It is the first NHL night post All Star Break which marks the unofficial halfway point of the NHL season. The most opportune time to look back on preseason predictions! Which players have had the best bounce back campaigns? What about the players who I predicted to have taken steps back? How are the “change of scenery” players doing? And has my list of break out players been accurate?
I have a lot to get through so I’ll keep it brief.
HM: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Alex Burrows
The Twins are still magic, just not PPG magic. Burrows is on pace for 20+ goals and is the only thing driving the offence on a non-Sedin line. They aren’t quite the 2011 versions of themselves, but they aren’t the players from last season at all.
5. Alex Tanguay, LW, Colorado Avalanche
He leads the Avalanche in scoring. That is code for you can be he bounced back. It also means the regular top guys in Denver just aren’t playing well.
4. Loui Eriksson, LW, Boston Bruins
Yes-ish. He isn’t Dallas version anymore, but he’s been better than last season and is providing the Bruins with some offense they desperately needed.
3. Michael Grabner, RW, New York Islanders
Injuries have forced Grabner to appear in only a few games this season. Unfortunate, because the Islanders have a deadly attack and he would only add to it.
2. Tomas Fleischmann, C, Florida Panthers
Really did not think he’d continue to fall off a cliff as hard as he has. He might be traded at the deadline and could add a little powerplay punch to a team in need of it, but it may be close to the end of the road for him.
1. Eric Staal, C, Carolina Hurricanes
He’s having a strong year, but he just doesn’t seem to quite have the mojo he did as recently as 2013. Probably won’t quite ever get back to that elite level but he’s still a top line player.
Honourable Mention: Jaromir Jagr, Jarome Iginla
Both players have been okay. Jagr leads the Devils in scoring again, but at a far less impressive pace than last season. Iginla is near the top on the Avalanche, but only at 30 points and may fail to hit 30 goals for the first time in a full season since 2001 and maybe even fall short of 25 goals for the first time since 1998.
5. Ryan Johansen, C, Columbus Blue Jackets
He’s only built off last season. Really thought he’d at least fall off pace a bit but he’s as good as he was last year. He’s not generating shots at the same rate as last season and has actually seen his shooting percentage go up. Brings up a little cause for concern in the future but he’s still scoring right now.
4. Ben Bishop, G, Tampa Bay Lightning
He’s not having anywhere near a Vezina season and for the most part has only been “good enough” for Tampa to win games. You’d hope for a bit more out of a guy making .
3. Gustav Nyquist, RW, Detroit Red Wings
He’s fallen off his last years pace but will still pot 30 goals, just not 40+ like some people were projecting. He’s a big cog in the Wings offence but I wish I could find some reliable numbers on how Zetterberg/Datsyuk dependent the relationship is.
2. Semyon Varlamov, G, Colorado Avalanche
He’s come down to just above league average which was forseeable. However, even with another monster season like last year, I don’t think Colorado could make the playoffs with so little scoring.
1. Joe Pavelski, C, San Jose Sharks
He looks like he’s going to repeat-ish last season. He’s been the best shooter on the Sharks and has seemingly taken over the role that a lot of people saw for Logan Couture for the time being.
Honourable Mention: Olli Jokinen, Derek Roy, Mike Ribeiro – Nashville Predators, Centers
Riberio, great. Jokinen, good depth center. Roy, played poorly, got traded, and has done pretty well through short stint in Edmonton
5. Radim Vrbata, RW, Vancouver Canucks
On pace for his best season in Vancouver and made his first All Star Game. He really helped diversify the Canucks attack, especially on the powerplay, and has fit like a glove on that team.
4. P.A. Paranteau, RW, Montreal Canadiens
He’s been okay, and is holding pace to last season’s possession numbers but has battled injury. Sort of like this seasons version of 2014 Loui Eriksson.
3. Martin Havlat, RW, New Jersey Devils
He got injured and has missed big time. Who could have foreseen that?! I should have.
2. Dany Heatley, LW, Anaheim Ducks
The wheels have completely fallen off. He couldn’t play at a speed that kept him on the roster and was demoted to the AHL. he’ll likely retire or go to Europe next season.
1. Ales Hemsky, RW, Dallas Stars
Had a very bad first 15 games with only 1 point. IN the last 28 he has potted 17 points. You’d hope he can score at that rate the rest of the season. Dallas needs it.
Honourable Mention: Nail Yakupov, Emerson Etem, Ryan Strome
Yakupov, no. Like any winger on the Oilers, who didn’t get to play with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, he hasn’t been able to score playing with sub-NHL centers all season. Since the Roy trade, he’s looked much better but just can’t get a bounce.
Etem, no. He hasn’t been able to translate his raw scoring ability into the NHL. Part of me wonders if he will considering a lot of it was based purely on speed and you can’t rely on that in the NHL ala Mason Raymond.
Strome, yes. He’s been fantastic for the Islanders and is a huge reason why they’re one of the best teams in the NHL.
5. Zack Kassian, RW, Vancouver Canucks
Depending who you talk to, he’s either been playing great but saddled with poor linemates, or is garbage who can’t play hockey. For whatever reason, Linden Vey and Derek Dorsett get played over Kassian in the top six and the powerplay. Some of the most dangerous PP formations the Canucks have had have Kassian on them. Maybe he should’ve played for Medicine Hat and he could get favoured like Dorsett and Vey.
4. Mika Zibanejad, C, Ottawa Senators
Still suffering some growing pains, but he’s putting up solid numbers as the second line center in Ottawa. His production is a little more dependent on his wingers like Scheifele last season.
3. Mark Scheifele, C, Winnipeg Jets
Not quite the 50+ point pace you want, but is providing relatively regular secondary scoring and continues to make steps on a Jets team that looks like the real deal.
2. Mikael Backlund, C, Calgary Flames
When healthy, he’s been dynamite and gives Calgary a real #1 center. His ability to play strongly against top competition frees up guys like Monahan and Stajan to move down a spot in the lineup and play better for it.
1. Valeri Nichushkin, RW, Dallas Stars
He’s only played 4 games this season before going down with injury. If he can come back in time for the stretch drive he could help provide an attacker that Dallas could use to secure a playoff spot.