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.
2017 Outlook: For years, Byfuglien has been the rock on Winnipeg's blue line and the hard place for opposing players who absorb his vicious hits and shots. He's the complete package, a consistent (from season to season, if not always from game to game) performer who's on a streak of three straight campaigns with 18-plus goals, 45-plus points and 200-plus hits from the back end. Big Buff has also ramped up his PIM over the past two seasons, making him incredibly valuable in leagues that count that particular stat. A defenseman turned forward turned defenseman, Byfuglien was the subject of much trade speculation last season, but the Jets put an end to that by signing him to a five-year contract extension in February (and subsequently dealing away captain Andrew Ladd), so the hulking 31-year-old will continue bullying Winnipeg's opponents into the next decade. He's not likely to have forward eligibility in too many leagues anymore, but he still makes for one of the most valuable fantasy defensemen around.
2017 Outlook: Wheeler looked every bit the part of a top fantasy right winger in 2013-14 when he dropped 69 points. He took a slight step back the following campaign, which left owners questioning his value in 2015-16. Wheeler likely carried those who believed in him to victory last season after feasting on opposing netminders on a consistent basis. The 2004 fifth-overall pick had a career season, finding twine 26 times on 256 shots (10.2 conversion rate) and assisting on 52 goals. In special team situations, Wheeler was just as good, putting up three power-play goals and two shorties with 14 helpers. The scary truth for the opposition is that Winnipeg is improving quickly after adding potential star Patrik Laine as this year's No. 2 overall pick and keeping an explosive top six together moving into 2016-17. The Minnesota native has established himself as a lock for 25-plus tallies, and with talent blossoming on the Jets, reaching 50 assists could come easily for the eight-year NHLer. Look to lock him up in drafts after the very select few right wingers ranked higher than him (Patrick Kane, Johnny Gaudreau, Vladimir Tarasenko and possibly Nikita Kucherov) are gone.
2017 Outlook: Stamkos was supposed to be the biggest free agent catch this past summer, but he broke the hearts of general managers and fans in at least a dozen cities when he re-upped with the Bolts for eight years and $68 million just two days before the July 1 deadline. The talented center is coming off an odd season, in part from the pressure of constant discussion about his future and in part because of the way he was deployed on the ice. The result? Just 64 points, albeit 36 goals, in 78 games. Why? Stamkos wasn't the centerpiece of the Tampa offense, as the Triplets (Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat) were still the go-to group for head coach Jon Cooper. Stammer didn't get the best linemates all the time, nor did he always hop the boards on the first power-play unit. He heads into 2016-17 healthy and should be the man in Tampa. His supporting cast will determine if he has a 65-point season or a 75-point one. Either way, count on 40 goals and pray for 70 points, but just don't overdraft him, as he's no longer a top-five fantasy center.
2017 Outlook: The Kings could hardly have chosen a better new team captain than Kopitar, who finally gets to wear the C on his jersey in his 11th year in the NHL. Still just 29 years old entering the 2016-17 season, Kopitar is the Kings' heart and soul (with apologies to Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty) and a supremely talented scorer who's just as good on the defensive side of the ice. Kopitar's fantasy owners have generally enjoyed excellent plus-minus and terrific power-play production to go with his typically brisk scoring pace, and there's no reason they won't get that again this season. Arguably the league's best two-way center, he's still in the midst of a lengthy prime that will probably land him in the Hall of Fame one day, so Kopitar makes for one of the highest-floor fantasy options around. Draft him after the league's super-elite scorers are gone and reap the benefits.
2017 Outlook: Jumbo Joe was fantastic in 2015-16, racking up 82 points (19 goals, 63 assists) with an impressive plus-25 rating over 82 games. It was the first time Thornton had surpassed the 80-point threshold since he totaled 89 points (20 goals, 69 assists) in 2009-10, an impressive feat for a 37-year-old forward approaching the end of his career. The 6-foot-4 center followed his admirable regular-season performance with the most productive postseason of his career, tallying 21 points (three goals, 18 assists) in 24 games, a showing that helped propel the Sharks to the franchise's first Stanley Cup Finals appearance. Thornton displayed fantastic chemistry with his linemates Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl throughout the 2015-16 campaign, and is expected to skate with the same duo in 2016-17, which should alleviate concerns regarding the potential for a substantial dip in production this season. Unfortunately, Thornton won't be able to continue to defy Father Time forever, and shouldn't be expected to serve up a repeat of last season's spectacular showing in 2016-17. He can, however, be expected to deliver somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 points this season, making him a viable No. 1 fantasy center in all formats.
2017 Outlook: The flashy Russian followed the well-worn path of young players who have made a breakthrough in their third NHL campaign, tallying a whopping 77 points while appearing in all 82 games last season. He also did some major damage on the Caps' power play, putting up 18 of his total points, which is impressive in its own right before considering that he averaged a modest 2:30 per game on the man advantage. In addition, Kuznetsov's plus-27 rating (ranked sixth in the league) also reflected serious growth of his impressive two-way game. The fact that he was so prolific despite receiving just 17:25 of ice time per game implies that he has not yet tested his ceiling. As for 2016-17, the center seems poised for much of the same, having firmly established himself as a core piece on one of the most dynamic offenses in the NHL. Although his near point-per-game production will be challenging to replicate, an uptick in ice time should ensure he continues to hit the scoresheet often, giving the 24-year-old a very real shot at the 80-point plateau.
2017 Outlook: Perry reprised his role as the Ducks' top marksman last season, potting 34 goals, with 12 as a part of his squad's league-leading power play. The Ontario native also solidified his status as a clutch player, with six tallies ending up as game-winners. Perry's success comes from his willingness to go to those dirty areas in front of opposing goalies. Despite his aggressive style of play putting him at a greater risk for injuries, Perry has proven to be durable throughout his career, missing only 34 games over the past 10 years while racking up a pile of PIM as the league's premier goal-scoring pest. Furthermore, his rare combination of size and soft hands has always been reflected in his consistent scoring exploits, as he has recorded five straight 30-goal seasons (excluding the lockout). Overall, Perry is an elite veteran winger who should be drafted early in season-long leagues.
2017 Outlook: After years of flirting with elite status, Kessel met expectations and lifted the Stanley Cup in 2016. The 28-year-old, who was acquired by the Penguins ahead of that season, moved to a team where he didn't have to shoulder the burden of losing the toughest media market in hockey, Toronto. The winger started the campaign with 17 points in 28 games under Mike Johnston, but benefited from a coaching change as he notched 17 goals and 25 helpers with Mike Sullivan manning the bench. The real turning point for the Wisconsin native was his pairing alongside Nick Bonino and Carl Hagelin to ignite the HBK line. Kessel collected 10 goals and 22 points over 24 playoff games and narrowly lost out to Sidney Crosby for the Conn Smythe Award. Despite undergoing hand surgery in the offseason (which leaves him questionable to start a new campaign), the potential is there for Kessel to approach his career-high 82 points from 2011-12.
2017 Outlook: Few forwards pack the sort of multi-category fantasy punch that Simmonds provides, and he stepped it up last season, setting new career highs in goals (32), shots (229), PIM (147), hits (192) and average ice time (17:14). He also tied his career-high 60 points, set two years ago, and posted 20-plus power-play points for the third straight campaign. Simmonds isn't known for his defensive play, as he hasn't finished with a positive rating since way back in 2009-10 with the Kings, but there's practically no other fantasy stat in which he leaves owners wanting. In his five seasons with the Flyers, Simmonds has grown into one of the league's most intimidating players and most dangerous net-front presences, and at only 28 years old, he has a lot of good hockey ahead of him. He has also done a great job staying healthy, which isn't always easy when you play with the sort of physical edge that gets the Philadelphia fans out of their seats.
2017 Outlook: OEL is no longer a well-kept secret. In fact, he is now widely regarded as one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL after posting 21 goals and 34 assists as part of a career-best 55-point season. Ekman-Larsson is most dangerous on the club's improving power play, where he found the net 12 times, tops among NHL rearguards. He also led the team with eight game-winning markers. Part of the reason why he scored so often was his affinity for getting pucks to the net, as his 228 shots on goal led the Coyotes. The good news for the Swede is that Arizona is widely regarded as having one of the deeper pools of young talent in the league, so as they continue to hit their stride in the NHL, his production should increase by association, as well. All in all, Ekman-Larsson is big, mobile, still only 25 years old, and he is signed to the club for two more years. We probably haven't seen the best of him yet in Arizona.
2017 Outlook: Subban's straight-up trade from Montreal to Nashville for Shea Weber was the shocker of the offseason, and it may ultimately prove to be the worst trade in the Canadiens' lengthy history. The Habs' loss is the Preds' gain, as Subban is one of the game's elite blueliners and smack in the middle of his prime at age 27. He has exceeded 50 points in three straight campaigns, even though a late-season neck injury limited him to 68 games last season. Other than that, Subban's health has traditionally been excellent, and he projects to skate alongside a similarly durable and offensively talented partner in Roman Josi on Nashville's top defensive pairing. A huge year should be in the cards considering the upgrade Subban has seen to his supporting cast. This is especially true on the power play, where he'll have the luxury of hitting the ice with guys like Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and James Neal.
2017 Outlook: Giroux is coming off his worst season (67 points) since breaking out as a top-line player in 2010-11, but that's mostly because he and the Flyers struggled early on last season. The playmaking pivot notched just 13 points in his first 20 games, but went on to pick up a more typical 54 points over his final 58 contests. That should have fantasy owners feeling positive and ready to buy a little bit low on the 28-year-old, who returns for another season as the Flyers' captain and top-line center. Much of that surge coincided with the call-up of stud blueliner Shayne Gostisbehere, who took the league by storm in his rookie year and alleviated some of the pressure on Giroux to generate offensively. It also had to do with the resurgence of Jakub Voracek, who couldn't buy a goal in the early going. All of Giroux's most important supporting cast members will be back this season, and despite offseason hip and abdomen surgery, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him hop back over 70 points again while providing his usual elite power-play production.
2017 Outlook: Toffoli has seen a meteoric rise in value since the Kings selected him with a second-round (47th overall) pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Last season, he was firmly cemented in the top six and proceeded to grab career highs across the board offensively. His snappy release led to 31 tallies -- nine on the man advantage -- backed by a shooting percentage of 14.6, and Toffoli also excited his fantasy owners with 27 assists. Five of his teammates exceeded that total in the most recent campaign, proving that the Kings are patient and unselfish orchestrators within the attacking zone. Remember, Toffoli is entering his prime as a 24-year-old sniper, and while he could afford to be more consistent on a game-to-game basis, the frequent scoring binges leave fantasy owners salivating. Consider drafting the budding Toffoli with an early pick as he has the potential to be a top-five option at right wing in 2016-17.