Was I wrong to doubt the Hockey News last year? Perhaps. But then where's the fun of doing your own projections, right? The call on Connor McDavid being the top dog was pretty darn close, given that the publication said 95 points and he reached an even 100 points by the end of the year. The Hockey Pool's numbers also suggested that Braden Holtby was going to be the top dog at 106 points... and well, he was the top dog at 102 points in my hockey pool scoring rankings.
Does that mean I'm going to give up and not go along with my own projections? Hell no. There's no fun in just taking someone else's numbers out of a book... is there? Don't forget to have a peek at my projections, just in case you're wondering.
The pool guide has done a pretty decent job of putting together a good list of players this year, 693, by my count, so that would look pretty good on the 200 forwards, 100 defense and 50 goalies we'd be taking if the pool was 25 teams again. And based on a 25-team pool, like we had last season, let's do some basic comparisons.
My 5-point range of scoring saw McDavid on top at the 105-point range, while the Hockey News suggests that he's in for a huge year, posting 112 points, far and away the best player of the bunch. I went so far to add a few goalies in the 100-point range, Cam Talbot, Devan Dubnyk and Tuukka Rask, but the Hockey News didn't have any more.
The projections for the 1st round in their publication, the top 25 players, rounds out at 76 points, which is 25 players on the nose. I do think there is a little room for movement, given that lots can happen in any given season and my 75-point range does have 34 potential players that could be 1st rounders, including Brent Burns, Corey Crawford, Pekka Rinne, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Brad Marchand, Auston Matthews, Blake Wheeler and Tyler Seguin. Teams are going to want and edge in the pool somewhere and if they can find it this early, they are already better off.
Nevertheless, let's have a look at their top 10's, see if they are in line with your thinking. Patrick Kane, Nikita Kucherov, Sidney Crosby, Mark Scheifele, Leon Draisaitl, Jamie Benn, Jack Eichel, John Tavares and Nicklas Backstrom all round out that group behind McDavid and it's really looking like the youth movement is on, according to the publication.
On defense, there are no real surprises here: Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Victor Hedman, Rasmus Ristolainen, Dustin Byfuglien, John Klingberg, Dougie Hamilton, Roman Josi, Duncan Keith and P.K. Subban are your top ten. With both Eichel and Ristolainen playing prominent roles on their respective lists, the Sabres are slowly creeping their way back into relevance, aren't they?
Talbot, Rask and Dubnyk were among my top 10, also figuring into theirs as well, while Braden Holtby, Matt Murray, Carey Price, Frederik Andersen, Jake Allen, Mike Smith and Sergei Bobrovsky round out their top 10. Very notable in this list is the Flames' Smith, who finally may have found himself that spot that he can finally put some real points together this year.
One thing I did like about this year's Hockey News numbers, they included a starter and a backup for all 31 teams, which is certainly helpful. I think there was only one disagreement in all 31 teams and that was I thought Jeff Zatkoff would be the guy over Darcy Kuemper for the back-up job in Los Angeles. That one really could go either way. Granted, if something changes, the blog will reflect those changes, while print is still print.
How about the rookie class? We're both in agreement, Nolan Patrick is the one to watch this year and it's going to be a good race. Clayton Keller, Brock Boeser, Joel Eriksson Ek and Nico Hischier are all hovering around where I have them in my projections, so there could be something to this race yet. Also in the rookie top ten, Tyson Jost, Matthew Barzal, Josh Ho-Sang, Charlie McAvoy and Zach Senyshyn.
The faith in the Florida Panthers and their off-season acquisitions seems to be rather thin, only banking points on Evgeny Dadonov, suggesting that he'll be a pretty good pick-up this year, and skipping over the likes of Henrik Haapala or Juho Lammikko, a pair of Finns looking to push through this year. I thought this was a notable point, especially since the Panthers were such a hard team to predict this summer.
We're just over a month away from draft day and the numbers are slowly beginning to creep out. I would say build your own thorough list, that way you don't leave players that you're really looking for behind, but if you're only going to buy a guide leading up to draft day, this would be the one I'd suggest more often than not.