As we near the 2017-18 NHL season, it's a nice time to take a look at who the top scorers will be next season. After all, many of us are about to do our hockey pool drafts, and we're impatiently counting down the days until puck drop.
Most years, we can easily project who the top scorer for every team will be. Have you picked somebody NOT named Sidney Crosby to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins in scoring? If not, you know you're not going to do it this year. It's also a little too obvious who will lead the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs in scoring.
But what about teams like the Anaheim Ducks? Will it be Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry or Ryan Kesler? Who will lead a porous Arizona Coyotes team? Will Alexander Ovechkin take back the Washington Capitals' team lead in scoring?
We have the answers...hopefully. Here are my picks for every NHL team's scoring leader next season.
*Stats courtesy of Hockey Reference*
31 Anaheim Ducks: Ryan Getzlaf
Ryan Getzlaf usually finds himself as the Ducks' top scorer by the end of each season, and there's zero reason to believe he can't sustain that success in 2018. Despite an off year by linemate Corey Perry, Getzlaf posted a strong campaign that saw him score 15 goals and 73 points last season, as he got the Anaheim Ducks to the Western Conference Final.
Though his age (32), is a concern, Getzlaf's style of play isn't one that'll wear him down any time soon. The 6-foot-4, 221-pound centre can easily dominate into his late '30s like Joe Thornton.
Getzlaf should once again be able to reach the 70-point mark, provided he stays healthy (which he usually does). Expect similar stats from 2018, as Getzlaf once again leads all Ducks in scoring.
30 Arizona Coyotes: Derek Stepan
In one of this offseason's biggest blockbuster deals, the Coyotes landed Derek Stepan and goalie Antti Raanta from the New York Rangers in a package deal that sent this year's seventh overall selection the other way.
Stepan will automatically become the top player on a Coyotes team whose leading scorer was 35-year-old Radim Vrbata (55 points). Arizona is still a rebuilding team who will depend a lot on youngsters like Max Domi, Anthony Duclair and Clayton Keller to lead the way.
But Stepan --who's a guarantee to reach 50 points a season -- will become the front-and-centre (no pun intended), of Arizona's offence. Though his success (or lack thereof), will depend on how much the kids can contribute, Stepan should have no problem scoring 20 goals and at least 50 points in The Desert.
29 Boston Bruins: David Pastrnak
Power forward and ultra pest Brad Marchand led the Bruins in scoring last year with 39 goals and 85 points, but expect regression from a guy who's previous career-high was 61 points. Marchand is a star, but not quite a top-10 scorer superstar.
Meanwhile, Czech sensation David Pastrnak broke out last year with 34 goals and 70 points -- finishing second in scoring for the Bruins. The 21-year-old has nowhere to go but up from here, as he and perennial superstar Patrice Bergeron have formed one extremely lethal duo.
Pastrnak should be able to score 35-40 goals next season (should he play all 82 games), and is capable of reaching the 75-point mark. With Marchand due for a minor decline and Bergeron getting up there in age, Pastrnak becomes Boston's top scorer.
28 Buffalo Sabres: Jack Eichel
Despite missing 21 games with a severe ankle injury, Jack Eichel managed to lead the Sabres in scoring last season with 57 points. But here's the kicker: Eichel hasn't even come close to reaching his ceiling yet, and he's going to be one of the NHL's top scorers for years to come. That will begin in 2018.
Though the Sabres made a questionable call in firing head coach Dan Bylsma, Eichel should do just fine with new bench boss Phil Housley. Eichel has a legitimate winger in Evander Kane and possibly Kyle Okposo -- who enjoyed his first year in Buffalo with 19 goals.
All Eichel has to do is stay fairly healthy, by playing at least 70 games. Though Ryan O'Reilly and Sam Reinhart are also capable of leading the team in scoring, Eichel is far-and-away the most talented player on this team. Look for Eichel to score 80-90 points as he leads Buffalo in scoring once again.
27 Calgary Flames: Sean Monahan
It was not a problem for the Calgary Flames that flashy scorer Johnny Gaudreau led the team in points last season. What was problematic was the fact he was their leading scorer with just 61 points as he missed 10 games of action. Sean Monahan experienced a very down season and 2014 first rounder Sam Bennett has yet to unleash his full potential in the NHL.
But we know Monahan's track record. This is a 22-year-old who has surpassed 25 goals three times while twice hitting the 60-point mark. Monahan struggled early in new head coach Glen Gulutzan's system, but should be much better as he continues to learn his bench boss' puck possession game.
Monahan will have a nice bounce-back year, and don't be surprised if he's in that 70-75 point range for the first time in his career.
26 Carolina Hurricanes: Jeff Skinner
Everything is there for the Carolina Hurricanes to finally end their playoff drought (having last made it in 2009). They now have a true No. 1 in Scott Darling, a promising young defence led by Noah Hanifin and Jaccob Slavin, plus a group of young scorers that includes Sebastian Aho and Victor Rask.
But veteran Jeff Skinner figures to be the team's top scorer once again in 2017-18, having scored 37 goals and 63 points last year. SKINNNNNNER tied his career-high in points, and a strong supporting cast was a huge reason why.
Skinner should get better as long as the 'Canes young forwards continue to progress. He's a sure-bet for at least 20 goals and 50 points a season, but we all know that Skinner's ceiling is higher than that. Look for a 30-goal and 65-point season as Skinner leads the Hurricanes in scoring.
25 Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane
Patrick Kane took home the Art Ross and Hart Trophy in 2016 after leading the NHL in scoring with 106 points. Proving it was no fluke, he had another strong showing in 2017 by notching 34 goals and 89 points. There should be no doubting that Kane will once again lead Chicago in scoring, even if star linemate Artemi Panarin was swapped for old friend Brandon Saad.
Jonathan Toews is a consistent 60-point player and simply doesn't break the bank on offence, thanks to his strong two-way game. With Panarin gone and Marian Hossa having to sit out 2018, the Blackhawks don't have any real suitors to challenge Kane for the team lead in scoring.
Kane should be able to once again score 30 goals, and will threaten to reach 90 points. He's still in his prime and will remain there for a few more years.
24 Colorado Avalanche: Gabriel Landeskog
It's quite possible that Gabriel Landeskog is traded mid-season by the Colorado Avalanche. But even if he's not dealt until the trade deadline, Landeskog will leave the Mile High City as the team's leading scorer. That's just how porous the Avalanche franchise is right now.
Landeskog had an extremely down year in 2017, scoring just 18 goals and 33 points. This came after scoring at least 20 goals and 50 points in every other 82-game season of his young career.
Yes, the Avalanche are in turmoil and will once again contend for the draft lottery. But we all know Landeskog is better than 33 points. He's too young and too talented to have another down year. Expect the Swedish captain to return to his old form as he posts the usual 20-plus goals and 50-plus points.
23 Columbus Blue Jackets: Artemi Panarin
It's not very often where a player who scores a total of 61 goals and 151 points through his first two NHL seasons gets traded. But Artemi Panarin was shipped out of Chicago after GM Stan Bowman was forced to make trades following his team's embarrassing first round sweep at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Brandon Saad went back the other way, and the Blue Jackets are now armed with one of the NHL's most purest of scorers -- a guy who can put up a ton of goals while displaying tremendous play-making abilities as well.
Panarin joins a crowded Blue Jackets team that has plenty of scoring forwards like Cam Atkinson, Boone Jenner, Alexander Wennberg and Nick Foligno. But the departures of Saad, Sam Gagner and William Karlsson mean Panarin will get plenty of chances under head coach John Tortorella.
Look for yet another 30-goal, 70-point season for Panarin as he leads the Jackets in scoring.
22 Dallas Stars: Tyler Seguin
Scary to think that a man who's posting 30 goals and 70 points a season can only get better. But life will be good in 2018 for Tyler Seguin, who will A) flourish under new head coach Ken Hitchcock and B) score even more points with Russian star Alexander Radulov joining his line that also consists of Jamie Benn.
When healthy, Seguin is a sure-bet to finish among the NHL's top-10 scorers every year, but things will be even greater for the 2010 second overall pick. Seguin has one of the NHL's most dynamic scoring wingers on his side in Benn, but Radulov's skill set will make this line even more dangerous.
Seguin could definitely challenge for the scoring title in 2018. But we know he'll get the usual 30 goals and 70-80 points, so expect Seguin to lead the Stars in scoring yet again.
21 Detroit Red Wings: Dylan Larkin
In what turned out to be Detroit's first non-playoff year in a quarter of a century, Henrik Zetterberg led the team in scoring with 17 goals and 68 points. But the soon-to-be 37-year-old is due for regression, given his age and injury history. That's not the only reason why Zetterberg won't lead the team in scoring, of course.
But also, the continued development of promising centre Dylan Larkin is why Zetterberg will be unseated as Detroit's top scorer. Larkin struggled in 2016-17, potting just 17 goals and 32 points.
Larkin is just 21 years of age and has plenty of tremendous hockey ahead of him. He's continuing to grow in the NHL, and will show his play-making abilities this upcoming season. Larkin won't score a whole lot, but expect him to lead Detroit in scoring with around 50-55 points.
20 Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid
Nobody should be surprised if and when Connor McDavid once again leads the Oilers in scoring. He's the best player on the planet and is the consensus favorite by most experts to win the Art Ross Trophy for the second time in his career. Life is good when you're just 20 years of age yet also the best player in the NHL.
McDavid led the NHL last season in points with 100. But guess what? McDavid hasn't even unleashed his full potential yet. He's still relatively young, and he's capable of scoring 40-50 goals (he had 30 all of last season).
Many experts project McDavid to get into that 110-point range. Though that is tough to come by in today's NHL, McDavid is certainly capable of reaching it. He's going to once again reach the 100-point mark and will lead Edmonton in scoring. The only question is if he can defend his scoring title.
19 Florida Panthers: Aleksander Barkov
I did want to put Jonathan Huberdeau here, but his injury history is a huge concern. So I'll go with Aleksander Barkov, who finished second in team scoring (51 points, only behind Vincent Trocheck's 54), despite missing 21 games. Barkov is just two seasons removed from a 28-goal and 58-point season, but he's capable of doing even more.
The 6-foot-3 Finnish centre just has to stay healthy, and he will set a career high in points. It also depends on if Huberdeau can play 70-plus games. Florida lost some key wingers in the offseason, including Jaromir Jagr, Jussi Jokinen and Reilly Smith.
Barkov has the potential to be a perennial 30-goal and 60-point man, but he's going to have to avoid the IR. Should he do that, Barkov will have a career year and will lead Florida in scoring.
18 Los Angeles Kings: Jeff Carter
Because of injuries and the worst season of captain Anze Kopitar's career, Jeff Carter was able to be the King of Kings -- aka L.A.'s scoring leader. Carter finished with 32 goals and 66 points and was one of the few bright spots on a disappointing 2016-17 season that saw the Kings miss the playoffs for the second time in three years.
With Kopitar getting up there in age (30 this month), and having to play the more physically-demanding two-way game, Carter should be able to once again lead L.A. in scoring. New head coach John Stevens will look to bring in a more balanced style of play, which could help Carter continue the 30-goal, 60-point seasons.
Unless Kopitar can have a big bounce back year and/or Carter experiences a down year, expect the latter to once again lead his team in scoring.
17 Minnesota Wild: Mikael Granlund
Seven years after being selected with the ninth pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Mikael Granlund finally reached his full potential. He led the Wild in scoring last year with 69 points, thanks in large part to the tremendous job done by head coach Bruce Boudreau.
Granlund is only going to get better from here on out, but the inevitable regressions of aging veterans Mikko Koivu (35), and Eric Staal (33), mean that there isn't really anybody capable of challenging Granlund for the team lead in scoring.
Minnesota will be scoring a lot of goals again in 2017-18, and it will all start and end with Granlund. He's one of the few young scorers on this Wild team that should be able to consistently reach 60 points. Look for him to lead the team in scoring for a second consecutive year.
16 Montreal Canadiens: Jonathan Drouin
The Canadiens lost winger Alexander Radulov to the Dallas Stars in free agency, but GM Marc Bergevin pulled off a huge move by trading for rising star Jonathan Drouin -- who had waited over a year to get traded from the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Jonathan Drouin gets to join his hometown team, and now gets the chance to finally reach his full ceiling. After scoring 21 goals and 53 points last season, the pressure is on Drouin to do even more for the Habs in 2017-18.
The addition of Drouin should mean that fellow left winger Max Pacioretty moves down to the second line. The idea of Drouin and Alex Galchenyuk playing on the first line should be enticing to some, because they're ready to break out together. Look for Drouin to score 30 goals and 60-70 points, as he leads Montreal in scoring.
15 Nashville Predators: Ryan Johansen
This is not an easy call, as the Predators have arguably the greatest group of forward depth in the NHL. Last season, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson tied for the team's lead in scoring with 61 points apiece. It's worth noting that Arvidsson did play two less games, however.
But it's tough to not like Johansen's odds, as he is the No. 1 centre on the defending Western Conference champion and is therefore in great position to lead the team in scoring. Furthermore, Johansen has four 60-point seasons under his belt, whereas Arvidsson was an unforeseen breakout player in 2016-17.
These two and Filip Forsberg will go neck-and-neck for the team's lead in scoring, but I have to take Johansen here. He'll get 30 goals and 70 points.
14 New Jersey Devils: Taylor Hall
Sorry, but first overall pick Nico Hischier just isn't quite ready to become New Jersey's leading scorer. With that, I'll go with another former first overall pick in 2011 draftee, Taylor Hall.
Last season, Hall and Kyle Palmieri shared the team lead in scoring with 53 points, but the former has a better track record and should be able to rebound after a down year in 2016-17. Hall is capable of scoring 25 goals and 65 points, but missing 10 games prevented him from reaching both marks last year.
With veteran centre Travis Zajac set to miss the first few months of the season, New Jersey isn't going to have a whole lot of scoring. But they will have Hall lead the team in goals and points. Get him down for 26 goals and 59 points.
13 New York Islanders: John Tavares
John Tavares is the franchise face of the New York Islanders and is always the team's leader in points. But only question is how much longer, because he's set to be a free agent after next season and has yet to sign an extension. But whether or not he's an Islander throughout all of 2017-18, you know Tavares will easily lead the Islanders in scoring.
Thanks to his ability to stay healthy, Tavares has been automatic for 25-30 goals and 65-plus points a season. The Isles captain should have a terrific year with new linemate Jordan Eberle coming to town.
Tavares only had 66 points last season, but he will bounce back nicely. Look for 'JT' to finish with around 30 goals and 80 points, as he continues to assert himself as one of the NHL's top scorers.
12 New York Rangers: J.T. Miller
Just who will lead the New York Rangers in scoring next season? It won't be long-time Blueshirt Derek Stepan, who was packaged along with Antti Raanta in a deal for the Arizona Coyotes seventh pick in the 2017 Entry Draft.
Could it be Norwegian sensation Mats Zuccarello, who led the Rangers last season with 59 points? Could it be young wingers Chris Kreider or Kevin Hayes? I'm going to go with J.T. Miller, whose 56 points were good for second in team scoring last year.
Miller has gotten better every year, scoring 23, 43 and 56 points over the past three seasons. With plenty of responsibilities on the first line, Miller should be able to reach the 60-point mark for the first time in his career. That will be enough for Miller to lead his team in scoring next year.
11 Ottawa Senators: Erik Karlsson
Despite being asked to play a lot more defensively and sacrifice less scoring under new head coach Guy Boucher, Erik Karlsson once again led the Senators in scoring. He finished with 17 goals and 71 points, but San Jose Sharks blueliner Brent Burns beat him out for the Norris Trophy.
Because the Senators don't have an elite scorer, it's tough to see someone beating Karlsson for the team lead in scoring. Kyle Turris, Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone are more like B+ guys, not quite superstars.
The only question here is whether or not Karlsson leads all NHL blueliners in scoring, and if he wins the Norris Trophy. That's how good No. 65 is -- you just know he's going to lead the team in scoring. Bank on another 70-point season.
10 Philadelphia Flyers: Claude Giroux
Claude Giroux has quickly fallen off the discussions of the NHL's top centres. Remember that 93-point season he had in 2011-12? Well, Giroux put up 86 points in 2013-14 and has followed that up with 73, 67 and 58 point seasons. Is he on the decline? The stats and track record say so.
But realistically, Giroux has just been slumping a little bit -- and he should bounce back in 2017-18. No. 2 pick Nolan Patrick should take some of the pressure off of him at centre, and Giroux should once again regain his superstar form.
With Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek as possible linemates, Giroux will have the supporting cast to turn it around. 2016-17 was a forgetful year for almost every Flyers player, but they get a fresh start in 2017-18. Expect Giroux to score in the high 60s or low-mid 70s next season.
9 Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby
Again, this is not a surprise.
Sidney Crosby is the best hockey player in the world not named Connor McDavid, as he consistently leads the Penguins in scoring over Evgeni Malkin -- provided he's healthy. Luckily, Crosby has stayed relatively healthy in the last four years. He's led Pittsburgh to consecutive Stanley Cup championships and took home the Conn Smythe Trophy both times.
But Crosby has had to change his game up a bit under new head coach Mike Sullivan, and he hasn't reached 90 points in the last three seasons. Given his concussion history and age (30), it's possible 'Sid the Kid' doesn't score 90 again.
Either way, expect No. 87 to once again lead the Penguins in scoring. I'm projecting him to finish second in league scoring; it's just tough to guess whether he'll be in the 80s, 90s or 100s for points. Go with the mid-to-high 90s.
8 San Jose Sharks: Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau jumped ship to join the Toronto Maple Leafs. 38-year-old Joe Thornton is nursing a torn ACL injury and is probably more of a 50-60 point guy from here on out; no longer the point-per-game force any more.
Furthermore, Logan Couture has bounced between 25 and 30-goal seasons, while 33-year-old Joe Pavelski continues to add on the age and mileage to his body. Taking these factors into account, it's looking promising for reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns to once again lead the Sharks in scoring.
Will he hit the 70-point mark for the third consecutive year? Possibly, but it's not going to be easy. But with his track record, Burns will have no problem reaching at least 65. He'll once again lead the Sharks in scoring.
7 St. Louis Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko
Vladimir Tarasenko is now well-established and regarded as one of the NHL's most purest of goal-scorers and play-makers. Such is life when you've scored at least 37 goals and 73 points in the last three seasons. Tarasenko is just in the midst of his playing prime, and the Russian sensation has all the makings to once again lead his team in scoring next year.
Centre Brayden Schenn arrives via a trade from Philadelphia. He has the potential to help Tarasenko maximize his production even more. Tarasenko has the slick speed, tremendous shot and incredible puck ability to carry the Blues' offence.
Without any other superstars at forward, Tarasenko is one of the biggest sure-bets to lead his team in scoring. He'll get the usual 30-plus goals and 70-plus points next season. That's just how good he is.
6 Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos
With Steven Stamkos missing 65 games last season, Nikita Kucherov got to run away with the team lead in scoring -- potting 40 goals and 85 points. Stamkos had dominated in the early going, posting nine goals and 20 points in 17 games before a season-ending knee injury cut his season short.
But should he finally stay healthy in 2017-18, Stamkos should once again lead his team in scoring. He's the NHL's best pure goal-scorer of this era not named Alexander Ovechkin. Should Stamkos avoid injury, he's going to score over 30 goals and a minimum of 75 points in a season.
With Kucherov also coming off a breakout year, he and Stamkos have the potential to be the NHL's top-scoring duo of 2016-17. Either way, look for Stamkos to take the Lightning scoring crown back in 2018.
5 Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews
Who else was it gonna be?
Auston Matthews entered last season as a 97 percent clone of Connor McDavid. That is, he was praised as a generational prospect that would have gone No. 2 in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft (behind McDavid), had he been eligible. Nonetheless, the man who is a TINY OF A FRACTION inferior to McDavid is set for bigger and better things.
Matthews scored 40 goals and 69 points in his rookie season, and yet that's not even close to his ceiling. Matthews will likely see more frequent 30-35 goal and 85-100 point seasons. He'll morph more into the play-making centre that Sidney Crosby and McDavid have made famous.
I'm big on Matthews this year. He's going to score at least 90 points next season and will finish top-five in league scoring. Don't be surprised if he steals the Art Ross Trophy, either.
4 Vancouver Canucks: Bo Horvat
The Vancouver Canucks don't have any bonafide superstars in their lineup, as Daniel and Henrik Sedin continue to decline in production as they get older. That means that No. 1 centre Bo Horvat should have no problem leading the team in scoring for a second consecutive year.
Last season, Horvat's 20 goals and 52 points were just barely enough to edge out Henrik's 50. Horvat has improved his scoring totals every year since busting into the NHL. Throw in his strong chemistry with Sven Baertschi and rookie Brock Boeser hoping to play a big role, and Horvat should get in that 25-goal, 60-point range.
Horvat isn't quite a superstar (yet, at least), but he's hands down the top player on the Canucks. The 22-year-old once again will lead Vancouver in scoring.
3 Vegas Golden Knights: James Neal
The Vegas Golden Knights are expected to be quite porous in 2017-18 as they await their inaugural NHL season. The reality is that expansion teams always struggle for the first few years, so don't expect a whole lot of scoring from the newly formed squad.
If there's one guy who can lift fans to their feet, it will be former Predators' sniper James Neal -- whom Vegas GM George McPhee selected in the expansion draft. Neal had a "down" year in 2016-17, scoring 23 goals and 41 points.
Neal has scored 30 goals and 60 points in the past, so it's possible he can regain that form as a first-liner in Vegas. That may be a bit of a stretch, but a minimum of 20 goals and 50 points seem fair for Neal. That'll be enough to become the first official Golden Knights' scoring champion.
2 Washington Capitals: Nicklas Backstrom
Bet you were expecting Alexander Ovechkin on here, weren't ya?
Well, Alexander Ovechkin's 50-goal days are well behind him as he continues to play a more two-way game under head coach Barry Trotz. At 32 years of age, Oveckin's not going to be among the NHL's top 10-15 scorers much longer -- if ever.
So give the team scoring title to Nicklas Backstrom, who's coming off a big season in which he posted 23 goals and 86 points. With Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson gone, Backstrom will assume plenty of more responsibility on offence.
With wingers Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie on his side, Backstrom is poised for yet another big year. He should be able to hit the 80-point mark once again, while leading the Capitals in scoring.
1 Winnipeg Jets: Mark Scheifele
Consider Mark Scheifele one of the favorites to take home the scoring title. He's getting better every year, and still hasn't reached his ceiling yet. Throughout his first four NHL seasons, Scheifele has scored 34, 49, 61 and 82 points. With future 40-50 goal man Patrik Laine on his line, Scheifele has the potential to hit 90-plus points in 2017-18.
Maybe, maybe not. But Scheifele will undoubtedly lead the Jets in scoring next season -- barring any unforeseen circumstances. Though Laine himself is capable of scoring 80 points, he only comes with goal-scoring. Scheifele comes with 30-goal and 90-point potential.
Things are looking up for the Winnipeg Jets. But at the end of next season, Mark Scheifele will once again run away with the team lead in scoring. Bank on it.
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