With a brand new NHL season just upon the horizon, die-hard fans across the hockey world have begun discussing their predictions and expectations with great anticipation, in an effort to pass the time until October. Every season presents a brand new set of possibilities, as we fans watch in wonder and amazement, the story book content that the NHL so often delivers.
There are so many questions to be answered in 2016-17. Can Alexander Ovechkin eclipse the fifty goal plateau for the eight time in his career in pursuit of Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy's record of nine? Will Sidney Crosby pick up where he left off last season and dazzle fans everywhere with his greatest season yet? How will all of the rookie and sophomore players fare this season? These are all extremely enticing questions that could lead to several different answers. Ultimately, we will have to wait until puck drop on October 12th. Until then, here are a few predictions from us about certain players this season and how we think they may fare.
15 Taylor Hall Will Score a Career High In Goals with New Jersey
One of the more shocking off-season transactions this summer saw the Oilers All-Star left winger be shipped off to New jersey in exchange for defenseman Adam Larsson. With Taylor Hall getting a fresh start in a new city, many wonder how this change will impact the young snipers career. Well, we think it will help him reach brand new heights in his career.
Every team needs a primary option on offense. In Edmonton, it was Hall up until the Oilers drafted Connor McDavid in 2015. Now that Hall is in New Jersey, he will be relied upon heavily to create offense in a system that promotes defensive execution. Hall's career high in goals so far is 27, reaching the mark twice in his career. It is not unreasonable to think that Hall could join the 30 goal club this season, as he will get the bulk of ice time in clutch situations and be the primary option on the power play.
14 Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin Combine for 190 Points
Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have developed into arguably the most lethal combination in hockey, ever since Seguin joined the stars in 2013. In each of the past two seasons however, Seguin has stumbled over the finish line with late season injuries. Seguin played 72 and 71 games in the 2016 and 2015 seasons respectively and if he can remain healthy, there is no doubt that these two can reach tremendous heights.
To put their success into perspective, the combo of Seguin and Benn have combined for 489 points for the Dallas Stars, averaging 163 a season despite dealing with Seguins injury woes along the way. To compare these numbers to some of the leagues deadliest duos, Alexander Ovechkin and Nicolas Backstrom have combined for 458 points since Seguin joined the Stars and Cory Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have combined for 419- seventy less than Benn and Seguin.
13 Braden Holtby Will Lead the NHL in Wins- Again
In making this prediction, we offered every case we could think of for goalies such as Carey Price, Jonathan Quick, Ben Bishop and Henrik Lundqvist. At the end of the day though, the Washington Capitals are going to once again be damn good, and we don't see the progression of Baden Holtby's marvellous career taking any blunders.
Holtby led all crease keepers with 48 wins last season- eight more than second place Jonathon Quick of the Los Angeles Kings. In 2014-15, Holtby won 41 games which was just three wins shy of leader Carey Price (who many consider to be the best goalie not only in the NHL but the world). It's tough to bet against the Capitals net-minder, as he as well as his team have only shown improvement each and every year.
12 Jaromir Jagr Will Pass Howe in Points, Paul Coffey in Assists
It's true, somehow Jaromir Jagr is going to lace up his skates once again for his 26th NHL season- a record across all major professional sports. Jagr looked closer to 25 than he did 45 last season, as he mustered 27 goals and 39 assists on route to helping the Panthers find the post-season for the first time since 2012.
These are not the most bold of predictions, but none-the-less, we feel as though Jagr will continue to make history this season and pass Paul Coffey for fifth all-time in assists, and also pass Mark Messier as the second highest scorer in NHL history behind only the Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky (numbers no player will surpass). Jagr will need just 16 assists and 21 points to accomplish each feat respectively.
11 MacKinnon, Barkov, and Domi all Join 30 Goal Club
The 2013 draft was one that we knew had the potential to shift the landscape of the NHL for years to come. In reading through the names, some of these players have already become cornerstone pieces of their respective franchises. The draft was full of goal scorers in particular, and we think that a few of those players will have a breakout season this year as they are due to finally shine in the NHL.
Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, and Max Domi all have the potential to be elite scorers in the NHL in the very near future. Domi tallied 18 goals in his first full campaign last season, while Barkov scored 28 and MacKinnon 21. This season we predict each of these young phenoms, to join the 30 goal club and hit 30 goals in a season for the first time in their careers.
10 Alexander Ovechkin Scores 55+ Goals
Since being drafted in 2004, nobody in the NHL has scored more goals than Alexander Ovechkin. With 525 goals for his career so far, Ovechkin has been a scoring machine and has scored fifty or more goals in three straight seasons, giving him seven fifty goal seasons on his career-just two shy of the NHL record (nine) shared by Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy.
As mentioned, Ovi has been on fire since 2013, scoring three straight fifty goal seasons. This season we predict Ovechkin to hit the 55 goal plateau for the third time in his career. Ovi has a career shooting percentage of 12.4%, and averages 384 shots a season. He will once again be their primary option on offense, and if he can muster around 400 shots next season at a rate of around 13.5%, (totally do-able) Ovechkin can hit 55 goals for a third time in his career.
9 Rickard Rakell Will have the Least Amount of Penalty Minutes this Season
This one is definitely all in fun, as projecting who will have the least amount of penalty minutes is somewhat of an absurd notion. Rickard Rakell broke out on the score sheet last season for the Anaheim Ducks and helped his case by staying out of the penalty box and keeping his efforts focused on the ice. Rakell is a player who relies on speed and skill, and has recorded just 31 penalty minutes in 165 career games.
Rakell is a young player with loads of potential and could help the Ducks become serious contenders once again in the near future. While we poke a little fun at Rakell here, the truth is that having a player who consistently avoids the penalty box is not a bad thing. in fact, some may call Rakell's play nobel as he does not stoop to the level of play once rserved for the "goons" of the league.
8 Auston Matthews Will Lead the Toronto Maple Leafs in Scoring
The Toronto Maple Leafs seem to have finally found their number one center in Arizona born phenom, Auston Matthews. Matthews was taken first overall as we know in this year's NHL Entry Draft and will be heavily relied on to create an identity for the Maple Leafs as they look to reestablish themselves as playoff and cup contenders for the first time in over a decade.
The Leafs will most likely struggle once again this season, as the goal continues to be to develop young talent and reinforce a sense of structure and identity going forward. That being said, the Leafs top scorer last season was Nazem Kadri with just 45 points. Last season in just 36 games playing professionally in Switzerland, Matthews recorded 46 points in just 36 games. We predict that Matthews will lead the Leafs in scoring and finish with anywhere from 55-60 points.
7 Roman Josi Will Lead NHL Defenseman in Scoring
This one's a bold one. We all know what players such Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, and Kris Letang can do, but when talking about the best defenseman league wide, Roman Josi's name is foolishly never mentioned. The young Swiss defenseman will be the quarterback of Nashville's defensIVE core this season, after the departure of Shea Weber. Sure P.K Subban will be there, but this is Josi's team now and his year to break out.
Josi has quietly and consistently improved his game on and off the scoreboard each and every season. He has become a brick wall defensively and has improved his point production each and every season from 18 to 40, to 55, to 61 points last season. We think Josi could definitely crack the 70 point mark this season, and with a slight down year from Karlsson, could end up on top in the defense man scoring race. Josi could ever claim the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman.
6 Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan Will Outscore Top Duos
Times are changing in the NHL, as a new generation has begun to sweep across the landscape of the league. The Sedin brothers were once the ultimate duo in hockey when it came to scoring and offensive production (unfortunately not Stanley Cups- oops). They have however, shown some digression over the past few seasons, and it seems as though it's time for a new crop of talent to settle in. Cory Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have been the other dynamic duo over the past decade or so, and have also shown signs of slowing down.
Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau are arguably the most exciting, young duo in hockey today. Last season the young duo combined for a whopping 141 points, more than Getzlaf and Perry's combined 125 points and the Sedin's 116 points. Expect this trend to continue, as times are changing and Calgary has found themselves one of the most deadly duos in hockey going forth.
5 Evander Kane Will be Traded This Season
We have come to our first trade prediction and who else would it be but the infamous dirt-bag Evander Kane. Evander has never been able to grasp the concept of humility and seems to consistently get himself caught up in terrible situations. From heavy partying, to missing practices, to sexual assault allegations, Kane has provided the organizations he has played for with more headaches off the ice than production on it.
Now that the Sabers have begun to load their team with young and promising talent, Evander Kane is nothing but a distraction and poor role model for players such as Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. Kane is only under contract for two more seasons at an annual cap hit of $5.2 million, which is trade-able if the Sabers find the right team and can play their cards properly. No matter what his potential up-side is, their are players out their who can replace Kane's production without the off-ice distractions.
4 John Tavares will Eclipse the 40 Goal Mark for First Time
It may come as a surprise to many that John Tavares has yet to eclipse the 40 goal mark up to this point in his young career. Tavares was a perennial goal scorer in junior hockey, putting himself in the record books with players like Gretzky and Bobby Orr. Don't get us wrong, Tavares has been a top talent since being drafted to the NHL in 2009, but we know that the big center has even more to give.
Tavares has hit the 30 goal mark in two straight seasons and potted 38 in 2014-15. Last season, despite a sluggish start Tavares was still able to muster 33 goals for the Islanders and was incredible in the post-season. We know Johnny T has what it takes to hit 40 goals, and it's only a matter of time before he gets his due. We're calling a 40 goal year for Tavares this season.
3 PK Subban Scores More Points Than Shea Weber
Arguably the biggest blockbuster this off-season saw the Montreal Canadiens ship off their polarizing defenseman in P.K Subban to the Nashville Predators for veteran All-Star defenseman, Shea Weber. Both men will find themselves in unfamiliar territory this season, and it will be interesting to see who will finds more success on the scoreboard.
Our best guess? We have to give the advantage to Subban. Besides the fact that Nashville is simply a superior team, Subban has come into his own over the past few seasons. Weber had outscored Subban in every 82 game season up until 2014-15, when Subban finished with a career high 60 points to Webers 45. Last season both men tied with 51 points a piece, and we predict that Subban will continue this trend and finish ahead of Weber once again in the scoring race.
2 Jarome Iginla Will Score Under 20 Goals for the First Time Since 1998
Jarome Iginla has been one of the league's most elite scorers over the past two decades of hockey. He put himself in an elite club, scoring thirty goals or more in eleven straight seasons- a feat that has only been accomplished by nine other players, including Gretzky, Bossy, and Jagr. This places Iginla in elite company with some of the best to have ever played the game.
In 2012-13, Iginla only tallied 14 goals, but played just 44 games and was traded from Calgary to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline. In a full season however, Iginla has managed to tally at least 20 goals every single time since his second season back in 1997-98. This year however, we feel as though the digression will become a major reality for Iginla, as he will fail to hit 20 goals for the Avalanche in 2016-17.
1 Connor McDavid Eclipses 100 Points
At first glance, this probably looks like an insane assumption considering the scoring drought that we have found ourselves in over the past few seasons. However, bare with us here, as we are not as removed from the three figure point totals as it may feel. In fact, Patrick Kane scored 106 points last season, and 2014-2015 was the first season since 2003 that the Art Ross trophy winner scored under 100 points.
Connor McDavid was able to muster 48 points in just 45 games over an injury torn season. In his sophomore season of play (2006-07), Sidney Crosby tallied 120 points- still his career high for a season. League scoring has decreased from 2.95 goals per-game in 2007, to 2.71 last season, a decrease of just over 8%. If we average these numbers out for 2016-17, McDavid would be on point for 111 points this season. Now we know this is just a numbers game, as he would have to replicate Crosby's sophomore success. However, McDavid's Oilers have the offensive upside to see this statistic potentially come into fruition.