Surprise: Sami Vatanen 36 GP, 9 G, 15 A, +1, 22 PIM
Disappointment: Emerson Etem 24 GP, 2 G, 4 A, -4, 2 PIM
Sami Vatanen officially made the NHL last year and got off to a pretty decent start registering 21 points in 48 games and displaying his excellent speed. But this has been a breakout year for Vatanen as he’s already surpassed last years numbers and doing so in 15 less games. Vatanen isn’t particularly big and wasn’t highly touted in his draft year, but nonetheless the 23 year old Fin trails only Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf in points on the team and places 5th in defenseman scoring. There hasn’t been many disappointing things for Anaheim this year, but Emerson Etem is one of them. Etem was a 1st round pick in 2010 and scouts raved about his speed and scoring ability. While he has shown flashes of being wicked fast, the goal scoring hasn’t come. Etem has good size, but now in his 3rd season in Anaheim, he’s only amassed 12 goals in 88 games with the team. Etem is only 22 so there is plenty of time for him to develop, but it’s also a possibility he gets traded because of Anaheim’s depth and the disappointing start to his career.
Surprise: Devan Dubnyk, 15 GP, 7-3-2, 1 SO, GAA 2.65, SV .922-
Disappointment: Mike Smith, 23 GP, 5-15-2, 0 SO, GAA 3.48, SV .884
There hasn’t been a whole lot of good in the badlands this year. No player has double digit goals, and only Jordan Martinook, Martin Hanzal Brandon Gormley and Tobias Rieder are pluses and Martinook has only played 2 games. One of the surprises though is the play of backup goaltender Devan Dubnyk. The former Edmonton starter has bounced from Nashville to Montreal finally to Arizona. And all those moves are in the last year. Dubnyk has been surprisingly good though, recording solid numbers and posting a solid win-loss record to a point where he’s slowly taking the starting job from Mike Smith. Speaking of Smith, what on earth happened to him? After backstopping the Coyotes to the Conference Finals in 2012, Smith has regressed each year following to a point where he’s flat out awful. With Dubnyk playing well and Smith not, it shouldn’t be a surprise if Dubnyk is the full time starter within the next few weeks.
Surprise: Carl Soderberg, 35 GP, 6 G, 17 A, +7, 10 PIM
Disappointment: Tuukka Rask, 27 GP, 14-10-3, 1 SO, 2.54 GAA, .912 SV
Before I begin, can we all just take a moment to laugh hysterically at Boston for trading Tyler Seguin? Okay now that’s done, let’s get to business. Plain and simple, the big bad Bruins are not so big and bad anymore. Chara’s been hurt, Thornton’s gone and Milan Lucic has spent most of the season making gestures towards the Montreal fans and getting knocked out by Dalton Prout and then proceeding to whine about it. Carl Soderberg has been a pretty nice surprise though for Boston. He hasn’t been stellar for them but he’s been a solid offensive player for the Bruins and realistically, no one else has really exceeded expectations. Now when you look at Tuukka Rask’s numbers, it may come as a suprise that he’s considered to be disappointing, but the truth is he has been. The reigning Vezina trophy winner hasn’t been bad necessarily, but considering how good he can be, his numbers are underwhelming. There’s no doubt that an average Bruins defense hasn’t helped with most of the blueline being injured at some point and Johnny Boychuk being dealt before the year (another Chiarelli gem) but either way Rask must be better.
Surprise: Zemgus Girgensons, 35 GP, 9 G, 9 A, +2, 15 PIM
Disappointment: Cody Hodgson, 34 GP, 2 G, 4 A, -15 6 PIM
It was pretty well expected coming into the season that Buffalo was going to be very, very bad and they have surprised no one being very, very bad this year. The Sabres are rebuilding, and are working towards the future when they have the potential to be deadly. Zemgus Girgensons struggled in his first season, only registering 22 points in 70 games but this year has been a total change. He already has 18 points this season and somehow, someway has managed a plus rating. Girgensons also leads the NHL in All-Star game voting though that doesn’t always tell a tale of who’s the best. Cody Hodgson on the other hand, has been a complete disappointment, and is starting to inch towards the word bust. Hodgson was acquired from Vancouver back in 2012, and in his first season and a half, it looked Buffalo had absolutely robbed Vancouver especially as Zack Kassian continued to struggle. But last year, Hodgson’s defensive play and physicality were poor and this year everything has disappeared. Him and Kassian have identical numbers and Kassian has missed time. Once touted as a possible 1st line center, Hodgson is going to be lucky to still have a spot in Buffalo in the future.
Surprise: T.J. Brodie, 36 GP, 6 G, 18 A, +17, 24 PIM
Disappointment: Sven Baertschi, 14 GP, 0 G, 3 A, -4, 4 PIM
It has been a fun start for the Flames and their fans. After years of mediocrity, they have come firing out of the gate, and despite struggling a little of late their start is still something to be pleased about. Pretty much the entire team has been a surprise as expectations weren’t high but in picking one it has to be T.J. Brodie. Everyone may immediately look at Mark Giordano here, but if you look back at last year, Giordano was fantastic then too. Brodie meanwhile has had issues the past few years, but has seemed to piece it all together this year. His offensive play has been great and defensively he’s been solid as well. There’s no doubt that part of the Flames success has been a result of the terrific production of the Giordano-Brodie pairing. Sven Baertschi meanwhile is just a continuous disappointment. The 13th overall selection in the 2011 draft has struggled to find a home in the NHL, failing to live up to expectations in his first three seasons. Baertschi is still young, and has time to still fulfill his potential but with other wunderkind prospects such as Johnny Gaudreau and Josh Jooris surpassing him on the depth chart, Baertschi has to figure it out quickly or he’ll find himself under the label of bust.
Surprise: Cam Ward, 23 GP, 9-12-2, 1 SO, 2.44 GAA, .911 SV
Disappointment: Alexander Semin, 22 GP, 1 G, 5 A, -9 16 PIM
Coming in to the season not much was expected of Carolina. Their goaltending wasn’t supposed to be good, they had lost Jordan Staal and their defense was subpar so it’s no surprise they’ve struggled and find themselves in the cellar. A nice surprise for the ‘Canes though is the bounce back of 2006 Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward. Ward was very poor last year and has struggled with injuries but despite the Hurricanes poor record, Ward has posted solid numbers. The other interesting stat is that every game Ward has started, he’s finished. Ward was much talked about in the offseason s a potential trade candidate, but so far this year he looks to be putting those rumors to rest. Semin is really a mystery, because his first two campaigns in Carolina were solid being a point per game player in 2013 and then scoring 20 goals last season but this season he looks totally lost. Defense has never been his strong suit, but this year Semin can’t even find the scoresheet only registering a measly 6 points and finding himself as a healthy scratch or playing 4th line minutes on numerous occasions.
Surprise: Kris Versteeg, 31 GP, 9 G, 16 A, +15, 23 PIM
Disappointment: Andrew Shaw, 32 GP, 5 G, 5 A, -4, 28 PIM
It’s been a bit of a different season than usual for the Hawks. Patrick Sharp has battled injuries while Marian Hossa has struggled to find the net. Luckily for the Hawks, Toews and Kane are still Toews and Kane and the snakebit Kris Versteeg has stepped up nicely. Versteeg was the target of much criticism from Blackhawks fans last season due to his lack of physicality, durability and scoring ability but he has been terrific in the absence of Sharp and leads the team in +/- along with being third in scoring on the team only behind Kane and Toews. Andrew Shaw has struggled on the other hand. Never a big offensive threat, his numbers are down more than usual and he’s a minus 4. Shaw’s game is structured around being brash and physical and even that hasn’t been prevalent in his game this year. He’s gotten plenty of chances considering Joel Quenneville basically pulls names out of hat to determine what his lines will be but Shaw failed to produce with the top stars on the team and hasn’t shined in his usual depth role either.
Surprise: Calvin Pickard, 13 GP, 6-5-2, 0 SO, GAA 2.06, SV .939
Disappointment: Semyon Varlamov, 16 GP, 5-6-5, 2 SO, GAA 3.01, SV .913
Is there a goaltending controversy brewing in the Rocky Mountains? It certainly appears that way. The Avs has been poor this season, and that’s largely in part to their dreadful defense and even worse goaltending. While Varlamov kept Colorado in a large portion of games last season, he’s been nothing short of a sieve this season and has battled injuries as well. It’s unfair to put all of the blame on Varlamov though as Colorado’s star-studded offense has sputtered thus far. Even the dazzling Nathan MacKinnon has only been ordinary. There has been a couple bright spots for Colorado though. Tyson Barrie continues his development and has the possibility to be amongst the league’s best blue liners in a few years. The other bright spot is goaltender Calvin Pickard. Starting the season as Colorado’s 4th goaltender behind Varlamov, Reto Berra and Sami Aitokallio, nothing much was expected of Pickard but in the absence of Varlamov and the horrific play of Reto Berra, Pickard has filled the void well to a point where it has to be running through the heads of Colorado’s front office that this guy may be for real. If Varlamov continues to struggle, there’s a very real chance we see a permanent goaltending change in the Mile High City.
Surprise: Nick Foligno, 32 GP, 16 G, 14 A, -1, 20 PIM
Disappointment: Jack Johnson, 30 GP, 3 G, 13 A, -22, 19 PIM
It’s been an up and down start for the Blue Jackets. They’ve been absolutely decimated by injuries, and only Jared Boll, David Savard and Ryan Johansen have played every game, but as their players start to return, the Jackets are starting to heat up. Much of this is due to the fact that Nick Foligno suddenly decided he was going to score on a point per game pace. Foligno, whose career highs are 18 goals and 47 points is on an absolute tear and is well on his way to demolishing those career bests. Maybe playing with Ryan Johansen has helped but either way Foligno has been a stud for Columbus this year. The dud award goes to Jack Johnson. Johnson is known for his offensive game and while he hasn’t been terrible in that regard this year, that minus 19 is repulsive. If the Blue Jackets want to get back into the playoffs this year, the defense has to improve and that starts with Johnson as he is their leader on the blueline.
Surprise: John Klingberg, 19 GP, 3 G, 7 A, +4, 16 PIM
Disappointment: Ales Hemsky, 30 GP, 2 G, 8 A, -13, 8 PIM
It has been a rough season for the Stars. After making the playoffs last year, they have taken a large step back largely due to their porous defensive corps. On top of that, Tyler Seguin is the only forward consistently scoring, as both Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza have had solid years but haven’t scored all that much with only 14 combined goals between them. One of the nice surprises has been young Swedish defenseman John Klingberg. With Patrick Nemeth out for the year and a flurry of other injuries and inconsistency, Klingberg has gotten his shot and made the most of it playing consistent defense and posting a solid + 7 rating. Ales Hemsky on the other hand has been a total disaster. Brought in to stabilize the 2nd line with Jason Spezza, Hemsky has failed to do anything whatsoever. His offensive numbers are down and his defensive play has been terrible. The play of Hemsky has really made things tough for head coach Lindy Ruff as he’s had to continue to adjust his lines to make up for what Hemsky can’t provide.
Surprise: Kyle Quincey, 3 1GP, 1 G, 5 A, +3, 35 PIM
Disappointment: Henrik Zetterberg, 35 GP, 7 G, 23 A, -1, 14 PIM
It may seem weird that the Wings biggest surprise has only 6 points, but compared to what Quincey’s past seasons he’s been good. He’s never one to produce offensively, but Quincey’s defense has been rock solid this year and he’s been a big help to the Detroit defense which has been a large key to their success. It was a definite possibility at the start of the year that Quincey could find himself on the outside looking in, but the tough stay at home defenseman has definitely re-established himself a permanent spot on the Detroit blueline. It almost seem surprising that Detroit’s leading scorer is their biggest disappointment, but plain and simple Zetterberg has not been that good. His point total is solid, but he has had struggles finding the net and his defensive play has been uncharacteristically average this year and he’s often seemed invisible on the ice. Luckily for the Wings, the rest of the team has played great so their captain’s slow start isn’t as damaging as it may be.
Surprise: No One
It’s that simple. Edmonton hasn’t been bad, they’ve been absolutely pathetic. No one has exceeded expectations and everyone has disappointed. The offense has been inconsistent, the goaltending atrocious and there are no words to describe how bad the Oilers defense is.
(Prime example of how not to play defense)
They fired head coach Dallas Eakins but he’s so far from the problem. The Oilers are destined to pick in the top 5 of the draft in June, but there’s no guarantee they even get that right. Edmonton needs defense in the worst way, and picking either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel would be foolish. Edmonton really needs to select defenseman Noah Hanifin from Boston College. Hanifin stands at 6’3 205 lbs and could be the key to finally getting Edmonton out of the cellar. But being the Oilers, they will take the bait on the forwards, and watch as their team continues to struggle to contend without a defense or goaltender.
Surprise: Aaron Ekblad, 32 GP, 5 G, 14 A, +6, 16 PIM
Disappointment: Aleksander Barkov, 23 GP, 2 G, 3 A, -4, 4 PIM
The Panthers are off to a surprisingly good start. Roberto Luongo has been solid in goal and most of the Panthers young guns have been producing. None more so than Aaron Ekblad. The #1 overall pick in last years draft has been dynamic, showing flashes of superstardom early on in his career. On top of scoring effectively, his defense has been great and he he certainly looks to have all the intangibles to be a Norris trophy defenseman in the near future. Aleksander Barkov on the other hand has endured the sophomore slump in a bad way. Barkov had some issues last season, but most assumed he would bounce back and that it was all part of his development. This season has not been reassuring though and some concerns have been raised about Barkov as it doesn’t appear he’s progressing well.
Surprise: Tyler Toffoli, 35 GP, 10 G, 14 A, +14, 12 PIM
Disappointment: Dustin Brown, 35, 6 G, 5 A, -8, 8 PIM
No one has really surprised on L.A. so we’ll just go with Toffoli who just continues to surprise and impress. That 70’s Line has dropped off a little bit with Pearson not producing well but Toffoli hasn’t had any troubles finding the net and with most of the Kings offense underachieving, Toffoli and Jeff Carter have been big in picking up the slack. One of this disappointing offensive players for the Kings is Dustin Brown. After 5 straight seasons of over 50 points (excluding the lockout season) Brown’s production dropped off significantly last season. He registered his lowest point total since really making the NHL in the 2005-06 season, and despite a solid playoff run last season, he’s back to not scoring. Brown isn’t even in the top tier in hits, a spot in which he’s been a fixture for the last several years.
Surprise: Jason Zucker, 32 GP, 12 G, 4 A, -1, 12 PIM
Disappointment: Mikael Granlund, 31 GP, 3 G, 10 A, Even, 4 PIM
There hasn’t been anyone truly surprising for the Wild. Darcy Kuemper was a pleasant surprise at first, but has regressed badly to a point of being average at best. In fact, Minnesota has been a team full of disappointments. On top of Granlund, Erik Haula, Thomas Vanek and Charlie Coyle have failed to produce at the level expected. And because of that the Wild look very poor and sluggish so far. The one positive the Wild can probably take out of this season so far is the goal scoring of Jason Zucker. Zucker has struggled to find a spot in Minnesota the last couple of years but has come on nicely in this campaign and is on pace for a 30 goal season though the assists haven’t been there for him. Granlund wins the competition for biggest disappointment because at this point he should be developing into a top tier center. At this point though Granlund doesn’t look to be more than a middle of the pack forward. He’s still young but he needs to get it going soon.
Surprise: Max Pacioretty, 13 G, 14 A, +17, 18 PIM
Disappointment: Manny Malhotra, 0 G, 1 A, -6, 6 PIM
There hasn’t been a definitive surprise for the Habs so far this year but Max Pacioretty gets the nod here not necessarily for his offense, but because his fantastic +/-. After all, Pacioretty did score 39 goals last year so his offensive prowess was already well documented. The Canadiens also have really not needed surprises this year. Their stars have produced as expected and Carey Price has been a brick wall between the pipes. As a result, the Canadiens are enjoying a 22-11-2 record and sit atop the Atlantic Division. Malhotra was signed in the offseason to win faceoffs and he has excelled at that winning a whopping 62.4 percent of draws. His offensive performance though has been underwhelming. While Manny has never been a offensive sparkplug, more is expected of Malhotra than only a mere point. The Habs won’t complain because of how terrific he’s been defensively and in the dot, but his offensive game must pick up or they will have to look for a replacement.
Surprise: Filip Forsberg, 33 GP, 13 G, 19 A, +24, 4 PIM
Disappointment: Olli Jokinen, 33 GP, 2 G, 0 A, Even, 14 PIM
The Preds are back and they’re back in style. And a big reason is the stout defense corps and the fantastic goaltending of Pekka Rinne. Oh and they have this kid named Filip Forsberg. He’s pretty incredible. Forsberg has been nothing short of outstanding this year, leading all rookies in scoring and leading the NHL in +/-. So why exactly did George McPhee give him up for Martin Erat and Michael Latta. If you’re still curious how lopsided this trade is, Erat and Latta combined for 32 points for the Capitals the last 2 seasons. Forsberg has 32 in this year alone. Oh, and he’s only 20 years old. You done messed up Washington, you done messed up. Olli Jokinen has enjoyed a lengthy career, and it’s safe to say Nashville didn’t expect a whole lot from him but it’s also safe to say more was expected of Olli than 2 goals. It isn’t that much of an albatross for the Preds though, as the 36 year old Jokinen wasn’t expected to be more than a depth player and while the offense hasn’t been there, it hasn’t been caused huge damage to Nashville thus far.
Surprise: Damon Severson, 32 GP, 4 G, 8 A, -4, 16 PIM
Disappointment: Everyone not named Henrique
It is a bad time in Joisey. The team is old, they’re not winning and Peter DeBoer has been fired (which may be more good than bad.) And even worse for the Devils, the poor management of Lou Lamiorello has resulted in a thin prospect pool and little to hope for the future. Yes, I know Lamiorello is revered and a legend throughout hockey, but his drafting and decisions lately have been poor. The signing of Ilya Kovalchuk (who is now in the KHL) resulted in the Devils receiving the #30 overall selection this year which they used on John Quenneville. Last year they dealt their first rounder for Cory Schneider who’s been very ordinary this year albeit he’s behind a miserable blue line. The list keeps rolling of questionable first rounders with names such as Jacob Josefsson, Mattias Tedenby, and Matt Corrente. One nice surprise has been 2012 2nd rounder Damon Severson. Severson hasn’t been spectacular, but he’s been a serviceable bright spot on a very dark, gloomy time in Jersey.
New York Islanders:
Surprise: Brock Nelson, 34 GP, 14 G, 13 A, +6, 12 PIM
Disappointment: Mikhail Grabovski, 31 GP, 5 G, 7 A, +3, 2 PIM
After making the playoffs in the 2012-13 campaign, the Islanders took a large step back and finished amongst the worst teams in the NHL. Not having John Tavares after the olympics did not help, but the Isles lack of depth also was a big issue. This offseason they attempted to address the issue signing Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski and Cory Conacher and trading for Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk. The defenseman have panned out nicely. The forwards have not, as Kulemin has the most points out of the three and that’s only a mere 13. Kulemin and Conacher were expected to be more depth style guys, but Grabovski was expected to fit on the 2nd line but has failed to do so. But Grabovski, Kulemin, and Conacher’s failures have led to the emergence of young stars in Ryan Strome, and most importantly Brock Nelson. Nelson has already beaten his career high of 26 points and really has the potential to fit in exceptionally on the Islanders top line with John Tavares and Kyle Okposo. The 23 year old stands at an imposing 6’3 and weighs in at 206 pounds and if this season is any indication, he has the tools to be a dynamic power forward and a huge part of the Isles moving forward.
New York Rangers:
Surprise: Rick Nash, 32 GP, 23 G, 13 A, +16, 10 PIM
Disappointment: Henrik Lundqvist, 25 GP, 15-7-3, 5 SO, 2.44 GAA, .913 SV
The crown has been loosened off the Kings head. Much like Tuukka Rask, Lundqvist’s numbers aren’t pathetic by any means, but they are certainly not king-like. Lundqvist’s numbers are higher than they’ve ever been in his career. The Rangers have had an up and down start to the season, as much of their play depends on their goaltender, so it’s no surprise that the recent red hot run of the Rangers has been accompanied by some tremendous play by King Henrik. Even though he has struggled, it’d be very crazy to assume that Lundqvist won’t have returned to his usual self by season’s end but it is safe to say he has struggled this far. Rick Nash meanwhile has completely rediscovered his game. After a poor 2013-14 campaign, Nash is on an absolute torrid goal scoring pace. He is on pace for 58 goals, and while it’s hard to say whether he will reach that high number, it’s easy to say Nash will reach his 8th season over 30 goals, and it’s highly possible he could reach his 3rd 40 goal season.
Surprise: Mike Hoffman, 31 GP, 10 G, 6 A, +13, 4 PIM
Disappointment: Milan Michalek, 30 GP, 3 G, 6 A, -8, 6 PIM
It’s been another poor season in Canada’s capital. Without Spezza, without Alfredsson and now without success. Paul McClean is gone, and the Sens are lacking anything regarding top end talent at the moment. Now that’s not to say they are doomed for long though. Curtis Lazar, Mike Hoffman and Mark Stone all have bright futures and potential as 1st liners. Hoffman has been the best of the three this year. His offensive numbers are only average, but his defensive play has been strong and he has an impressive +13 rating on a subpar team. Just for the record, is it safe to say the Sens struck out big time on the Bobby Ryan deal? He has been solid for them, but he’s also a UFA and the Sens had to part with Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and the 10th overall pick from last years draft. All would be good pieces for a rebuilding Ottawa team. Milan Michalek just headlines the list of disappointments. It has been a downbound train for Michalek after 2011-12. His numbers have gotten progressively worse. Have to think the Sens are regretting that 4 million dollars they will pay over the next three years. It would in the Sens best interest to attempt to trade him because he is of no use to Ottawa now or any time over the next few years.
Surprise: Jakub Voracek, 34 GP, 14 G, 32 A, +17, 18 PIM
Disappointment: R.J. Umberger, 34 GP, 3 G, 4 A, -9 13 PIM
Ouch Hextall. Ouch. Hartnell for Umberger looked bad when it was made. Now it looks worse as Hartnell has been moderately successful in Columbus while Umberger has been putrid in the City of Brotherly Love. He hasn’t produced and hasn’t played sound defense at all. The Flyers have a long list of questionable moves as of late, and you can add this one to the growing list. On the other hand, what in the heck has turned to Jakub Voracek into Super Jakub Voracek? Voracek’s career high coming into the season was 62 points. He is on pace for about 110 this season and while it is tough to guess whether he’ll get to that, it’s easy to predict he’s headed for a career year. The only question that remains is whether or not this is just a fluke for Voracek or is he truly on the path to super stardom? Only time will tell for the young Czech.
Surprise: Blake Comeau, 32 GP, 11 G, 8 A, +6, 30 PIM
So apparently Blake Comeau found some offensive ability. Though I suppose when you play with Sid and Geno your stats will benefit greatly. Comeau once upon a time was a successful offensive producer, but hasn’t significantly scored since the 2010-11 season. And while his numbers certainly aren’t astounding this far it’s a nice surprise for a guy projected to be a depth guy at best. And meanwhile there isn’t a disappointment on this team. Every guy has lived up to expectations and no one has significantly disappointed. Anyone’s numbers who aren’t up to par offensively has either contributed exceptionally defensively or has been hindered by injuries.
Surprise: Tommy Wingels, 35 GP, 9 G, 14 A, Even, 24 PIM
Disappointment: Tomas Hertl, 35 G, 7 G, 7 A, -3, 10 PIM
The Sharks just keep on finding ways. They started off cold to the season, but the old timers just keep scoring. Marleau and Thornton continue to lead the team followed by younger guys in Couture and Pavelski. And this year, Tommy Wingels has stepped up and found himself in a top 6 role. Wingels has never been more than a depth player who fit on a 3rd line but if this season is any indication he could be a nice fit on the 2nd line in the future for SJ. But in the meantime, what on earth happened to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Hertl? How far has he fallen from this?
After a great rookie campaign, Hertl has ran into a bad sophomore slump and struggled to repeat the success he had last season. Injuries did hamper his 2013-14 campaign and it’s possible to assume that that may still be nagging him because there isn’t much else to explain the talented young Czech’s struggles.
Surprise: STL Line (Schwartz, Tarasenko, Lehtera), 98 GP, 39 G, 40 A, +41, 39 PIM
Disappointment: T.J. Oshie, 26 GP, 5 G, 7 A, Even, 13 PIM
Domination. That is the only way to describe the Schwartz-Lehtera-Tarasenko line. They have been the most consistent line in the NHL and are the #1 reason the Blues have been so good this year. Jaden Schwartz had a solid campaign last season, but not like this year. Lehtera meanwhile is in his 1st NHL season and is proving to be a worthwhile European signing. Tarasenko has been the star though. After average numbers his first two seasons, he has proved as to why he was so highly regarded. If you haven’t seen this goal yet, you probably should. Pure beauty.
But with the emergence of the STL line, T.J. Oshie has slipped into invisibility. The Olympic hero of last year has battled injuries and hasn’t found the magic touch when healthy. There hasn’t been too much bad for the Blues this year but the disappearance of Oshie does have to be concerning.
Surprise: Tyler Johnson, 35 GP, 13 G, 24 A, +23, 10 PIM
Disappointment: Brenden Morrow, 33 GP, 2 G, 2 A, +3, 36 PIM
Yes I know that Tyler Johnson had established himself as a solid NHLer prior to this year. But this is beyond a solid NHLer. Tyler Johnson has been a bonafide stud this season. The undersized center leads the Lightning in points and holds an unreal +/- at +23. The Bolts offense has been dynamic this year and Johnson has been a large reason why. Both him and Nikita Kucherov have been flat out deadly this year and that Stamkos guy has helped too. He’s pretty good. The only real disappointment has been Brenden Morrow. Now the days of 20-30 goals are long behind him, but more was expected of the veteran than what he’s done. He hasn’t been awful on the Bolts 4th line, but with a lot of young guys like Cedric Paquette, Brett Connolly and Vladislav Namestnikov making impacts in the NHL, Morrow could be out of a spot soon.
Surprise: Cody Franson, 33 GP 5 G, 16 A, +9, 14 PIM
Disappointment: Jake Gardiner, 32 GP, 2 G, 6 A, -12, 6 PIM
The much criticized Franson has all of a sudden turned his game a full 360 degrees. Franson has struggled to score and play sound defense the last few seasons, but this year he’s on pace for a career high in goals and points and his defense has been rock solid for the Leafs this year. The trade winds for him have died down and it surely looks like he has solidified a spot on the Leafs blue line. Then there’s the curious case of Jake Gardiner. Actually it’s not that curious or difficult to decipher. Gardiner has great offensive talent and scoring ability. He just can’t play defense to save his life. Now sometimes if a player is questionable defensively but can score (see Erik Karlsson) they can make a place in the NHL. But Gardiner isn’t scoring either and the questions are starting to rise as to how long Gardiner’s leash is and how much more leeway he is going to get.
Surprise: Alex Edler, 33 GP, 3 G, 7 A, +4, 22 PIM
Disappointment: Zack Kassian, 17 GP, 2 G, 3 A, -5, 26 PIM
You may look at Edler and think how on earth has he been a surprise? In fact, his scoring is significantly down from prior years. But the surprise of Edler has been his stingy defensive play. Yes I just said Alex Edler has been good defensively. Edler was the target of disdain from many Canucks fans including myself last year as he was atrocious defensively last year posting an abominable -39 rating. But Edler figured something out, because not only is he a plus this year, you can see when watching the games that Edler is much more comfortable in his own end. Zack Kassian is just a continuous disappointment. Kassian came into Vancouver with a huge burden, being seen as the guy who they gave up Cody Hodgson to get and while Hodgson hasn’t excelled by any means in Buffalo, Kassian hasn’t been much better. He can’t figure out scoring or discipline, and now has battled injuries this year. In Kassian’s absence, Bo Horvat has replaced him making it very interesting as to where Kassian fits when he’s healthy. There really isn’t a spot for him in the top 12 of Vancouver at the moment.
Surprise: Braden Holtby, 29 GP, 16-8-5, 3 SO, 2.22 GAA, .921 SV
Disappointment: Brooks Laich, 20 GP, 3 G, 3 A, +1, 2 PIM
The Holtbeast is alive and well. Holtby made a name for himself back in the 2012 playoffs when he came out of nowhere to dominate the defending champion Boston Bruins. But in the years following, Holtby struggled to regain his mojo. His numbers slipped and slipped to a point of being flat out terrible last year. But Holtby has found his game and has been absolutely stellar this year. It could be attributed to the strong play of his defense, but it’s very clear Holtby has repossessed what he had lost between the 2012 playoffs and the present day. Brooks Laich is a leader, and has enjoyed a solid NHL career. Always applauded for his leadership and work ethic, Laich has battled injuries throughout the last couple years and this year has been no different. But unfortunately, he has been disappointing as his inability to stay healthy and lack of production while healthy has failed to meet expectations.
Surprise: Ondrej Pavelec, 10-8-5, 1 SO, 2.34 GAA, .913 SV
Disappointment: Mark Scheifele, 36 GP, 6 G, 13 A, +2, 14 PIM
Pavelec may win the award as the biggest surprise in the NHL to this point. Pavelec hasn’t been bad in his career, he’s been absolutely awful and it’s a wonder how he even still owned an NHL job coming into this year. But he’s obviously figured something out because almost overnight, the Jets went from winning in spite of Pavelec, to winning because of him. He’s been a bonafide g and a certified stud and you can’t teach that. Mark Scheifele hasn’t really been a massive disappointment, but he’s had high expectations ever since he was drafted in 2011 and he hasn’t really been able to meet them. His numbers aren’t dismal, but more is wanted from the young center and the 6 goals isn’t blowing anyone away, that’s for sure.