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Mailbag: Why McDavid is best to build around

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the Oct. 4 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag, which will run every Wednesday throughout the 2017-18 NHL season. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

 

When building a team, you start from the back end out. In that respect, would you draft Carey Price, Erik Karlsson or Connor McDavid first? -- @briantodd34

If you're building from the back end out, to me that means you want the best goalie first. That's Price. But I would take McDavid first among the three players you provided in your question. I know it doesn't jibe with your back-end-out theory, but McDavid, as a center, has an impact all over the ice. He makes everyone he plays with better and more dangerous. 

What he has done with the Edmonton Oilers is nothing short of remarkable. McDavid's combination of speed, skill and smarts strikes fear into opponents. He has turned the Oilers into contenders. I can get a goalie who isn't as good as Price and still win. I can get a defenseman who doesn't move the puck as well or skate as well as Karlsson and still have a strong back end. I can't find another center in the NHL like McDavid, unless I'm picking Sidney Crosby, in which case we have a different type of player and a different debate. But one player is 20 and the other is 30, so I'd probably go McDavid even though I think Crosby is the best player in the world. 

McDavid has to knock him off that pedestal. He might do it this season.

Video: NHL Tonight: Superstar Comparison

 

Will the Anaheim Ducks win their sixth consecutive Pacific Division title? Will this be the year they reach the Stanley Cup Final? -- @PrinceJantzen

Yes and yes. 

I picked the Ducks to win the Pacific Division and win the Stanley Cup.

 

Could you do an early prediction of who takes home the hardware at the end of the year? -- @whoopoi

I'll give you five predictions.

Hart Trophy: Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Norris Trophy: Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Vezina Trophy: Price, Montreal Canadiens
Calder Trophy: Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins
Jack Adams Award: Ken Hitchcock, Dallas Stars

Video: Five key questions about the Eastern Conference

 

With the forward corps decimated by injuries, is it time to push the panic button in St. Louis? Does it push us out of the playoff hunt? -- @chm1691

Panic? No, not yet. Out of the playoff hunt? That's impossible when there hasn't been a game played yet. Don't go there. Don't look at the doomsday scenario before the first face-off of the season. 

However, I think it's fair for you to worry if you're a St. Louis Blues fan. They have been crushed by injuries to defenseman Jay Bouwmeester (ankle) and forwards Alexander Steen (hand), Robby Fabbri (knee), Zach Sanford (shoulder) and Patrik Berglund (shoulder). Their depth will be tested, as will Mike Yeo's coaching. But they do have some talent there that can help carry them through the adversity at least enough to stay in the playoff hunt until reinforcements arrive. 

So, no, don't panic. Not yet at least. Maybe rookie forwards Tage Thompson and Wade Megan will be breakout performers. Hey, I'm believer; I picked them to finish first in the Central Division. 

 

Now that Patrick Marleau is gone and Joe Thornton is near the end, is the window all but closed for this San Jose Sharks core to win the Stanley Cup? -- @Gokesbaby

What the Sharks have to do this season is open a new window. Obviously the one with Marleau is closed, but that doesn't mean the Sharks are done and need to go into a massive rebuild.

What they need is some of their support players to step up and be difference makers to bolster the core and, frankly, become part of it. It can't be solely on the shoulders of defenseman Brent Burns, forwards Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture, defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Thornton to carry them, especially the offense. The Sharks need forwards Timo Meier, Mikkel Boedker, Tomas Hertl, Melker Karlsson, Joel Ward and Kevin Labanc to contribute. They were 19th in scoring last season (2.67 goals per game), and that included Marleau's 27 goals. 

That offense is gone now. The Sharks didn't bring in a veteran to replace it. It must come from within. That's how they will open a new window in San Jose.

 

If Jack Eichel is healthy all season, is he top three in points at the end of the year? -- @yourstrulylucas

This is a tough prediction to make with expectations soaring for McDavid and Crosby, not to mention the return of Lightning center Steven Stamkos, who is playing with Nikita Kucherov, and New York Islanders center John Tavares' obvious ability to fill up the stat sheet, plus Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, Stars forwards Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau and more and more and more. Each of them could finish in the top three. But I will say that if Eichel stays healthy and plays 82 games, I think he'll score between 85-90 points and that might just be good enough to finish in the top three. Crosby and Kane each had 89 points last season, finishing behind McDavid (100). Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom had 86 points. Kucherov and Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand each had 85. That's the target window. Eichel is good enough to hit it.

Video: Jack Eichel is named No. 37 on the list

 

Filip Chytil stood out during the preseason. Will he continue to do so in the regular season? -- @quinnmosier

Yes. The New York Rangers smartly recognized that Chytil could be a difference maker even at 18. That's why they kept him and not Lias Andersson, who shouldn't be a fourth-line center but would have been in this case. 

Chytil will be given the chance to play with skilled wings; it looks like he'll start with Rick Nash and Mats Zuccarello, but that could change. Either way, he's going to be with NHL veterans who know how to get open, get the puck and score. That will help Chytil as he continues to transition to the NHL game. 

What Chytil (6-foot-2, 202 pounds) also has going for him are his wheels and his stick skills. He has some size too, which gives him a presence when you put it with his skating and his skill. That is what stood out in training camp and, given the players he will be playing with, I think it'll stand out in the regular season too. But be prepared for some growing pains, especially on the defensive end. He needs to keep them to a minimum if he wants to stay on coach Alain Vigneault's good side.

 

Do the Vegas Golden Knights surprise this year and reach the postseason? What's your evaluation of the team going into the regular season? -- @bloodfury96

No. They may surprise and be better than expected, but I find it extremely difficult to believe they will be a Stanley Cup Playoff team in their first season. They have some nice pieces to the puzzle, but if you look around the Western Conference and compare teams, Vegas is a step below in a lot of areas. They don't have a proven first-line center. They don't have a first line that can match up well enough with others and be good enough to win the majority of those battles. They don't have a proven No. 1 defenseman, someone they can absolutely count on to carry the load. They have depth at the position, but most of their defensemen are second- and third-pair players. It's asking too much of goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to carry the Golden Knights into the playoffs this season. But, hey, it would be a heck of a story if he did.

Video: Expectations for the Golden Knights

 

Is it possible for the Carolina Hurricanes to live up to all the preseason hype they've been getting? -- @K_baum30

I'd argue that they're not getting a lot of preseason hype. We did our preseason Super 16, and the Hurricanes only received five points. Lisa Dillman and Mike G. Morreale each had them ranked No. 15. I had them at No. 16. Nobody else picked them. That's not a lot of hype. So, yes, they can live up to it. I like the Hurricanes this season and I picked them to make the playoffs. Coach Bill Peters told me this is the best team he's had in his four seasons in Carolina, and I believe him. The keys are continued growth from forwards Elias Lindholm, Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen and defensemen Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce, plus Scott Darling has to prove he's a No. 1 goalie. He will, and we'll see the continued growth. They'll be the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

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