The past is a good predictor of the future. I read this on the internet so it must be true. With that in mind, here’s a three-year snapshot of the NHL’s best players and teams, from 2016-17 through to last season. The league’s leading point men and goal-scorers, as well as winningest goaltenders, and most successful teams in the regular season and the playoffs, are highlighted below.
Will history repeat itself? We know the St. Louis Blues hope that’s the case.
Most points: Connor McDavid, Edmonton (324 points in 242 GP)
No big surprise here. McDavid has outpaced the likes of Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov (313 points in 236 GP), Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby (278 points in 236 GP), Chicago’s Patrick Kane (275 points in 245 GP) and Boston’s Brad Marchand (270 points in 227 GP) over the past three seasons. Can McDavid put more space between himself and everyone else by winning his third Art Ross Trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer this season? The smart money says he will, though reigning Art Ross winner Kucherov, who’s coming off the league’s most prolific offensive season (128 points) in more than 20 years, will surely have something to say about it.
Most goals: Alex Ovechkin, Washington (133 goals in 245 GP)
Again, no surprise. It turns out that the guy who scores more goals than anybody else, season after season after season, also has more goals than anybody else over the past three seasons combined. Kucherov isn’t too far back (120 goals in 236 GP), with Toronto’s John Tavares (112 goals in 241 GP), Edmonton’s McDavid (112 goals in 242 GP) and Toronto’s Auston Matthews (111 goals in 212 GP) rounding out the NHL’s top five most lethal goal-scorers over the past three years. Ovechkin turns 34 on Sept. 17. He’s the only player to lead the league in goals eight times. Can he add a ninth Rocket Richard Trophy to his mantle? I think it’s going to be somebody else this season – Matthews or McDavid, say – but I’m done counting out Ovechkin due to his age. Russian machine never breaks.
Most goalie wins: Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida (115 wins in 190 GP)
Bobrovsky, of course, has a grand total of zero wins for the Panthers. But the UFA goalie savior arrives in Florida as the NHL’s winningest netminder over the past three seasons, having racked up 133 W’s in Columbus. Washington’s Braden Holtby (108 wins in 176 GP), Toronto’s Frederik Andersen (107 wins in 192 GP), Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy (106 wins in 168 GP) and Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk (106 wins in 192 GP) fall in line behind Bobrovsky. Florida has been a favorite pre-season pick to move up the standings and make the playoffs this season, with Bobrovsky being a big part of the equation. But he’ll be in tough to lead the league in wins, with Vasilevskiy, Andersen, Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne, among others, primed to pile up victories in 2019-20.
Best points percentage: Tampa Bay Lightning (.681)
The Bolts have been the league’s best team – well, the best regular season team -- across the past three years. This isn’t particularly shocking, considering they’re coming off a 2018-19 campaign in which they tied the all-time NHL record for wins (62). It should be mentioned, however, that Tampa Bay missed the playoffs in 2016-17 (despite a respectable 42-30-10 record), which makes their No. 1 status a little more notable. They made the playoffs last year, of course, but they won the same number of games in the post-season as they did in 2017. That’s not a cheap shot. It’s, uh, motivation. (The rest of the top five: Washington .665, Boston, .638, Nashville .632, Pittsburgh .632).
Most playoff wins: Washington Capitals (26)
Well, well, well. The team formerly known as the NHL’s biggest playoff flop rises up as the league’s most successful post-season club over the past three seasons. The Caps’ 26 playoff wins from 2017 to 2019 are highlighted by the franchise’s 16-win effort en route to its first Stanley Cup in 2018. Nashville is next with 23 playoff wins since 2017, followed by Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Boston in a three-way tie (22). The Capitals, to be sure, remain a contender and could vie for another Cup in 2020. But, as the 2019 post-season showed, pretty much anything can happen and anyone can win. (Related: The Lightning, if you’re wondering, have 11 playoff wins over the past three seasons, with all of them coming during Tampa Bay’s run to the Eastern Conference final in 2018.)
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