Welcome to the first 2023 edition of THN.com’s Three Stars of the Week, a regular feature in which we pick out the three best NHL players of the past seven days. You don’t have to lead the league in scoring in the past week to make the Three Stars, but it certainly doesn’t hurt your cause. Let’s get to it:
3. Filip Forsberg, Nashville
Forsberg amassed five goals and seven points in three games this week to lead the league’s goal-scorers and point-getters. The 28-year-old winger now is tops on Nashville in goals (14) and points (32) in 35 games, and Forsberg passed the 600-regular season games played mark this week. He’s on pace to score 33 goals and 75 points after setting career-highs in goals (42) and points (84) last season.
Forsberg isn’t a generational superstar, but he’s a highly-skilled scorer who, on a better team than the subpar Predators, likely would be putting up 100 points or more. But without him, the offense-strapped Preds (who have the league’s fourth-worst goals-for average per game of 2.63) would more than likely be trailing seventh-place Arizona in the Central Division standings. If Forsberg goes down to injury – and that is a possibility for him, as he hasn’t played more than 70 games since the 2016-17 campaign – the Predators are going to be in some serious trouble.
2. Jake Oettinger, Dallas
One of the cornerstones of the Stars’ blueprint for winning is Oettinger, who emerged as an elite NHL goalie last season, and who is currently demonstrating that last season was no fluke. In three appearances this week, the 24-year-old Minnesota native compiled a 3-0-0 record, a 1.67 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage. He and the Stars are on a four-game winning streak, and Dallas is on top of the Central in no small part because of his 17-5-3 record, .921 SP, and 2.36 GAA.
Oettinger is on pace to go 37-11-6 this season, which would improve on his 30-15-1 mark in 2021-22. The Stars have thrived for many reasons thus far this year, including resurgent performances from veteran forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, but without Oettinger putting the clamps on between the pipes, the Stars would look more like, say, the Buffalo Sabres – a great offensive team that got outscored more often than not. Oettinger’s $4-million annual salary for this year and the next two years is shaping up to be one of the best bargains in the league. We suspect this won’t be the only time he earns Three Stars honors this season.
1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay
This is the second time Vasilevskiy has made the Three Stars this season, although it is his first time as the first star of the week. The 28-year-old went 3-0-0 in three appearances this week, and he posted sterling individual statistics, including a 1.62 GAA and .952 SP for the Bolts, who are riding a three-game win streak and an 8-2-0 record in their past 10 games.
Vasilevskiy has struggled in stretches this season, including November, in which he generated a 5-4-1 mark and .903 SP. But December was a far better month for him, as he had an 8-2-0 record, 1.69 GAA and .946 SP. Vasilevskiy has an excellent group of skaters in front of him in Tampa Bay, but there’s no question that, when he’s at his best, he’s a front-runner for the Vezina Trophy – and if he does win the award as the game’s best netminder, it would be the second such honor of his nine-year NHL career. He’s as dangerous as goalies come in the modern era, and he’s the Lightning’s backbone.