The NHL is full of young talent and this year in particular there are more rookies than in past years. Approximately 10% of the players this season are rookies because the game is really transitioning into a young man's sport. With the league cracking down on shots to the head, the game is becoming more about speed and skill and less about physical play.
As for the veterans, last season Patrick Kane ran away with the Art Ross Trophy and we also saw Sidney Crosby start producing big time numbers again. We've also seen the likes of young stars emerging within the top 10 scoring leaders, such as Vladimir Tarasenko and Johnny Gaudreau.
Over the next five seasons, we might see quite a few different names rising to the NHL's top-three in scoring because of big time rookies with high expectations, like Connor McDavid. But we should also still see some of the usual suspects, such as Sidney Crosby.
While it's pretty impossible to accurately predict the players that will be in the top-three for the next five years, it's still fun to project who those players might be in a perfect world. So here is the list below - if the below players stay injury free and they are matched with the right line mates, there's a very good chance they end up as the top-three scorers in the NHL over the next five seasons.
15 2016-17 (Third): Jamie Benn
Jamie Benn finished the 2015-2016 season with 89 points for his highest career point total. A big reason for his superb season was because he plays alongside Tyler Seguin, who has helped boost his game to the next level. Since Tyler joined the Stars in 2013, Benn has increased his point production to over a point a game.
This resulted in a second place finish last year behind the Chicago Blackhawks, Patrick Kane. The left winger is definitely a candidate to take the scoring title but I don't believe he will surpass last years total by much, if at all.
He’s now in his prime at 27 years old and will likely have many more seasons as a top 10 scorer but he’ll have a hard time putting up enough to take home the Art Ross when considering the competition.
He is an outstanding forward, one of the best and an All-Star, but I believe his potential is capped. He’ll likely end this season with a similar output as last season and finish just behind McDavid and Kane. I estimate 42 goals and 48 assists.
14 2016-17 (Second): Patrick Kane
Patrick Kane ran away with the scoring title last season with a whopping 46 goals and 106 points, capturing the Art Ross Trophy. So there is little doubt that he will be a top three pointer getter again this season.
The 28 year old's point explosion sort of came out of nowhere last year so it's unlikely he’ll surpass the century mark once again. It's not that he isn't capable, since we've seen him score in bunches frequently throughout his career but he doesn't always seem to give his full effort. Additionally, he has averaged just over a point a game throughout his career, so back to back 100 point seasons seem very unlikely.
It's very possible he finishes ahead of McDavid but I'm going to go with historical averages and estimate he scores 38 goals and 53 assists. He’ll finish second in scoring with about 91 points.
13 2016-17 (First): Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid has had an extremely successful start to his career in just his second year as a pro. His first season he only played in 45 games due to injury but racked up 16 goals and 32 assists.
His average of over one point a game in his rookie season is quite the achievement for the first overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
McDavid has barely scratched the surface of his potential at just 19 years of age. He's now in his second year and looks like a seasoned veteran despite hardly having the chance to mesh with his team and with the overall NHL environment.
It's a scary thought but Connor is actually still adapting and is already one of the NHL's best players. We would expect his point production to only increase year after year for a few years to come.
With the recent concussion injury to Sidney Crosby, it looks like the young gun has a real good shot at taking home the Art Ross Trophy. I estimate 36 goals and 57 assists for a total of 93 points for McDavid.
12 2017-18 (Third): Patrick Kane
Kane has a good chance at finishing top three in scoring once again next season because he's just that skillful. Although there are several players that could end up here, at the moment he has the best shot.
It's possible to see someone like Vladimir Tarasenko, Auston Matthews or Benn in the top, but I’m going with the guy coming off a 106 point season, who is pretty much guaranteed to at least surpass 82 points.
His talent is second to none when he is focussed and dedicated to the game but he's been known to party a little too hard which is why I believe his point totals will steadily decline each year from 2015-16.
Nevertheless, I foresee him accumulating 39 goals and 49 helpers for a total of 88 points in 2017-18.
11 2017-18 (Second) Sidney Crosby
With another concussion plaguing Sidney Crosby, his future is uncertain. What is for certain though, is when he plays, he is the best player in the game. McDavid is quickly catching him though and by next year there is a good chance that Sidney, even if healthy, will be unable to catch Connor and finish second in points.
Sid the kid is now 29 and will be 30 in 2017-18. He's averaged well over a point a game his entire career at 1.33 points per game. If he is able to play almost a full season next year, I predict he’ll reach 95 points.
Just before his most recent setback, most people would agree he was playing the best hockey of his life. I believe this season he will return and play great hockey which will lead to an incredible 2017-18 campaign.
However, with the unpredictability of his injuries, this may be the last time Sid hits the top three in scoring.
10 2017-18 (First): Connor McDavid
The recently named 19 year old captain, Connor McDavid should continue his upward point production next year as well.
He will have further built chemistry with his linemates and team, which should help define the roles of each player on the Oilers. This should increase efficiency and productivity by each man on the roster, including McDavid.
The captain will also be a year older, which means more experience and maturity. With more experience comes a better understanding of his opponents, hence the ability to expose any weaknesses. You would also expect the Richmond Hill native to be up from his current weight of 190 Ibs.
In his third year in the NHL, we would expect him to breakout and tally a lot of points. He may exceed the century mark and I believe he will score 41 goals and 104 points.
9 2018-19 (Third): Johnny Gaudreau
The NHL is continuing to crack down on head injuries, which is resulting in less physical play overall. That opens up the ice for more offense and the biggest beneficiaries will be skill players and especially smaller players like Johnny Gaudreau.
By 2019, we would anticipate physical play to be reduced compared to today, since it's already less physical today compared to a decade ago.
The New Jersey native has already proven so much success in such a short time. He finished last year with 78 points in 79 games and it was only his second season in the NHL.
He’ll be right around the top five to 10 point getters and exceed a point a game for years to come but in 2018-19, I predict he’ll finally break the top three with 39 goals and 51 assists
8 2018-19 (Second): Vladimir Tarasenko
Vladimir Tarasenko is a young and very talented Russian sniper who is already one of the NHL’s most elite goal scorers. He finished 12th in NHL scoring last season with 40 goals and 34 assists for the best output of his career.
He's only in his fifth season and is just 24 with his stock value trending upwards. He has a very good chance at exceeding 50 goals in a single season multiple times in his career and I predict that by 2018-19 he will not only exceed the 50 goal mark but he’ll finish second in points with 52 goals and 39 assists.
He could score 50 goals next year but will have a tough time surpassing Kane and Crosby when it comes to total points but by 2018-2019, he’ll be in the heart of his prime years while the other two will be a couple years past their prime.
This isn't a lock but he is too talented not to finish in top-three scoring at least once in his career and taking the Rocket Richard Trophy a few times.
7 2018-19 (First): Connor McDavid
Not to sound like a broken record but McDavid is likely to win the scoring title for a third straight year. His point production won't be slowing down anytime soon unless injuries keep him out of action.
As long as Conner stays healthy, we'd expect him to be atop the scoreboard once again. We would also expect him to accumulate more points than prior years at the ripe young age of 21.
It’s scary for opposing teams but his skill set should really start to flourish in his fourth year. As hard as it is to believe after a 104 point season, this kid has a good chance at exceeding his point total from the 2018-19 season.
I believe he will score around a whopping 46 goals and 65 assists. Sidney Crosby eclipsed the century mark five times in his career and scored 120 points during the 2006-2007 season, so there is no reason to believe the Oiler captain won't score 111 points in his fourth year in the NHL.
6 2019-20 (Third): Vladimir Tarasenko
The top scorers in the NHL typically have an excellent supporting cast of linemates which help them get over the top. While they typically are the main point getter, other fitting offensive linemates help them achieve greatness when the right chemistry is attained.
The reason why I believe Tarasenko will be a top three scorer back to back years is because at the moment, he has good but not necessarily great linemates. While his main linemate, Alex Steen, has been a good fit with him, he's certainly not a superstar the way Seguin is to Benn for example.
Linemates change all the time so I believe Vladimir will have had an upgrade in 2018 which would have propelled him to new heights. It's especially important to find an excellent passing linemate for an elite goal scorer.
Hence he’d have his second career best season in back to back years and I think he’ll end up with 53 goals and 39 assists, topping his prior years total by a point.
5 2019-20 (Second): Auston Matthews
Auston Matthews proved on his first night in the NHL that he will be one of the NHL’s elite goal scorers. He set an NHL record with four goals in his rookie debut and by 2019, he’ll likely break the top three in points.
Not only is he able to score goals but his soft and nimble hands make him a threat to pass well too. Matthews is also very strong with the puck and along the boards, so he’ll get his share of helpers. Not to mention he's 6’2, 210 Ibs and still growing, so his size is going to help him around the net.
The Californian-born forward should be averaging a point a game throughout his career and by the 2019-20 season, he has a good chance at having a career year.
The Leafs are the second youngest team in the league so that means in four years, many of the players will be approaching their prime years. This includes his current linemates William Nylander and Zachary Hyman. Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly will also be a bit more mature and it's likely a top line including Marner and Nylander with Rielly in the back end could produce exceptional offensive results.
Matthews could potentially have a 48 goal season and add 51 assists for a 99 point season. This is an optimistic prediction but the 2016 first overall pick has high expectations.
4 2019-20 (First): Connor McDavid
Entering into his fifth NHL season, McDavid is likely to have accomplished more than most have in a full 20 year career but he will certainly remain hungry to achieve even more.
It is likely he wouldn't have raised Lord Stanley just yet, since in this day and age it requires a full team effort and there are so many good teams to defeat. But I certainly wouldn't rule out the possibility.
If he indeed hasn't won the Stanley Cup by his fifth year, I believe the hunger would drive him to new heights and it's this particular season, 2019-2020, that would be a good season to target for his first.
The drive for Lord Stanley is going to motivate the 22 year old captain to exceed the century point mark once again. He’ll undoubtedly do this multiple times in his career because he is just that good.
I don't believe he will ever score more than Sid the Kid’s 120 point season but he’ll come close. I estimate he’ll have his first 50 goal season and find the twine 55 times along with 63 helpers for a total of 118 points.
3 2020-21 (Third): Johnny Gaudreau
Johnny Gaudreau is likely to remain in the top-five when it comes to scoring for several years. The main reason I put him back at three after falling off the top three in 2019-20 is because he’s likely going to go in and out of the top spots throughout the seasons. He's bound to make it back up here and possibly even win an Art Ross one of these years.
His current linemates Sean Monahan and Kris Versteeg aren't exactly elite so the fact that he is still able to produce the way he has is quite incredible.
So hopefully five years from now Johnny will have settled in and the Flames will give him a pair of high quality linemates to take him to new heights. Maybe Matthew Tkachuk can become that guy.
Gaudreau may never be a 100 point guy or even a consistent 90 point guy but with his speed and skillful hands, he’ll be an over a point per game producer for years to come. I estimate he’ll finish with 89 points and 40 goals in 2020-21.
2 2020-21 (Second): Auston Matthews
Hopes are high for this young Eric Lindros like first overall pick in Leafs nation so the expectation is that he carries Toronto to the holy grail of hockey, the Stanley Cup.
Given that Mike Babcock, Brendan Shanahan, and Lou Lamoriello have targeted the franchise rebuild to be a five-year plan, the 2020-21 would mark the sixth year anniversary of the rebuild and the fifth year Matthews would be in the NHL.
So after a potential deep playoff run and breakout season for Matthews, this would be the year for him to come through big and potentially win Lord Stanley.
That means he’d likely be in the top-three scoring leaders and maybe even surpass McDavid for the Art Ross for this season. It's still way too early to truly determine the type of player he’ll become but placing him second in scoring five years from now isn't out of the question.
Look for him to surpass the 50 goal mark with 53 of them and 49 helpers for 102 points. This season would mark the first time he would reach the coveted 50 goal and century point mark.
1 2020-21 (First): Connor McDavid
I understand that it is highly unlikely that one player wins the scoring title five years in a row but if McDavid stays injury free, I firmly believe he does unless Auston Matthews manages to squeak by him.
Players sometimes have the occasional off year after years of success and especially after winning a Stanley Cup.
So winning a fifth scoring title for Connor is dependent on a lot of variables leading up to year five. Like will he still be hungry? Will he stay injury free? Will he be tired or complacent?
I believe he may dip slightly in production but still play to the best of his abilities simply because he's a professional. He approaches the game like a fine art and is focussed on every detail. He’ll more than likely go through struggles and strife throughout his entire career but always come out stronger.
He’ll be 24 at this point and reaching the prime of his career. I estimate he’ll begin to round out into a complete two way player which will have him end up with 45 goals and 58 assists.