Honorable mention: Ryan Strome, Lee Stempniak
10. Kevin Hayes
Last year's rank: Not ranked
In just his second season as a pro, Hayes didn't have quite the offensive punch he had in his rookie outing (but then neither did his team). That said, he still had a perfectly respectable 14-goal, 36-point season, and managed a 49% CF at even strength on one of the worst possession teams in the League. With just two seasons under his belt, it's hard to tell exactly what the Rangers have in Hayes - and considering he was a healthy scratch for two of their five games in the first-round loss to Pittsburgh, they may not know, either - but he's got the potential to be a steady contributor and will be looking to hit the 20-goal plateau this season.
9. Cam Atkinson
Last year's rank: Not ranked
|2015-16 (Blue Jackets)||81||27||26||53||-8||22||21||4||3||226||11.9|
2015-16 may have been a tough year for the Blue Jackets, but it was a breakout season for Atkinson, who set career highs across the board in his third full year as an NHLer (and fifth overall). Atkinson tied newcomer Brandon Saad with a team-high 53 points (albeit in three more games) and finished in the top-20 scorers in the Division. Picked late in the 2008 Draft, Atkinson has taken a little while to make his mark at the NHL level, but it looks like he was worth the wait - and if he can keep his shooting percentage up, it'll be interesting to see what he's capable of on a healthier Blue Jackets team.
8. Kyle Palmieri
Last year's rank: Not ranked
After spending his entire career in Anaheim, Palmieri arrived in Newark last summer and went on to do two things he's never done before: score 30 goals and play all 82 games. It was all part of a perfect storm that led to a breakout season for the New Jersey native, with increased ice time, better linemates and consistently good health all helping him put together a season that saw him shatter career-high marks in just about every category. The Devils locked him up for five more years this summer, which could end up being a pretty smart move given that he's only 25 and should be lining up with even better linemates in the foreseeable future (namely some guy named Taylor Hall).
7. Patric Hornqvist
Last year's rank: T-4
Since joining the Penguins two seasons ago, Hornqvist has continued to be exactly what he was with the Predators - a shot-producing 20-25 goal scorer who provides a net-front presence, and a guy known to be an all-around pest. Like the rest of his team, Hornqvist struggled through the first few months of the 2015-16 season before rebounding in a big way in the second half (which no doubt was helped by getting a plum assignment lining up next to Sidney Crosby); after just 10 points in his first 28 games, he finished the season at about a point-per-game pace. He didn't sustain that pace through the playoffs, but still managed a respectable 13 points in 24 games - including the empty-netter that put the nail in the coffin for the Sharks in the Cup-clinching Game 6.
6. Justin Williams
Last year's rank: 9
A cap crunch in LA, a gap at right wing in DC, a son who loved Alex Ovechkin... all the stars seemed to align to bring Justin Williams to Washington last summer. Signed to a dirt-cheap two-year deal, Williams wasted no time in helping the Caps to become a better even-strength team, almost immediately making just about everyone he skated with into a Corsi darling. The 19 goals he scored at evens tied a career high set way back in 2006-07 with the 'Canes, and 42 of Williams's 52 points overall were picked up at even strength. Of course, the irony that the Caps brought in Mr. Game 7 to boost their playoff hopes and then proceeded to play two six-game series wasn't lost on anyone, nor was the fact that he faltered a bit in the postseason in general. That doesn't take away from the fact that he has simply made the Caps a better team since his arrival.
5. T.J. Oshie
Last year's rank: 7
If the impact of Justin Williams was a pleasant surprise, the impact Oshie had on the lineup was perhaps even more so. Oshie had spent the entirety of his career in a more stifling, defense-first St. Louis system, topping 20 goals just once in his seven seasons as a member of the Blues. Playing in the more free-wheeling Caps lineup and getting plenty of ice time with guys like Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom seemed to agree with him and he put up 26 goals (including 11 on the power play, almost double his career high). That scoring touch continued into the playoffs, where he put up 10 points in 12 games and seemed to have a particular penchant for scoring on Pittsburgh (always a plus in DC).
4. Mats Zuccarello
Last year's rank: 6
Just months after suffering a terrifying injury that threatened his career, Zuccarello returned to the Rangers lineup and picked up exactly where he left off - using his tiny frame and excellent hands to put together a career year for himself. A generally disappointing season for his team caused his even-strength possession numbers, usually a strength, to dip below 50% - but he was, on most nights, the best forward (and probably one of the best players) on the ice for New York. Zuccarello hit the 200-point mark in one of the last games of the season, and looks poised to add to his point total in the seasons ahead - not bad for an undrafted, undersized Norwegian.
3. Jakub Voracek
Last year's rank: 2
The difference in extremes between last season for Voracek and the one that preceded it is enough to give you whiplash. Voracek followed up a career year in 2014-15 with a disappointing and injury-hampered 2015-16 that saw him score just 11 goals (and just four through the first half) - the same number of goals he scored on the power play alone the year before. He managed just a single goal, his only point, in the Flyers' first-round loss to the Caps, putting a bow on a season that he most likely wants to forget. The fact that it is so soon after an impressive 81-point season, and three consecutive 20+ goal seasons, is what gives him a bit of leeway for having one off year. If he can stay healthy this season, and if the team around him continues to build on what they did last year, he could be back up near the top of the League's scoring race in no time.
2. Wayne Simmonds
Last year's rank: T-4
In what must be a nice change of pace for Flyers faithful, Simmonds has been better for Philadelphia than he was for LA, continuing to put up huge numbers every season since the trade that sent him to the City of Brotherly Love back in 2011. Of those five seasons, none has been better than the 2015-16 campaign, when he cracked the 30-goal mark for the first time and tied a career high (set just two seasons ago) with 60 points. Simmonds is the quintessential Philly player, blending speed and skill with a fair amount of grit and general pain-in-the-ass-ness (albeit a bit too much at times) that has turned him into one of the more dangerous power forwards in the League right now.
And of course, extra credit to Simmonds for saying to Flyers fans what we've all wanted to say from time to time:
1. Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins
Last year's rank: 1
Ah, Phil. Much maligned in Toronto, he arrived in Pittsburgh last summer by way of a lopsided trade that basically proved Jim Rutherford is some sort of evil magician, and was hailed as the winger they've long searched for to play alongside Crosby. Alas, that part didn't work out so well, and Kessel struggled a bit out of the gate - but once Mike Sullivan took over, Kessel found his footing and finished the season with a respectable 59 points, third on the team behind Crosby and Kris Letang. His past body of work is what puts him in the top spot here, but his insane postseason performance this spring certainly didn't hurt, as he racked up 22 points in 24 games and got his name into the Conn Smythe conversation... an award he probably deserved to win, but the lack of which hardly diminishes what he accomplished. Celebratory hot dogs all around.