McDavid, Draistail among NHL.com picks for North Division preseason team

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With the 2020-21 NHL season scheduled to start Jan. 13, fans are getting the chance to pick the top players in each of the four divisions through the 2020-21 NHL Preseason All-Division Team Fan Vote. Results will be announced Jan. 12 and 13.

Though the fans will have the ultimate say regarding the top players in the Scotia North Division, MassMutual East Division, Discover Central Division and Honda West Division, NHL.com writers have made their own picks using the same ballot the fans have.

Today, four NHL.com writers reveal their selections for the North Division, which consists of the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks.

 

Tim Campbell, staff writer

Forward: Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
Forward: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Forward: Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
Defenseman: Morgan Rielly, Toronto Maple Leafs
Defenseman: Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens
Goalie: Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

There’s just no way to begin other than having Draisaitl, winner of the Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy last season, and McDavid who often heads the discussion about the best player on the planet, on the team. They are forces of nature that the North Division is going to have difficulty managing. From there, the goal of this exercise might seem to be to provoke a fight in every NHL city in Canada, given the abundance of talent from which to choose. In order to avoid such provocation, I went simply to the numbers and Scheifele, who scored 73 points (29 goals, 44 assists) last season and has been just a little more productive and is just a little more polished than the rest of the field. I’ve long been a fan of the kind of game played by Weber, so that was rather easy. My other choice is Rielly, someone who has endured a less-than-ideal situation to showcase his talents on a team so bent on offensive ideas. But I believe he’s an uber-talented gamer and he’s better than even some of his biggest fans think. In goal, on immediate past performance (that means the Vezina Trophy), it’s Hellebuyck for me.

Video: Top 10 Leon Draisaitl plays from 2019-20

 

Shawn P. Roarke, Senior Director of Editorial

Forward: Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
Forward: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Forward: Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
Defenseman: Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks
Defenseman: Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens
Goalie: Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

The inclusion of McDavid and Draisaitl are no-brainers. They are the two most gifted forwards in a division loaded with high-powered talent and may well be the two most exciting forwards in the NHL. They combined to score 207 points last season (Draisaitl 110, McDavid 97) and were one-two in scoring during the 2019-20 NHL regular season. It’s the third forward that is the rub here. I’m glad two of my colleagues picked Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs because he is an exceptional talent, but I had to go with Scheifele, one of the best 200-foot forwards around. His importance to the Jets was underscored when he was injured in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers and the Jets lost the series in four games. I’m not ready to write off the 36-year-old Weber yet; he is still a game-changing force on the blue line and he will have to be at his best if the Canadiens are going to be competitive in this division, which I believe they will. Hughes is ready to take the next step, which will be impressive considering his first step in the NHL was good enough to come in second in Calder Trophy voting. It’s hard to go against Price when picking the best at anything to do with goaltending, but Hellebuyck was better last season and is entering his prime on a team that relies on him the way Price was once relied upon by the Canadiens.

Video: Top 10 Connor McDavid plays from 2019-20

 

Dave Stubbs, columnist

Forward: Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
Forward: Connor McDavid, Toronto Maple Leafs
Forward: Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames
Defenseman: Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks
Defenseman: Neal Pionk, Winnipeg Jets
Goalie: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

No need to argue for Oilers teammates Draisaitl, the Hart and Art Ross trophy winner from last season, and McDavid, who, on many subjective lists, is No. 1 or 1A with Sidney Crosby as the best player in the NHL. I’ll go with Matthew Tkachuk to skate up front with them. Where Scheifele might have been a silky addition, I like the sandpaper of Tkachuk. On defense, Hughes has big skates to fill – his own – following his Calder runner-up season. I like his speed, mobility and hockey sense. I’ll pair him with Pionk, who showed plenty of mettle and learned a ton after the departure of cornerstone Dustin Byfuglien in Winnipeg. I literally flipped a Canadian quarter, best of three, to decide the goalie. Price was brilliant in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, returning to the form that has made him one of the greatest goalies in the NHL. So it was a single coin toss that swings my vote away from Hellebuyck, last season’s thoroughly deserving Vezina Trophy winner.

Video: Top 5 Matthew Tkachuk plays from 2019-20

 

Mike Zeisberger, staff writer

Forward: Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
Forward: Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
Forward: Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Defenseman: Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks
Defenseman: Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens
Goalie: Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens

McDavid is the best player around, Draisaitl is the defending Hart Trophy winner as NHL MVP and Matthews has scored the second-most goals (158) in the League since 2016. Only Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals has more in that span (181). Scheifele finished just outside the top three but I can’t argue with any of my colleagues who chose him. I’ve watched Matthews in person enough in his first four seasons to know how much of a difference-maker he can be on any given night. The most difficult decision I have is on defense. Hughes has been spectacular at times but his body of work is quite limited. I would have no issue replacing him with Rielly, who scored 72 points (20 goals, 52 assists) in 2018-19 before injuries limited him to 47 games last season. In goal, Hellebuyck was great last season but Price is a future Hall of Famer who is surrounded by the best supporting cast he’s had in years in Montreal.

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