Honorable Mention: Josh Bailey (NYI), Kyle Palmieri (NJD), Andrei Svechnikov (CAR), Tom Wilson (WSH)
10. Pavel Buchnevich (NYR)
Last Year’s Rank: NR
It’s hard to get a good read on what exactly the Rangers have in Buchnevich, as the 23-year-old has proven to be a solid offensive threat and driver of possession but has also struggled to carve out a role for himself under Alain Vigneault’s watch. Last season he averaged less than 16 minutes a night and spent a significant amount of time on the Rangers’ third and fourth lines. Despite these challenges, he still managed to put up 14 goals and 43 points - and with a new coach coming in, he’s got an opportunity to take a big step forward.
T-8. Sebastian Aho (CAR)
Last Year’s Rank: NR
The 20-year-old Finn continued his upward trajectory in his second NHL season, shaking off any threat of a sophomore slump with an impressive 29 goals and 65 points on the year. Of course, the season didn’t get off to the greatest of starts - he went 15 games before picking up his first point, and was streaky at best through the first few months. But just before Christmas he caught fire and went on a tear, putting up 42 points in the final 48 games of the campaign and finishing with the top goal and point totals on the team. Along with fellow Finn Teravainen, Aho is part of what seems to be a pretty bright future up front for the ‘Canes.
T-8. Cam Atkinson (CBJ)
Last Year’s Rank: T-6
A slow start and a month missed with a broken foot hampered Atkinson’s production during the first half of the 2017-18 season - but around the halfway mark of the campaign, he (like the rest of his team) found another gear and began the push to the playoffs. Atkinson’s performance drastically improved once he was put on a line with Artemi Panarin, their complementary skills helping to fuel Atkinson to an eventual 24-goal, 46-point season - and a healthy new contract, keeping him in Columbus for the foreseeable future.
7. Jordan Eberle (NYI)
Last Year’s Rank: T-6
Eberle made a great first impression on his new Brooklyn home by continuing his steady, consistent offensive production that has been a trademark of his eight seasons in the NHL. He finished the year with 25 goals and 59 points, good enough for second and fifth on the team, respectively and marking his sixth 20-goal season (and fifth in a row). Sure, skating alongside a rookie phenom like Mathew Barzal will help anyone’s point production - but Eberle was a significant driver of his own success, and the success of those around him.
6. Mats Zuccarello (NYR)
Last Year’s Rank: 5
For the fourth time in the last five seasons, Zuccarello finished the year as the Rangers’ leading scorer... although in what was decidedly an off-year for the diminutive winger, leading the team with 53 points is a pretty revealing glimpse at what the Rangers were dealing with this year. In a tough season all around for the blueshirts, Zuccarello managed just 16 goals (albeit one more than he had the season before) and was streaky at best throughout the campaign, at one point going 21 games without a goal. That said, he struggled with a knee injury all year - and he’s still a great playmaker, a power-play monster, and perfectly capable of cracking the 20-goal mark again.
5. Patric Hornqvist (PIT)
Last Year’s Rank: 8
Hornqvist has only had one 30-goal season, way back in 2009-10 when he was still a member of the Predators - but this year marked the closest he’s gotten to that milestone in the eight seasons since, as goals in five-straight games to end the season pushed him to 29. Even in an injury-shortened season, Hornqvist continued to do what he does best: piss off opponents and score dirty, ugly goals. It’s a formula that seems to work pretty well for him, as he topped 200 goals and 400 points last season and added another 11 points in 10 playoff games.
4. T.J. Oshie (WSH)
Last Year’s Rank: 4
There were a lot of raised eyebrows last summer when Oshie, a pending UFA, decided to stick with the Caps for another eight years rather than test the free-agent market. One year later and that deal - at least for now - is looking pretty good. While unable to replicate the scoring touch from his first two seasons with the team, he eventually became one third of a very successful “second” line for the Caps, continuing his work in front of the net on the power play and rolling to an 18-goal, 47-point finish. For an encore? Oh, just 21 points in 24 playoff games and a Stanley Cup to his credit. Not bad.
3. Wayne Simmonds (PHI)
Last Year’s Rank: 3
The 2017-18 season wasn’t one of the best for Simmonds from a pure production standpoint, as he put up “only” 24 goals - his lowest goal total in a full 82-game slate since arriving in Philadelphia. And yet when you consider that he was playing through a multitude of injuries, including a mid-line pelvis tear that dated back to the previous offseason... it’s pretty incredible that he managed even that much, and a testament to just how good he’s been over the years. Still, there’s no question that his game lacked its usual physicality last year, and his ineffectiveness eventually cost him time on the team’s first power-play unit - his bread and butter. It’ll be interesting to see what the Wayne Train’s role is going forward on a team packed with young, talented forwards.
2. Jakub Voracek (PHI)
Last Year’s Rank: 2
Twice in recent years, Voracek has toyed with being in the mix for the Art Ross trophy as the League’s top scorer; both times have featured a bevy of assists from the Czech forward, and this year he set a new career high in that department with 65. Only Connor McDavid, Blake Wheeler, and teammate Claude Giroux finished the season with more - not bad company, that, and impressive considering that Voracek was moved from the first line to the second early in the season to spread the offense around. A lackluster postseason aside - he managed just three points, all assists, in the six-game loss to Pittsburgh - Voracek’s performance last year proved that he’s still an elite winger.
1. Phil Kessel (PIT)
Last Year’s Rank: 1
Clearly something about sulfites and additives and whatever else is in hot dogs agrees with Kessel, because he followed up what was already a pretty good 2016-17 with a career year in 2017-18. Setting new highs in assists (58) and points (92) while cracking the 30-goal mark for the sixth time in his career (and first as a Penguin), Kessel continued to make up a significant part of a lethal Pittsburgh offense - despite being moved between a once-successful second line with Malkin and third-line duties over the course of the year. Granted, his performance in the postseason left something to be desired, with just 9 points - and only one goal, back in the first round - in the Penguns’ 12 games. But it stands out because it’s so unusual for Kessel - expect him to bounce back just fine this year.