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Art Ross: Rosen sees Stamkos; Hradek picks Malkin

by Dan Rosen and E.J. Hradek

Daniel Sedin won the Art Ross Trophy last season with 104 points. It was the lowest point-total by a scoring champion in the post-work stoppage era, but that, of course, means it was the sixth straight season that at least 100 points were required to win the race.

Odds are that won't change this season. The talent in this League is too great for someone to lead with only 90-plus points.

Many self-described experts (like us) expect Evgeni Malkin to have a huge rebound season on his surgically repaired knee. Nothing appears to be slowing down the Sedins. Steven Stamkos had 91 points last season despite slumping after the All-Star break. Provided he finds the scoring touch that garnered him 50-goals-in-50-games hype in the first half of last season, he'll be in the race, likely alongside linemate Martin St. Louis, who had 99 points last season.

There's no reason why Corey Perry can't build on his MVP numbers from last season (50 goals, 48 assists). He likely would have gone over 100 points if Ryan Getzlaf didn't miss 15 games due to injuries.

With so many candidates, it may seem like a ridiculous experiment to try to pick a winner. But we're going to anyway:

Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

He couldn't put his finger on the reason why, but Steven Stamkos struggled to find his scoring touch after the All-Star break last season. After all the goal-scoring hype early in the season, he scored just 7 times in his final 31 games after collecting 38 in the first 51.

His 45 goals were good for second in the League behind Perry's 50, but Stamkos' second-half struggles were well-documented last season.

However, those struggles are exactly the reason why I think he's going to win the Art Ross Trophy as the League's top regular-season scorer.

Huh? What's that? Need an explanation?

Stamkos told earlier this month that his second-half struggles allowed him to become more of an all-round threat. While he never wanted to go through a scoring slump, he found a way to take a positive out of what was one of the most difficult stretches of his career, and that will help him in the long run.

Stamkos likely won't go through another prolonged scoring slump this season, and because he's not thinking about just being a goal-scorer, he will become a more dangerous threat on the ice. With three seasons of experience, Stamkos has picked up some of the veteran savvy necessary to keep defenses guessing as he mixes playmaking with his shooting and scoring.

The fact that he's now familiar with coach Guy Boucher's unorthodox 1-3-1 forecheck should serve to make Stamkos an even greater threat. He'll hit the 50-goal mark this season and his playmaking ability will allow him to get up to 50 or more assists.

Stamkos will be a 100-point scorer for the first time in his career and it'll be good enough to win the scoring title.

Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

After missing the final months of the 2010-11 season with a knee injury, Malkin spent the summer working hard to get into top condition for the new season. If you've seen him during the early stages of the preseason, it's easy to see that his efforts are paying off (he put up 5 points in his first two preseason games).

Evgeni Malkin
Center - PIT
GOALS: 15 | ASST: 22 | PTS: 37
SOG: 182 | +/-: -4
Healthy and motivated, I fully expect the Russian-born center to get back to the form that helped him win this honor at the end of the 2008-09 season, when he posted a career-best 113 points. Malkin followed that dynamic regular season by earning the Conn Smythe Trophy for helping the Penguins to their third-ever Stanley Cup.

A season earlier, Malkin totaled 106 regular-season points, finishing second to Capitals star Alex Ovechkin in the race for the Art Ross. For the mathematically challenged, that's 219 points in two seasons. Not bad, eh?

Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said he sees a more mature Malkin in the early stages of training camp. Bylsma believes Malkin wants to be more of a leader. That can't be good news for opponents around the League.

The 25-year-old center should benefit from the opportunity to work with goal-scoring wings like James Neal and Steve Sullivan. In fact, Bylsma has been particularly impressed by the early chemistry developing between Malkin and Sullivan.

And Malkin certainly will benefit from the eventual return of Sidney Crosby. Bylsma occasionally will employ both his top centers on the same line in certain game situations, as well as on the power play.

In the end, I believe Malkin is poised for a monster season, which is why he's my Art Ross Trophy winner.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl. Follow E.J. Hradek on Twitter at: @EJHradek_NHL
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