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.
2017 Outlook: The Bruins' top goalie put in another workhorse season in 2015-16, appearing in 64 games – 31 of which resulted in wins. Despite having recorded 30-plus victories in each of the past three seasons, the 2013-14 Vezina winner has both seen his GAA and save percentage decline during that span (2.04 and .930 in 2013-14 vs. 2.56 and .915 last season), so concern regarding Rask's fantasy value is justifiable. He's not old by any stretch at 29, but the B's have an aging blue line and 39-year-old Zdeno Chara isn't the same player he used to be in front of Rask, so it's reasonable to project Rask's numbers to continue to trend downward. The Finn will still get plenty of time in the blue paint and provide value based on the sheer volume of starts he'll make, earning him a spot as a serviceable No. 1 fantasy netminder on a Bruins squad that always seems to be competitive in the Atlantic Division.
2017 Outlook: The Ducks' captain is entering his 12th season in Anaheim. At 31 years old, the hulking power forward will be looking to rebound from a disappointing 2015-16 campaign that included 13 goals -- a severe regression from his career-high 31 tallies in 2013-14. While the two-time Olympic gold medalist did amass 50 assists, the drop in scoring is a concern when considering his role on the top line and the first power-play unit. Still, there is reason to be optimistic about Getzlaf's fantasy prospects in the coming season, as he is sure to benefit from the return of head coach Randy Carlyle with hopes of rekindling the success they shared in winning the Stanley Cup in 2007. The Ducks are the only team that Getzlaf has ever known in the NHL, and he has five years remaining on a $66 million contract. With that level of brand loyalty, it's safe to say that the prolific scoring veteran, someone who has averaged 0.94 points per game over 741 career contests, will remain heavily involved in the Ducks' offensive attack and thus warrants an early selection in fantasy drafts.
2017 Outlook: Don't look now, but the Blues have just one starting goalie this season. Last season, Allen was well on his way to marking his territory as the Blues' No. 1 ahead of Brian Elliott when the Ducks' Corey Perry crashed into him in January. That resulted in a knee injury, time on injured reserve and then a spot on the pine upon his return. Allen got the blue paint back for only a short time when Elliott went on the IR himself in mid-February, but head coach Ken Hitchcock handed the reins back to Elliott as the postseason neared. He's in line for 65-plus starts this season, but with the possibility that Hitch gives him only 55-60 to try to keep him healthy. Still, Allen could post 35 wins with similar ratios as 2015-16 (2.35 GAA, .920 save percentage). After all, he has the enviable luxury of playing behind one of the NHL's best defenses, and although Allen is a true No. 1 netminder in 12-team leagues, the fatigue factor is worth considering. He's never started more than 44 games in any season, so there's a chance he'll wear down under a heavy load.
2017 Outlook: Doughty finished 10th in scoring among defensemen with 14 goals and 51 points in 82 games but still won the Norris Trophy, a testament to the impact he has on the ice that isn't always reflected in the stats. His 14 goals are the most he has scored in six seasons, easily accomplished with a 7.1 shooting percentage that more than doubled his mark of 3.2 from the previous season. His usage remains sky-high at 28 minutes per game, putting him among the league's leaders every season, though it seems like he never gets tired and plays harder when the games get longer. However, Doughty has cracked the 50-point mark just twice, and will face a challenge doing so again given how the Kings' offense is not expected to improve very much, if at all. Despite his nine power-play markers, Doughty scored just four goals at even strength, which ranks outside the league's top 50 among defensemen. The emergence of Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez helps lessen the load on Doughty as they continually earn the trust of head coach Darryl Sutter, which may in turn allow Doughty a little more offensive freedom.
2017 Outlook: Arguably one of the best scorers from the blue line, Letang was third in the league among defenseman in points (67) last season behind only Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns. With the man advantage, the 29-year-old racked up five goals and 22 assists while averaging an astonishing 5:09 per game in power-play ice time. The defenseman has been hampered by recent concussions, but when healthy, fantasy owners are treated to an elite-level point producer on the back end who is going to be on the ice for at least an entire period. If there is a knock on Letang, it would be his defensive irresponsibility, as he is prone to making avoidable mistakes while taking risks. But his offensive talents and skating ability -- not to mention the plethora of stud scorers on the Penguins -- help him keep a positive plus/minus. Look for the Montreal native to be taken among the top five defensemen in most formats, and be prepared to reach for him if you want No. 58 to anchor your fantasy blue line.
2017 Outlook: His long association with Shea Weber on the Preds' top defensive pairing has aided Josi's growth curve, which has seen him evolve into one of the best all-around defensemen in the NHL. He actually outscored Weber by 10 points (61) last season, which undoubtedly aided in Nashville's decision to break them up over the summer and bring in P.K. Subban from Montreal in exchange for Weber. Subban is no slouch, of course, but Josi will be expected to anchor the Predators' blue line as a responsible offensive force to allow for Subban to play his typical high-risk game. Last season, Josi led Nashville in ice time (25:29) and assists (47), and was second in power-play points (24). Going back further, the Swiss blueliner has recorded 156 points over the past three seasons -- missing only 12 games during that span. Now that he is out of the shadow of his former team captain, Josi should finally get the credit he deserves as a superstar rearguard capable of carrying his team in all situations. Furthermore, as long as Subban steps in capably for Weber, Josi should get his 55-plus points yet again in 2016-17.