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Plenty of scoring stars with Art Ross potential

Can Henrik Sedin repeat as League scoring champion? Or will one of the League's other top scorers snag his hardware.

Wednesday, 29.09.2010 / 1:24 PM / Features
By Adam Kimelman
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Plenty of scoring stars with Art Ross potential
Can Henrik Sedin repeat as League scoring champion? Or will one of the League\'s other top scorers snag his hardware. NHL.com takes a look at some of the early frontrunners.
The NHL hasn't seen a repeat winner of the Art Ross Trophy since Jaromir Jagr won the last of his four straight scoring titles in 2001. That doesn't automatically disqualify the Canucks' Henrik Sedin from again leading the League in scoring, but it's just one factor working against him.

Another much larger one is the number of outstanding scorers playing the game today. Six active players are former Ross Trophy winners, and 14 current players other than Sedin have 100-point seasons to their credit.

So can Sedin buck the odds and win a second straight scoring title? Or will some other player rise up and collect the hardware? NHL.com takes a look at the potential leaders -- in alphabetical order only. After all, picking the scoring leader in September is a shot that has little chance of going in.

Nicklas Backstrom, C, Capitals -- Backstrom gets far less attention than he would on any other team because of the force that is Alex Ovechkin. But getting that little spotlight certainly hasn't bothered the fourth pick of the 2006 Entry Draft, who finished fourth in the League last season with 101 points.

His 68 assists were third in the League, a number that will be bolstered yearly by playing alongside Ovechkin. He's also shown he can put the puck in net, however, as his 33 goals last season were a career high and the third straight season he's raised his total.

"Nicklas has developed into one of the finest centers in this League," Caps GM George McPhee said. "He is a League leader on offense. He is excellent defensively. He is competitive. He comes here to win. He doesn't miss games, he doesn't miss practices. He's a winner. And more importantly, he's an excellent teammate. His teammates respect him and like him a lot."

Sidney Crosby, C, Penguins -- Crosby already has a Ross Trophy on the mantle from when he scored 120 points in 2006-07. That was his career-best, but he's been over 100 points in four of his five seasons, and if he stays healthy, there's no reason to doubt he'll do it again.

Last season, the Pittsburgh captain finished second in the League with 109 points, the third time in the last four seasons he's finished in the top three. And now that he's added goal-scoring to his repertoire -- his 51 goals last season tied for the League lead -- there's no reason to think Crosby won't be among the League scoring leaders once again.

Evgeni Malkin, C, Penguins -- Fans who marveled over Malkin never really saw the “real” player last season, as shoulder and foot injuries robbed him of his explosiveness and limited him to just 77 points in 67 games. The two seasons prior, however, Malkin was sublime, scoring 100 points each time and winning a scoring title in 2009.

Every season Malkin seems to be growing more and more comfortable with hockey in North America, and he continues to add to his game. He's bigger and stronger than ever, so he can combine the brute strength of a power forward with the finesse and creativity to skate around defenders and create his own shot. Whether he's playing center or on the wing, if Malkin stays healthy, he should pile up the points.

Alex Ovechkin, LW, Capitals -- The most dynamic offensive force in the NHL, Ovechkin is renowned for his goal-scoring prowess. Lost amidst his fourth 50-goal campaign in five seasons, however, was a career-high 59 assists last season.

As the Capitals surround him with more talent and Ovechkin learns to trust their ability to put the puck  in the net, Ovechkin can diversify his game and force defenses to play him differently. Ovechkin likely won't ever change from a shoot-first player, but with the talent around him, he should be able to keep his assist total high as he learns to let others put a few pucks in the net.

Henrik Sedin, C, Canucks -- Sedin had four straight 70-point seasons, so he always could score, but last season he burst out with League-high totals of 83 assists and 112 points. He and his line were the focal points of every team's defensive game plan, but nothing slowed him down, culminating with him becoming the first Canuck and second-ever Swedish player to win the League scoring title.

Now the pressure is on him to do it again, but Sedin doesn't seem fazed by the extra attention.

"I know it's going to be a lot of pressure from outside, from fans," he told TSN. "There will be a lot of talk if I'm not producing on a high level like I did last year. That is something we have dealt with before. It's not a problem."

Steven Stamkos, C, Lightning -- The first pick of the 2008 Entry Draft jumped from 24 goals to a League-leading 51 in his second season; could a corresponding jump from 95 points last season be out of the question?

Stamkos might have caught a few teams by surprise last season, but that certainly won't happen in 2010-11. The Lightning have an outstanding top-six forward group to keep Stamkos surrounded by talented players and with new coach Guy Boucher preaching an up-tempo, attacking style, the scoring opportunities should be abundant.

Joe Thornton, C, Sharks -- It may only seem like Thornton has been piling up the points forever, but the 31-year-old will be starting his 13th season next week. He's got at least a few seasons of elite-level hockey ahead of him, but as he enters the final season of his contract, it's likely he'll be out to show he's worthy of another multi-year, multi-million dollar deal.

Thornton certainly has produced in the past. His lowest point total since the 2005-06 season is 86, and he's been over 100 points twice. Another season centering a line with Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley, the hardest decision Thornton might have to make on a daily basis is which winger he wants to help reach 40 goals faster.

Others to watch: Marian Gaborik, RW, Rangers; Patrick Kane, RW, Blackhawks; Zach Parise, LW, Devils; Martin St. Louis, RW, Lightning; Eric Staal, C, Hurricanes