Strap on your helmets and tape your sticks because we’re talking snipers with spice on their shots who “put the biscuit in the basket” and “pop the water bottle.” Gone are the days of the trap, the clutching and grabbing, and the days of 2-1 games every night. If you turn off a game to go to sleep when your team is down 4-0 in the third, you can wake up to find they won 6-5 in overtime. But don’t sweat it, because it happens again and again and again.
These are the days where kids kick it on the ice. Each year a new number 1 pick overshadows the same pick the previous year. McDavid and Eichel are surely stars and they’ll score 30 goals each, but it was the “California Man,” Auston Matthews, who scored 40 in his rookie season. He also had the shot of the year when he beat Lundqvist with a 20 foot wrister to the glove side like a “rented mule.” Players now seem old when they hit their early 30s (scary) when that used to be the age of their prime. Are Seguin, Pavelski, and Benn going to score 30? Barely. Will Eichel, Forsberg, and Aho? Count on it.
This is the dawning of a new era. Goal scorers are emerging and we may have 2-3, 50 goal scorers, 3-5- 40 goal scorers, and 7-10 guys who net 30. Remember these names, and if you play fantasy hockey in some bogus hockey league. don’t forget about these guys. Start scouting, take them early, and I accept tips.
15. Will – Patrick Kane
Kane has been in the NHL for nine seasons and scored over 30 goals just 3 times. Was 2014-15 an aberration? Last season he didn’t come close to touching any of those stats and his shooting percentage went down to a measly 11.6%. So what’s the deal? This year he scores 40+ and is a top 5 scorer, whether or not it’s in Chicago. Years of long playoff runs can have a hangover effect on a player and team, and though they were dominated in the playoffs by Nashville, the rest will do the entire team some good. Toews, who in 10 years scored 30 goals once, should also rebound, but Chicago’s young wingers are where the action is.
14. Won’t – Patrik Laine
Laine started the season on fire, whipping one timers from the face off circle and the slot. He even seemed surprised when some of his rockets snuck in on the short side. He’s cool and collected and doesn’t hesitate to let it rip. But his goal scoring fell off a cliff at the end of the season, and he scored just 5 goals in his final 15 games. Though it takes time for teams to game plan and adjust, it seems once they picked up on his tendencies he was effectively shut down. During those 15 games, he also managed just 1 ppg and 1 ppa, which is further proof that Winnipeg and Laine were a little predictable.
So what happens in his 2nd season and his 36 goals? They drop, he’ll hit the “sophomore slump,” and he’ll be close, but he’ll finish with 27 or 28. Then he’ll figure it out like Gostisbehere did and he’ll be back over 30 in another year or two.
13. Will- Mark Scheifele
The true engine behind the Jets offense, Scheifele has scored more goals and points each season and will continue his climb into the NHL’s elite. The 7th pick in 2011 has always been a playmaker, but now the big center is using his size and shot to impose himself all over the ice. While Laine will struggle, Scheifele will take the next step and close in on 40 goals and 90 points. He’ll also pose a challenge to Jet’s management, because the team must find a goalie and defensive help to get back into the playoffs. They have offensive skill and depth to challenge most teams, but they are going to turn off fans and players if they don’t start taking consistent, positive steps to build the team in the right direction.
12. Won’t- Vladimir Tarasenko
Though Tarasenko was tied for 4th in goals with 39, and though he’s been consistent and is just 25, an off year is headed straight for him and the Blues. He scored a whopping 20 more goals and 20 more points than the Blues’ 2nd leading scorer, Jaden Schwartz. So why will Tarasenko’s numbers hit a wall? The highest scoring Blues center was Stastny, who is most likely gone, and their 2nd center is Berglund. The Blues went for it over the past few seasons and tried everything to beat the Blackhawks. But now they’ll pay for it as they’ve aged quickly, especially on defense, and depleted their prospects.
In 2017-18, I say Tarasenko has a hugely disappointing season and nets 29 goals as the Blues hover near .500. They become one of the lower scoring teams in the league and Tarasenko gets so frustrated he gets a couple majors.
11. Will- Brad Marchand
“The Little Ball of Hate” is peaking in his prime and will push his career and stats to another level. His goal scoring numbers have consistently improved, he’s a threat on the power play and shorthanded, and last season his shooting percentage was it’s highest in 5 seasons at 17.3. He’ll score more than 39 goals and reach the mid 40s. He’ll also get close to 90 points as he becomes even more of a fixture and leader on and off the ice.
The Bruins also have plenty of young firepower, a decent farm, and if their veterans can stay healthy, their offense is potent. Bergeron won’t score 30 again, Krejci may not score 20, so the goals will come from Marchand and Pastrnak. Their defense is terrible, so they’ll be involved in a lot of high scoring games with Marchand all over the stat sheet.
10. Won’t- Max Pacioretty
Another model of consistency with 4 consecutive years of scoring over 30 goals, the Connecticut native will swoon as will his Canadiens. Their offense bordered on mediocre to poor, with only journeyman winger Paul Byron scoring over 20 goals and Alexander Radulov scoring over 50 (54) points. These are just terribly offensive “offensive” stats. The Habs need to rethink and rebuild their club and make painful decisions. The Price era may be winding down, and the team has a lot of mileage.
Pacioretty’s production will suffer and don’t be surprised to see him traded either. Max joins the Seguin, Pavelski, and Toews crew and scores 27 goals, 30 assists, and the Montreal faithful continue to sour on their captain, who is coming off a poor 2017 playoff.
9. Will- Jeff Skinner
Don’t let this Hurricane team sneak up on you. Skinner, Aho, Lindholm, Rask, Faulk, and Hanifin are all under 26 and getting better. Skinner is the best of them all. He seems like he’s been around forever, but he’s only 25, and in 6 seasons has scored over 30 goals 3 times and 28 once. He’s got one of the best wristers in the game, especially coming down the off-wing where he has more to shoot at. His shot is also deceptive as it seems to gain speed in the air and catch goalies off guard. He’s a lock for 30, but he takes a step forward as do many of his teammates and he nets 44. He’s always been streaky, but book it, he’s going to be one of those players who scores 40 goals not just this year, but for the next 4 years.
8. Won’t- Evgeni Malkin
In many ways, Malkin will leave hockey fans to wonder how statistically great he could have been. In 11 years, he’s scored over 30 goals five times, but scored more than a point a game in 10 seasons. Over the past four years, he’s averaged 62 games but scored over 30 just once. And that’s the problem. He’s incredibly physical, dominant, and talented but he’s just unable to stay healthy long enough to show how great he is. In the four seasons he’s played over 70 games, he’s tallied 100 points but it’s just no enough. Another long, demanding playoff year means another 60 game season where he scores 27 goals.
7. Will- Sidney Crosby
If only you knew how hard for me this is to write, but the 12 year veteran is only getting better. He’s played as much hockey as anyone over the past 5 years and every year he comes back stronger and more well rounded. He’s battled concussions, probably plaid through them. and you gotta’ wonder how many more years he’ll play. But, the reality is he’s played over 75 games for 4 years straight. In 3 of 4 years he’s scored more than 30 goals and at least 10 power play goals in 4 consecutive years. Last year he scored 44 goals with a shooting percentage over 17, and next season he scores 50. He’s a true super star (ouch!) who makes every player around him better. Whoever plays with him next year, Guentzel, Rust, Sheary, or even Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham will score 30.
6. Won’t- Jeff Carter
Jeff Carter scored 32 goals last season, the first time he’s scored 30 in six years. The Kings are among a handful of other teams that are just beat and on their way down. Carter was a key member of the Kings’ teams that won 2 cups, but the 32 year old righty with a whicked, accurate, hard shot will only return to the 30 goal club on another team. The sad part is he should be traded; a contender would give them draft choices and prospects, but Stevens and the Kings will most likely keep him. In that case, even with all the power play time he sees, he’ll score 25 to 28 goals. But it will be worse for the ridiculously overpaid Kopitar who won’t score 20.
5. Will- Johnny Gaudreau
The New Jersey born Calgary Flame took a step back in goals from 30 to 18, but he still led the Flames in assists and points. He got off to a terrible start by scoring just 2 goals in his first 14 games, and he took almost 40 less shots than in his first 14 games the year before. His shooting percentage was a career low, 9.9, but he’s only 23 years old. The Flames also struggled in net, which effects the offense and confidence of a team.
“Johnny Hockey,” with the continued emergence of Sean Monahan (who’ll also get 30). and offensively gifted blue-liners, should be able to rebound and hit the 30 goal mark again. Though he is more of an assist man, he’s quick, finds open space, and hangs around the net. Look for a steady increase and 5 seasons scoring 30 goals with Monahan keeping pace.
4. Won’t- Nazem Kadri
The 7th overall pick in the 2009 draft (that’s gotta hurt), finally put together a decent season with a huge leap in production. He added a more physical and agitating dimension to his game, and though he’s just 26, he’s a veteran on the Leafs. Fans have to love his compete level, but he won’t score 30 again, even on a line with any of his young, talented teammates. The truth is that he’s just not skilled enough. Close to half his goals came on the power play and his shooting percentage was just 13.6, making him one of the least frequent scorers in the top 20. He’ll still be a key player for the young Leafs, an Alex Burrows or Dustin Brown type, but he’ll score 20-25. Ah, let’s be generous, give him 26-27 by adding a few empty netters for the guy with guts.
3. Will- Leon Draisaitl
The 21 year old, 3rd pick in 2014 may just be the best player in Edmonton. O.K, maybe not, but he and McDavid go together as well as any two teammates in the league. Draisaitl’s goal scoring has increased by 10 each year and he had 29 in 2016-17. How could you not love that trend, combined with a 17% shooting percentage, and with McDavid’s skills as a passer, look for 38-41 goals for the 6-foot, 200 pounder. He plays great with or without the puck, can bull his way through coverage, and his shot is as good as it gets. Also look for his power play goals to head north to 12-15 as he becomes even more prominent and dangerous in Edmonton’s offense.
2. Won’t- Alex Ovechkin
“There’s something happening here, and what it is ain’t exactly clear…” (Buffalo Springfield). Ovie has been the face of the prototypical NHL goal scorer for 12 years and has scored over 50 goals in 7 seasons. But don’t bite on him like other guys will, because he’s going down, down, down. For the first time in the NHL he has some serious, emotional soul searching to do. Of course it’s ridiculous to blame him for the Caps, well, choking situation for the second straight year, but will he see it that way? His ice time diminished, he spoke of injuries, but heck, his nemesis #87 was concussed in the same series!
Last season, he scored 33 goals on a horrendous 10.5 shooting percentage, and it doesn’t get better for the 31-32 year-old. This postseason loss may have destroyed his confidence and he’s going to start the slide by scoring 28 goals.
1. Will- Nikita Kucherov
Talk about McDavid and Matthews all you want, but the 23-year-old Kucherov is a more dynamic goal scorer and playmaker than both. He will dominate the score sheets for the next 10 years and also has a physical edge to his game. If anyone still remembers Stamkos, one of the worst re-signings in NHL history, he’ll be forgotten soon enough. Kucherov has incredible timing, accuracy, and drive where he’ll follow up and knock in his own rebounds. His passes are immediate and crisp as he doesn’t “slow up” the game as many great players do, but he “speeds it up.”
He’ll threaten to score 50 next season and he may reach 60 over the next few, and he’ll be better than McDavid, Matthews, and anyone else who comes along over the next five years. He will also make people forget about “Alexander The Fake” (that ain’t right).
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