NHL Power Rankings: Predicting Each Team's Leading Scorer in 2011-12
The puck drops on the NHL season on Thursday evening, and just as soon as it drops, it will be in the back of the net. Every game counts when it comes to the scoring race.
Each team is eager to find out who the biggest producers on their roster will be. Some teams won't be surprised to see who tops the leader boards, while others are hoping for a leader to emerge from a group of young studs.
Here are my predictions for each team's leading scorer this season.
Florida Panthers: Kris Versteeg
The Florida Panthers were one of the lowest scoring teams in the NHL last season. They added Kris Versteeg this offseason in hopes to boost the offense.
Versteeg scored 21 total goals last season between the Maple Leafs and Flyers, so he should have no trouble taking over as the lead scorer of the Panthers.
Phoenix Coyotes: Shane Doan
The Phoenix Coyotes aren't going to be scoring a ton of goals this season, so the honor of top scorer on the roster is a wide open competition.
Shane Doan is a lock for 20 goals every season. That ought to be good enough to lead the Coyotes in scoring.
Colorado Avalanche: Matt Duchene
The Colorado Avalanche are in full scale rebuilding mode this season, and Matt Duchene is at the center of that movement. He led the Avs in scoring last season, and there is no reason to believe he won't do so again in 2011-2012.
Dallas Stars: Loui Eriksson
Loui Eriksson has put up 70 points in consecutive seasons. However, Brad Richards will no longer be centering Eriksson's line this season. That will mean that Eriksson's offensive responsibilities will be even more extensive this season. He will lead the team in points.
Edmonton Oilers: Taylor Hall
The Edmonton Oilers have a wealth of young, talented forwards ready to burst onto the scene and lead the team in scoring this season. Taylor Hall, however, has the edge over the rest of the group in terms of offensive fire power.
Assuming he stays healthy all season, Hall is the best candidate to lead Edmonton in scoring.
Ottawa Senators: Jason Spezza
Jason Spezza is one of the only experienced weapons the Ottawa Senators have left up front. It would be a major surprise if anyone besides Spezza or Daniel Alfredsson led the Sens in scoring this season.
Winnipeg Jets: Evander Kane
Andrew Ladd led the Atlanta Thrashers in scoring a season ago, but the development of Evander Kane could push Ladd out of that role with the Jets. Kane is ready to take a big step forward this season and improve on the 43 points he scored a season ago.
New York Islanders: John Tavares
John Tavares is the new face of the New York Islanders franchise. His 67 points led the team last season, and he hasn't even reached his full potential. An 80-point season is not out of the question for John Tavares.
Calgary Flames: Jarome Iginla
Jarome Iginla has been leading the offensive charge for the Calgary Flames for what seems like forever. Unless he is traded, there is no player on Calgary's roster that is going to claim the top spot in the offensive pecking order.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Jeff Carter
The Columbus Blue Jackets gave up a ton to acquire Jeff Carter, so you better believe the offense is going to run through him. Rick Nash has never put up staggering numbers, so it looks like Carter could take over as the team's leading scorer.
Montreal Canadiens: Michael Cammalleri
Michael Cammalleri missed 15 games last season and still came within 10 points of leading the Canadiens in scoring. A full season will likely put him over the top.
St. Louis Blues: T.J. Oshie
This may be a bit bold, but I think this could be the season that T.J. Oshie breaks out and becomes the offensive threat the Blues envision him as.
Oshie put in 34 points in only 49 games a season ago. If he managed to stay healthy while improving his game, what's stoping the North Dakota product from having a 65-70 point campaign?
New Jersey Devils: Ilya Kovalchuk
Ilya Kovalchuk has a down year and still only finished two points behind Patrik Elias. With a healthy Parise, everyone's production will see a boost, but I think Kovalchuk will be the greatest beneficiary. There is no way he fails to improve on a 60 point season.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Phil Kessel
The Toronto Maple Leafs offense lives and dies by Phil Kessel. He will have more weapons around him this season, further increasing his production. This is a no brainer selection.
Carolina Hurricanes: Eric Staal
As tempting as it is to select Jeff Skinner, Eric Staal is such a proven commodity that it is tough to envision a second year player surpassing him as the Canes leading scorer.
Minnesota Wild: Dany Heatley
The Minnesota Wild have been desperate for offense since the departure of Marian Gaborik. Enter Dany Heatley, a perennial All Star. He is coming off of a disappointing campaign, but even on a down year, Heatley has what it takes to lead the Wild in scoring.
Anaheim Ducks: Corey Perry
Who is going to bet against the Hart Trophy winner to lead his own team in scoring? Ryan Getzlaf has a chance to surpass Perry, but given their respective roles, Perry is the more potent scoring threat.
New York Rangers: Marian Gaborik
Could this be the year that Marian Gaborik and the New York Rangers finally put things together? Well, Brad Richards is in town, so there is certainly a chance that the team will see an increase in productivity from Gaborik as long as the two of them stay healthy.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos
Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis will likely duke it out all season long to become leading scorer of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Stamkos has really come into his own recently, and although St. Louis has continued to dominate year in and year out, I think Stammer's time has come to carry this team.
Nashville Predators: Colin Wilson
The race to become the leading scorer of the Nashville Predators is as wide open as any in the entire league. I'm going with Colin Wilson because of his youth and his upside. A modest 50-60 point season could make him the leading scorer on that club.
Philadelphia Flyers: Claude Giroux
There's a reason Paul Holmgren felt comfortable trading away two of the best offensive weapons on his roster this offseason. That reason is Claude Giroux. Giroux's 76 points a season ago were enough to lead the team last season, and with Richards and Carter gone, only Briere and JVR pose a serious threat to Giroux's totals.
Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane
Patrick Kane appears to finally be healthy again after battling a wrist injury. Now, it's back to business for Kane and the Blackhawks. Chicago is banking on the American born star to return to the 80-point form he captured a few seasons ago.
Vancouver Canucks: Daniel Sedin
Daniel Sedin is the only one of the big three, elite offensive weapons that is going to start the season fully healthy. He will get a head start on both Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler.
Boston Bruins: David Krejci
David Krejci tied for the lead in scoring for the Bruins a season ago, with only 62 points. Milan Lucic equaled that total.
Of the two, I have much more faith in Krejci to repeat his offensive performance. He has way more offensive skill than Lucic does.
Buffalo Sabres: Thomas Vanek
Some people forget just how productive Thomas Vanek is. He returned to 70 point form for the Sabres last season, and with the upgrades to Buffalo's roster, I like his chances of matching that total.
San Jose Sharks: Joe Thornton
Joe Thornton failed to lead the Sharks in scoring a season ago, but his 70-point campaign was a fluke. This offense is run through Jumbo Joe. He'll overtake Patrick Marleau as the top scorer on the roster.
Los Angeles Kings: Anze Kopitar
Mike Richards was the flashy acquisition of the offseason, but Anze Kopitar will still headline the Kings' offense. The only concern with Kopitar is his durability, but given he stays healthy, the Kings top center could be in for a banner year.
Washington Capitals: Alexander Ovechkin
Is there any other more logical choice for the Capitals' leading scorer than No. 8?
Detroit Red Wings: Pavel Datsyuk
Pavel Datsyuk was on a remarkable scoring pace last season when he suffered an injury that derailed the second half of his season. The Red Wings will be glad to have him back in the lineup.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Evgeni Malkin
Evgeni Malkin looks fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered last season. He had the same great burst throughout the preseason. With uncertainties surrounding Sidney Crosby's health, Malkin is the safe bet to lead the Penguins in scoring.