Taking a look back. Photo by Sebastien Wiertz.

2017 Central Division Review

The Blackhawks entered the 2016-17 season as the favorites to win the Central Division. They ended up doing so thanks to a late collapse by the Minnesota Wild. St. Louis and Nashville also made the playoffs, while Winnipeg, Dallas and historically bad Colorado were left to watch at home.

1st Star: Patrick Kane, RW, Blackhawks

The reigning Hart Trophy winner as league MVP, Kane did not have quite the season that he did in 2015-16. He still put up over a point per game, and some people think he will be nominated for the Hart again. Even if he is nominated, he’s probably a distant third. Kane finished tied for 10th with 34 goals, and he was fifth with his 55 assists. He was also fifth in the league in shots on goal. Kane was one of the first players off the board in most leagues in the fall, and he did not disappoint.

2nd Star: Blake Wheeler, RW, Jets

Wheeler put up his fourth straight season of more than 60 points this year, and his second straight 70 point season. The big winger missed his career high by four points, but fantasy owners aren’t complaining. His 48 assists were tied for ninth in the NHL, and he was in the top 15 in shots on goal as well. Wheeler’s 26 goals scored were two off of his career high.

3rd Star: Devan Dubnyk, G, Wild

The frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy for a lot of the season, Dubnyk (and the Wild) slumped down the stretch. His 40 wins were good enough for fourth in the league, and he was in the top 10 in both goals against average and save percentage. Dubnyk made a lot of fantasy owners unhappy with his play down the stretch, which likely cost many people championships.

Biggest surprise: Eric Staal, C, Wild

While the advanced stats community was high on Eric Staal last season, the fantasy community was not. The former second overall pick was coming off of a dismal season fantasy-wise with only 39 points in 83 games, and that doesn’t include his goose egg in five playoff games. But the Wild saw a buy low opportunity, and boy did it pay off. Staal finished the 2016-17 campaign with 28 goals (the most he’d scored in six years) and 37 assists. His plus/minus was also strong at a +17. The oldest Staal brother doesn’t shoot the puck as often as he used to, but he still put together a solid fantasy season that the advanced stats people saw coming.

Biggest breakout: Viktor Arvidsson, LW/RW, Predators

Through 62 NHL games, the small winger only had 16 points to his credit. He had almost four times as many points during the 2016-17 season. The Swede tied for the team lead with 31 goals and 61 points in what was definitely a breakout season. He had a good +16 rating on the year, and he shot the puck over three times per game on average. And he only just turned 24. This may be just the beginning of a solid NHL career for the former fourth round pick.

Biggest bust: Matt Duchene, C/RW, Avalanche

The Avalanche were historically bad this season, and one of the biggest names on the Colorado roster was a massive disappointment. Duchene was the subject of trade rumors all season, and while fantasy owners hoped for a trade to a better team, it did not happen. Duchene set a career low with only 41 points (yes, he had more points even in the lockout shortened season), and his plus/minus was a -34, which destroyed his previous career worst of -12. He also only had 12 penalty minutes and nine points with the man advantage. Add that all up, and the former third overall pick was a huge fantasy bust this season.

Top rookie: Patrik Laine, LW/RW, Jets

The Finn battled Auston Matthews all year for the Calder as the league’s top rookie, and while he won’t win, he still had a tremendous rookie season. A concussion in early January slowed him down. Still though, he finished seventh in the entire league with 36 goals. The Jets have one of the best groups of young forwards in the league, so it will be exciting to see how they all develop together. Laine’s NHL career is off to a great start.