Although it may seem as if hockey fans just got their favorite sport back, the 2016-17 NHL season is almost one-quarter of the way complete already. The frenetic pace of hockey lends its way to many storylines. Here are some of the latest trends around the NHL.
New Faces in New Places:
The NHL offseason is always a roller-coaster ride, but this past summer was particularly active in major trades and signings. Here are some of the most surprising offseason moves and how they’ve panned out so far.
- Shea Weber and P.K. Subban: Blockbuster trades are a rarity in sports in today’s Salary Cap hockey world. However, the Nashville Predators and Montreal Canadiens shocked the hockey world when they swapped their two top defensemen, Shea Weber and P.K. Subban in late June.Both were well-respected in their old cities, but ownership must have felt as if the iconic players were growing too comfortable. The trade has worked out so far for both sides, as Weber’s Canadiens are off to the best start in the NHL and the Predators tout an elite defense.
- Taylor Hall: In an equally-stunning trade that occurred on the same day as the Subban-Weber deal, electric winger Taylor Hall was dealt to the New Jersey Devils from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for defenseman Adam Larsson.While Larsson is an emerging young defenseman, the Devils absolutely stole this trade. Hall is a budding star power forward, who was off to a tremendous start before succumbing to a knee injury.
- Kyle Okposo: The former New York Islander standout made a name for himself while playing alongside superstar John Tavares, but the Buffalo Sabres were willing to take a chance on Okposo in hopes that he could be “the guy” for their offense.Okposo isn’t off to his best start this season, but he is heating up and looks to be a future leader for the young Sabres.
Rookies Take Over:
It is said that hockey is a young man’s game, but we’ve never seen such a strong influx of rookies ever before in our game. Here are some of the NHL’s finest freshmen.
- Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets: The second overall pick of the 2016 draft, Laine is on fire so far this year. He leads all rookies in goals and points, and has confidence to spare. The Jets struck gold with this flashy Finn.
- Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs: Matthews was touted as a generational talent, a once-in-a-lifetime type player. So far for the Leafs, Matthews has teared it up. He has exceptional hands, and excels when he plays with fellow young guns.
- Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets: A lesser-known rookie, Werenski was the eighth overall selection in the 2015 NHL Draft. He is already the Blue Jackets’ top defenseman, both offensively and defensively.
Honorable Mentions: Toronto’s Mitch Marner has the second-most goals and points of any NHL rookie, yet gets overshadowed by Matthews all the time. The Leafs also boast standout Swede William Nylander. Philadelphia’s dynamic duo of 19-year-olds, Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov, have each been very impressive so far, as has Jimmy Vesey of the Rangers. And even though Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup last year, he technically remains an NHL rookie. Could he swipe the coveted Calder Trophy?
NHL Hoping to Strike it Big in Vegas:
After many years of rumors, the NHL confirmed this past summer that it will be expanding to include a 31st team, to be located in Las Vegas. Las Vegas has never had a professional sports team, but it stands to reason that in such a high-profile town, the team will succeed.
The inaugural team will be composed of current NHL players from around the league. Each team will be forced to give up one player to the Vegas expansion team in an expansion draft. NHL teams will be able to protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and one goalie from selection in the draft. Needless to say, there will be lots of intrigue around who gets protected and who does not around the league.
The new team’s name and logo will be unveiled tomorrow night, November 22nd.
MVP: Connor McDavid
Most Goals: Vladimir Tarasenko
Most Points: Connor McDavid
Rookie of the Year: Patrik Laine
Top Defenseman: Victor Hedman
Top Goalie: Carey Price
Eastern Conference Champions: Tampa Bay Lightning
Western Conference Champions: Chicago Blackhawks
Stanley Cup Champions: Tampa Bay Lightning