Lists Baby, Lists! Pacific Division Top-10 Lists
It’s late August and the off-season is almost over, but we still have very little actually going on in the NHL world. Several high-profile Restricted Free Agents (RFA) remain unsigned, less than three weeks away from the start of preseason. As we patiently wait for some action, there have been a few “Top 10” and “Top 20” lists making the rounds. Since I’m hip and trendy, I joined the group and made some Pacific Division lists of my own.
Before we jump right into my lists, here’s a look at some high-profile celebrity lists, some featuring a few egregious choices and obvious snubs.
After seeing how easy it is to make a list and not feeling the pressure to be perfect, my Pacific Division rankings came to fruition. I went right down the line from centers, to wingers, to defensemen, and then finally the goalies. Rankings were determined based off who I’d rank as top-10 heading into this season, nothing beyond this year. Cap hits, length of contract, and age were not accounted for. These lists are strictly based on the players’ current talent, headed into the season.
For the center group, I caught a lot of flack on Twitter for calling Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers a center. As it turns out, he is a center, although he played a significant amount of time on the top line, alongside Connor McDavid. He spent a total of 805 minutes with the greatest player in the game today and 500 without him. His game holds up on its own - he compiled more points without McJesus - but naturally, their metrics took hits without one another.
Well, there you have it. William Karlsson at three. Bold, maybe? Justifiable, certainly. He has established a new baseline for his potential over the past two seasons. Columbus Will is no longer. Vegas Will is a point producer, great on both ends of the ice, and has the best hair in the game. Yeah, hair is criteria now (kidding). Logan Couture is a bona fide stud at four, the sky’s the limit on Pettersson, and Anze Kopitar is one year removed from being up for multiple end-of-season awards.
I wanted to go higher with Sean Monahan, but another year of proof would have been ideal for me. I personally think I have Tomas Hertl too low, but the names ahead were hard to jump. Horvat and Nugent-Hopkins round out the list as dynamic young point producers who are forces in the offensive zone. Just missing the list were Paul Stastny and Ryan Getzlaf.
Heading over to wingers, the number one was so simple. Mark Stone is without a doubt, the best winger in the Pacific Division. He does it all, deservedly finishing second in the Selke vote this year. His point totals have been on the rise and a full season in Vegas will only support that trend.
A pair of Flames come in at two and three. Johnny Hockey needs no building up and Matthew Tkachuk mixes grit with high-level offensive ability. Fourth is Jonathan Marchessault who may be the most underrated offensive weapon in the league, just ask the Panthers. Putting Phil Kessel at five was very tough for me and he may prove me wrong with a season as “the man” in Arizona. He has the track record to suggest big numbers.
Timo Meier is another great player coming in somewhat low at first glance. The further this list goes, the more it just stands to show how solid the wingers in this division are. All ten wingers on this list could score 30 goals and put up well over 70 points, solid production for the first and second liners in the mix. All 10 men are highly skilled forwards and this list could either look silly or genius by the end of the 2019-20 season, but as of right now it looks good to me.
When it came to defense, making a Top-10 list was much tougher. For me, it came down to tiers. The top three, were the top three, just needed to figure out the order. Mark Giordano took the top spot, over the future Hall-of-Famer Erik Karlsson because he’s the complete package and healthy. Who knows what version of Karlsson we get next season, but slight improvement on the 2018-19 version solidly places him in second.
In the second tier were Brent Burns and Shea Theodore, two great offensive d-men. Their ability in their own zone is what determined the order of those two. Theodore is solid defensively whereas Burns has been a defensive liability. Burns is the more high-profile name and put up bigger counting stats, but with Colin Miller (PP1) traded to the Buffalo Sabres, combined with a realistic projection of growth, Theodore gets the nod.
Bringing up the bottom half are very good defensemen, just outside of my “elite group”. I consider each defenseman in the top five elite, with Burns being the only iffy one, in my opinion. Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson blends strong play in both zones, with a strong presence. Nate Schmidt has flashes of being a dynamic two-way defenseman, but can definitely take his game to another level. Marc-Edouard Vlasic rounded out the top-10 for his defensive game, working as a shutdown man opposite the offensive-minded Burns in San Jose. Adam Larsson just missed the list, along with Jakob Chychrun of the Coyotes.
Finally, we have the goalies. Golden Knights fans were not happy with me over the placement of the beloved flower, Marc-Andre Fleury. I’m sorry, but John Gibson is THE ONLY reason the Ducks won as many games as they did. On a team with limited talent, Gibson shone bright, backstopping the sinking Ducks. Managing a 2.84 GAA and .917 SV% behind that team translates to a 2.00 GAA and .930 SV% on a good one. Coming in second is Fleury, who still has the ability to carry a team when needed.
Jonathan Quick at three, could prove to be the biggest miss of these lists. I believe in his talent and track record and expect a huge bounce-back season. If he doesn’t regain his previous form, the Kings have a great talent waiting in the wings in No. 7, Jack Campbell, who played great in relief of Quick last season, amid his own injury woes. Speaking of injuries, Antti Raanta’s forced him into the eighth spot, while his replacement Darcy Kuemper (2.33 GAA, .925 SV%) showed what he can do in his absence.
Something funny happened while I made this goalie list. I noticed that three teams had both goaltenders in the top eight spots. Those teams were the Ducks, Kings, and Coyotes. Those three teams all missed the playoffs. I know my list is objective, but is it possible that a trend is showing? Great goaltending doesn’t necessarily get the job done, maybe just adequate goaltending is enough, with a strong team in front of them? Number 10 may be the best example of that theory.
There’s no question that the San Jose Sharks have won many, many games. Their starter Martin Jones is far from being the most reliable goaltender in the league. His ability to completely implode almost dropped him from the list entirely. Despite his up-and-down track record, he has been good come playoff time, for the most part. Take out the series against the Golden Knights in the 2018 playoffs and you see a solid performer in May/June.
We all won’t agree on lists. Hell, we may never even see eye to eye on a single ranking in any of these or other lists. Point is, we are all bored in the summer, we all want the summer to end, and we can’t wait for the season to start. In terms of the Pacific Division, there are two teams who seem to be playoff bound (VGK/CGY), a team that may or may not make the playoffs again (SJS), a team who could push for a playoff spot (AZ), and four others who need to turn it around quickly.
Let me know what you think in the comments and what your predictions are for the final Pacific Division standings in 2019-20.
- The Golden Knights will open Rookie Camp 2019 on September 5 and the roster has been announced. They will play games through the weekend in Anaheim, against the rookies from the Avalanche, Coyotes, and Ducks.
- Jimmy Schuldt remains the only pending RFA for the club.
- First preseason game: September 15 at home versus the Arizona Coyotes
- First regular season game: October 2, at home against the rival San Jose Sharks.
Be sure to follow me on the Twitter and I will keep you up-to-date on the team’s comings and goings from Rookie Camp in early September, up to the start of the 2019-20 regular season!