To continue previewing the 2017/2018 NHL regular season, I will give in-depth predictions for the major awards. Over the next week, I will look at the Vezina, Hart, Norris, Maurice Richard, and Art Ross trophies. The season starts halfway through the predictions, but the results won’t influence the predictions.
The Art Ross Trophy is handed out to the top point-scorer in the regular season. Last year, Connor McDavid ran away with the trophy. He was the only player to reach 100 points, and it wasn’t even close. Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane were the next closest with 89 points each. This year, the Art Ross is incredibly hard to predict. The top three will remain high in the rankings, but after that, there are a lot of questions. Can young stars like Mark Scheifele, Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel make the next step in their development? How will Artemi Panarin perform without Kane? The Art Ross race is definitely going to be one to watch.
- Connor McDavid
Is there even any doubt? Connor McDavid has become the most dangerous player in the NHL. His foot-speed is among the best in the world, but what sets him apart is that his mind is even faster. Last year he was the only player to reach 100 points, and he should easily reach that plateau again this year. McDavid is really in a league of his own. His speed was deadly last year, and he only looks faster now. Just look at his goal against Calgary in the season opener. With his unparalleled vision, and a desire to score more scrappy goals, McDavid is ready to win his second Art Ross Trophy.
2016 / 2017 Stats: GP: 82, Points: 100
Predicted 2017 / 2018 Stats: GP: 82, Points: 107
- Sidney Crosby
Sidney Crosby is the only player that has any chance of taking the Art Ross Trophy away from Connor McDavid. He still has a case for being the best player in the world, and if he decides to turn it up a notch, he can easily win his third Art Ross. Honestly, it’s hard to believe he’s only won two. If it weren’t for untimely injuries, Crosby’s trophy case would be even larger. Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins aim for their third straight Stanley Cup, which could affect his point totals. If he has to take a more defensive role on them team, he will lose out to McDavid again.
2016 / 2017 Stats: GP: 75, Points: 89
Predicted 2017 / 2018 Stats: GP: 77, Points: 93
- Patrick Kane
It’s funny that pundits have questioned if Patrick Kane’s production will go down with the departure of his sidekick, Artemi Panarin. Kane is one of the most talented players in the NHL. It’s no question that he’ll continue putting up points this year. The Blackhawks are younger and faster this year, which fits right into Kane’s game. He’ll enjoy the extra room on the ice, which will allow him to continue producing at a point-per-game clip. If you still doubt how good Kane is at point producing, then look at the fact that he recorded a point on 41.1% of the Blackhawks’ goals over the last two seasons. With the Hawks losing Panarin and Marian Hossa, Kane’s production should see an increase, not a decrease.
2016 / 2017 Stats: GP: 82, Points: 89
Predicted 2017 / 2018 Stats: GP: 82, Points: 91
- Mark Scheifele
Mark Scheifele is ready to stake his claim as one of the best players in the NHL. He finished with 82 points in 79 games last year, and as long as he can stay healthy, that production should increase. It helps that Scheifele plays with two studs in Nikolaj Ehlers and Blake Wheeler. He will remain with elite linemates all season, which will bump his assist totals up from last year. The x-factor for Scheifele will be his production on the powerplay. The Winnipeg Jets were 18th in the league with the man advantage last year. If Scheifele can score and provide more assists to sniper Patrik Laine, then the Jets and Scheifele’s powerplay production will surely benefit.
2016 / 2017 Stats: GP: 79, Points: 82
Predicted 2017 / 2018 Stats: GP: 82, Points: 89
- Auston Matthews
Some people may think it’s too early to put Auston Matthews on this list. I am not one of those people. Last year, Matthews showed the league how dangerous he is. His shot is lethal, his vision is great, and his blend of size, speed and skill is remarkable. Matthews played much of the season with Zach Hyman and Connor Brown as his wingers. While both of those players had good rookie seasons, neither is someone you would label as a star. This season, however, Matthews will be playing alongside Hyman and William Nylander. Having another elite scorer and playmaker will make his line more dangerous. Although his goal numbers may stagnate with another scorer on his line, his point totals will skyrocket.
2016 / 2017 Stats: GP: 82, Points: 69
Predicted 2017 / 2018 Stats: GP: 82, Points: 85
Outside looking in: Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nikita Kucherov, Jack Eichel, Artemi Panarin and Jamie Benn
The players left from the top-five are interesting cases. Jack Eichel was injured for parts of last year, which limited his growth. So, if he can remain healthy this season, he could easily emerge as a top-ten scorer. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Jamie Benn are both coming off of a down year and will be looking to bounce back. Artemi Panarin is immensely skilled and Columbus will rely on him to carry their scoring. If injuries hit any of the top-five, look for any one of these players to take their spot atop the list. The final “preseason” award prediction for the Hart Trophy will be coming out later this week.