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Thursday, January 17, 2013
Bruins questions: Predicting point totals

By ESPNBoston.com

As part of our preview heading into the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, we've asked Joe McDonald and James Murphy to answer nine big questions (one per day) facing the Boston Bruins. Here's our Day 8 question:

What are your point predictions for the following: David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Dougie Hamilton?

Joe McDonald: Nathan Horton, David Krejci and Milan Lucic are all talented players with different, but complimentary skill sets.

It’s going to be interesting to watch the team’s top line produce in the lockout-shortened, 48-game season because it will be a sprint to the playoffs. First and foremost, in order for that line to produce, it will need to stay healthy. Krejci was the only one of the three to play overseas during the lockout, while Lucic and Horton remained in North America.

Krejci has the ability to dominate when it counts, so he should thrive in a shorter season. Look for him to notch 12 goals and 20 assists for 32 points.

Horton hasn’t played in a NHL game since Jan. 22, 2012 after he suffered his second concussion in a seven-month span. He’s completely healthy now and in great shape. He hasn’t avoided contact during training camp and looks strong on the ice. He may get off to a slow start, but once he gets going he could easily score 19 goals, add 17 assists for 36 points.

Despite some early talk that Lucic is out of shape, the power forward is ready for the season. Since he did not play during the lockout, it will take him a bit more time to shake the rust off his game and that could hurt his offensive production from a statistical standpoint. He’ll finish the season with 10 goals and 15 assists for 25 points.

Now let’s focus on rookie defenseman Dougie Hamilton. The 19-year-old blueliner will make the team and will be given every opportunity to succeed. During training camp, Bruins coach Claude Julien has the rookie paired with veteran Dennis Seidenberg. The pair is not set in stone, but Hamilton should get plenty of ice time once he gets used to the speed of the NHL game. He’s also been working on the second power-play unit which should give him a chance to produce on offense.

I actually picked Hamilton as my Calder Trophy winner as the league’s top rookie. While his goals (two), assists (15) and points (17) may not be eye-popping, I see an impressive plus-20 rating at the end of the season.

James Murphy: Here are my predictions for Krejci, Horton, Lucic and Hamilton:

Krejci: With his three-year contract that will pay him $5.2 million set to begin this season, and his name still a regular on the trade rumor circuit, one could say the pressure is on Krejci to produce. Since the 2008-09 season when he had 73 points, Krejci has had some inconsistent stretches and never become the 80-point player that many believe he can be. It obviously has to be noted that he was an absolute beast in the 2011 Stanley Cup run with 23 points in 25 games, but still, Krejci has yet to take that next step over the course of a full regular season. With a 48-game season upon us, we won't really be able to tell if that will happen, but expect Krejci to still put up some solid numbers this season. Maybe t pressure of the rumors, his contract and the short season, will be motivation for him to perform at the same level he did in the 2011 playoffs? Prediction: 15 goals, 31 assists -- 46 points

Horton: In 46 games last season -- albeit while still recovering from the concussion he suffered in the 2011 finals -- Horton had 17 goals and 32 points. Now, with a 48-game season, but a longer recovery period from the concussion he suffered last season in January, the belief here is that if healthy, Horton can be better than that. Horton is in top shape at camp and his timing appears to be there. The big test will be that first huge hit he takes in a real game and how the condensed schedule affects his durability. But if he passes those tests, Horton should be able to get back to being the power forward that helped the Bruins to the Stanley Cup in 2011. Prediction: 22 goals, 15 assists -- 37 points

Lucic: Lucic is another player that comes to camp armed with a new contract, though his begins next season. Still, the fact that the Bruins gave him $6 million per season for the three seasons after this one will put extra pressure on a player that has been inconsistent at times -- most notably in the playoffs the last two seasons. Factor in that there was plenty of buzz recently about Lucic not being in game-shape and the rugged winger could be in for a season full of scrutiny. But that being said, Lucic has delivered in both of the last two regular seasons with 30 and 26 goal seasons respectively so we know he can perform. I'd expect a slow start from Lucic based on the fact that he didn’t play at all during the locktout, but I think he'll get stronger as the season goes on, and hopefully for the Bruins he peaks in the playoffs. Prediction: 15 goals, 13 assists – 28 points

Hamilton: Hamilton enters his rookie season with plenty of hype and high expectations. The 2011 No. 9 overall pick has the potential to be a superstar defenseman with his 6-foot-5, 200-pound frame, and his puck-moving skills. But the question really is how will he handle the rigors of the NHL. Can he adjust to the speed of the NHL? Will a shortened 48-game season help or hurt him in that area? I believe if the Bruins approach his development the way they seem to be in camp and continue to pair him with a solid veteran like Dennis Seidenberg, Hamilton should handle the transition well and have a solid season. I also believe he will become an important part of the power play, an area the Bruins desperately need help in. Prediction: 4 goals, 14 assists -- 18 points