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My NBC Sports EDGE Power Rankings go live every Monday afternoon, so don't miss them!
This week, I'm listing one player on each team who has exceeded expectations from a statistical point of view. I'm not only ranking the players based on how good they are or how established they are at the NHL level. Each player will be ranked on performance, but they'll also be judged on the level in which they've exceeded expectations.
So, if you find Mikhail Sergachev too low, it's not that I don't think he's a really good player, it just means that I'm less surprised by the success he's having on the ice compared to a guy like Carter Verhaeghe in Florida.
As always, if you have any beef with my selections, feel free to let me know!
And keep in mind, not all of these players are relevant in standard fantasy leagues.
Here we go:
1 - James van Riemsdyk – Philadelphia Flyers:
Van Riemsdyk comes with a salary of $7 million per year, so if he’s producing a lot of offense, it shouldn’t surprise anybody, right? That’s not how this works. JVR served as a healthy scratch on a few occasions in the bubble last August. He scored a respectable 19 goals and 40 points in 66 games last year, but he’s come out of the gates flying in 2021. He already has seven goals and 18 points in 13 contests. Not too shabby. I don’t think anyone, including the Flyers, expected him to produce like this. Only Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Patrick Kane have more points than JVR right now.
2 - Jordan Staal – F – Carolina Hurricanes:
I have no idea where Staal’s offensive outburst is coming from this year. The 32-year-old has accumulated 27 and 28 points in 68 and 50 games over the last two years. This season, he’s posted four goals and 12 points in 10 games. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, he also missed some time while he was on the Covid-19 list. Whether or not Staal can keep this up remains to be seen, but the veteran clearly still has game left.
3 - Jordan Kyrou – F - St. Louis Blues:
Raise your hand if you thought Kyrou would be one point away from being tied for the team lead at this point of the season. Yeah, I didn’t think so. If you’re into prospects and young players, you probably knew that Kyrou was talented, but he’s definitely exceeded most people’s expectations this year. The 22-year-old has six goals and 14 points in 15 contests in 2021. He’s also available in 51 percent of Yahoo leagues right now.
4 - Conor Garland – F – Arizona Coyotes:
Teammate Christian Dvorak could’ve easily been on this list too. Garland scored an impressive 22 goals in 68 games with the Yotes last year, but he’s improved even more in 2021. The 24-year-old is on pace to score the same number of goals this year, but he’s on track do it in 52 games. Garland is also rolling at a point-per-game pace, as he’s accumulated 14 points in 14 contests.
5 - Carter Verhaeghe – F – Florida Panthers:
Verhaeghe is only 25 years old, but he’s already been part of four different organizations. He went from being a depth player on a team that won the Stanley Cup last year, the Tampa Bay Lightning, to being an important piece on the Panthers roster. He has seven goals and three assists in 12 games in 2021.
6 - Samuel Girard – D – Colorado Avalanche:
When you think of an Avs defenseman, Cale Makar is likely the first name that pops into your head. Girard has been a really underrated part of this team for a while now. Last year, he posted a career-high 34 points in 70 games, but he’s taken his offensive talents to a new level in 2021. So far, the 22-year-old has nine points in 11 games, which puts him on pace for 41 (in only 50 contests). He’s currently on the Covid-19 list though.
7 - Josh Anderson – F – Montreal Canadiens:
The Canadiens have filled the net at a surprising rate in 2021. There are a few different directions I could've gone with on this team, but I’ll go with Anderson over Tyler Toffoli and Jeff Petry (they’ve both been fantastic this year). Anderson was acquired from Columbus in a trade and was given a huge seven-year contract extension. The reason his emergence this season is a little surprising, is because he had just one goal in 26 games last year and he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery. But a new team, new year and new contract haven’t held him back. He has nine goals in just 15 games.
8 - Jack Roslovic – F – Columbus Blue Jackets:
Roslovic’s season has been really eventful. It started with him holding out on the Winnipeg Jets and that resulted in him getting traded to his hometown team in Columbus. Since joining the Jackets, he’s picked up four goals and five assists in nine games. The 24-year-old set a new career-high in goals and points with 12 and 29 in 2019-20 and he should be able to obliterate those numbers in a shortened season.
9 - Ty Smith – D - New Jersey Devils:
Smith’s adaptation to the NHL in his rookie season hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been pretty close. The 20-year-old has picked up two goals and eight points in nine games before the Devils’ season was put on pause because of Covid-19. It’ll be interesting to see how well he plays coming out of this “break”. He’s averaging 16:53 of ice time in his first year, but he’s surpassed that number six different times.
10 - Bryan Rust – F – Pittsburgh Penguins:
The average hockey fan may not realize this, but Rust was a point-per-game player last season (he had 56 points in 55 games). The fact that he’s rolling at a similar pace in 2021 isn’t shocking, but him outscoring Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and everyone else on the team is what got him on my list. The 28-year-old is rostered in 66 percent of Yahoo Leagues right now. If he’s on your waiver wire, you should look at picking him up.
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11 - Victor Olofsson – F – Buffalo Sabres:
I’m not surprised that Olofsson is on pace to improve on the numbers he posted during his rookie season (he had 20 goals and 42 points in 54 games last year), but I wouldn’t have guessed that he’d be producing at a point-per-game pace (10 points in 10 games). I also wouldn’t have thought that he would score more than Jack Eichel (he currently leads four to three in that category).
12 - Roope Hintz – F – Dallas Stars:
I’ve always believed in Roope Hintz’s potential, but I didn’t think he’d be a point-per-game player to start the 2021 season. The Stars forward missed two games with a lower-body injury and he’s still managed to pick up four goals and six assists in 10 games. Hintz has a big body, he skates well and if he can continue to develop the offensive part of his game, he’ll be really difficult to stop.
13 - Andrew Copp – F – Winnipeg Jets:
There were a few different surprise players I could’ve picked off Winnipeg’s roster, but Copp is the one I’m rolling with. The 26-year-old has never scored more than 26 points in an NHL season. So far, he’s up to four goals and 12 points in just 14 contests. Head coach Paul Maurice is clearly comfortable giving him more responsibility because he’s averaging over 19 minutes of ice time per game in 2021.
14 - Kevin Lankinen – G – Chicago Blackhawks:
I’m not going to lie, heading into this season, I thought the Blackhawks’ goalie situation was one of the worst ones I had seen in recent memory. No disrespect to Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban, but neither one should be considered a starting goaltender. Lankinen has come in and given the Blackhawks a chance to win. The 25-year-old owns a 6-2-3 record with a 2.49 goals-against-average and a .925 save percentage in 2021.
15 - Jordan Greenway – F – Minnesota Wild:
Greenway has always had size and talent, but he’s never put those two things together until now. The 23-year-old currently leads the Wild in scoring, as he’s picked up 10 points in 11 games. It would be nice to see him score goals with a little more regularity (he only has two), but he’s an important piece of the puzzle for this aging Minnesota roster.
16 - Nick Ritchie – F – Boston Bruins:
The former 10th overall pick in the 2014 draft has always had immense potential. It’s taken him some time, but he’s finally starting to reach his ceiling. The 25-year-old has five goals and five assists in 14 games in 2021. He’s on pace to score 20 goals and 40 points for the first time in his NHL career and he might do it in a shortened season. He has all the tool to become an effective power forward.
17 - Dustin Brown – F – Los Angeles Kings:
Brown has been a productive veteran for the Kings for a long time, but he’s upped his numbers in 2021. The 36-year-old has six points in his last four games and he has three multi-point efforts in his last six. On another positive note, Brown currently leads the team in goals, with six (no one else has more than four).
18 - Josh Norris – F – Ottawa Senators:
Norris was able to play in three games last season and he failed to pick up a point. This year, he’s up to eight points in 16 games, which is a reasonable amount for a rookie, but he’s also second on the team in scoring. The former first-rounder will be a big part of Ottawa’s future down the middle and he should continue to improve in the coming years.
19 - Filip Hronek – D – Detroit Red Wings:
Hronek has picked up nine assists in his first 16 games, which puts him in a tie for first place on the team in scoring with Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha. The 23-year-old also plays a lot, as he’s averaging almost 24 minutes per game. The Wings won’t have many players relevant in fantasy this year, but Hronek will continue to be one of them.
20 - Vitek Vanecek – G – Washington Capitals:
Most people expected Ilya Samsonov to be the clear starter in Washington this year, but for a variety of reasons they’ve had to roll with Vanecek. The 25-year-old has been both good and bad at times, but that’s to be expected for a rookie goaltender. He has a 5-3-2 record with a 3.26 goals-against-average and a .901 save percentage this season.
21 - Maxime Comtois – F – Anaheim Ducks:
The Ducks don’t produce much offense, but Comtois has been a nice story for them in 2021. The 22-year-old leads the team in goals, with six, and he also leads them in scoring, with eight points. Fun fact: Four of his six goals have come against the Vegas Golden Knights. He’s going to continue to be an important part of Anaheim’s future.
22 - Noah Dobson – D - New York Islanders:
Dobson had one goal and six points in his first 34 NHL games with the Islanders last season. By no means is he lighting it up this year, but he's still managed to accumulate one goal and five assists in his first 13 games. Those are respectable totals for a 21-year-old defenseman playing on arguably the most defensive team in the league.
23 - Marc-Andre Fleury – G – Vegas Golden Knights:
This is a different kind of surprise. I knew Fleury was still capable of being a good goaltender, but I thought things might be difficult for him after Vegas wasn’t able to trade him during the off-season. Instead, the 36-year-old has come out strong in 2021. He has a 7-1-0 record with a 1.38 goals-against-average and a .944 save percentage this season. This is one of the better feel-good stories in the NHL.
24 - Darnell Nurse – D – Edmonton Oilers:
Nurse has been an important player for the Oilers for a while now and he’s had some good offensive seasons, too. But he’s clearly taken a step forward offensively so far in 2021. The 26-year-old has six goals and 12 points in 16 games, which puts him on pace to score 21 goals this season. He probably won’t hit that mark, but it looks like he’ll put together a special year. He's a really good player, but it's not shocking to see him improve.
25 - Mikhail Sergachev – D - Tampa Bay Lightning:
Like Nurse, Sergachev is one of the better talents on this list, but his improvement isn't as shocking as some of the others on this list. The fact that Sergachev is putting up points isn’t surprising because he’s put together a 40-plus point season in his career already, but 10 assists in 13 games is an impressive number. The 22-year-old is on face to score 43 points in 56 games in 2021. His assist numbers will drop off, but you have to think that he’s going to pick up a goal here or a goal there throughout the year.
26 - Ryan Donato – F – San Jose Sharks:
Donato hasn’t blown anyone away in San Jose this year, but they’ve spent a lot of time on the road. The Sharks forward has three goals and seven points in 13 games. His 0.54 points-per-game is the higher than any number he’s put together over a full season. As you can tell from this selection, the Sharks haven’t really had anyone surprise from a statistical standpoint.
27 - Wayne Simmonds – F – Toronto Maple Leafs:
Simmonds is currently sidelined with a broken wrist, but he got off to a nice start with his new team. In 2019-20, he scored eight goals in 68 games with the Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils. This year, he’s picked up five goals in his first 12 games with his hometown squad. If you’ve watched Simmonds play at all in 2021, you’ve likely noticed that he’s moving better than he did a year ago.
28 - Tyler Motte – F - Vancouver Canucks:
Motte’s six points in 16 games are alright, but it’s the five goals he’s already scored that are impressive. Despite missing the last three games with a lower-body injury, the 25-year-old is still on pace to find the back of the net 18 times in 53 games (his career-high is nine goals in 74 games).
29 - Dante Fabbro – D – Nashville Predators:
There’s a lot of disappointments on the Predators this year and few surprises. So, Fabbro’s numbers may not catch your eye at first glance, but he’s taken some positive strides offensively this season. The 22-year-old had 11 points in 64 games in 2019-20 and he’s already up to six points in 15 games this season. He’s currently on pace to double his numbers in eight fewer games.
30 - Kevin Rooney – F – New York Rangers:
There’s a few Rangers who haven’t lived up to the hype this year and there aren’t many that have surprised. Rooney has a modest three goals in 11 games, which is impressive by his standards. He’s on pace to score 15 goals in just 54 games and that’s impressive considering he’s never scored more than six times in one season.
31 - Milan Lucic – F – Calgary Flames:
Alright, so the Flames don’t really have anyone that jumps out as a surprise. Most of their players are doing exactly what they need to do offensively to help their team win, but Lucic is scoring more frequently than he has in previous seasons. He has three goals in 14 games, which puts him on pace for 12. The 32-year-old only scored 14 times in his last two seasons.