2017 Outlook: Benn is in a class of his own. Over the past three seasons, the Stars' captain has emerged as an elite, consistent offensive force. He has continuously upped his goal and point totals during that span, culminating last season with 41 goals (17 on the power play) and 89 points -- both career highs. The 2007 fifth-round pick has also racked up exactly 64 PIM during those three campaigns as well, while firing no less than 247 shots on net, giving him that rare multi-categorical value so coveted in fantasy circles. Although he's not as big as many might think at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Benn plays a heavy, all-around game and is far-and-away the league's most dynamic, productive power forward. Together with linemate and fellow Canadian superstar Tyler Seguin, the duo form arguably the most dangerous two-headed monster in the NHL, and owners would be lucky to build their fantasy roster around either of them come October.
2017 Outlook: Kane was fantastic in 2015-16, capturing the Art Ross Trophy with a 106-point campaign that included a 26-game point streak. The skilled winger formed a lethal 1-2 punch with rookie Artemi Panarin and set a career high with 46 goals. While the Blackhawks seem to lose key players every offseason, the team's core remains intact and Kane is the centerpiece. The 27-year-old is in the prime of his career and his ridiculous consistency makes him one of the most sought after fantasy players entering the 2016-17 season. Kane was held without a shot on goal just once last season and was the only player to appear on the scoresheet in more than 60 games. Kane should continue to skate on a line with Panarin and be the key cog on the power play, where he piled on 37 of his points in 2015-16. After breaking the 100-point barrier for the first time in his career, Kane is bound for greatness once again on a dynamic and potent Chicago team.
2017 Outlook: You know you're dealing with a special player when none of his 36 goals, 49 assists, 85 points, plus-19 rating, 20:28 of ice time and 248 shots on goal amounted to career highs in 2015-16. Crosby now has a second Stanley Cup in addition to the two gold medals and pile of other hardware he's racked up in his 11-year NHL career, and at 29 years old, he once again belongs in the discussion as the very best player in the game. It doesn't appear that Sid the Kid is likely to post gaudy triple-digit point totals like he has five times in his career, but he doesn't have to. The Pens boast a deep arsenal of offensive weapons with guys like Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang and Patric Hornqvist, and it's exactly that depth that allows Sid to do his thing on both sides of the puck. Fantasy-wise, that scoring-by-committee luxury in Pittsburgh might put Crosby behind Patrick Kane and Jamie Benn as the most coveted player on draft day -- especially since the center position is so deep -- but No. 87 should still be a top-4 pick this fall, as long as the concussion he was diagnosed with just before the opening of the season costs him more than a few games, which at this point, we are unable to ascertain. Drafting Crosby at this time is the ultimate high risk, high reward proposition.
2017 Outlook: Over the past few years, Pavelski has quietly emerged as a top-tier fantasy player who can deliver in almost all categories. The sniper set a career high with 38 goals in 2015-16 and finished sixth in the NHL scoring race with 78 points. With three consecutive seasons in the 70-point range, Pavelski is no longer a hidden fantasy gem. The 32-year-old, who has scored 30-plus goals in each of his past four full seasons, is now one of the best fantasy centers out there. He's the centerpiece on a talented Sharks squad that recently made it to the Stanley Cup Finals and is a proven goal-scoring machine who thrives while manning the point on the team's top power-play unit. Given his 14 goals in the 2016 postseason and willingness to always fire the puck on net, Pavelski will likely be one of the NHL's top goal-scorers once again in 2016-17.
2017 Outlook: Tarasenko is a bona fide NHL star who is only just entering his prime. His 40 goals in 2015-16 put him one out of the top three in the NHL and his 292 shots were fourth-best in the league. He was also top-12 in overall scoring with 78 points. In addition, Tarasenko finished tied with Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Tyler Seguin (among others) with 24 power-play points. There has been plenty written about his so-called postseason rift with head coach Ken Hitchcock and perhaps there's a bit of fire with all that smoke, but the numbers don't really indicate that, as Hitch treated him like the star he is by starting him in the offensive zone 65 percent of the time. Still, Tarasenko does have some growing up to do, as everyone saw from his postseason pouting. As long as he does that, a repeat of 40 goals and an 80-plus point season should be on tap for the 24-year-old.
2017 Outlook: Ovechkin is the most prolific scorer in the NHL. The Great Eight slammed home 50 goals in 2015-16 (he also had 21 assists), earning his fourth straight Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy, an award that's almost expected of the veteran at this point. Turning 31 years old in September, Ovechkin led the Caps to the Presidents' Trophy, and despite an early exit in the playoffs, the superstar should repeat his efforts in 2016-17 with a returning roster starving for its first Stanley Cup. At this point, you know Ovechkin is going to fire on net consistently and effectively, with 400 shots always in the cards (and a scoring rate greater than 12 percent). The 2004 first-overall pick has dominated the NHL in 11 years of service, and while the assist numbers will fail to compare to his early days, Ovie is still the best bet around to score 50 times and absolutely feast on defenses night in and night out.
2017 Outlook: While McDavid has only 45 career NHL games under his belt, he enters the 2016-17 season as an elite fantasy option. The 19-year-old burst onto the scene last year, exploding for 48 points in an injury-riddled campaign that earned him a Calder Trophy nomination. The top-line center is an explosive skater with ridiculous skill who can take over the game on any given night. While the Oilers dealt away top goal scorer Taylor Hall over the offseason, they still have some talented wingers who can line up next to McDavid, including Jordan Eberle, Milan Lucic and the recently drafted Jesse Puljujarvi. McDavid scored 16 times last season and was a force on the power play, so it's scary to think what this all-world talent could accomplish in a full 82-game season. Look for the young phenom to be one of the first players taken off the board in fantasy drafts this season.
2017 Outlook: After qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in six years two seasons ago, the Flames were a huge disappointment in 2015-16, but Gaudreau certainly wasn't. The diminutive winger cranked things up after a tremendous 64-point rookie campaign, lighting the lamp 30 times while dishing out 48 helpers to finish tied for sixth in league scoring with 78 points in 79 games. Like most elite fantasy forwards, Gaudreau has a highly productive linemate in Sean Monahan -- who's put up 125 points over the past two seasons and is still just 21 -- so it's almost scary to think what these two are capable of as they continue to develop at the NHL level. They'll welcome veteran Troy Brouwer to their line this season after he was signed by Calgary in the summer, and as long as he brings his typical hard-nosed game and 30-40 points to the lineup, Gaudreau should continue to flourish as one of the game's most prolific wingers.
2017 Outlook: The Isles' franchise center took a step back in 2015-16. Sure, Tavares' 70 points were still the eighth-most among centers, but it was a significant reduction from the 86 he rattled off in 2014-15. Much of that can be attributed to a slow start (by his standards), as the 25-year-old recorded just 29 points in 39 games, punctuated by a 16-game stretch in December and January that featured just seven points. Tavares' feast-or-famine production continued in the playoffs, as he went bananas with 11 points in the first seven games before being held scoreless for the final four contests against Tampa Bay. Tavares probably shouldn't crack the first round in fantasy drafts this season -- especially since longtime productive linemate Kyle Okposo left for Buffalo in the offseason -- but odds are that he'll once again make magic, no matter who lines up with him. Andrew Ladd and P.A. Parenteau were brought in and are the most logical choices to get the first shot at flanking Tavares, so it'll be interesting to see how the Isles' revamped top six comes together as the season gets underway.
2017 Outlook: With the Calder Trophy in his back pocket, the sky is the limit for Panarin entering his second NHL season. The Russian sniper thrived on a line with Art Ross Trophy winner Patrick Kane in 2015-16, piling up 30 goals and 77 points in 80 games. Considering he cracked the top-10 in scoring in his rookie season and delivered in the clutch with seven game-winning goals, Panarin is one of the most appealing left wingers entering the 2016-17 campaign. The 24-year-old will likely continue to skate alongside Kane at even strength and be a key piece on a talented Blackhawks power play anchored by Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. It's hard to see Panarin improving on the totals from his rookie season, even if he does stick with Kane all year. However, the talented sophomore has a knack for finding the back of the net and should be a top fantasy forward once again on a skilled Chicago team.
2017 Outlook: One of the most innately talented scorers in the game, Seguin has been held back from the top tier of fantasy greatness only by the fact that he has missed about 10 games in consecutive seasons. If not for that, he'd almost assuredly enter this season looking for his fourth consecutive 80-point campaign, as Seguin's operated at better than a point-per-game pace for three seasons running. Late-season calf and Achilles tendon injuries ruined what had been an otherwise healthy 2015-16 campaign for 2010's No. 2 overall pick. He also withdrew from the World Cup of Hockey due to a hairline fracture in his heel, putting his status for opening night in question. But since he and linemate Jamie Benn are one of the scariest duos in the Western Conference, both have the ability to finish among the NHL's top five scorers.
2017 Outlook: At just 23, Kucherov is already a top-five and perhaps top-three right winger in the NHL. And he's the first member of the Tampa Bay Lightning that should go off the board in fantasy drafts. Yes, you read that right. Kucherov is coming off a 30-goal season and pretty much carried the Bolts to the Eastern Conference Finals. His growth is on a steep curve and he is just now starting to enter his prime years. Kucherov's spot on the vaunted Triplets Line is well known, but fantasy owners should know just this: He delivers in all zones and situations, regardless of his pivot. Kucherov spent about one-third of his even-strength shifts last season with Steven Stamkos, and that's great news considering fellow Triplet Tyler Johnson could end up traded out of town because of cap pressure. Kucherov appears set to crack 70 points for the first time in 2016-17 which should lead the team. He'll also lead the Bolts in power-play production and challenge for a spot in the top 10 in goals across the league. Pretty soon, Kucherov's picture will appear among the greats as a fantasy cornerstone. He's that good.
2017 Outlook: It's hard to believe Backstrom is just 28, as he has been consistently one of the league's best dishers for nearly a decade. It's even harder to fathom that his 50 assists weren't even the most on the Caps last season, as Evgeny Kuznetsov seemingly came out of nowhere to rack up 57 assists in addition to potting 20 goals -- the same total as Backstrom. Kuznetsov did that largely in a second-line role and with nearly two minutes less ice time (17:24) than Backstrom (19:10), so while nothing is imminent, Backstrom's value could potentially take a hit if Kuznetsov is afforded more playing time and a better line assignment. It may come down to which player lines up next to goal-scoring machine Alex Ovechkin, a spot Backstrom has enjoyed for most of his career. Make no mistake, the Swede is an all-world talent whose production should continue to be among the top centers in the league for the foreseeable future no matter what line he's on, but there's little separating him and Kuznetsov in terms of fantasy value heading into 2015-16. Choose wisely.
2017 Outlook: Bergeron found a new gear (or perhaps an old one) last year, setting career highs with 32 goals and 25 power-play points, while his 68 points and 282 shots represented his best totals in nearly a decade. The Quebec native and first-line winger Brad Marchand were the two main bright spots in a bitterly disappointing campaign for the Bruins. One of the premier two-way players in the game, Bergeron has won the Frank J. Selke Trophy (given to the league's best defensive forward) three of the past five seasons, and he finished second in the voting in the other two years. If anything, the Bruins have grown to rely on him more than ever, and there's no reason to think that'll change in his age-31 season. He may not quite reach last year's lofty heights, but 60-plus points are nearly guaranteed as long as Bergeron remains healthy, which generally hasn't been a problem.
2017 Outlook: Over the past five seasons, Malkin averaged more than a point per game and is likely to continue that trend into the 2016-17 campaign. Unfortunately, the Russian has played in more than 70 games just once over that span and has been prone to injury. When he's on the ice, the 30-year-old has been a mainstay on the Penguins' top power-play unit, including notching 11 goals and 16 assists with the man advantage last season. While his productivity and spot on the power play are not in question, there is a significant unknown regarding who will play alongside Malkin on Pittsburgh's second line. He started last season with Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel, but after being knocked out due to injury, was replaced by Nick Bonino and closed out the postseason with Chris Kunitz and Bryan Rust. Regardless of who he plays with, the center will be a focal point for opposing defenders as the Pens defend their Stanley Cup title. Despite concerns about his health, owners can expect Malkin to be selected early in virtually every fantasy format as point-per-game producers with his championship pedigree are few and far between.