At first glance, +The Hockey News pool guide for the coming season is ramping up Connor-mania and it's hard not to look at that cover and think to yourself, "yeah, I think I would take Connor McDavid with the 1st overall pick this year." His finish to the 2016 season left a pleasant taste in a lot of mouths, I would believe and the belief is that he is only going to get better and that could ramp up in a big hurry.
Now, they do project McDavid to lead all scorers in the league with 96 points in the coming season and as much as I think that might be a little high, compared to my previously published projections, it isn't the highest total of points, thanks to my pool scoring system, so don't be fooled.
If you go back to goalies, right near the end of the magazine, you'll find that Braden Holtby is projected for 46 wins and 7 shutouts, which would give him 106 points in the pool and he is far and away the best player to take. So, there is that. The goalies, especially the top end keepers, tend to go pretty early at my draft, but if your pool doesn't figure goalies to be quite as potent, then McDavid is the way to go then.
So, we'll say Holtby is tops, McDavid is next, then we have Sidney Crosby coming in at 95 points, Jonathan Quick in at 92 points, Patrick Kane down to 90 points, Carey Price returns with 86 points and then Jake Allen & Matthew Murray in at 84 points. Rounding out the top 10 we have Vladimir Tarasenko & John Tavares tied at 83 points.
Out of this list, we see that the Hockey News is confident that Murray will indeed unseat Marc-Andre Fleury in Pittsburgh. It looks like the expectations of the Penguins are still quite high, since they have Fleury still picking up another 29 wins, on top of Murray's 37 wins, which suggests a 66-win season. 66-16-0 would be an off the charts year, unless Fleury was to get moved at some point in the year, which would make some sense.
To the Hockey News' credit, they did point out that Petr Mrazek was going to take over in Detroit, edging Jimmy Howard out of the number one spot and by the numbers this year, there is no going back, with Mrazek in at 58 points and Howard in at 30.
Shall we stay in the crease? Last year, their list was awfully short, only ranking 45 goalies and that wasn't good enough for the participation for the 2015 pool, let alone last season's pool, which saw 27 teams and 54 goalies taken. Looks like they've made up for that, listing 60 goalies, so if we repeat the 27-team season, there will be enough names to go around.
Other revelations from their list include Ben Bishop still the number one guy in Tampa, since he's still going to don their uniform on opening night. The Hockey News still has Ryan Miller over Jacob Markstrom in Vancouver, Brian Elliott will win 31 games in Calgary, Antti Niemi will best Kari Lehtonen in Dallas and the pairing of Jaroslav Halak and Thomas Greiss might get much closer to a platoon system.
We already saw the top five forwards in the top 10, but Jamie Benn, Johnny Gaudreau (once he's signed), Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nikita Kucherov (once he's signed) and Alex Ovechkin will certainly have something to say, rounding out the top 10 of forwards here.
Ovechkin is slated to top Tarasenko in the goals department, suggesting another 50-goal campaign is upcoming, compared to his compatriot's 45-goal projection, while Steven Stamkos is up for 42 markers, Joe Pavelski could hit 40 and Kane should be at 40 as well.
The Hockey News has big things on the horizon for Alexander Radulov, as he joins the Montreal Canadiens in this circus, projecting him for 60 points this season. I don't have him doing half of that and that's where I'm prepared to take him.
Among the rookie forwards, Auston Matthews could hit 65 points in Toronto, while Patrik Laine is down with 46 points in Winnipeg and Jesse Puljujarvi is also with 46 points in Edmonton. William Nylander in Toronto, Dylan Strome in Arizona and Mitch Marner, also in Toronto, are all projected above Laine and Puljujarvi this year, 55, 50 & 49 points, respectively. This certainly does have the makings of a good rookie race among forwards.
I have a feeling that we'll see a better brand of offense from the blueline this season, but the Hockey News doesn't seem to be so sure. Sure, Erik Karlsson is projected to have a 77-point season, a top 10 skater, but the drop Brent Burns down to 64 points, Oliver Ekman-Larsson rises to 61 points, Roman Josi and Kris Letang finish around 60 points and P.K. Subban sticks with 59 points, rounding out the top six.
Some of the surprise notes in their list include a guy like Shayne Gostisbehere, who appeared to be nothing less than a dynamo, they now have as a regular Joe Schmoe, down with 43 points, well down in the rankings. I don't think it was surprising that they projected Shea Weber to have less points than Subban this season, but only 47 points seems a bit low. Everything else, you could make somewhat of an argument for, I suppose... although the difference between Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, 47 & 39 points, seems a bit of a big gap. Maybe that's just me then.
Overall, it is a fairly comprehensive magazine, which is generally worth it's value in reading, even if it is only used as a preseason gauge to the rest of the season. I would always recommend that you do up a comprehensive list of your own, just to make sure you're getting what you really want, at times that you feel more comfortable taking players and then using guides like this or my own projections as helpful hints or suggestions, throwing large grains of salt at them as well. This one still remains the best one out there, even though it isn't quite as dynamic as a blog site and has to be done pretty early to make publication dates.