which will slow him on the ice. While everyone is focusing on leadership and whatnot, I'm giving you the math and physics on how Thornton will close that three-point gap on Pavelski this season.
You're welcome, world.
Runners-up: Logan Couture and Marleau will also have outstanding seasons while supporting Thornton.
St. Louis Blues: Paul Stastny, C
Alexander Steen led the Blues in scoring last year with 62 points. Paul Stastny, the biggest free-agent prize this summer, had 60 points in 71 games with the Avalanche last season and will be the Blues' new top scorer as long as he plays a full season.
This should be a tight scoring race, as Steen only played 68 games last season and could crack 70 points if he can find a way to stay in the lineup, which has been problem throughout his career. David Backes and T.J. Oshie are also contenders for the scoring crown.
Runners-up: Let's go with Oshie and Jaden Schwartz as the team's No. 2 and 3 scorers because, well, honestly, I'm just guessing here.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos, C
The only thing that will prevent Steven Stamkos from leading the Lightning in scoring is a broken leg, and really, what are the odds of that happening two years in a row?
Martin St. Louis, who led the team in scoring with 61 points in 62 games despite being traded at the deadline to the Rangers, is gone. Stamkos had 40 points in 37 games last season, so as long as he remains in the lineup for 70 games, he'll run away with the team scoring lead.
Runners-up: Valtteri Filppula and Alexander Killorn will place and show. (I am all out of creative ways to explain the second- and third-leading scorers on every team).
Toronto Maple Leafs: Phil Kessel, RW
Despite the team's additions to bolster the bottom-six forwards, this is still a team that's more top-heavy than Chris Hemsworth in Thor. Speaking of chiseled, god-like beings, Phil Kessel is without question going to lead the Leafs in scoring yet again.
Kessel had 80 points in 82 games a season ago, 19 more than James van Riemsdyk. Unless Kessel starts some sort of interdimensional romance with Natalie Portman while chasing the approval of Anthony Hopkins, he'll run away with the scoring lead for a sixth straight season.
Runners-up: Tyler Bozak and van Riemsdyk will be the bridesmaids of the Leafs' scoring race. That's a metaphor that makes sense, right? Almost done...
Vancouver Canucks: Henrik Sedin, C
This is almost like the Penguins where it's a coin flip between two guys, and it will likely come down to who stays healthy. So in the battle of Sedins, let's go with Henrik to win the scoring title.
Ryan Kesler is gone, so it's either going to be Daniel or Henrik. Man, some people think this team is a dark horse for a playoff spot? This team's third-leading scorer last year (among guys still on the roster) was Chris Higgins. If Henrik or Daniel suffers a major injury, this team could get itself in the Connor McDavid mix.
Runners-up: After Henrik, it will be Daniel and Radim Vrbata, because it's almost impossible for it to be anyone else.
Washington Capitals: Nicklas Backstrom, C
While Nicklas Backstrom finished tied for the team lead last season with Alex Ovechkin, no one has held the outright team lead in points besides Ovechkin since Robert Lang (!) with 74 points in 63 games in 2003-04. It's amazing how teams (Chicago, Pittsburgh) that seemed to almost not exist before the 2004-05 lockout now have the game's biggest stars.
But with new coach Barry Trotz and an emphasis on five-on-five play, this will be the year Backstrom edges Ovechkin for the scoring title. I'd love to offer some sort of math-based argument for this, but I've got a feeling about this one.
Runners-up: Ovechkin, of course, will finish second, while Evgeny Kuznetsov will have a big, first full NHL season and finish third.
Winnipeg Jets: Blake Wheeler, RW
Every fiber of my being wants to pick Evander Kane, but the Winnipeg Jets are so mismanaged and weird that I think Kane will either find his minutes limited or be traded before the season is over, so I can't predict with my heart.
That's why I'll pick Blake Wheeler to lead the Jets in scoring for a second straight season. He's been a steady 60-to-70-point guy the past few seasons and that doesn't figure to change for the 27-year-old this season, as nothing much seems to ever change in Winnipeg.
Runners-up: I'll go with a safe pick for second place, Andrew Ladd, and take a gamble on Mark Scheifele to have a big season and finish third in scoring.