With Sidney Crosby being the unanimous number one pick, the next question that arises is ‘who’s going to go number two?’ Unfortunately, having the number two pick is no easy task; luckily there are several players worthy of that particular selection. So instead of killing yourself over not getting the first overall pick, recognize that the scoring race was determined by only six points last year, and that the latter rounds of your draft are often most important.
F Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Although Ovechkin’s totals were down from a year ago, the former rookie of the year finished with very respectable numbers, scoring 46 goals and 46 assists. Losing linemate Dainius Zubrus at the trade deadline clearly affected Ovechkin’s play, as his point per game average slipped considerably over the last few months of the season. With no true center on the team, the Capitals went out and signed free agent Michael Nylander, who helped Jaromir Jagr eclipse 120 points two seasons ago in New York.
With Nylander firmly entrenched in the middle, look for Ovechkin’s point totals to see a significant increase.
Bottom Line: Aside from the past two years, Nylander has had trouble staying healthy, completing an 82 game season only twice in his career. If Nylander can stay healthy all year, then the sky is the limit for Ovechkin, but if he goes down, expect Alex the Gr8 to finish the season below expectations of a #2 pick.
F Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks
Finishing his first full year in San Jose with 114 points, Thornton returns to the Sharks with a new contract and most of his linemates back (sans Mark Bell). Projected to play with Cheechoo again, there should be no reason why Thornton won’t reach last year’s totals. Although Cheechoo struggled to begin the season, he managed to get it together and finished the year with 37 goals, improving Thornton’s totals along the way.
Bottom Line: With San Jose’s main nucleolus back for another year, Thornton should have no trouble recreating last year’s success, making him one of, if not the safest pick at #2.
F Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning
Lecavalier broke out last year recording career highs in goals, assists and points. It was quite an outburst for Vinny as his previous career high in points was only 75. With the big three, Lecavalier, St. Louis and Richards, intact for at least one more year, the former first overall selection should have no trouble surpassing 100 points in 2007/08.
Bottom Line: With only one 100+ point season under his belt and the thought of having to pass up on Thornton, Lecavalier falls between the 3rd and 4th pick this year.
F Dany Heatley, Ottawa Senators
Appearing in all 82 games for the second straight season, Heatley finished with a career high of 105 points. Having made no major transactions, Ottawa enters the season with the same core, which should result in Heatley playing on a line, once again, with Alfredsson and Spezza. Assuming everything remains intact; Heatley should exceed 100 points for the third straight year.
Bottom Line: After having almost identical seasons for the past two years, it’s pretty clear what you’re going to get with Heatley. With his third year in Ottawa about to begin, only expect a slight increase in scoring, if at all.
For Illegal Curve, I’m Jonny Remis.