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Now That's Surprising: 10 Players We Didn't Expect To See Among The NHL Leaders

Of course Connor McDavid is leading the league in points, and it's no shock to see Auston Matthew as the top goal-scorer. But we didn't anticipate the appearances of Adam Fox, Roope Hintz and Joel Edmundson among the NHL's elite.
Adam Fox

Adam Fox

It's no surprise that Connor McDavid is leading the NHL in points, just like it's no surprise that Auston Matthews is the league's most prolific goal-scorer. But there are plenty of surprises to be found among the NHL leaders, from Adam Fox's sly assist total to Roope Hintz's shocking scoring pace.

Let's take a look.

Goals: Mikko Rantanen, Colorado
Rantanen's sublime skill level is no secret. He posted 80-plus points in both 2017-18 and 2018-19, his second and third years in the league. But he's been more playmaker than sniper to this point in his career, ranking 85th, 33rd, 37th and 88th in goals during his first four seasons in the league. This year, though, he's second only to Matthews.

Assists: Adam Fox, New York Rangers
He's not the runner-up to McDavid, but Fox is the only defenseman among the NHL's top 10 in assists, which has him vying for the overall blueline scoring lead with the likes of usual suspects Victor Hedman and John Carlson. The 23-year-old sophomore also sits among the league's top 10 in power-play points.

Points: Patrick Kane, Chicago
OK, it's not exactly a stunner to see Kane among the league's point leaders. He is Patrick Kane, after all. But the NHL's scoring race is a young man's game, with six of the top 10 aged 25 or under, plus Mark Scheifele, who just turned 28. Meanwhile, the 32-year-old Kane is battling for third place overall, despite the fact he's basically a one-man show on a rebuilding Blackhawks team that doesn't even have Jonathan Toews, Kane's longtime running mate. Sidney Crosby, 33, and Brad Marchand, who turns 33 in May, join Kane as the old guys in the top 10.

Plus/minus: Joel Edmundson, Montreal
It was odd to see the defensive defenseman leading the league in plus/minus in the opening weeks of 2020-21, but sometimes these blips happen and you figured Edmundson would come back down to earth as the season wore on. But here we are in the homestretch, and Edmundson – who has formed a solid shutdown pairing with the more offensively inclined Jeff Petry – remains the NHL's standard-bearer in the (albeit somewhat nebulous) plus/minus category. And you know he's doing it by playing staunch defense – nobody else in the top 30 in plus/minus has fewer goals (two) or points (11) than Edmundson's modest totals.

Penalty minutes: Mathieu Olivier, Nashville
When you notice that Olivier is leading the NHL in penalty minutes, you do the first thing that comes to mind – click on his name to see who he is, because it feels like the first time you've ever heard of him. Turns out, he's an undrafted 24-year-old from Biloxi, Mississippi, of all places, and while he can obviously handle himself at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, he did score 10 goals in 56 AHL games last season, while also accumulating 95 penalty minutes. He had a career-high 102 PIMs in his second-last season in the QMJHL in 2016-17. So, while he's no stranger to the penalty box, it doesn't appear that he's the second coming of John Scott either.

Points per game: Roope Hintz, Dallas
The Rangers' Artemi Panarin is flying below the radar this season after missing 11 games due to a personal leave of absence. When this was written, he was third in the NHL in points per game, just a fraction behind Leon Draisaitl. But the big surprise in this category has got to be Hintz, who ranked in the league's top 15 with 1.10 points per game. That's twice the rate he scored at last season, when his 0.55 PPG ranked 177th in the NHL.

Even-strength goals: Carter Verhaeghe, Florida
He recently went down with injury, but Verhaeghe was breaking out big-time before he got hurt. He's the most unlikely name among the league leaders in even-strength goals, where he ranked in the top five, and even-strength points, where he ranked in the top 10.

Power-play goals: Joe Pavelski, Dallas
The Stars veteran scored three power-play goals and six power-play points in his first two games of the season, and he's parlayed that hot start into first place in PP goals and a top-10 spot in PP points. Not bad for a 36-year-old with more than 1,000 NHL games in his rearview mirror.

Game-winning goals: Robby Fabbri, Detroit
With five game-winners among his 10 goals when this was written, Fabbri was on the cusp of the NHL's top 10 in GWGs, hanging with the likes of Matthews and McDavid and Rantanen and Alex Ovechkin. It's even more impressive when you remember that Detroit had only won 16 games.

Shots: Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa
It's been a steady rise for Tkachuk, who ranked 56th in shots as a rookie in 2018-19, shot up to eighth place last season and enjoys a double-digit lead over names like Ovechkin, Matthews, McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon and Connor McDavid this year. Tkachuk also leads the league in hits. What a beauty.

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