Predicting the 10 Best NHL Players in the 2019-20 Season
The NHL's best players in 2014-15 won't change tremendously from the 10 best one season ago. Six years from now, it will be a completely different matter.
It's impossible to know how these young careers will roll out and difficult to gauge the erosion of the established elite. There are some clues about which players will dominate six years from today.
Here is what could be the 10 best players in the NHL by the time the 2019-20 season comes around.
10. Jack Eichel, C, Boston University (NCAA)
Where Is He Now? Jack Eichel is a dangerous offensive center who is moving from the USHL to Boston University of the NCAA this season.
What Will He Be Doing in 2019-20? Eichel is a gifted offensive player with a power game, so he should be dominating at both ends of the rink in six seasons. He might lose some of his offense or be used in a different manner in the NHL, but his range of skills is outstanding.
What Makes Him an Impact Player? In a Mike Morreale article for NHL.com, United States National Under-17 team coach Danton Cole talks about Eichel's special talent:
His speed and strength are uncommon in a player his age, and those attributes allow him to get separation on the ice offensively and excel defensively. I would also add that his compete level is very high and he wants to win regardless of the situation, even at the end of practice. The bigger the moment, you can tell he wanted to end it.
9. Connor McDavid, C, Erie Otters (OHL)
What Will He Be Doing in 2019-20? McDavid is a can't-miss prospect, and chances are he'll be among the very best players in the NHL six years from today.
What Makes Him an Impact Player? In the same Morreale article from the previous slide, Central Scouting's David Gregory describes some of what makes McDavid unique: "He's stealth-like in finding open areas on the ice without the puck; he creates space for himself. He's gotten even better at that and he's continued to get stronger. I really believe he's going to dominate this year."
8. Tyler Seguin, C, Dallas Stars
Where Is He Now? Tyler Seguin is emerging as one of the best players of his generation. He finished fourth in overall scoring in 2013-14 and is an effective player.
What Will He Be Doing in 2019-20? Seguin has 82 goals in his last 209 regular-season NHL games and should be at the peak of his scoring prowess in six years.
What Makes Him an Impact Player? He was an elite prospect entering the draft and is now a reliable and exceptional talent. Seguin's maturation took a little time, but as a scorer, he projects as one of the best this decade.
7. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Where Is He Now? Drew Doughty arrived in the NHL as a capable player and has grown into one of the NHL's best defenders. The scouting report by then-director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire, via NHL.com, holds true to this day.
What Will He Be Doing in 2019-20? Doughty will be 30 in 2019-20 and should be playing at a similar level compared to his current abilities.
What Makes Him an Impact Player? Doughty is that most rare breed of player—an effective defenseman who can also contribute significantly on the offensive end. History teaches us he will fade offensively as he ages, but Doughty should still be a complete player in 2019-20.
6. Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks
Where Is He Now? Jonathan Toews is the most complete player in the game, with the ability to have an impact at even strength, on the penalty kill and on the power play.
What Will He Be Doing in 2019-20? Toews will be 32 and just sliding past the prime of his career. Since he possesses such a wide range of skills, he should remain one of the NHL's best.
What Makes Him an Impact Player? Toews delivers quality two-way play consistently and gives Chicago an edge at the pivot position. His intelligent play makes him a cut above the rest, something scouts saw long before his draft day.
5. Taylor Hall, LW, Edmonton Oilers
Where Is He Now? Taylor Hall is one of the emerging elite talents in the NHL. He finished seventh in scoring last season and should have already earned an All-Star nod from the Professional Hockey Writers Association. However, as Bruce McCurdy of The Cult of Hockey at The Edmonton Journal explains, he was robbed of the honor.
What Will He Be Doing in 2019-20? Hall will be in his prime by then and should be winning awards and pushing his team deep into the playoffs each spring.
What Makes Him an Impact Player? Hall's speed is his best asset; he can drive back defensemen off the rush when entering the offensive zone. He is also an exceptional passer and playmaker.
4. Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins
Where Is He Now? Sidney Crosby is the NHL's best player when healthy. He is 27, at the peak of his ability and is the most feared player in the game with the puck on his stick.
What Will He Be Doing in 2019-20? Crosby's skills will have eroded a little, but he should be able to deliver at close to peak levels at 33. Experience added to skill should be formidable in his case.
What Makes Him an Impact Player? Crosby owns a complete skill set, including brilliant passing and vision. He's a powerful player and dangerous every shift. He should sustain at a high level well into his 30s.
3. John Tavares, C, New York Islanders
Where Is He Now? John Tavares is an established NHL center who's been scoring at a point per game or a little above over the last three seasons. His established level of ability ranks with the best young centers in the game.
What Will He Be Doing in 2019-20? Six years from now, Tavares will be 30 and still in his prime. He should remain at a high level for the rest of the decade.
What Makes Him an Impact Player? Tavares is a player who brings a complete skill set to the game. His offensive abilities, including elite passing skills, should make him an impact player through the end of the decade.
2. Nathan MacKinnon, C, Colorado Avalanche
Where Is He Now? Nathan MacKinnon delivered a breathtaking rookie season for the Colorado Avalanche in 2013-14. There isn't much of a track record for projection, but the early returns are outstanding and his career trajectory suggests he's a special player.
What Will He Be Doing in 2019-20? MacKinnon should be scoring at a greater clip six years down the line. His rookie season was special and implies he's a generational talent.
What Makes Him an Impact Player? His best asset might be quick hands—MacKinnon doesn't take long to release the puck—and he has the full arsenal of speed mixed with skill.
1. Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay Lightning
Where Is He Now? Steven Stamkos continues to build a reputation as one of the best goal scorers of his generation.
What Will He Be Doing in 2019-20? Stamkos has scored 233 NHL goals in 410 games, so he should be at or near 500 career goals in 2019-20. He will be 29 at the beginning of that season.
What Makes Him an Impact Player? He is a natural scorer with speed and intelligence. The only thing that can slow him down is injury, but if he stays in the lineup, Stamkos is as good a bet as any on this list to be an impact player.