Finally, it’s the time of the year when the Zambonis are getting oil changes, the gear bags are getting doused with Fre-Breeze, and the Fantasy Hockey Gods start aligning their plans for the 2016-17 season. Hockey never rests for me, so this week we can start with my Top 50 players, beginning with my Top 10.
Since we all love rankings, and then debating those same polls, join me as we begin the prelude to next year. We all know that nothing beats the draft in any fantasy sport, so let's prep for the NHL by starting with my top ten skaters for the upcoming season.
1) Patrick Kane (RW, Chicago Blackhawks): Kane was the best player in the league last season hands down, and I honestly think he was the best two years ago before injury railroaded his trip to the podium for the Hart Trophy. Patrick did win the Hart and Art Ross last year, and until someone can stop his line, he will win the Hart and Art Ross Trophies again. Projection: 48g, 59a, 107pts.
2) Sidney Crosby (C, Pittsburgh Penguins): Sid’s no longer a kid, so can we please stop calling him that? Crosby is a man, and the way he dominated from the All-Star break last year through the finals proves it. The 2016 Conn Smythe winner as playoff MVP not only quieted Crosby's critics, but the Center himself toned it down all through the playoffs. Crosby will defend his Stanley Cup this year, and after he put up 33g, 70a, 103pts in defense of the Cup of the 2009 Championship, we can expect similar numbers this season. Projection: 39g, 64a, 103pts.
3) Jamie Benn (LW, Dallas Stars): Aside from Patrick Kane, Jamie Benn has been the best player in the league the past two seasons and if Tyler Seguin can be a healthy running mate, the pair will push the 100 point mark again. Benn’s goal totals have increased all six seasons in the NHL, and he’s just coming into his prime now. Projection: 45g, 56a, 102pts.
4) Vladimir Tarasenko (RW, St. Louis Blues): It was tough deciding who earned this position, but good health prevailed. Both Tyler Seguin and Steven Stamkos were in the mix, but the injury bug hit both skaters last year. Tarasenko, on the other hand, was nothing short of dominant last season and will continue on the Blues top unit. Projection: 46g, 41a, 87pts.
5) Steven Stamkos (C, Tampa Bay Lightning): After missing the last five regular season games and all but the final Lightning playoff game due to a blood clot, Stammer is back. Fantasy hockey is based off goal scoring, and power play goals, and Stamkos provides all of these in surplus. Besides Alexander Ovechkin, Stamkos is the next sure thing in the goal scoring department. Projection: 47g, 35a, 82pts.
6) Tyler Seguin (C, Dallas Stars): After missing 11 and 10 games, respectively, over the past two seasons (and killing a few of my teams in the finals), I’m hoping the Fantasy Gods provide Seguin with good health. When intact, Tyler is one of the NHL’s best players. Along with Jamie Benn, they make for one of the top tandems today, and should be owned together for maximum potential. Projection: 38g, 43a, 81pts.
7) Alexander Ovechkin (RW, Washington Capitals): The three-time Hart Trophy winner has been the best pure goal scorer in the NHL since Mario Lemieux, and will most likely win another Rocket Richard Trophy as the league’s leading goal scorer. Ovi has scored 51, 53, and 50 the past three years to go with double-digit power play goals. Pay top dollar in an auction format and smile. Projection: 52g, 28a, 80pts.
8) Johnny Gaudreau (LW, Calgary Flames): Johnny Hockey is on a meteoric rise going into his third NHL season, provided Calgary gives running mate Sean Monahan and Gaudreau respectable RFA contracts and not bridge deals. Gaudreau will turn 23 this summer, and after putting up 30 goals and 48 assists last year, it’s hard to imagine him improving. Still, I think Gaudreau can continue to produce at this level and will draft him plenty this fall. Projection: 32g, 48a, 80pts.
9) Nicklas Backstrom (C, Washington Capitals): After missing the first seven games last season, Backstrom came out and played his usual smooth seamless game. He did lose some quality time with Ovechkin due to his later start and Russian superstar Evgeny Kusnetsov was often slotted on top line duties instead, while Nicklas led the second line with Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson. Regardless of which line Nick plays on, he is the quarterback of one deadly power play and will continue that role as he’s been a point per game player throughout his career. Projection: 25g, 53a, 78pts.
10) John Tavares (C, New York Islanders): After the Islanders failed to secure Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielson in free agency, the burden of scoring even more goals falls onto Tavares' shoulders. The Islanders captain is just starting to come into his prime now and has already been a superior offensive threat in the NHL. Who skates alongside Tavares is the question, though irrespective we can count on this All-Star to keep his foot on the gas. Projection: 37g, 40a, 77pts.