Even if we might not have an NHL season to look forward to, we always have last season to look back on to try and make some semi-educated guesses about who might run away with the point totals in the years to come. Today I’ll try to do just that, and list the 10 most valuable left wings in the NHL going into the 2012-2013 season, or heaven forbid, the lockout.
10. Rick Nash
A lot of Rick Nash’s success will depend on how well he meshes with the New York Rangers offense. One thing is for sure though; it can’t be any worse than it was in Columbus. Part of Nash’s unusually low numbers last year was due to the horrendous season the Columbus Blue Jackets turned out. With a new team, and a clean slate, Nash should be able to at least crack the 60 point mark in the upcoming season.
9. Joffrey Lupul
At the start of last year’s season no one would have pegged Joffrey Lupul to land a gig in the all-star game. Yet he made it happen, and he’s a shinning example of why lists like this one can often leave out candidates who perform far beyond what previous campaigns suggested they were capable of.
8. Ray Whintey
At 40 years old Ray Whitney has posted Teemu Selanne-like number tallying 53 assists and 77 points. His production can’t be ignored, but his age is a huge deterrent at this point, and increases the likelihood that he won’t be able to reproduce those types of numbers.
7. Patrick Marleau
It seems like Patrick Marleau has been around for a long time, but he’s only 32 years young. Though he saw a bit of a decrease in his own production last year, the San Jose Sharks are still a team with high standards and expectations, both for themselves and from their fans. Marleau will continue to be called upon to lead the charge, so we shouldn’t expect his production to slip, especially as he’s well into his prime.
6. Daniel Sedin
Daniel Sedin dropped almost 40 points lower last year than his 2010-2011 total of 104. While he played 10 less games last season, that’s still a huge drop in production. Even still, at only 67 points he was able to crack the list of top 10 left wing scorers last year, and I wouldn’t expect him to have any trouble doing it again. I’d peg either of the Sedin twins for 75-plus point seasons.
5. Zach Parise
The newly minted Minnesota Wild superstar has seen 80 and 90 point seasons, yet last year’s 69 points in 82 games was enough to net him a monster of a new contract. Perhaps it was due to the fact that he was the only substantial offensive star power available in free agency aside from Alexander Semin; but I digress. His addition makes the Wild an immediate favorite in the Western Conference, and if he can get on the same page with Dany Heatley, both Minnesota and Zach Parise’s fantasy owners should get their money’s worth.
4. James Neal
If James Neal gets a full season with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, who wouldn’t expect him to put up points? He’s been a huge success story for the Pittsburgh Penguins coming over in a trade with the Dallas Stars. Though a full season of Crosby might mean less ice time for Neal (since Chris Kunitz is typically Crosby’s favored left wing line mate), he’s still a potential first team all-star and an easy top five selection at left wing.
3. Scott Hartnell
Even without Jaromir Jagr, the emergence of Claude Giroux and Matt Read, along with what is still an upscale Philadelphia Flyers offense should provide Scott Hartnell with plenty of opportunities to score goals and setup his teammates. He netted both a career high and team leading 37 goals last year, so I wouldn’t look for him to slow down anytime soon.
2. Alexander Ovechkin
Alexander Ovechkin hasn’t changed, and it’s worth noting that a full season with Nicklas Backstrom could really help to boost his numbers back up. It’s remarkable that 65 points is considered a “slump” for Ovechkin, which speaks volumes about his capabilities and skill as an offensive player. If Adam Oates can click with the Washington Capitals the way Bruce Boudreau did, Ovechkin should be able to get back to being Ovechkin.
1. Ilya Kovalchuk
The loss of Parise could either help or hurt Ilya Kovalchuk’s production. It could help in that the New Jersey Devils offensive pie now has a huge slice available for the taking, which could fall to Kovalchuk by default. Or, it could hurt in the sense that the Devils offensive production could suffer overall since one of their most counted on scorers is no longer available, thereby reducing Kovalchuk’s ability to produce. Though at the end of the day, Kovalchuk is still a pure goal scorer and should continue to be the top choice in terms of left wings.