This past NHL season we saw Jamie Benn win the Art Ross Trophy scoring only 87 points. Benn’s 87 points are the fewest to win the Art Ross Trophy since the 1967-1968 NHL season when Stan Mikita scored 87 points in 72 games. (Excluding the 1994-1995 and 2012-2013 shortened seasons when the NHL had lockouts and Jaomir Jagr won the scoring title with 70 points in 48 games and Martin St. Louis won it with 60 points in 48 games.) In 2015-2016 I both hope and expect an increase in scoring across the league. With the NHL’s new 3-on-3-overtime rule, there is more time and space for the league’s best players to settle games in OT. Here are my top five scorers for the 2015-2016 NHL season:
1. The 2015-2016 Art Ross Trophy Winner: Sidney Crosby. Crosby scored 28 goals and posted 56 assists last year, good for 84 points in 77 games. While 1.1 points per game is good, it isn’t the 1.36 points per game that Crosby has averaged throughout his NHL career so far. Next season, Crosby will have an elite winger in Phil Kessel to play with. Kessel only had 61 points in 82 games last year, but the 3 years prior he put up 214 points in 212 games. I think Crosby brings back the 100-point scorer to the NHL next year and finishes with 32 goals and 72 assists, adding up to 104 points, as long as he can stay healthy for the entire season.
2. Patrick Kane. Had Kane not suffered a shoulder injury last season, the Art Ross Trophy very well might have been his. Scoring 64 points through 61 games in the regular season, Kane was close to on pace for the scoring title. Averaging 1.04 points per game, Kane’s playmaking ability and creativity keeps defenders off balance and makes it tough to slow him down. With the trades the Blackhawks were forced to make to stay under the cap, I think Kane and Toews could end up being line mates next season, which would benefit both of them. Even if Kane is not on a line with Toews, I see his offensive production continuing at over a point per game rate. Fantasy prediction: 36 goals and 53 assists; 89 points.
3. Connor McDavid. After watching McDavid absolutely dominate the OHL playoffs, it made me believe he is ready to step right into the NHL and average a point per game. McDavid, who has been compared to Crosby, averaged 1.7 points per game in his three regular seasons with the Erie Otters. In the 2 seasons the Otters made the playoffs, McDavid scored 68 points in 34 games, an average of exactly 2 points per game. In Sidney Crosby’s rookie year, Crosby scored 102 points in 81 games. While many people have compared McDavid to Crosby, I think he will turn out to be even better. McDavid possesses all the skills and speed to be an elite player for years to come, but what separates him from most, is his mind for the game. Playing alongside an 80-point player in Taylor Hall, and another young talent in Jordan Eberle, don’t sleep on #97 this year. Fantasy prediction: 31 goals and 57 assists; 88 points
4. Tyler Seguin. Seguin centering 2014-2015 Art Ross Trophy Winner Jamie Benn and newly acquired Winger Patrick Sharp could be the scariest line in the league. Seguin was on his way to battling his line mate for rights to leading the league in scoring last year before getting injured. Like all of the players on this list, in order to be top 5 in scoring, Seguin will have to play a full regular season and stay healthy. After scoring 37 goals and 40 assists in 71 games last year, I expect Seguin to score at least a point per game next season. If he can play a full season with Sharp and Benn on his line, and add Spezza to the group for a lethal power play, Seguin should see his best offensive season yet. Fantasy prediction: 40 goals and 48 assists; 88 points.
5. John Tavares. We all saw what a difference Tavares makes to the Islanders two years ago when he suffered an ACL tear and the Isles finished far from a playoff spot after reaching the playoffs the year before. Last year, the Isles made a huge jump and were one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, with Tavares leading the way. Scoring 38 goals and 48 assists in 82 games last year, Johnny T had his best season of his young career. With Kyle Okposo coming back in his contract year, the two will both be close to point per game players like they have been the past couple years as line mates. With the Isles moving to the Barclays Center this year, it is an exciting time to be an Islanders fan. Fantasy prediction: 32 goals and 54 assists; 86 points.