How do Patrik Laine’s dazzling first 21 games stack up against Alex Ovechkin, the superstar goal scorer he’s long been compared to?
Pretty favourably actually.
Starting his NHL career in the 2005-06 season, Ovechkin surged out of the gate with 15 goals and 22 points in his first 21 games with Washington, while firing 111 shots on goal. At the same stage of his rookie year with Winnipeg, Laine has 12 goals and 18 points, if managing a more tidy 57 shots.
Ovechkin would eventually beat out Sidney Crosby for the Calder Trophy in 2006, finishing with 52 goals and 106 points. The Russian star is now the grizzled 31-year-old captain of the Capitals and easily the greatest scorer of his generation and one of the best all-time.
Over the stretch of 12-plus years since he entered the league, Ovechkin has 171 more goals than his next closest competitor (Jarome Iginla).
Laine has a long way to go to reach those heights, but he’s on the right track in the earliest stages of his highly touted NHL career.
Is the oldest player in the NHL finally looking his age? It might look like it at first glance.
Jaromir Jagr, who finished last season with 27 goals and 66 points, had only one goal and six points in 17 games before notching his first multi-point game of the season over the weekend. He has just two goals and nine points over all though.
So is this the beginning of the end for the future Hall of Famer? It appears not on deeper inspection.
Jagr looks to have been a touch unlucky thus far. Aleksander Barkov, his most frequent linemate this season, has gone 17 straight games without a goal and has potted only two goals all season. Jagr, who scored on 19 per cent of 143 shots last year, is scoring on less than 5 per cent of his shots this season.
Jagr’s puck possession numbers, meanwhile, look strong.
Better luck and increased production from Barkov will likely push his numbers upward, if not quite to last year’s totals. Eleven more points, meanwhile, will move Jagr past Mark Messier for second on the NHL’s all-time scoring list.
Bolts without Stamkos
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos is expected to miss about four months after undergoing surgery to repair a tear of the lateral meniscus in his right knee last week.
Tampa Bay has been down this road before and survived just fine.
It was almost three years earlier to the day that Stamkos broke his right leg and subsequently missed four months. The Lightning, a deeper, more experienced team now than they were then, went 22-18-5 in his absence, outscoring (121-115) and outshooting their opponents (30.6-29.9) over 45 games.
A not-so-secret part of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ roaring start to the season, which includes an 8-1-1 mark in their past 10 games: the NHL’s No. 1 power play.
The Blue Jackets have scored on 31.8 per cent of power plays this year, including a pair of goals in a 3-2 win over Washington on Sunday.
Alexander Wennberg, who scored the go-ahead power-play winner against the Capitals, is tied for the NHL lead with 10 power-play points after posting 12 points with the man advantage in 69 games last year.
Maybe the biggest difference-maker though on the Columbus power play is Zach Werenski, the calm, cool, 19-year-old rookie currently quarterbacking the top unit (seven points).
NHL’s best backup
He won’t be in the role for much longer, but for now there’s a strong case to be made that 22-year-old Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is the NHL’s best backup.
He has earned shutouts in each of his past two starts for Tampa Bay (66 shots). The third-year Russian netminder owns a 5-1-1 record this season with a .953 save percentage.
Vasilevskiy could take over the Lightning crease next season with current starter (and star) Ben Bishop due for unrestricted free agency following this season.
Under the radar
Third-year Swedish centre Victor Rask continues his quiet emergence for the Carolina Hurricanes, now with eight goals and 15 points in 17 games as the club’s top line centre this season.
Rask has drawn comparisons to Hall of Famer (and Hurricanes general manager) Ron Francis from Carolina assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour.
Brind’Amour says Rask, who had a career-high 21 goals and 48 points last year, has the same knack as Francis for “making incredible little plays that don’t really show up on the scoresheet.”Report Typo/Error