I know, I know — I'm a day late. But when you're in as many hockey pools against people who read your blog as I am, you never can be too careful.
Here's a look at some players I tabbed for a point increase heading into this season:
- Martin Havlat, Chicago. True, Mach 9 is a proven NHL scorer already, but even then his career best point totals were in 2003-04 when he had 31 goals and 68 points. I think there's real potential here for Havlat to have a year like Alex Ovechkin did last season, where he's the only player to top 50 points on an otherwise awful team. I don't think 90 points is out of the question.
- Jeff Carter, Philadelphia. I think when all's said and done, Carter wins the nonexistent 'Most Improved Player' award that Teemu Selanne would have taken home last season. Let's not forget that Carter entered his rookie season battling mono, which led to his getting off to a terribly slow start. This kid's a star.
- Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim. Getzlaf was a horse as the captain of the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL, and he's going to be one in the NHL. He's huge, strong, fairly quick and has a heavy shot. It's almost ridiculous the Ducks got him at 19th in the 2003 entry draft, and I think he can hit a point a game pace either this year or next.
- Steve Bernier, San Jose. There's nothing like a spot on Patrick Marleau's line to accelerate your growth into an NHLer, and Bernier showed glimpses of being a Grade A power forward late last season.
- Milan Hejduk, Colorado. Hejduk had just an awful season last year coming off of a serious injury and was put in more of a subordinate offensive role with Alex Tanguay still in the mix. Now, Colorado desperately needs him to score and he's going to be playing big minutes. Hejduk won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2003 for a reason.
- Petr Sykora, Edmonton. The only problem with picking a breakout scorer from the Oilers is how deep their scoring lines are, and you can never really be sure just who will get hot, and who will catch on a line with who. Even still, with a dearth of offensive defencemen and coach Craig MacTavish looking to put Sykora on the point as the power-play QB, he should pick up a ton of assists riding shotgun with Ales Hemsky. Being Czech has its benefits. (Besides, Sykora is still just 29 years old.)
- Jason Pominville, Buffalo. The little guy who still gets so little pub, Pominville may be most remembered for putting the Ottawa Senators out of their misery during the playoffs last season. He's just a flat out goal scorer, a guy who put up huge numbers in the QMJHL but was overlooked, and he's got phenomenal hands and shooting abilities. Every poolie will know who he is by this time next year.
- Marian Gaborik, Minnesota. He needs to stay healthy. Other than that, I see no reason why Gaborik can't be one of the top goal scorers in the league given his skillset and the fact Pavol Demitra is in town. Unbelievably talented — and underrated.
- Patrick Eaves, Ottawa. Eaves surprised a ton of people by potting 20 goals in 58 games last year, and he's got a great nose for the net. If one of the Senators' big three goes down, he's in line for that first-line promotion.
- Corey Perry, Anaheim. The Ducks are the preseason pundits' darlings right now, but what this team's really going to need is scoring with Joffrey Lupul shipped out of town. Perry will be a scoring-line mainstay, and Anaheim's going to need 60 points out of him in order to compete in the Pacific.