We’re now at the stage where a 70-point season has to be considered elite. Only about 2.6 per cent of players will get to 70 points this year, if recent history is any indication.
Nineteen players had at least 70 points last season. Seven of them hit the mark for the first time in their career: Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Victor Hedman, Leon Draisaitl, Mark Scheifele, Nikita Kucherov, and Connor McDavid.
It’s easy to project Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane to reach 70 points as they’ve done it multiple times. But who are this year’s first-time 70-point players? Some are obvious. Some are a little under-the-radar but can get there in the right situations.
But if they get to 70 points, they should all be considered elite. At least for this season.
10. Mike Hoffman
Hoffman is going to get 70 points one of these years. Guessing which year is the difficult part, but let’s look at the positives. He’s scored 25 goals in three consecutive years. His points- and shots-per-game have increased every year since 2014-15. He really shone on the power play last year in his first extended chance on the Sens’ number one unit as he potted 13 power-play goals and 26 power-play points. Seventy points is doable if he continues to improve each season.
Staying healthy has always been Barkov’s issue. To reach 70 points, a player needs to a points-per-game percentage of 0.85 over 82 games. Barkov has averaged 0.87 points per game the last two seasons. The problem is he’s also averaged 64 games. Only once has he made it to 70 games, and he’s only averaged 63 games over his four-year career. All signs point to a 70-point player. He just needs to stay in the lineup.
8. Kris Letang
We already know Letang is one of the best defensemen in the league when healthy. We know he can get to a 70-point pace as he’s been on that pace in four of the last six seasons. He loves to shoot the puck, plays on an elite team, and logs a ton of minutes. He’s also the top power-play option for Pittsburgh and started in the offensive zone for 55 per cent of his shifts last year. All we need him to do is play all 82 games. (Insert laugh track here).
7. Patrik Laine
Laine would likely have hit 70 points in his rookie season if he didn’t suffer a concussion in January or hit a rookie wall at the end of the year (when he had five points in 14 games). But Laine looks to be the best scoring Jet since Teemu Selanne. There are some concerns: his 17.6 per cent shooting percentage seems high, but we don’t know yet what his norm may be. However, he also only had 14 power play points. An increase in PPP could offset a decline in shooting percentage.
Nashville hasn’t had a 70-point player since Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont both accomplished the feat in 2007-08. Nashville could have a duo do the same again this year in Forsberg and Ryan Johansen. They play on the same line, have favourable offensive zone starts, and drive possession. I believe Forsberg gets to 70 points first, mainly because he shoots the puck a lot more than Johansen.
This one would have been no surprise if you read my column about top surprises from a few weeks back. Huberdeau has never broken the 60-point barrier, but did have a 69-point pace last year. He’s a great possession player and has a high offensive zone start percentage. The one knock is that Florida chooses to go with two power play lines instead of loading up on one, thereby reducing the amount of power-play time for Huberdeau. If that changes, then Huberdeau should be considered a lock for 70.
Schenn will have a big opportunity that he never had in Philadelphia. And that’s to play with an elite player consistently at even strength. In Philly, Schenn regularly played with Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier and Dale Weise more often than Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek. There’s a good chance he’ll play with Vladimir Tarasenko in St. Louis. Plus, Schenn is a beast on the power play as he’s had 69 power play points in the last three years combined.
3. Auston Matthews
I’ve talked before about how I believe the Leafs will have a setback season because of health issues and slumps of their young players, but Matthews is the one player I am confident will rise above those. The 19-year-old was just one point off of 70 last year and there’s no reason to believe that he can’t step it up even a little more this season. He’ll have increases in shots (I like him for 300 shots) and he should also see more power-play time.
2. Jake Guentzel
I’m actually surprised more people aren’t projecting bigger things for Guentzel this season. Many projections seem more conservative for him than I peg him for. I like him for three main reasons: He’s shone at pretty much every level, he’ll be playing with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin for most of the season, and he should be a shoo-in to replace James Neal on the top power play line. Last year Guentzel averaged just 1:22 on the power play.
1. Jack Eichel
Eichel really should have hit this mark a year ago, but a preseason injury kept him out for 22 games. He still managed to get 57 points in 60 games, a 78-point pace. Eichel is as sure a bet as anyone on this list to crack 70 this year. He’s supremely talented and should be considered one of the game’s truly elite players.
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