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.
. C—SIDNEY CROSBY
2014-15 prediction: 43-59-102
. LW—JAMIE BENN
2014-15 prediction: 35-47-82
. RW—Patrick Kane
2014-15 prediction: 40-43-83
. D—Shea Weber
2014-15 prediction: 20-42-62
. D—P.K. SUBBAN
2014-15 prediction: 15-45-60
. G—TUUKKA RASK
2014-15 prediction: 37 wins, 1.99 GAA, .931 save pct.
. C—STEVEN STAMKOS
Tampa Bay Lightning
2014-15 prediction: 60 goals, 37 assists, 97 points
. LW—TAYLOR HALL
2014-15 prediction: 30 goals, 50 assists, 80 points
. RW—COREY PERRY
2014-15 prediction: 39 goals, 42 assists, 81 points
. D—DREW DOUGHTY
Los Angeles Kings
2014-15 prediction: 14 goals, 35 assists, 49 points
. VICTOR HEDMAN
Tampa Bay Lightning
2014-15 prediction: 12 goals, 38 assists, 50 points
. G—HENRIK LUNDQVIST
New York Rangers
2014-15 prediction: 34 wins, 2.20 GAA, .921 save percentage
D—Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers: The tools are there and so's the opportunity. This is the season he puts it all together.
GALLERY: Top 20 players to enter NHL since '05
Top 20 players to enter the NHL since the 2004 lockout
20. Brent Seabrook, D
Seabrook and his Blackhawks partner Duncan Keith are one of the game’s best defensive tandems. A two-time Stanley-Cup winner, and Olympic gold medalist in 2010, Seabrook has also developed a penchant for scoring big goals. In 2013, he tallied the overtime winner against Detroit in the Western Conference semi-finals and three weeks later scored another OT winner to beat Boston in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.
19. Thomas Vanek, LW
After winning an NCAA championship at the University of Minnesota, Vanek joined the Sabres for 2005-06 and went on to produce seven straight seasons of 25 goals or more, including a pair of 40-tally campaigns. In 2006-07 campaign, the talented sniper led the NHL with a +47 rating.
18. P.K. Subban, D
The cocky Habs defenseman has become one of the most dynamic and entertaining players in the NHL. He can be an offensive force, a defensive pest and a general nuisance for Montreal’s foes. Subban won the Norris Trophy in 2013, and produced 14 points in 17 playoff games the following season while leading the Canadiens to an upset victory against archrival Boston and a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals. In the summer of 2014, he was rewarded with an eight-year, $72 million contract.
17. John Tavares, C
The first pick in the 2009 draft was regarded as one of the finest prospects since Sidney Crosby. Tavares has since become one of the game’s most exciting players. Named captain of the Islanders at age 22, he was a finalist for the Hart Trophy in 2013. A relentless worker, his impressive game is still evolving and improving.
16. Corey Perry, RW
The 2011 Hart and Richard Trophy winner has become one of the game’s most consistent offensive players. A Stanley Cup-winner in only his second season (2006-07), he’s earned two First Team All-Star selections. Perry also won two gold medals playing for Canada at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics.
15. Ryan Suter, D
Suter entered the NHL with Nashville the season after the lockout and instantly emerged as an outstanding, mobile two-way defenseman. In 2012, he signed a celebrated 13-year contract with his hometown Minnesota Wild and won First Team All-Star honors. He’s also played in two Olympics for Team USA. (His uncle Gary, was a two-time Olympian, and his late father, Bob, was a member of the famed Miracle on Ice team that won gold at the Lake Placid Games in 1980.)
14. Zach Parise, LW
Parise joined the Devils the season after the lockout and later became New Jersey’s captain, the team reaching the Stanley Cup Final in 2012. He’s topped the 30-goal mark five times, and as a member of Team USA at the 2010 Olympics, he famously scored the tying goal with 24 seconds to play in the third period, sending the gold medal game into overtime before Canada ultimately prevailed. In 2012, he signed a 13-year contract with his hometown Minnesota Wild.
13. Ryan Getzlaf, C
The Ducks’ captain has established himself as one of the game’s premier power forwards. He joined Anaheim the season after the lockout and was a key player in the Ducks’ run to the Stanley Cup in 2007. He’s produced just under a point per game in both the regular season (608 points in 633 games) and playoffs (74 points in 81 games), won gold medals for Canada at the 2010 and ‘14 Olympics, and was runner-up to Sidney Crosby in the 2014 Hart Trophy balloting.
12. Duncan Keith, D
Widely considered to be one of the league’s best defensemen, Keith joined the Blackhawks the season after the lockout and went on to win the Norris Trophy in 2010 and '14. He also bagged Olympic gold medals while playing for Canada those years. In 2010 and 2013, he helped propel the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup.
11. Shea Weber, D
At 6’-4” and 233 pounds, Weber has established himself as one of the game’s most feared hitters on the backline since joining the Predators right after the lockout. He also possesses one of the game’s hardest shots, and has also produced 12 points in 13 Olympic contests while helping Canada to gold medals in 2010 and 2014.
10. Drew Doughty, D
The rookie once known as Dough Boy has become a pillar of the two-time Stanley Cup-winning Kings. An exceptionally creative defenseman, he possesses one of the game’s best shots and array of bodychecks. And few players seem to have more fun playing the game. He also has two Olympic gold medals on his mantle.
9. Anze Kopitar, C
One of the NHL’s most complete forwards, Kopitar is finally getting his just recognition. He led the league in playoff scoring during each of the Kings’ championship seasons, totaling 46 points in 46 games in 2012 and ’14, and was a finalist for the '14 Selke Trophy as the game’s top two-way forward.
8. Henrik Lundqvist, G
The only goalie in NHL history to win at least 30 games in his first seven seasons, King Henrik has become the toast of New York while setting Rangers club records for wins during the regular season (309) and playoffs (43). He led the team to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014 and backstopped Sweden to the silver medal at the Sochi Olympics, adding to the gold medal he won at the Turin Games in 2006.
7. Jonathan Quick, G
A two-time Stanley Cup champ and Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2012, Quick has emerged as one of the stingiest goalies in the game. Despite weighing 220 pounds, he is so flexible and capable of covering the entire lower portion of the net that his teammates took to calling him Gumby. His combined marks in the 2012 and 2013 playoffs (.940; 1.63 over 38 games) are astounding.
6. Steven Stamkos, C
At 24, Stamkos, the first pick in the 2008 draft, has surpassed Alex Ovechkin as the NHL’s most dangerous goal scorer. He’s twice won the league’s Rocket Richard Trophy, scoring 60 times in 2011-12. Despite missing considerable time due to a broken leg suffered in Nov. 2013, he came back and still managed to produce 25 goals in less than half a season while leading the Lightning to the playoffs.
5. Alex Ovechkin, F
Ovi edged Sidney Crosby for the Calder Trophy during the first post-lockout season and has gone on to light the lamp 422 times in 678 games, leading the NHL in goals four times and producing four 100-point seasons. In 2008, he became the first player to win the Art Ross, Hart Trophy, Lindsay Award and Richard Trophy in the same season. He remains the game’s most entertaining sniper.
4. Patrick Kane, RW
Kane, 25, is one of the game’s most dangerous offensive players, possessing magic hands that dangle pucks through seemingly impenetrable traffic jams. He’s played on two Stanley Cup champions and scored the winning goal in OT to clinch the championship against Philadelphia in 2010. Three years later, he won the Conn Smythe Trophy.
3. Jonathan Toews, C
At 26, Toews is arguably the game’s premier leader and winner. He’s won two Stanley Cups and two Olympic gold medals and is recognized as one of the game’s most complete two-way players. With 29 points in 22 postseason games, he was voted the Conn Smythe Trophy winner after the Blackhawks’ title run in 2010.
2. Evgeni Malkin, C
The man from Magnitogorsk has become Sidney Crosby’s lethal partner in the league’s most dangerous one-two combination. Malkin, who won the 2007 Calder Trophy, is now a two-time NHL scoring champ and the 2011-12 Hart Trophy winner. When the Penguins won their most recent Stanely Cup, in 2009, it was Malkin not Crosby who walked away with the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
1. Sidney Crosby, C
How can you top his two Hart Trophies, two Ross Trophies, a Stanley Cup, two Olympic gold medals—including the golden goal in OTto beat the USA in Vancouver—and mantle as the game’s best player? You can’t. He’s put up 769 points in only 550 regular season games and 114 in 95 playoff matches. At 27, his Hall-of-Fame career is likely only half over.