October 17, 2011

The NHL’s top performers of the 2011 season thus far!

The NHL season has finally gotten underway, and each team has played around a handful of games now, so let’s take a look at who the top performers have been in the first few weeks.

1) Phil Kessel (TOR) - 3 GP, 5 Goals, 3 assists, 8 points, & +7!
Without question Phil Kessel has been the NHL’s top performer so far this season.  He ranks 1st in the league in goals, points, game winning goals and plus/minus! What’s most impressive has been his consistency, as he has points in all 3 of the Leafs games, and has points on 8 of Toronto’s 11 goals this season! If that isn’t dominance then I don’t know what is. Kessel has 5 goals in his last 2 games, 2 of which happened to be game winners. He is showing why despite being highly criticized the past few seasons (Ex: Ovechkin laughing at him at the all-star game) he has still managed to score 98 goals during the past 3 years. He has done all of that without having a legitimate #1 center during his entire stint in Toronto. Although he still doesn’t have a #1 center, Kessel has been a completely different player since the arrival of Lupul in the Beauchemin trade as the 2 have great chemistry together. What has impressed me most about Kessel so far this season, isn’t even the scoring, it’s his all-around game. We all knew he was a sniper, but this year he has been playing physical, been great in all 3 zones, and has shown a knack at creating plays by passing not just shooting like in the past! If Kessel continues to play like this, Toronto fans will quickly forget about Tyler Seguin!

2) John Tavares (NYI) - 4 GP, 5 G’s, 3 A’s, 8 pts, +4
Tavares started off slow with 0 points in his 1st 2 games, causing his coach to publicly call him out. However, since then has been on absolute fire. In his last 2 games, he has 8 points despite the Islanders only scoring 9 goals over those 2 games. Tavares is the biggest reason why the Islanders have beat both the Lightning and Rangers back to back. He is finally beginning to show why he was the #1 overall pick, and is starting to show that he could carry a team. The sky is the limit for this kid! Another player who deserves mention from the Islanders is PA Parenteau! Parenteau has 7 points in 4 games, and is a very impressive +5. He came out of nowhere last year to score 53 points, and after his hot start to this year, he is definitely here to stay.

3) Thomas Vanek (BUF) – 4 GP, 4 G’s, 3 A’s, 7 pts, + 1
Vanek has followed up his bounce back season last year with a phenomenal start to this season! He has been a driving force in the great start for the Sabres as they are establishing themselves as one of the top teams in the East after some great free agent pickups. But Vanek has done his best to show that despite all the new pickups, he is still the most dangerous weapon on the Sabres. If Vanek has had any question marks about him in his career it would be his consistency, yet this year he has a point in every single game, so that’s a great sign for Sabres fans, and Vanek’s owners when it comes to fantasy.

Honorable mention

Luke Adam (BUF) – 4 GP, 3 G’s, 3 A’s, 6 pts, +2
Adam has come out of nowhere this season, and in my opinion, because of that has been even more impressive than teammate Vanek. Adam has 3 multi-point games already this year, and his 6 points has already surpassed his 4 pts in 19 games last year as a rookie! There is no questioning that he is the most improved Sabre, and gives them another top-6 forward! If he is available in your fantasy league, jump all over him, because he shows no signs of slowing down!

Vinny Prospal (CBJ) – 5 GP, 3 G’s, 2 A’s, 5 pts, +1If I asked you before the season started, ater 5 games who would be leading the Blue Jackets in scoring, what would you answer? Rick Nash? Maybe Jeff Carter? Nope, neither of them. Instead it is Vinny Prospal, who is clearly benefitting from riding shotgun with the 2 superstars! The acquisition of Prospal went largely unnoticed, but is already beginning to pay dividends. Once again if he is available in your fantasy leagues, pick him up now, because as long as he is on that line, he has tremendous value!

Tyler Seguin (BOS) – 5 GP, 3 G’s, 2 A’s, 5 points, +1.
For all the hype that surrounded Seguin last season, he really didn’t do all that much. He looked great in a few games including one dominant playoff game, but was invisible for much of the rest of the season. That has definitely not been the case this season, as Seguin has points in 4 of 5 games so far! He has been playing a lot harder, and giving it his all on every single shift, which is allowing his to showcase the talent that made him the 2nd choice overall. So not only has his game become more consistent, but even more importantly to his production is that the Bruins are showing faith in him. Boston has put Seguin on the top line and surrounded him with 2 of the Bruins best players in Lucic and Horton, giving the youngster every chance to succeed.
There were obviously many more players who have had great starts to the year, but offensively these are the players that stood out the most to me! Let’s see which ones could keep it up, and which other players could get it going and end up on this list next time!

Grant Robinson (@thesportsgrind)

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