After a trip to the finals last year, San Jose was one of the favoured teams to take the Pacific, but had stiff competition from both Anaheim and Edmonton. In the end, Anaheim was the top team in the division followed by Edmonton and then the Sharks. Calgary but together a last quarter of the season that most coaches dream of, and managed to get into the playoffs. In the bit of a shock department, Los Angeles missed the playoffs after being one of the more dominant teams of the last five years, but missing your top goalie for most of the season can do that.
1st Star: Connor McDavid, C, Oilers
We all knew it was coming, the question was how many points and how dominant would this young kid be, and he did not disappoint. With the hockey sense of Sidney Crosby, McDavid is definitely a gifted player. He also brings the speed, which could set him apart from the other elite players in the league. In the end the young phenom cracked 100 points, capturing the Art Ross trophy as the leagues top scorer and one of the leading candidates for the Hart. The scary part is, the kid is only 20 years old, he’s just getting started after an injury riddled rookie season.
2nd Star: Brent Burns, D, Sharks
It’s not often you see a defenseman up near the top in league scoring, but this season Burns was that guy. The big bearded blue liner has power and a knack for finding himself on the score sheet as proven by his 76 points in 82 games. Even more impressive is he led the entire league with 320 shots on goal, beating out Alex Ovechkin by 7 shots.
3rd Star: Cam Talbot, G, Oilers
The Oilers have long had problems finding a goaltender that could actually win them games, but they have so far looks to have found their guy. Henrik Lundqvist’s back up in New York last season, Talbot has propelled his career to new levels, to the point where any Vezina conversation cannot be concluded without mention of the Oilers back stop. He led the league in games started at 73 and tied Braden Holtby for the league lead with 42 wins.
Biggest surprise: Patrick Eaves, RW, Ducks
The former first round pick of the Senators not only beat his career highs, he destroyed them. Finishing the year with 51 points, and a whopping 13 power play goals, Eaves became a hot commodity at the trade deadline and the Ducks managed to get him from the Stars. You won’t see Eaves single handily win the cup for the Ducks, but with his knack at finding the twine on the power play, he is the kind of support player that will help you get to the promise land.
Biggest breakout: Leon Draisaitl, C, Oilers
The former 3rd overall pick had a breakout season to remember, putting up 77 points in 82 games. After the Oilers dealt Taylor Hall in the off season, there was hope that someone else could step up and provide more offense and Draisaitl did not disappoint. At the young age of 21, he is sure to be part of the core of the Oilers future along with McDavid, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Lucic.
Biggest bust: Loui Eriksson, LW, Van
24 points in 63 games is definitely not what the Canucks were hoping for when they signed Eriksson in the off season after his 63-point campaign with Boston. While he isn’t a top ten scorer by any means, the hopes were he would jive with the Sedin twins and form a higher scoring top line. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case, and instead this season it seems the Canucks may have to start looking at replacing their high scoring twins with some youth.
Top rookie: Matthew Tkachuk, LW, Cgy
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and with 48 points to go with 105 penalty minutes this NHL rookie plays a lot like his father Keith did. Taken 6th overall in the 2016 draft, he probably won’t have a shot at the Calder with guys like Patrik Laine and Austen Matthews stealing the rookie show case this year, but the Flames are more than happy with their young left wing.