How long has it been since a member of the Edmonton Oilers won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL scoring champion? That would be 1986-1987, when Wayne Gretzky topped the scoring parade with 183 points. That’s long enough ago that Connor McDavid was a decade away from being born.
If you put much stock in what the writers at The Hockey News have to say, that’s a drought that’s about to end after almost three decades. In the annual Pool Guide put out by THN for the 2016-17 season, they’ve got McDavid, the Next One, taking the baton from the Great One in the Art Ross race.
While I haven’t seen a hard copy of the magazine yet, THN is projecting McDavid for 96 points in his sophomore season and pegging him to win the scoring title ahead of the likes of Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, who led the way with 106 points last season, and John Tavares.
That would make McDavid, who is 19 now but will have turned 20 when the regular season ends (his birthday is January 13), the youngest scoring leader since Crosby did it as a 19-year-old in 2005-06, and he’d be the third-youngest ever after Crosby and Gretzky, who was 20 years old (January 26 birthday) when he won it in 1980-81.
DARE TO DREAM
Given that McDavid managed 48 points in just 45 games as a rookie and was third in the entire league with 1.07 PPG last season behind only Kane and Jamie Benn, I can see why THN is bullish on No. 97, but all the cards are going to have to fall his way for him to top the scoring race.
First, McDavid’s age and experience is a factor. History tells us that. You can see the names and ages of Art Ross Trophy winners dating back to 1947-48 here. Crosby had a full season (he played 81 of 82 games) on his resume when he won it as a teenager. Gretzky had 160 WHA games and another 79 in the NHL before the 1980-81 season. McDavid has 45 games as a pro.
Second, until the Oilers prove otherwise, they’re still an also-ran team that will likely finish in the bottom third of the league and one that doesn’t score much – they ranked 25th in the NHL with 203 goals last season. McDavid is going to get more than his share of that production, but it’s a pretty small pie.
If McDavid can replicate his 1.07 PPG and play all 82 games, he’ll come out at 88 points. I don’t doubt McDavid can put up points at the same rate and even bump it up a bit, but staying healthy for every game is the challenge because, even with Milan Lucic on his left wing and more size in the line-up to ride shotgun, he’s a target.
I won’t be surprised if McDavid wins the NHL scoring title a handful of times – say, five or six – during the next decade or so as the Oilers improve (you’d think) as a team. My best guess is that he’ll be in the conversation atop the leader board this season, but winning an Art Ross Trophy for 2016-17 is a big ask. Wouldn’t that be something?
WHILE I’M AT IT
- Assuming Lucic and Jordan Eberle get the most playing time on either side of McDavid at even strength, I’m curious to know how you project both of them for the coming season. Lucic’s career-high for points is 62 (2010-11). Eberle had 76 points in 2011-12.
- This from Bob Stauffer on Twitter last night: “Told interest from multiple teams on unsigned Bruins pick Matthew Benning. Right shot D, smart, competitive. LA, EDM, VAN all make sense.” Benning played junior in Spruce Grove. Dad Brian was born here and played for the Oilers. Bruins drafted Benning in 2012 when Peter Chiarelli was GM in Boston. Sounds like a telegraphed shot.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.
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