Scott Cullen of TSN recently published a projected list of the NHL’s top 300 scorers for the 2016-17 season. It boasts the usual names up top, including Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane and Jamie Benn.
The list starts with Crosby leading the way with 94 points and rolls all the way through five players tying with 27 points. The most notable among the five is 2016 Hobey Baker winner Jimmy Vesey, whose headlining story ended after signing with the New York Rangers.
The list is highly conservative, projecting just five of the top scorers reaching 80 points, and just two—Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos—scoring 40-plus goals. That means Cullen projects neither Benn, Kane or Vladimir Tarasenko, who each topped 40 goals in 2015-16, to repeat their totals.
On the backend, Cullen has Erik Karlsson pacing all defensemen with 76 points. Brent Burns and Kris Letang follow with 64 and 63 points, respectively. Cullen has all other defenseman falling outside number 50 among the top scorers.
Red Wings on the List
Getting to Hockeytown, Cullen’s list includes 10 Red Wings. Let’s take a look who the Red Wings top scorers will be.
While it’s still strange to not see Pavel Datsyuk’s name included, that’s not the only strange thing among the list of Red Wings.
Cullen has Gustav Nyquist leading the team in goals and points with 28 and 54. In fact, Cullen has just three Red Wings scoring more than 20 goals.
Cullen does however show confidence in veterans Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall being healthy—while neither of them currently is, having dropped out of Team Sweden for the World Cup and their participation in training camp being uncertain.
Zetterberg isn’t the 30-goal, 70-point scorer of his past, but with more limited minutes and a formidable surrounding cast, he can still contribute.
It’s clear that many of Cullen’s choices were based off career numbers and again, while generous to some, he was rather conservative overall.
Red Wings fans would love to see 34 points out of Kronwall after a rough year. When Ken Holland announced Kronwall would have his knee scoped in February, it was believed he would return healthy and find his old mobility.
The recovery dragged on and when he finally returned, Kronwall acknowledged he wasn’t 100 percent. With the aching knee lingering and forcing him to withdraw form Team Sweden for the World Cup, its up in the air if he can fully recover ahead of training camp and the regular season.
Zetterberg, 34, was not himself last year, falling from 66 points in 2014-15 to just 50 in 2016-17; fans began to fear his age has gotten to him.
However, the larger picture shows that only a few scattered numbers increased for players in Jeff Blashill’s first year. Fans were relieved to know Zetterberg’s World Cup-ending injury was unrelated to his back. Should his knee be fully healed come the start f the season, Zetterberg can certainly outdo 53 points with the right players on his side.
Nielsen, 32, has posted 58, 43 and 50 points in the last three seasons, respectively and is likely to play with better, more regular linemates than he had in New York; likely one, or more, of Zetterberg, Tomas Tatar and Nyquist.
Vanek, likely to fall in the 40-point range again this season in a third line role, does, however, have an opportunity at 20-plus goals, which is his career norm. A fresh start and waiting to prove doubters wrong could lead to a high upside given his one-year, $2.6 million contract.
Cullen, much like a large chunk of non-Red Wings fans, doesn’t appear too high on Justin Abdelkader, projecting his goal and point totals to drop in back-to-back seasons after signing a large contract that keeps him a Red Wing into his mid-30s.
Mike Green’s days of 20-plus goals and 60-plus points are behind him. He struggled early to find his game and adapt to a new system in Detroit before remembering his ability to jump into the play and move the puck.
He finished the season strong when given the go ahead to play to his strengths and while 40 points isn’t out of the question, he will likely find himself in the high 30s again after 2016-17.
Cullen doesn’t appear confident in Dylan Larkin taking the next step in his career, projecting just two more goals and seven more points than his rookie season. The narrow increase in production could be Cullen’s opinion that Larkin is a strong enough player to build on his rookie season and yet still find himself in a sophomore slump.
However, given his new understanding of an 82-game grind and wider ice coverage in a center role, Larkin’s speed will find him with more opportunities and a stronger finish to the season.
Tatar has scored 29 and 21 goals in the last two seasons, respectively. His shooting percentage and shots dipped in 2015-16 due to a decrease in ice time under Blashill. Tatar has shown he can be a sniper in the NHL and had his ice time gone the way it should have last season, he may have snuck past 30 goals.
Riley Sheahan is more than capable of taking the next step and even surpassing the 30 points Cullen has him pegged for. With a new contract and another year of NHL experience, the former first-round pick could be primed for a breakout year.
Red Wings Not on the List
Notable omissions include Danny DeKeyser, Darren Helm and Andreas Athanasiou.
Working backwards, Cullen could be projecting Athanasiou to either spend a chunk of the season in Grand Rapids or not capitalize on his ice time as much as last season, scoring 14 points in just 37 games, which pro-rates to 31 points in a full 82-game season.
This season, Helm will see a decrease in ice time, a loss of a top-six role and no Pavel Datsyuk to play alongside. With 26 points in 2015-16, Helm, 29, isn’t getting younger and has never been a consistent point producer. Considering the facts, Helm stands a real chance at not scoring 27 points and thus being left off Cullen’s top 300 scorers.
Perhaps the most notable omission is Danny DeKeyser. His 2015-16 season didn’t go in the direction many Red Wings fans were expecting. With 23 points in 65 games in 2013-14 and then 31 points in 2014-15, DeKeyser should have taken another step in his development and built off of his 31 points.
At 26, DeKeyser is coming into his prime years for an NHL defenseman. After signing a six-year, $30 million contract this summer, the Red Wings silently said he is their go-to defenseman moving forward and he will be given ice time that shows it.
DeKeyser has the skills to build on his short career and take the next step both defensively and offensively, alongside Mike Green.
What do you think about Cullen’s list of the NHL’s top 300 scorers? Was he fair to the Red Wings? Comment below.
I offer opinions and insight on the Detroit Red Wings organization and its prospects.