Tuesday September 16th, 2014

Preseason All-America teams honoring the game's best players have been a staple of college football for nearly a century ... and so have the spillover arguments about who does and doesn't belong on them. With that fire-staring tradition in mind, we present SI.com's first ever preseason All-NHL teams.

Some of the choices were obvious—could anyone really argue against defending MVP Sidney Crosby as First Team center? Others may be more controversial. And there are bound to be snubs that leave you questioning just how much of our salary goes directly into Walter White's pocket.

While there were solid arguments to made on behalf of dozens of players, we ultimately selected the athletes we see as having the best chance of making this season something special.

Disagree? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

    Pittsburgh Penguins
    2013-14 stats: 36-68-104 in 80 games
    There may be more truly elite centers now than at any time in NHL history, but this is Sid's league. The defending Hart Trophy winner claimed first place on 128 of the 137 ballots cast after he led the NHL in assists and points last season. When he's healthy, there's simply no one who can match his impact on the game. The only thing that may hold him back this season is an aging wing on one side (35-year-old Chris Kunitz) and uncertainty on the other.
    2014-15 prediction: 43-59-102

    Dallas Stars
    2013-14 stats: 34-45-79 in 81 games
    Benn established himself as an impact performer after being moved out of the middle and onto the left wing alongside Tyler Seguin. The role change helped him post career numbers, including 28 even-strength goals, third-most in the league, and while his offense has trended up each season, his all-around game makes him the best at his position. With his combination of speed and raw power, Benn's a nightmare for defenders no matter if he or Seguin has the puck. And at 25, Benn is just entering his prime.
    2014-15 prediction: 35-47-82

    RW—Patrick Kane
    Chicago Blackhawks
    2013-14 stats: 29-40-69 in 69 games
    Kane has dazzled fans with his blazing speed and silky mitts ever since he was selected with the first pick in the 2007 draft ... but he's always left us with the sense that he has something more to give. He's said in the past that he sees himself as a 100-point player, but his career highs to date are 30 goals and 88 points—and he put those up five years ago. The key to reaching that bar could be staying healthy and consistent. Kane looked like a Hart candidate with 23 goals and 53 points through his first 43 contests last season, but a slump followed by a leg injury quieted that talk. A strong postseason-—eight goals and 20 points in 19 games—along with a new linemate in Brad Richards hint at the career season that might lie ahead.
    2014-15 prediction: 40-43-83

    D—Shea Weber
    Nashville Predators
    2013-14 stats: 23-33-56 in 79 games
    Coming off a career season in 2013-14, this should be the year that the perennial Norris Trophy bridesmaid finally establishes himself as the undisputed top player at his position. Skating for a new, offensive-minded coach in Peter Laviolette will take Weber's game to another level ... not that he hasn't already put some distance between himself and the competition. Weber has scored 129 goals over the past eight seasons, 25 more than his nearest competitor. Mix that with his reputation for playing a ton of minutes (nearly 27 per game last season) against some of the toughest competition in the league and he's set up for another personal-best campaign.
    2014-15 prediction: 20-42-62

    Montreal Canadiens
    2013-14 stats: 10 goals, 53 points, 82 games
    A wrist injury suffered last November derailed Subban's efforts to repeat as Norris Trophy winner, but the dashing defender was back in top form during the postseason, scoring 14 points in 17 games to power Montreal's surprising run to the Eastern Conference Finals. With the letter A on his chest and a fat new contract to earn, Subban is ready to prove that he's more than the mouth that roared. He's all set to become the face of the most legendary franchise in the sport.
    2014-15 prediction: 15-45-60

    Boston Bruins
    2013-14 stats: 36-15-6, 2.04 GAA, .930 save pct. 
    No goaltender has claimed back-to-back Vezinas since Martin Brodeur back in 2007-08. Rask could be the man to change that. The Bruins' keeper is at the height of his powers, coming off a season in which he lead the league in even-strength save percentage (.941) and shutouts (seven). There's room for improvement in the mental aspect of his game—he can get a bit emotional after allowing a goal—but technically he's without peer. Plus he has the benefit of playing behind Boston's defense, a group that's helped capture three of the past six Vezinas.
    2014-15 prediction: 37 wins, 1.99 GAA, .931 save pct.

• Captain-less Canadiens making a mistake

• Central Division Power Rankings

    Tampa Bay Lightning
    2013-14 stats: 25-15-40 in 37 games
    You don't need to be an advocate of advanced stats to know that Stamkos is on the verge of a career year. At 24, he's precisely the age at which modern players tend to post their best offensive seasons. He'll come in averaging .63 goals per game over the past five years—tops in the league—looking to build on an injury-abbreviated campaign in which he was on pace to score 57 goals, including 20 on the power play and 11 game winners. More to the point, there's a real opportunity here for the Lightning to assert themselves as the beasts of the East. That chance for team glory will bring out the best in Stamkos. A Hart Trophy is well within reach.
    2014-15 prediction: 60 goals, 37 assists, 97 points

    Edmonton Oilers
    2013-14 stats: 27-53-80 in 75 games
    Hall asserted himself as a elite forward last season, four years after being selected first in the 2010 NHL Draft. He smashed his previous personal best with 53 assists and equalled his PB with 27 goals while establishing himself as the focal point of the Oilers offense. Already one of the fastest players in the league, he's now one of the smartest. Knowing when to move the puck and when to drop his shoulder and drive the net made him exponentially more effective last season. With young teammates maturing around him, he's on target for another point-per-game campaign.
    2014-15 prediction: 30 goals, 50 assists, 80 points

    Anaheim Ducks
    2013-14 stats: 43-39-82 in 81 games played Coming off the second-best statistical season of his career, aided significantly by an MVP-caliber season from center Ryan Getzlaf, Perry might be due for a slight regression in his offensive totals. Still he's proved to be a consistent producer, averaging 37 goals and 78 points over the past five full seasons, and he should be helped by the creation of a second line, anchored by newcomer Ryan Kesler, that could siphon some heat away from his first unit. Another point-per-game season is a strong possibility with the Cup-contending Ducks.
    2014-15 prediction: 39 goals, 42 assists, 81 points

    Los Angeles Kings
    2013-14 stats: 10-27-37 in 78 games
    As two Stanley Cups and a pair of Olympic gold medals can attest, there's no better big-game defenseman today than Doughty. But the question remains: Is this the year that we finally see him dominate the regular season with the same authority he imposes during the playoffs? Truth is, this guy who can take over a game at will during the postseason struggles with his intensity at times from October through March. That's especially clear when the Kings have the extra man. Doughty ranked 22nd in power play scoring despite ranking 13th in TOI. Asserting himself with the man advantage will be key to making a serious run at the Norris Trophy.
    2014-15 prediction: 14 goals, 35 assists, 49 points

    Tampa Bay Lightning
    2013-14 stats: 13-42-55 in 75 games
    The path to stardom was rockier than expected for the No. 2 pick in the 2009 draft, but after four long seasons Hedman finally emerged as a gamebreaker on the blueline. His points-per-game rose from 0.45 in 2012-13 to 0.73 last season, a rate that allowed him to finish fourth in scoring among defensemen. He may have trouble duplicating those numbers this season with Jason Garrison likely to siphon off some of his power play time, but Hedman's game has room to grow in the other two zones. He'll gain Norris consideration as an impact player for an elite club.
    2014-15 prediction: 12 goals, 38 assists, 50 points

    New York Rangers
    2013-14 stats: 33-24-5, 2.36 GAA, .920 save pct.
    Lundqvist is the the sort of keeper you can set your watch by. He plays a ton, starting at least 75 percent of New York's games every season since 2006-07, and is as reliable as they come with a career save percentage of .920. Even when the Rangers start taking on water, as they may after a surprising run to the Cup final in 2014, he knows how to steer them clear of the fatal wave—he lost more than one game in regulation only five times last season. The safest bet in hockey may be another top-three Vezina finish for King Henrik.
    2014-15 prediction: 34 wins, 2.20 GAA, .921 save percentage

Third team

C—Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers: Nathan MacKinnon is headed for a massive season and earns serious consideration here, but Giroux's consistent excellence can't be ignored.

LW—Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche: So big, so strong and plays the game the right way. Could reach 30 goals for first time in his career.

RW—Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: Another season of 50-plus goals is likely, but so is another spring on the playoff sidelines. Time for a new trick.

D—Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers: The tools are there and so's the opportunity. This is the season he puts it all together.

D—Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks: The Sharks need the erstwhile forward to be special in his return to the blueline. He will be.

G—Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils: Finally the undisputed No. 1 and playing behind a deeper club, Schneider will assume a place among the league's elite.

GALLERY: Top 20 players to enter NHL since '05

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