Even with entirely justifiable concern over his health, considering he has played just 99 of 212 regular season games over the last three seasons, Sidney Crosby is the player I've projected to finish atop the NHL scoring race in 2013-2014.
Last season, Crosby was in the lead when he suffered a broken jaw, costing him the last 12 games of the regular season and he finished four points behind Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis, who finished with 60 points in 48 games.
If there is a positive to be taken from the injury that shortened Crosby's 2013 campaign, it's that his injury was a broken jaw and not additional concussion troubles that have plagued him in previous seasons. If that means that Crosby might, possibly, be a little further removed from his latest concussion, then that could provide some reason to be optimistic about his health going into this season.
Of course, when a player misses 113 of 212 games, any optimism over health needs to be tempered, but even with Crosby projected to play 64 games, his 102-point projection is good enough to rank at the top, ahead of St. Louis and St. Louis' centre, Steven Stamkos.
Though he's only led the league in scoring once, in 2006-2007, over the last three seasons, Crosby has scored 159 points in 99 games, his 1.61 points per game far-and-away the best in the league. His teammate, Evgeni Malkin, ranks second at 1.20 points per game, in that time frame.
While Crosby is the pick at the top of the scoring race, when it comes to position-by-position Fantasy rankings, Steven Stamkos gets the nod at centre, for his off-the-charts goal-scoring and the fact that he's been much, much healthier than Crosby.
In the last three years, Stamkos has 134 goals, 32 more than Alex Ovechkin and Corey Perry, who are tied for second. Injuries are unpredictable and, given the nature of the game, can hit a player at any time, but it sure feels safer to peg Stamkos at the top of the centre rankings when he's missed only three games in five NHL seasons (and they were all in his rookie year).
Other position leaders in the Fantasy Projections (which incorporate goals, assists, plus-minus, power play points, hits and shots on goal) include Ovechkin at right wing, Daniel Sedin on left wing, Erik Karlsson on defence and Henrik Lundqvist in goal.
This is just the beginning of TSN's Fantasy Hockey coverage for this season, as we prepare to launch the Fantasy Hockey League Manager and I'll have many more articles and updated rankings in preparation for October 1, when the puck drops on the 2013-2014 NHL regular season.
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.