2016 NFL Division-By-Division Standings Predictions

2016 NFL Division-By-Division Standings Predictions
M.D. Wright

As we always do around this time of year, it is time to roll out the standings predictions for each division in both conferences. Math wizards need not add up the 256-256 totals, because these are barometer predictions; not exact numbers. Most of us get immediate migraines when we see formulaic mathematics. Leave us be.

As for the predictions themselves, barring significant injuries to key players after the upcoming Week 3 of preseason (which is highly possible), these are devised with existing personnel in place. Serious injuries to marquee players will obviously affect some teams as the season wears on.

People always ask me why I do these for NFL but not college football. College ball is about as unpredictable as a Pit Bull off its anti-depressant medication. There’s no sense in trying. About the only thing predictable about college football is the annual overrating of the Southeastern Conference. And, as we have already seen, several defections, season-ending injuries (before the season begins in two weeks), suspensions and expulsions have already occurred. Why bother predicting college? I learned in the 1990s to not even try, and just go week-to-week. Some have yet to figure this out, however…

As for the 2016 NFL Season’s predictions?

AFC East
New England 11-5
NY Jets 9-7
Buffalo 8-8
Miami 6-10

AFC North
Baltimore 11-5
Pittsburgh 11-5
Cincinnati 10-6
Cleveland 6-10

AFC South
Jacksonville 10-6
Indianapolis 10-6
Houston 8-8
Tennessee 7-9

AFC West
Oakland 11-5
Kansas City 10-6
Denver 9-7
San Diego 7-9

NFC East
NY Giants 10-6
Washington 9-7
Dallas 8-8
Philadelphia 6-10

NFC North
Minnesota 12-4
Green Bay 11-5
Chicago 8-8
Detroit 8-8

NFC South
Carolina 12-4
Tampa Bay 10-6
Atlanta 9-7
New Orleans 8-8

NFC West
Seattle 13-3
Arizona 11-5
Los Angeles 8-8
San Francisco 5-11

Top 20 Dead or Alive MCs

Top 20 Dead or Alive MCs
M.D. Wright

As someone who is not a prisoner of the moment, caught up in who is most “popular”, getting the most spins on radio or has the most album sales; but rather a true hip hop purist, this list will reflect people who are truly the best of the best. This isn’t about who one segment of the population suggests is “all time great” or what another segment of the population — whose collective conscious does not pre-date 1998, and acts as if Hip Hop began when they began losing their baby teeth — thinks qualifies as a great emcee. This is about who furthered the game, contributed an indelible mark on hip hop, who fathered the style of others who came after them. Regardless of the number of albums released, or total album sales, the great ones are here. Some vastly overrated MCs will be omitted.

20. Twista.
19. Bun B.
18. Ice Cube.
17. Jay Z.
16. Big Pun.
15. Busta Rhymes.
14. Ghostface Killah.
13. 2Pac.
12. Raekwon.
11. Sean Price.
10. Cam’ron.
9. Styles P.
8. Jadakiss.
7. KRS One.
6. Kool G. Rap.
5. DMX.
4. The Notorious B.I.G.
3. Big Daddy Kane.
2. Nas.
1. Rakim.

2016 NHL Prospectus: Top 10 Goaltenders Right Now Heading Into 2016-2017 Season

2016 NHL Prospectus: Top 10 Goaltenders Right Now Heading Into 2016-2017 Season
M.D. Wright

As we approach the World Cup of Hockey (September 17-October 1 on ESPN Networks), we will be dissecting teams and players, as we saw a bevy of moves involving big-name players — as some predicted would be the case before this offseason arrived. Therefore, it is a good time to assess who is the creme de la creme among National Hockey League players in advance of the World Cup, which will represent countries that are home to some of the best players in the NHL. Tonight’s lists will involve the Top 20 Forwards, Defencemen and Top 10 Goalies in the NHL heading into the 2016-2017 season.

  • – Note: Not a representation of cumulative career accomplishments; solely where players are in their careers at the moment, regardless of experience and compiled statistics.

There’s no need to do a Top 20 among goaltenders, because honestly speaking…after the Top 10, there is a noticeable dropoff, and the list would be relatively interchangeable.

10. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators.
A big goalie, Rinne is known to make highlight reel saves. He was a bit of a late bloomer, as he really did not become an elite goalie until his late 20s, but he is an anchor for the Preds last line of defence.

9. Brian Elliott, Calgary Flames.
“Moose” is a streaky goalie. He has had stretches where his GAA and SV% are off the charts. In fact, he had a couple of stretches in 2015-2016 which fit that profile. He was touted by many to be Vezina Trophy finalist as a result: .930 SV% and 2.07 GAA (led the NHL until late in the season; second to Ben Bishop’s 2.06).

8. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins.
Fleury suffered a concussion late in the 2015-2016 season, giving way to new sensation Matt Murray. And with the 2017 Expansion Draft lurking, the Penguins may have to move Fleury to avoid having to protect him next summer and lose him for nothing. Fleury has won a Stanley Cup as starting goalie, and was just fine during the regular season before his injury (2.29 GAA, .921 SV%). Teams found out that Matt Murray can be beaten high to the glove side, but could not slow the Pens’ offensive attack. Therefore, the Penguins must not be caught up in the team’s playoff success from last season and think that a flippant move to trade Fleury can’t potentially backfire with the “book” on Murray being a relatively common shot for most players (along with wraparounds from behind the net, both of which were the source for nearly all the goals he surrendered in the 2016 playoffs).

7. Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils.
Schneider’s held back because two-thirds of the players in front of him last season didn’t belong in the NHL. The Devils have gotten better with Taylor Hall, and surely hope that Pavel Zacha can make an impact. The Devils still don’t impress offensively. Their defence and Schneider’s stellar play kept them in virtually every game (the number of one-goal games, and overtime/shootout games the Devils had in 2015-2016 was astounding) with his 2.15 GAA and .924 SV%.

6. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings.
Quick had an off year (by his standards) last season, but only in the respect that he had a baffling number of games where he surrendered a number of goals  that he normally stops. A .918 save percentage is not bad. And a 2.22 goals against is very good. Often times, the stats lie, and the Kings often held opponents’ shot chances down due to their defence (as well as their own high offensive zone possession), which is why the stats are misleading. It is the saves that Quick didn’t make that are the true story, but he is still in his prime, and being #6 here is no knock.

5. Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning.
Bishop has had some bad luck with injuries (2014 and 2016) affecting his ability to dress in playoff games, but when healthy, he basically envelops the entire net, making it extremely difficult to beat him. At one point two seasons ago, he did not give up a single goal all year on certain shot attempts from in front. He can be beaten with tic-tac-toe plays, but with the speed of the Tampa forwards and defencemen, those instances are rare; exemplified with Bishop’s goals against and save percentage statistics in recent years.

4. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins.
Rask is solid, and often spectacular. A stalwart in goal. Just an ideal elite goalie.

3. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals.
Everyone knew Holtby would eventually be good. Winning the Vezina Trophy in 2016 was no surprise or accident. He finally began playing calmer in the net, instead of utilizing his supreme athleticism to make every save (and often take himself out of position for rebound shots). His five hole has always been a weakness, however, and it was his undoing in the Caps’ second round playoff loss to Pittsburgh. All goalies have weakness (Lundqvist’s, for instance, is playing the puck behind his net), but Holtby is good enough most nights that the five hole isn’t a killer.

2. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens.
Price is a perfect specimen, at 6’3″ and change, and about 215 lbs, while as athletic as any goalie in the past 40 years. It is why — when healthy, more on that shortly — he is considered by many to rival Henrik Lundqvist for the title of best goalie in the world. At times, he actually can be universally considered such. His last substantial memory — as he was injured for virtually all of 2015-2016 due to a second knee injury, a compounding of the one suffered when Alexei Emelin tripped Chris Kreider into Price, injuring the same knee in the 2014 playoffs — was the total evisceration he suffered at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2015 playoffs. That’s the only delineation between he and Lundqvist at the moment (although Lundqvist, by extension of the awful play by the defencemen and a couple of subpar own-zone forwards — one who was just traded away, most notably — was equally embarrassed by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2016 playoffs).

1. Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers.
Never mind his career high 2.48 goals against, and .920 (just a couple ticks below his career .922) from last season, take into account that the Rangers defence was a sieve all of last season. Their offence has been good to great under Alain Vigneault, as has Lundqvist, as the best goalie in the NHL, but when four of your six defencemen are liabilities and one of the two who are good-to-great gets hurt every year, this is what happens:


— Faced the most shots of any goalie in the NHL.

— Faced (and stopped) the most high-danger shot opportunities… by far… of all goalies in the NHL.

— Faced more opposition offensive zone pressure in third periods of any goalie in the NHL.

And still put up a benchmark .920 save percentage. Add to it that he was overworked by Vigneault — a ridiculous move considering Lundqvist turned 34 in March — and the entire team wore down under the weight of playing five seasons’ worth of games the past four years (including a regular season’s worth of playoff games from 2012-2015). Lundqvist hasn’t shown any signs of slippage, hence this individual ranking.

2016 NHL Prospectus: Top 20 Defencemen Right Now Heading Into 2016-2017 Season

2016 NHL Prospectus: Top 20 Defencemen Right Now Heading Into 2016-2017 Season
M.D. Wright

As we approach the World Cup of Hockey (September 17-October 1 on ESPN Networks), we will be dissecting teams and players, as we saw a bevy of moves involving big-name players — as some predicted would be the case before this offseason arrived. Therefore, it is a good time to assess who is the creme de la creme among National Hockey League players in advance of the World Cup, which will represent countries that are home to some of the best players in the NHL. Tonight’s lists will involve the Top 20 Forwards, Defencemen and Top 10 Goalies in the NHL heading into the 2016-2017 season.

  • – Note: Not a representation of cumulative career accomplishments; solely where players are in their careers at the moment, regardless of experience and compiled statistics.


20. Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers.
Although he plays for a rival team, I like Gostisbehere’s unabashed style. He’s not big or overly physical, but he can develop in that area as he is still young. As an offensive defenceman, he does not turn down shots when he has an open lane. In fact, teams learned last season that they have to challenge him more, which opened up the ice for some of the Flyers top two lines offensively; helping them with their surge into the playoffs. In 64 games, he accumulated 17 goals (8 via the power play) and 29 assists for 46 points. Not bad for a rookie.

19. Tyson Barrie, Colorado Avalanche.
Barrie is a lot like Gostisbehere, albeit with a little more size and more experienced. A top end puck rusher, he can make plays while quarterbacking the Avs’ power play, and also score himself (13 goals in 2015-16). the concern you have with smaller d-men is their ability to play physically with the power forwards of the league, which does somewhat work against players such as Gostisbehere and Barrie.

18. John Klingberg, Dallas Stars.
Klingberg had a breakout season last year in Dallas. He hopes to build upon it heading into next year, as the team basically got rid of the two other NHL-worthy defenceman they had on their team (Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers; although Demers left as a free agent).

17. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes.
Another one of those Swedes who isn’t known to be physical, but Ekman-Larsson is a maven with the puck, and overall a sound, smart player. So much so that the Coyotes felt comfortable to trade Keith Yandle two years ago. To be fair, the Coyotes robbed the Rangers blind in the trade (perspectives held both at the time and in retrospect) given that the Coyotes received multiple assets as compensation — including future star Anthony Duclair — while the Rangers only had Yandle for 15 months.

16. Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks.
Seabrook is good, even scored 14 goals (and 35 assists) last season, but he’s more a product of the Blackhawks’ system. Not all world like some would suggest — although he has a penchant for scoring clutch goals.

15. Keith Yandle, Florida Panthers.
If the Panthers are smart (and with the money they are paying Yandle, one would only hope that they will be), they’ll pair Yandle with Aaron Ekblad and watch for both players’ numbers to take off. With the multitude of skilled forwards that the Panthers have accumulated in the past few years, and Ekblad poised for a huge season, Yandle is the perfect complement. One of the league’s best puck-rushers, Yandle is an elite quarterback on the power play, and has great instincts in the offensive zone. He is ranked at 15 because he’s just adequate in his own zone, if not sometimes awful (particularly with giveaways). However, his numbers the past two years were held down because of the galling misuse of his skills by the New York Rangers.

14. Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers.
McDonagh has been weighed down by the anchor that Dan Girardi has become over the past two seasons, but make no mistake, McDonagh is a complete two-way defenceman. If he had a better skater to pair with, McDonagh would be free to do more in the offensive zone than he has. As it is, his numbers are stifled because the Rangers have routinely spent more time in their own zone since their 2014 Stanley Cup Finals appearance; now to the point where they actually made Henrik Lundqvist look human by the end of their brief cameo in the 2016 playoffs. Can’t score if you’re always defending.

13. Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues.
There isn’t anything this guy cannot do, and does not do well. It is not an insult to be #13 on this list. Could be as high as #3 or #4 if you ask some people (objective people who aren’t diehard Blues fans, that is).

12. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning.
You’d like for Hedman to be more physical than he is, but the Swedes often aren’t (although Ulf Samuelsson would be quick to object). As it is, Hedman is an exceptional player in the offensive zone, and his long reach (6’6″ 230 lbs) and elite skating ability allow for him to play a more zonal role defensively, rather than a bone-crusher like Chris Pronger, who played at that size in his day.

11. Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild.
Defencemen are a tricky breed to gauge, because once they enter their early 30s — particularly those who play the body or take hits while making the first pass out of the zone — they begin to decline rapidly (Wade Redden?) Suter’s been all world for a long time, and hasn’t really shown any decline. Never a major scorer, but an all-around complete defenceman in the way that Drew Doughty (five years younger) has become.

10. Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets.
You just stay out of his way when he’s on the ice (6’5″ 265 lbs). Between the hits and the rocket shot on the power play. Just stay away. Much more nimble than one would expect from a guy that size. Still going strong heading into his age-31 season.

9. Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks.
Keith’s very good, occasionally sparkling. But he is most importantly solid and rarely makes bad plays when he’s on the ice. Outside of the dirty slashes that he’s taken on opponents, that is. Somewhat overrated, as Blackhawks players in the past seven or eight years often (although not always) are, but he’s not a spring chicken anymore, either.

8. Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens.
Weber is still a very good defenceman, let’s get that straight. No one defeats Father Time, however. He has shown that he’s lost a bit of agility (put on tape of the Nashville Predators’ 2016 playoff series with the San Jose Sharks, for instance). That said, his game was never predicated on speed, but using his 6’4″ 235 frame and his physical tools to anchor his defensive pairing, while skating with  a more nimble left defenceman. Before Roman Josi and others, it was Ryan Suter, in Montreal it will be Nathan Beaulieu.


7. Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames.
Giordano plays in Calgary.



Outside of diehards, most don’t appreciate his overall ability.

6. Roman Josi, Nashville Predators.
Josi lived in Shea Weber’s shadow the past couple seasons (while lowkey carrying Weber, who has shown the first signs of decline over the past year or so), but he is an electric puck-rusher and elite playmaker. He is also good in his own zone, although Joel Ward embarrassed him in the 2016 playoffs on a play that a junior league player would have snuffed out.

5. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators.
Everyone loves stats. Karlsson routinely stuffs the stat columns every year. He was a point per game in 2015-2016 with 16 goals (66 assists led the entire NHL). We know what Karlsson does in the offensive zone. He’s a smaller defenceman, and although he does play the body quite often, he has always been a minus player (yes, +/- stats have nuances, of course). In this case, that stat does speak a bit toward the fact that Karlsson is serviceable in his own zone. Not a bum. But not great, either. Otherwise, he could be a nice second-line right winger?

4. Kris(topher) Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins.
This list is purely about skill and ability, not personal biases against certain players and teams. Not many non-Penguins fans like Letang. In fact, many hate him, because of his dirty antics and the like, but from a purely skill standpoint, Letang is one of the best in the league. He is an offensive weapon, and he’s physical in his own end (albeit often dirty). One thing he does that Doughty does not is gamble and blow assignments several times per game. This is yet another reason why Doughty won the Norris Trophy and Letang and others did not.

3. P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators.
Subban is as versatile as a defenceman can be. He can skate with the best of them, finishes his checks as often as possible, has the hands of a forward, quarterbacks the power play and often pinches in and penetrates the offensive zone with rushes to the net. Much like the Top 10 among forwards, there isn’t much separation between the top three on this list. That’s top three, not top 10, as there is certainly a delineation between 1-3 and 4-10.

2. Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks.
Burns’ size (6’5″, 230 lbs), skating ability, and ability to get off shots from virtually every possible angle or contortion is unrivaled. Having played forward in the past has helped with this aspect of his game, as he continues to become an all-around defenceman in his own zone, as well. Scored 27 goals (with 48 assists for 75 points) last season, while playing all 82 games in the regular season, and every playoff game.

1. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings.
Stats only tell part of the story, as we know. Doughty is the most complete and effective defenceman — in both the defensive and offensive zones — in the NHL. Period. End of discussion.

2016 NHL Prospectus: Top 20 Forwards Right Now Heading Into 2016-2017 Season

2016 NHL Prospectus: Top 20 Forwards Right Now Heading Into 2016-2017 Season
M.D. Wright

As we approach the World Cup of Hockey (September 17-October 1 on ESPN Networks), we will be dissecting teams and players, as we saw a bevy of moves involving big-name players — as some predicted would be the case before this offseason arrived. Therefore, it is a good time to assess who is the creme de la creme among National Hockey League players in advance of the World Cup, which will represent countries that are home to some of the best players in the NHL. Tonight’s lists will involve the Top 20 Forwards, Defencemen and Top 10 Goalies in the NHL heading into the 2016-2017 season.

  • – Note: Not a representation of cumulative career accomplishments; solely where players are in their careers at the moment, regardless of experience and compiled statistics.


20. Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators.
Forsberg recently secured a long-term extension to remain with the Preds while he continues to establish himself as one of the best young snipers in the game. He came into his own in 2015-2016 with 33 goals and 31 assists for 64 points. His quick hands and ability to make plays both in the offensive zone, but in taking away the puck from the opposition were on display throughout last season, as he seeks to build upon his 0.80 point per game pace… at age 21.

19. Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks.
Perry fell flat in the Ducks’ playoff loss last season, but he is still in the prime of his career. Though he did not compile much of a stat line in the seven-game series with Nashville, he did manage 34 goals during the regular season last year, and there will always be a goals available for a guy who lives in front and forces his way there  on the power play as much as Perry does.

18. Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils.
You can rank the wingers however you want, and statistics can only account for a certain amount, given all of the moving parts that go into compiling statistical data in hockey. Everyone knows the Edmonton Oilers are both extremely old and extremely young on defense. The guys who are in their primes are decidedly average. It is why the general manager Peter Chiarelli and the Oilers traded Hall to New Jersey — albeit for another decidedly average defenceman in Adam Larsson (he has upside, though!) For his own part, Hall is dynamic in the offensive zone, with lightning speed and quickness, and soft hands. He has improved in his own zone, and will have to continue to do so in order to crack the top 10. He still won’t 25 years of age until November, despite already putting in six years in the NHL.

17. Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets have not experienced much success during Wheeler’s time since — you guessed it — Peter Chiarelli traded him from Boston, but he was a point per game in 2015-2016, and toiled in relative obscurity as the Jets suffered from an identity crisis after trading Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian subsequent to making the playoffs the previous season. At 6’5″ 225 lbs, it is virtually impossible to take Wheeler off the puck; a skill that will always hold value in hockey.

16. Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia Flyers.
Usually, you will have a player that excels in maybe one area, and decent in another. Simmonds does it all for the Flyers: he camps out in front on the power play (6th in the NHL with 13 in 2015-16), finishes his checks and is the team’s best fighter — serving the most penalty minutes on the team last season — all at a relative bargain, contractually speaking.

15. Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks.
“Jumbo” Joe may be getting along in years, but he is still getting the job done. Arguably one of the top 5 passers in the history of the NHL, he helped lead the Sharks to their first Stanley Cup Final last season before falling in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, to be a virtual point per game and not score 20 goals says something about his playmaking ability, even at age 37.

14. Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks.
The current captain of the Sharks isn’t as widely celebrated as some of the elite players on east coast/original six teams, as most of his games over the past decade have concluded while many are sawing logs, but hardcore hockey fans know of Pavelski’s second-to-none ability to redirect and deflect shots on goal while anchoring himself in front during power play situations, or one timing Thornton’s mesmerizing passes from literally everywhere within the offensive zone.

13. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames.
Gaudreau looks like someone’s 13 year old on the ice. It is not why he wears the #13, but at 5’9″ and 160 lbs, he may as well. To this date, we have not seen anyone hit Gaudreau squarely, and we all know that with how he beats their teams (78 points in 79 games), there are players who want tobut his high hockey IQ allow for him to see plays two sequences ahead and avoid those situations. They don’t call him “Johnny Hockey” for nothin’.

12. Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks.
Much was made of Panarin’s Calder Trophy win, as he is well into his 20s and had played professionally in Russia before coming to the NHL. Nevertheless, regardless of his previous professional experience and the benefit of playing opposite of Patrick Kane, Panarin still managed to put the puck in the net, as well as helping Kane just as much as Kane helped him (30 goals, 47 assists in 77 games).

11. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals.
Backstrom may disappear as the playoffs progress every year, but while some suggest “Oh, he’s got an easy job: just feed Ovechkin”, you still must possess the puck skills to not only get the puck — either directly, or indirectly via an open passing lane to a defenceman who then gets it to Ovechkin — but evade oncoming defencemen yourself. At 210 lbs, Backstrom is strong enough on the puck to maneuver himself and his teammates to open areas on the ice for prime scoring opportunities. The only knock against Backstrom is that he does not unleash his sneaky-great shot, as he favors playmaking over shotmaking. Nevertheless, he still scored 20 goals (and 50 assists, for 70 points in 75 games) while feeding both Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie last season.

10. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins.
The best two-way centre in the game. Great on faceoffs, superb in his own zone, and a 30-goal scorer, despite just making the solid, if unspectacular plays game in and game out. Again, no major delineation between any of the guys 1-10 on this list, so you really could have had most of the following nine guys in any order within that range and not argue much, if at all.

9. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings.
Kopitar is as big as a water buffalo. It is why he dominates on faceoffs, and why his lines — regardless of the mixture of line mates he has shuffled in and out of Los Angeles in the past decade — consistently have among the top five best possession numbers in the NHL year after year. When you have the puck more, you have more chances to score. Not rocket science.

8. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues.
His invisible act in the playoffs vs. San Jose notwithstanding (although the Sharks went out of their way to bottle him up all series), Tarasenko is a brute force. Some forget that he is 220 lbs with how agile and cat-quick he moves in the slot, and his sneaky shot-making ability is electrifying on its own merit. You don’t get an eight-year contract without having shown and proven (Show Me State joke fail) that you have the skills to demand the bills.

7. John Tavares, New York Islanders.
It should be noted that there is not much separation at all between the top 10 players on this list. It is all about what you value. Tavares has otherwordly hands, can force his way to anywhere within the offensive zone, and makes plays for his subpar teammates. If he ever played with an elite winger (and after this offseason’s moves, he still won’t next season), his numbers would be unrivaled. He still notched 70 points in 78 games last season and was the chief reason the Islanders made the playoffs and won* their first playoff series since Bill Clinton’s inauguration as President of the United States.

6. Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars.
Seguin’s speed, elite hands, and ability to finish in tight are what make him one of the best centres in today’s game. Arguably top three. Yet another Peter Chiarelli trade gaffe.

5. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks.
Kane is coming off a 106-point season and a Hart Trophy last season. He has unique skills, in that he’s barely 175 lbs, but goes into the “dirty” areas, holds the puck and moves like a jitterbug, despite being in the presence of guys 215+ lbs ready to take off his head in the slot. His ability to hold, hold, hold and snipe or set up teammates (i.e. Artemi Panarin’s Calder Trophy season) is virtually unmatched in today’s game.

4. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning.
Stamkos is only 26, despite having been in the NHL since 2008. Arguably the best pure sniper in the game (although Patrick Kane and Alexander Ovechkin have strong arguments), he mixes in the speed and occasional ability to play the body. Stamkos is lethal on the power play, and although he prefers to play centre, most would suggest that he is best playing off on the left wing to take advantage of his right handed shot for his lightning-quick one-time shots.

3. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars.
Benn has been a point per game in the three seasons since being named captain of the Stars in 2013. His soft-spoken demeanor belies his power forward/sniper ability in games, although his peers are certainly not misled.

2. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals.
Ovechkin is a force of nature, at 6’3″ and 230 lbs, he possesses top end skating speed and agility, with the dexterity of a smaller player. Additionally, he goes in search of hits and finishes as many checks as come his way, something most elite goal scorers avoid. While he does not make some of the video game moves that he once did, his one-timer from the left faceoff circle is the most feared in the league. And with good reason: he consistently leads the league in power play goals and overall goals scored ever since he entered the NHL in 2005.

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins.
Like his on-ice demeanor (whining, diving, dirty plays, cheating on faceoffs, etc.) or not, there is no discounting Crosby’s talent and ability. It is why so many teams clamored to position their teams for the rights to draft him in 2005 (and probably why some fans of other teams hate him and the Penguins to this day). Crosby possesses elite hands, passing creativity and owns the best backhand shot in the NHL. He’s been in the NHL for 11 seasons and still won’t be 30 until next year.