The NHL’s future looks bright. During the first half of this season season, many young stars illuminated the play.
Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson was the most sparkling young star of all.
He led all NHL defensemen with six goals and 35 assists in 43 games 37 points in 40 games. He scored four goals and added nine assists in 15 December games.
“He’s an all-star,” Senators coach Paul MacLean told the Ottawa Sun. “He’s really growing as a player. Right now, he’s really taken his game to another level, but it’s a level of simplicity. He’s not complicating the game as much as he maybe did earlier. He’s keeping the game simple. A lot of success is coming his way.”
Here are some other young stars from the season’s first half:
Jordan Eberle, W, Oilers: A sprained ankle derailed his rookie season, but he could be ready to move up this season. He broke out with a 16-23-39 line in his first 37 games this season. He scored just 43 points in 69 games last season, but has scored better than a point per game each month this season. And then he suffered a knee injury, prompting Edmonton to recall another young gun, Magnus Paajarvi, from Oklahoma.
“Your second year is your biggest year in your development because nobody really knows what to expect in the first year. In the second teams start to key on you a little bit and you play against bigger defenseman,” Eberle told the Edmonton Journal. “I didn’t really talk to other players about (sophomore struggles). In my mind, I’d been to all the rinks (NHL) before, I just figured I’d be better. From year one to year two to your third year, you’re supposed to get better. That was my mindset coming in. I wanted to be consistent.”
Tyler Seguin, W, Bruins: After a 22-point rookie season, he is graduating into a bigger role as a second-year player IF he can stick on the second line. He has high-end scoring potential. In his first 34 games he had 15 goals, 17 assists and a plus-27 rating. But he scored just eight points in 11 December games.
Ryan Nugent Hopkins, C, Oilers: Before suffering a shoulder injury that could sideline him for a month, Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was building an epic rookie campaign. He scored 13 goals and added 22 assists in his first 38 games.
“It’s disappointing and if there is any way I can speed up the recovery, I’m going to try to do that,” Nugent-Hopkins told the Edmonton Sun. “Hopefully I can get on the ice soon that way I can keep my fitness level up and keep going. I don’t want this thing to be a problem in the future. I definitely have to take care of it and make sure it gets fixed.”
Adam Henrique, C, Devils: He enjoyed a nice breakout this season: 12 goals and 20 assists on his first 34 games. He scored 27 points during a span of 28 games.
“He’s a skilled player,” New Jersey goaltender Martin Brodeur told the Newark Star-Ledger. “Everybody talked about him a lot before he got his good chance. I didn’t know what kind of player he was really because he’d never really gotten the chance. He’s been good. He’s embraced it. Game in and game out he’s being given the opportunity to be successful and he’s taking it in stride. He looks real comfortable in what he’s doing.”
P.A. Parenteau, W, Islanders: After scoring 20 goals and adding 33 assists in his second season, his numbers (7-25-32 in his first 36 games) grew in Year 3. But he had a minus-4 rating. He scored 16 points in 14 December games.
Evander Kane, W. Jets: He is a robust player who will drop his gloves and rack up some PIMs. Can he become a 50-point player too? Sure. He scored 18 goals and added 11 assists with a plus-9 rating in 37 games. He was 6-5-11 in 14 December games with a plus-8 rating.
Brad Marchand, W, Bruins: He worked well with Patrice Bergeron last year to score 21 times as a rookie and he is doing the more of the same this season. His first half was spectacular: A line of 15-15-30 with a plus-24 ranking in 35 games. He had 26 points in 25 games the last two months.
But then he earned a five-game suspension for low-bridging Canucks defenseman Sami Salo. Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault suggested on-ice retribution could be coming his way as well.
“Marchand -- this is just my feeling on this -- someday he's going to get it,” Vigneault told the Vancouver Province. “Somebody is going to say enough is enough and they're going to hurt the kid, because he plays to hurt players and in my mind if the league doesn't take care of it, somebody else will.”
Michael Del Zotto, D, Rangers: He is a major offensive talent still trying to learn the defensive side. His 37 rookie points were just the starting point for a team with a higher octane offense. He was plus-25 after 37 games with five goals and 17 assists. He scored 14 points in 15 December games.
T.J. Oshie, W, Blues: Playing on a scoring line he is taking his shot at 60 points. In 36 games he had 12 goals, 12 assists and a plus-seven rating. Bothered by a nagging wrist injury. He scored 12 goals and added 11 assists in his last 28 games.
James van Riemsdyk, W, Flyers: His seven goals in 11 playoff games convinced the team he is ascending offensive talent. That made it easier for Philly to ditch three of its top six scorers. He has 30-goal, 60-point potential. He moved onto the top line with Jaromir Jagr injured. In his first 32 games he had a 9-10-19 line.
A hip injury has slowed him this season, but GM Paul Holmgren expects him to play through it. “James is dealing with something that is nothing more than other players are playing with,” Holmgren told the Philadelphia Inquirer “We all have bumps and bruises. That’s just the nature of the game.”