The Hockey News released its pre-season top 50 player rankings this week and Pittsburgh Penguins' captain, Sidney Crosby was at the top of the list for the second consecutive year.
Despite the ankle injury that sidelined him for over a quarter of last season, Crosby bounced back in the playoffs, tying Henrik Zetterberg for the points lead.
Crosby missed 29 games last season, but was leading the league in scoring at the time of his injury. Despite the injury, Sid still finished the season with 72 points in 53 games. His points-per-game average of 1.36 was nearly identical to the newly-crowned league MVP, Alex Ovechkin.
At 21 years old, Crosby has played in just 213 games in his young career. However, Crosby is nearing some milestones. His next goal will be the 100th of his career, he is five assists shy of 200, and six points away from 300 in his career. Sid will likely meet those milestones within the first two weeks of the upcoming season.
Other Penguins of mention in the Hockey News rankings were Evgeni Malkin (9th) and Sergei Gonchar (28th).
Malkin exploded during the final half of last season, registering 54 points in the Penguins' final 36 regular season games. In Crosby's absence, Malkin emerged as one of the NHL's true superstars, and earned himself a nomination for league MVP.
Malkin finished only second to Ovechkin in the scoring race, tallying 106 points (47 goals), while playing in all 82 games for the Pens. Malkin tied for third in the NHL in power play points (40) and legitimized himself as a dominant force with the man advantage.
Malkin's 15-game point streak during October and November was the longest such streak ever recorded by a Russian-born NHL player.
With his 106-point performance, Malkin became just the 12th player in Penguins history to register 100 points in a season, joining the likes of Lemieux, Jagr, Recchi, LaRouche, Francis and Crosby, among others.
Despite yet another snub on the Norris Trophy ballot, Sergei Gonchar turned in another impressive performance on the blue line.
Gonchar finished second in scoring among defensemen (65 points), second in power play points behind Montreal's Kovalev, and led the league in power play assists, proving his worth as the elite power play quarterback in the NHL.
Gonchar has scored at least 50 points in eight consecutive seasons, which is the longest such streak among active NHL defensemen.
Maybe next year Sarge will get some love on the Norris ballot, but by this point in his career, I'm sure he is used to getting the snub.
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