In part one of the Pacific Division Top 20, I may have jinxed the entire division by saying it is the weakest in the league when it comes to top end talent. Hello Erik Karlsson.
I had put together my top ten prior to the Sharks snagging Erik Karlsson so it’s your lucky day, 11 players in a top ten!
10. Leon Draisaitl (F) – Edmonton Oilers
Draisaitl’s “off-year” last season still resulted in 70 points in 78 games. He finished top ten in league scoring in 2016-17 and has the ability to get back there again. When he’s on his game he can absolutely dominate with both his skill and his size.
9. William Karlsson (F) – Vegas Golden Knights
This time last season William Karlsson wouldn’t have even made a top 50 list within the division, now he sits in the top ten. Karlsson jumped from six to 43 goals last season, an increase I’m not sure we’ll ever see again. He had the most goals in the division and finished third in the league. I highly doubt he hits 43 snipes again and I would pick players below him in the top 20 to build a team around but he belongs in the here right now.
8. Marc-Andre Fleury – Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights had a lot go right for them at both ends of the rink last season but their run to the Stanley Cup final doesn’t happen without Marc Andre-Fleury. He finished the year with a 2.24 goals against average, a.927 save% and a .630 winning percentage for the Knights. You know what’s crazy? He had the exact same numbers in the playoffs. It’s fair to wonder if Vegas can duplicate their success but the one thing they don’t need to worry about is Fleury.
7. Johnny Gaudreau (F) – Calgary Flames
The creative Flame hit the point-per-game mark for the first time in his career last season finishing with 84 points in 80 games. Gaudreau had 60 assists last season, just seven fewer than Connor McDavid. He’s a threat every single time he has the puck and still has room to get better.
6. Ryan Getzlaf (F) – Anaheim Ducks
How is old balls Getzlaf still this high on the list? Even last season at the age of 33 Getzlaf finished with 1.09 points per game. The big centre can still completely take over a game, he’s now just more selective in how he goes about picking his spots. With the game on the line, I’d still take Getzlaf ahead of Gaudreau, Draisaitl and Karlsson.
5. Jonathan Quick (G) – Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick is being pushed but he’s still the best goaltender in the division. He played 63 games for the Kings last season and finished with a .921 save% and a 2.40 GAA. In nine of Quick’s ten seasons, he’s had a GAA below 2.50. The Kings keeper went into lockdown mode in the playoffs last year allowing just 7 goals in 4 games but that still wasn’t enough for his team against the Knights.
4. Brent Burns (D) – San Jose Sharks
Brent Burns is a top five player in the division but isn’t even the best defenseman on his own team, that’s ridiculous. After putting up 56 goals over a two-year stretch Burns started slow last season and finished with just 12. It will be interesting to see how Burns usage changes, if at all, with the acquisition of Karlsson.
3. Anze Kopitar (F) – Los Angeles Kings
Kopitar is one of, if not, the most complete player in the NHL. A coaching change helped the giant centre blow up offensively last year. The 92-points he scored last season were a career high, it’s not very often you see a 31-year old put up career-best numbers. I’d bet on him dropping back down to 80 points but when looking at everything else he brings to the table that would still be an incredible campaign.
2a. Erik Karlsson (D) – San Jose Sharks
Karlsson has scored 215 points over the past three seasons and will now join a much more talented group of players in San Jose. He has been very consistent offensively over the past five seasons with his lowest point production being .80 points-per-game, coming in 2014-15. When the Sens made their run to the Eastern Conference final in 2017 you could make a case Karlsson was the best player in the game for a two-month stretch.
2b. Drew Doughty (D) – Los Angeles Kings
I had Drew Doughty alone in the two spot until the Karlsson trade was made. Doughty, like Kopitar, put up a career-best 60 points last season for the much more up tempo Kings. Doughty is better defensively, Karlsson is better offensively, outside of that there isn’t much that separates the two.
1. Connor McDavid (C) – Edmonton Oilers
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What else do you need to know? He’s putting up at least 120 points this season, take that to the bank.
Previously by Dustin Nielson:
- A Chance for Chiasson
- Pacific Division Top 20 (20-11)
- The Want List – Defensemen/Goalies
- The Want List – Forwards Edition
- Jesse Puljujarvi: The 26 Goal Man