No. 2: Jean-Gabriel Pageau (Reader rank: 2, Last year: 6)
Last year was a big year for Jean-Gabriel Pageau. It was his first full season in the NHL - no more riding the bus for him! He was also starting the season as the clear cut third line centre. It’s also maybe the first time where the man maybe caught up with the Game 3 Legend.
Pageau largely held the line in that role, playing mostly with some combination of Curtis Lazar, Milan Michalek and Alex Chiasson. Then Kyle Turris was sidelined for the season.
While JGP started the season firmly on the third line, he arguably finished the season as the team’s first line fill-in. He went from Lazar, Michalek and (mostly) Chiasson to Smith, Stone and some Hoffman. To say it had an effect on his scoring... Well, he had 6 5-on-5 points while on the ice with Chiasson, and 11 with Smith. The end result was a season with almost double his previous career point totals.
The question becomes - can he keep doing it? Ranking in at second on this list is sure showing some optimism on that, but there are a number of factors at play.
There are some things that could point to a drop off. First is the number of short handed points. Pageau had a whopping 9 short handed points, 7 of them goals. To put that in perspective, that’s more goals than 16 teams had on the penalty kill, and more points than 23 of them. Is that something generally repeatable? The truth is we don’t really know, there doesn’t seem to have been much work on it. But I think we all hope the answer is “yes” and that Pageau again puts up more short handed points than 2⁄3 of the teams in the league.
The second is linemates. Pageau saw most of his success with Smith, Stone and Hoffman. There’s a good chance he will start the season behind Derrick Brassard at 3C and staying there for most of the season and that would cut down on the number of sweet, sweet points he racked up with Stone or Hoffman. Would Smith-Pageau be enough to keep some of the magic, or did it really take Stone or Hoffman to bring it all together?
On the positive side, there are a few factors that point clearly at “yes”. His rate of goals wasn’t that different from the previous season, and the increase in totals was largely due to playing 82 games instead of 50. Remaining relatively steady over two seasons means there’s a good chance that’s what we’ll see again this year.
The increase in his overall points came mostly from assists - and from primary assists at that, which are far more likely to be repeated than a sudden jump in secondary assists. He’s shown he can handle playing higher up the lineup as well, meaning being in the 3C spot behind Brassard is no sure thing and he could very well push his way into the 2C role.
He’s also only 23 - it’s possible he has peaked at that age, but far more likely that he has not.
One more thing that should help him out - five games against Montreal this season instead of four. That should be worth at least an extra point or two.