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30 NHL teams, 30 I-never-saw-this-coming starts for players

There's at least one player on every team whose start to the season is a bit of a jaw-dropper. Some players are already blowing away expectations. Others, evidently didn't think the season started until November.
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

We're officially through the first month of the season, which is as good a time as any to look at the players who have surprised me in 2014-15. Some in a good way, others in a bad way. The common denominator is I never would have predicted these starts from a statistics perspective.

Anaheim – Emerson Etem. Doughnuts across the board in 11 games. I thought the winger had 20-goal potential. Also, to a lesser degree, Frederik Andersen. John Gibson was supposed to steal the No. 1 job, but Andersen is 6-1 with a 1.69 GAA and .940 SP.

Arizona – Sam Gagner. Just two assists in nine games for the skilled center. Also, Mike Smith. His numbers have bloated to 2-5, 3.96 GAA and .866 SP.

Boston – Tuukka Rask. My projected Vezina winner has struggled to a 4-4 start with a 2.81 GAA and .899 SP.

– Cody Hodgson, Matt Moulson, Chis Stewart and Brian Gionta. The four top-six forwards have a combined one goal and six points in 44 games (they've each played 11). Stewart hasn’t scored a goal in 10 months.

Calgary – Jonas Hiller. Solely responsible for at least a couple wins, with a 3-2-1 record, 1.83 GAA and .948 SP.

Carolina – Cam Ward. His freefall continues this season with a 0-3 record, 3.95 GAA and .840 SP. Also, former 40-goal man Alexander Semin has just two assists in eight games.

Chicago – Scott Darling. Has risen from hockey’s Jules Verne leagues to 2-1 record with 1.98 GAA and .933 SP in injury relief duty.

Colorado – The team as a whole. Individually, Nathan MacKinnon was off to a slow start (two goals and six points in 11 games) when many of us thought he might bump his head on the 100-point barrier.

Columbus – Nick Foligno. He’s never scored more than 17 goals or 47 points in a season, but his three goals and nine points in eight games before injury was impressive.

Dallas – Ales Hemsky. I projected he’d threaten 60 points for the first time in six seasons, but one assist in nine games means he has some work to do.

Detroit – Justin Abdelkader. The grinding winger is already halfway to his career-high of 10 goals and has eight points in nine games.

Edmonton – David Perron. He came within two whiskers of scoring 30 goals in his first year with the Oilers. But he’s been blanked (though he does have five assists) in 10 games this season.

Florida – Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad. They’re the future of the franchise, but through eight games they’ve combined for two goals and four points.

Los Angeles – Tyler Toffoli. Cagey poolies picked him up in the mid-rounds knowing he’d improve upon his 29-point rookie season. But five goals and 13 points in 10 games?

Minnesota – Darcy Kuemper. I didn’t know what to expect from the three Wild goalies this season, but a 5-2 record, 1.71 GAA, .927 save percentage and three shutouts for Kuemps wasn’t envisioned.

Montreal – Alexei Emelin. After three straight seasons of three goals and just a handful of assists, he’s been hot with six points in nine games.

Nashville – Olli Jokinen and Calle Jarnkrok. For a while in the off-season (before Mike Ribeiro was signed), it looked like they would be the top two centers. In 17 games total, they’ve combined for no goals and no assists.

New Jersey – Damon Severson. The Devils No. 3 prospect was graduating from junior to pro. Surely he’d need a year or two in the AHL. Not so. He has four goals and seven points in 10 games.

N.Y. Islanders – Brock Nelson. I anticipated a modest improvement from his 26 points in 72 games last season. Why be modest? He has six goals and 12 points through 10 games.

N.Y. Rangers – Anthony Duclair. The third-rounder from 2013 was surely headed back to the Quebec League as a 19-year-old. But he made the big jump with five points in seven NHL games.

Ottawa – Mika Zibanejad. Expectations are high for the sixth overall pick from 2011. He’s had a slow start with just one goal and no assists in nine games.

Philadelphia – Michael Raffl. I didn’t see this coming from the 25-year-old Austrian. He has six goals and seven points in 10 games.

Pittsburgh – Blake Comeau. He’s done little offensively since that one good season with the Islanders ages ago. He has two goals and six points in nine games. Also, Christian Ehrhoff. I thought he’d be racking up points on the Penguins power play. He has just three assists in nine games.

San Jose – Brent Burns. I had no doubts he’d still produce points moving back to the blueline from the wing, but four goals and 13 points in 12 games?

St. Louis – T.J. Oshie. After a career-high 60 points last season, I thought he’d push close to 70 this time around. He has plenty of catching up to do with just one assist in eight games.

Tampa Bay – Anton Stralman. I didn’t think his offense would ever flourish at the NHL level. With nine points in 11 games, he’s already closing in on last year’s 13 points in 81 games.

Toronto – Tyler Bozak. He’s the No. 1 center, but I thought he’d produce like a No. 2 center. Wrong – four goals and 10 points in nine games. Also, Nazem Kadri. I didn’t figure the No. 2 center would produce like a No. 4 center. He has just two goals in nine games.

Vancouver – Shawn Matthias. New opportunity produces new offense, or so I presumed. He has just two assists in 10 games.

Washington – Andre Burakovsky. I wasn’t convinced the 23rd overall pick from 2013 would make it as a 19-year-old. He has in a big way with eight points in nine games.

Winnipeg – Mark Scheifele. After a strong pre-season, he was supposed to blossom on a scoring line. Just one goal and two points in 10 games so far. Also, Jacob Trouba improved throughout a 29-point rookie season. The points haven’t come so far with just one goal in 10 games.

Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior editor and a regular contributor to the Post-To-Post blogFor more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazineFollow Brian Costello on Twitter at @BCostelloTHN


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