By: Garrett Jones
Surprise, surprise: Examining NHL’s top performers after the first month of the season
The 2016-17 NHL season has officially been under way for a month now. Surprising teams have emerged successful to start the year, while some 2015-16 contenders have slightly regressed. Most surprising however has to be some of the top performers. Some relative unknowns, rookie phenoms, and journeymen have established themselves among the league’s elite. I made my picks for a hypothetical All-NHL First team after the first month of the NHL calendar.
FORWARD- Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
What more is there to say about ‘McDiggy?’ The youngest captain in NHL history is off to a blazing scoring pace, racking up 17 points in 14 games, tying him for second in the NHL. After missing a significant amount of time due to injury last season, the 2015 #1 overall pick has began to separate himself as a bona fide NHL star with his sophomore campaign.
FORWARD- Artem Anisimov, Chicago Blackhawks
This is a name probably no one expected to see on a list like this coming into the year. Anisimov, the former NHL journeyman who established himself in Chicago last season playing on the same line as Calder trophy winner Artemi Pannarin. Currently on pace for a 100 point season, he’s looking to absolutely shatter his career high in points, 44, which he set in 2010-11 with the New York Rangers.
CENTER- Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
Mark Scheifele got a huge contract from Winnipeg in the offseason- 8 years, $49 million to be exact- and it’s been worth every penny for Winnipeg so far. Scheifele currently leads the league with 18 points off a beautifully consistent stat line of 9 goals and 9 assists. The Jets’ first draft pick after relocating from Atlanta in 2011, Scheifele is developing into one of the league’s finest young players.
DEFENSEMAN- Brett Burns, San Jose Sharks
‘Chewbacca’ as he’s known to many played a pivotal run in the Sharks’ 2016 Stanley Cup Finals run. Scoring a career-high 75 points in that campaign, Burns 12-point start has Sharks fans dreaming big for the 2016-17 season.
DEFENSEMAN- Shea Weber, Montreal Canadiens
Part of one of the NHL’s most significant blockbuster trades over the offseason that sent P.K. Subban to Nashville, the longtime Predator has found himself putting up solid production for the Habs this season, accumulating 11 key points and playing a vital role in Montreal’s 11-1-1 start.
GOALIE- Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
The 2014-15 Vezina Trophy winner missed 70 games last season with nagging lower body injuries, but has returned to elite status so far this season. A staggering 8-0 record to go with a .953 save percentage put Montreal in a great position to win games this season.
COACH: Todd McLellan, Edmonton Oilers
McLellan has simply done a good job of allocating Edmonton’s talent on the ice and putting his team in position to win. With stars like McDavid, Milan Lucic, and Adam Larsson, McLellan has managed to put his team onto a path to success and maybe even a playoff spot this season.
Patrick Kane, Chicago- The reigning Art Ross trophy winner has compiled 17 points for the Blackhawks, thrusting himself into MVP conversation.
Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia- Voracek has taken on a big role for the Flyers, picking up 14 points on the season
Sydney Crosby, Pittsburgh- Though a concussion delayed his season debut, he is among the league leaders in goals this season.
Tyler Seguin, Dallas- Seguin recently recorded a 4-point night and has had a great start to his season as he approaches his prime.
Zach Werenski, Columbus- The 8th overall pick in 2015 has shown out so far Columbus, scoring at a point-per-game pace with 11 points in as many games. He’s been a bright spot for Columbus and a great defensive pairing alongside Seth Jones.
Jimmy Howard, Detroit- Howard leads the league in goals against average (GAA) with 1.26, as well as save percentage at .958. If Carey Price didn’t have an 8-0 record, Howard would be a great candidate for the goalie spot on the All-NHL First team