The 10 NHL players you might not realize are having ridiculously good seasons
Sidney Crosby’s going to break 100 points? Yawn.
Alex Ovechkin’s on his way to 50 goals? Sigh.
Breaking news: Awesome players are having awesome seasons, and are usually given the attention they’ve earned. But what about some of the players that aren’t on the leaderboard for the NHL?
Here are 10 players that might be flying under the national radar but have been outstanding this season. Please note: We tried to spread the love, so only one player per team.
(Also, an aside to fans of the teams mentioned: Yes, we know everyone you know is aware this player is having an outstanding season. We’re writing for fans in Guam who might not be that aware of it.)
Gustav Nyquist, RW, Detroit Red Wings
With Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen and pretty much half the rest of the Red Wings’ roster limited by injuries, someone had to step up. And Nyquist did, to the tune of 35 points in 43 games, including 11 points in 10 games since the Sochi break.
Joel Ward, RW, Washington Capitals
Ward’s been one of the Capitals’ most consistent forwards on a team that’s a model of inconsistency. His pairing with Jason Chimera as an anchor on the Capitals’ third line has been effective, and his 21 goals are already a career best. He’s also contributed a bit more on the power play with nine points. He’s come along way from being stuck in a hotel bathroom.
Craig Smith, C, Nashville Predators
Not of a whole hell of a lot has gone right for Nashville this season, but Smith’s resurgence has been one highlight. Solid possession numbers, playing against the opponents’ best and posting 20 goals (a team best) and 20 assists. This is after four goals in 44 games in the lockout season.
Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay Lightning
Either Johnson or Ondrej Palat could have made this list, but it’s Johnson that’s been a bit better. His 22 goals in 69 games is one short of Steve Stamkos’ team record for rookies. "He was 18 (years old) when he did that feat, right? And if I'm not mistaken, he got 60 when he was 20 or 21,” said Johnson. He’s played in all situations for the Lightning, and earned his shot to play with Stamkos after the star returned from injury. Palat may end up besting him in points and plus/minus, but Johnson’s been incredible, too.
Wayne Simmonds, RW, Philadelphia Flyers
Claude Giroux’s resurgent season gets plenty of love, but we’d like to spread some to another Flyers forward. Simmonds is second on the team with 50 points, playing mostly with Brayden Schenn. He’s carried over his play from last season, and already set a career best for points. Oh, and when it’s been called for, he’ll drop’em, with six fights and 102 PIMs on the season.
Mark Giordano, D, Calgary Flames
He had a ton of heat before his unfortunate injury in October that impacted his status for the Canadian Olympic team. Since then he’s been back under the radar as the Flames faded, but know this: He’s having his best offensive season in the NHL (0.76 points per game) and is one goal away from a career best. His advanced stats are awesome within the context of the Flames: plus-9.6 percent corsi relative at 5-on-5, meaning the Flames are a remarkably better team when he’s on the ice.
Andy Greene, D, New Jersey Devils
He just does what he does. Greene’s the third best Devils in corsi and has set career bests in goals (7) and points (29) this season, playing 24:26 per game. For whatever reason, he wallows in obscurity when it comes to the NHL’s most consistent defenders, which is probably fine with Lou Lamoriello, who will have to ante up for him next year.
Mikael Granlund, F, Minnesota Wild
His star-making performance in Sochi might be his calling card, but with 37 points in 56 games it’s also been his breakout year as an NHLer. He’s two assists off the team lead with 30 on the season, and has directly contributed to Jason Pominville’s career year on his wing. It’s the tip of the iceberg for a player that’s on his way to stardom.
Andrej Sekera, D, Carolina Hurricanes
Sekera picked up some of the offense the Canes lost when Joni Pitkanen was shut down, scoring 41 points in 67 games (a career best), including 14 power-play points. His 24:39 per night is also a career best. Also, he escaped Buffalo before the implosion, so there’s that.
Ben Scrivens, G, Edmonton Oilers
The Professor had already posted an impressive season with the Los Angeles Kings (.931 save percentage, 1.97 GAA) before his trade to the Edmonton Oilers, where many of us expected he’d fall victim to their crap-tastic defense. Ah, but Scrivens has instead gone a respectable 6-6-0 with a .932 save percentage, more than earning that two-year deal the Oil bestowed upon him. Even with the bar set at ankle-level for Edmonton goaltending, Scrivens has been great. (And yeah, admittedlly, he might have been on your radar with that 59-save game.)