I mentioned in Monday’s article here that on Wednesday, I was going to put out my top 10 for next season. Well here we are! It’s still 5+ months away from the start of next season so it’s obvious that plenty of things can change, but what the hell!? I’d like to get this out early to generate more conversation in the comments section again. I’m going to do 11-20 on Friday and stop there until August when we get back into the full swing of things (there will be some content coming out in the summer including a draft recap and free agency preview / recap). Without further adieu, my top 10!
1) Alex Ovechkin – My number one from last season is my number 1 player again. The Great Eight did what he does in 2015-16 scoring 50 goals and taking over 5 shots per game. He gives you such an edge in those categories plus special teams points that he gets my top spot. The penalty minutes are solid and the plus-minus was outstanding this year. The only downside is that he had 21 assists but it doesn’t matter to me. Assists are the easiest categories to make up and only two players were within 100 shots of Ovechkin. I’ll take the big head start there and in goals and get assists later.
2) Jamie Benn – After leading the league in points in 2014-15, Benn followed that up by finishing second in 2015-16. He hit all of the categories better than anybody else in the league with 41 goals, 48 assists, 32 STP, just over 3 shots per game and 64 PIM. Benn also played all 82 games again; he’s only missed 1 game total in the past 3 seasons. Benn is entering his prime on an elite team that still has room for improvement. I’ll take the balance Benn provides with an incredibly high floor and ceiling.
3) Sidney Crosby – I wouldn’t have a problem with you flopping Benn and Crosby. I will do a detailed tier breakdown come August but for now, I’ll say the first tier is the top 6. I could make an argument that the top 3 is their own tier as well. Anyways, just like his team, Crosby was a big disappointment for the first couple months of the season only to crush for the rest of the season. Crosby finished as the #4 forward last season despite that start finishing with a very similar line to Benn (36+49, 42 PIM, +19, 248 shots, 24 STP). Basically the difference between Benn and Crosby was a few more goals and penalty minutes for Benn versus Crosby’s plus-minus. The plus-minus is the most likely stat to flip flop and Crosby won’t match Benn’s PIM so Crosby sits 3rd for me. Nevertheless, there’s nothing wrong being 3rd here. Crosby also has the high floor and ceiling and is past the injury concerns of the past.
4) Connor McDavid – You want to get nuts? Let’s get nuts! Besides the injury, everything went according to plan or better for McDavid as he put up 48 points (16+32) in only 45 games. Over a point per game as an 18 year old is just silly. Todd McClellan was riding McDavid for massive minutes after his return and that’s going to be the norm for the next 10+ years. If you told me that McDavid was going to lead the NHL in points next season, I wouldn’t argue. In fact, I’d probably agree with you, he’s that good. I couldn’t take him over the previous 3 because of their high ceilings; McDavid’s shot rate will have to go up in order to reach this level and the penalty minutes will probably need a slight uptick. Nevertheless, I’ll take the gamble here that he does boost his shot rate and will be perfectly comfortable having tons of McDavid stock.
5) Tyler Seguin – The only thing keeping Seguin down here is the lack of penalty minutes; he had 16 this year and his career high is 30. Seguin was over a point per game again, the special teams points were strong and the shot rate was the third best in the league clocking in at exactly 4 shots per game. It’s crazy to think that he has more upside but I think he can still have a slight uptick in production; Seguin is still only 24 years old. Him and the next guy can go either way but as I mentioned earlier, the top 6 have a slight gap between themselves and #7.
6) Patrick Kane – I know what you’re thinking. Man, Viz is dedicated to getting rankings out early! Only for you loyal Razzballers! Actually, you’re thinking how I can have Kane this low after he just put up a whopping 106 points? There’s a few different things here. First, you can’t expect anybody to get to 100 points again, especially somebody who had a previous career high of 88 points. Kane also had 37 power play points which is highly unlikely to be repeated. Just like Seguin, Kane doesn’t regularly contribute in penalty minutes; the 30 he posted this year is a lot after 40 combined the previous 3 years. Kane’s shooting percentage was quite high and after only scoring 30 goals once in his career before 2015-16, scoring 46 goals seems to be a pretty big outlier. He might even find himself a bit lower later on. Don’t get me wrong, Kane is still a great player, but you don’t want to buy too high based on last season.
7) Vladimir Tarasenko – Tarasenko is very similar to Seguin with the difference being a couple extra goals and penalty minutes but 10ish less assists. Both are 24 years old and still have even more upside. Tarasenko had his first 40 goal season in 2015-16 and took 28 more shots this season in 3 more games. He provides a nice balance while giving you elite goals and shots. Tarasenko also could get a minutes boost next season as he’s been clamoring for in the playoffs which would give him a slight uptick. If Ovechkin were to miss any time, Tarasenko would be my bet to lead the league in goals next year. Like the rest of the guys here, safety and upside.
8) Erik Karlsson – My love for Karlsson is well-documented and I couldn’t keep him outside of the top 10. Getting a point per game from a defenseman is beyond absurd, let alone leading the entire NHL in assists. He’s played every game for 3 seasons in a row, his shots were over 3 per game and his shooting percentage was its lowest since his rookie year meaning Karlsson could get a few more goals next season regressing to his normal shooting %. Karlsson also had a career high in penalty minutes last season with a solid 50. Hopefully the Sens add some more offense in this offseason but either way, Karlsson should provide first round value next year.
9) Steven Stamkos – Like Crosby, Stamkos started slowly and came on strongly down the stretch. Despite his hot run, his season was still quite disappointing with 36 goals and 28 assists in 77 games with strong special teams points and okay penalty minutes. So why am I so bullish on Stamkos? Mainly it’s because his shot rate dropped quite a bit and I expect that to go back to its normal level. He’s 26 years old, there’s no reason why his shot rate shouldn’t go back up. His impending free agency might have been in the back of his head (come to Buffalo Stammer, please!) but once he gets his massive deal this offseason, Stamkos should settle in wherever he ends up and get back to his goal scoring prowess. Obviously if there’s still concern over his blood clot then he will drop but all indications are that he will have a quick recovery. I’m all about getting goals and shots early (besides Karlsson who is way behind in goals but crushes elsewhere) and Stamkos should provide that.
10) Joe Pavelski – Viz, you’re crazy, no Braden Holtby or another goalie in the top 10? You’ll almost never see me rank a goalie in the top 10 just like you’ll never see Grey put a pitcher in the top 10. You put yourself too far behind the offensive categories taking a goalie in the first round. It’s close enough that I won’t quibble with you close to the turn in a roto league but I believe it’s a horrible mistake to make in head to head leagues. No John Tavares or Evgeni Malkin? You’re off the charts insane Viz! Clearly I am because I keep hearing these voices in my head. If I knew Malkin was going to stay healthy, he’d definitely be here but he’s a virtual lock to miss 10-20 games a season (this year it was 25). I think you can make a good argument for Tavares at 10 (spoiler, he’s 11th) because his power play points dropped quite a bit and could bounce back. The young guys around Tavares didn’t improve as much this year as expected so that puts a damper on Tavares a bit. Instead, I’ll go with Pavelski at 10. He’s had 3 straight seasons of 70+ points being in the 40+40 ballpark with elite special teams points. Little Joe has also been a plus player every single season of his career, including the past 3 of +23, +12 and +25. He’s also played every game for 5 consecutive seasons giving you plenty of safety. While the shots went down to right around 3 per game, he always has high shooting percentages (the perk of playing with Joe Thornton) and it’s certainly possible it goes back up a little bit. Give me The Big Pavelski to close out the top 10.
That’s all for now guys. I’ll be back on Friday going through the top 20. As always, feel free to ask any questions or post any comments below. If you get the chance, watch game 7 tonight between the Ducks and Predators; there’s nothing better than a game 7 in a hockey series. Hopefully the Ducks win so my Stanley Cup pick doesn’t get knocked out in the first round! For the record, in the second round, I’ll take the Lightning in 6, Capitals in 7 and Stars in 7 with the other series to be determined. Take care everyone!