In 2017-18 the Pittsburgh Penguins were the only team to place three teammates in the top-10 of scoring. Evgeni Malkin paced the team with 98 points (42 goals + 56 assists) for 4th in the league, Phil Kessel was behind him in 8th with 92 points (34g+52a) and Sidney Crosby ranked 10th with 89 points (29g+60a).
Last season saw Edmonton’s Connor McDavid win his second scoring title in as many years (108 points in 2017-18; 41g+67a) so the 21-year old has to be considered the odds-on favorite to take another Art Ross in 2018-19. Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov was dangerous all year long and the one of only two other players to break 100 points in the season (39g+61a), along with Philly’s Claude Giroux (34g+68a). Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon at 97 points (39g+58a) showed he’s also a force to be reckoned with, as was New Jersey’s one-man wrecking crew and reigning league MVP Taylor Hall (39g+54a).
With the Pittsburgh players all right in the mix, we turn our focus to them. If you were to be told right now in August 2018 that one Penguin would win the scoring title in 2019 who would it be?
It’s a good question, because you could probably build a case for any of them, and so we will.
Evgeni Malkin was among the league’s most dominant players in the second half of the season, he blew everyone away in January and February and even from Jan 1 - end of season Malkin’s 62 points were just behind McDavid’s 63 in that stretch (compared to 54 for Crosby and 50 for Kessel in the same period). Malkin, at the height of his powers is capable of racking up about more goals and points than anyone in the league. Health has been a concern for Geno (2017-18’s 78 games played were the most for him since 2008-09) but if that factor is mitigated it’s more than conceivable Malkin could win his 3rd Art Ross trophy. Watching back all of Malkin’s 42 goals is a thing of beauty.
Phil Kessel used explosive months of November and January (scoring 36 combined points in 25 games in those two months) to roll to a career high season of 92 points. Despite calls about his health, he tallied 5 points (3g+2a) in 3 games in the month of April to help the Pens secure home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Kessel was also the magician and leader of the best power play the league has seen in years stacking up an NHL-high 42 PPP (12g+30a) in 2017-18. Durability is never a concern of Kessel’s with the veteran racking up eight seasons in a row of playing every single game. Phil has amped it up each year in Pittsburgh, going from 59 to 70 to 92 points year-over-year, seeming to settle in nicely and defy the odds to create historically great seasons. If he can continue on that unlikely trajectory he would continue to surprise. Phil’s 34 goals and ever-dangerous shot are a thing of beauty.
And then there’s Sidney Crosby. The Pens captain grinded out an 89-point season despite a dreadful 6.09% 5v5 on-ice shooting%. Though he was on ice for an awesome 300 high-danger scoring chances (and no doubt contributing to the majority of them), Pittsburgh only found the net on 25 of those opportunities. Compare that to Sid’s last MVP+Art Ross year of 2013-14 where he was on ice for 236 5v5 HDSC but it generated 40 total HD goals and a high overall 9.8% on-ice shooting%. If Crosby and his linemates can get back to that 2014 level of finishing chances, Sid will surely be right back at the very top of the league and contending for his 3rd scoring title. Crosby’s 29 goals in 2018 were down from his league-high 44 tucks in 2016-2017, so he’ll be looking to bounce back in that regard.
There’s no guarantee that a Pittsburgh player wins the scoring title in 2019, especially with a younger McDavid looking like he’s entering his prime. However the Pens have three great options and a potent power play, so you can’t count any of them out.
Bottom line is- if you’re told today that nine months from now a Penguin player will capture the Art Ross for the 2018-19 season, what’s your hunch on who it will be?
The most likely Penguin to win the 2018-19 Art Ross scoring title is:
This poll is closed