Welcome to the NHL Star Power Index: A weekly gauge of the players who are controlling substantial buzz around the league. When a player is included on this list it may not be a good thing — it means that they are capturing a large amount of the hockey world’s attention.
These players are in no particular order when it comes to the amount of buzz that they’re creating. We’ll revisit the Star Power Index every week throughout the regular season.
When the Toronto Maple Leafs selected Auston Matthews with the top pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, they hoped that the American-born center would develop into a superstar goal-scoring threat. Now it’s pretty clear that Matthews has delivered on those hopes.
Entering Thursday, Matthews leads the NHL with 43 goals and continues to prove that he’s one of the most gifted goal scorers across the league.
However, Matthews produced one of the most eye-popping performance in Tuesday’s 6-4 win over the Seattle Kraken. The 24-year old recorded a hat trick and did so while only putting four shots on goal.
Matthews’ first goal of the night, which came only 3:18 into the game, displayed why he’s so dangerous on the puck on his puck. With the Maple Leafs on the power-play, teammate William Nylander slid the puck over to Matthews in the face-off circle and Matthews uncorked a sniping shot that made its way past goaltender Philipp Grubauer to give Toronto the early lead.
In the third period, Matthews made jaws drop once again as he got in all alone and tucked the puck past Grubauer on a beautiful deke. The Maple Leafs were just barely onside on the play and Matthews didn’t miss his opportunity against Grubauer one-on-one.
In four games during the month of February, Matthews has compiled a mind-boggling six goals and has had multi-goal games in two of those contests. Matthews also recorded two goals in a 6-4 loss to the Vancouver Canucks this past Saturday.
This marks the fourth time in six seasons that Matthews has reached the 40-goal mark. In fact, Matthews is currently on pace for 65 goals this season.
It’s been no secret that he is one of the most lethal goal scorers that the sport has to offer and it certainly won’t be a surprise if the Maple Leafs star is leading the NHL in goals when the regular season concludes.
The Washington Capitals have had history in their sights as of late.
Alex Ovechkin is just one goal away from passing Jaromir Jagr for the No. 3 spot on the NHL’s all-time goals list, but teammate Nicklas Backstrom ended up making some history in Wednesday’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers. Backstrom recorded his 1,000th career point and became the second player in team history to reach that milestone.
Backstrom entered Wednesday’s contest with 998 career points. The Capitals star center scored a first period goal then followed it up by assisting on a T.J. Oshie goal in the third period to get his 1,000th career point.
Backstrom has been one of the more gifted facilitators that the NHL has seen in recent years. After all, the 34-year old is Washington’s all-times leader in assists and has recorded 737 assists throughout his 15-year NHL career.
The Capitals star ranks in the top 50 on the league’s all-time assists list and became the first member of the 2006 NHL Draft class that reached 1,000 career points.
There’s very few players that put passes on the tap like Backstrom and when it’s all said and done, he certainly will go down as one of the best to ever do it.
It’s been no secret that the New York Rangers have been one of the most impressive teams throughout the NHL this season. One of the biggest reasons for that success has been thanks to the offensive prowess of winger Chris Kreider.
Kreider is coming off another strong week in which he scored three goals and registered an assist in three games. The Rangers forward produced a two-goal performance in a 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets and scored his league-leading 19th power-play goal in the process.
As should come as no surprise, the Rangers rank fourth in the league on the power-play as they’re converting 25.5 percent of their opportunities. What’s even more spectacular is the fact that Kreider has scored 19 of the team’s 28 power-play goals on the season.
On so many occasions when the Rangers are on the man-advantage, Kreider makes his office around the crease and paid off once against the Jets.
Late in the first period, New York already had a 1-0 lead and had a chance to really take control of the game with a power-play opportunity. The Rangers were moving the puck around and Artemi Panarin was looking to find Ryan Strome in the slot.
However, instead of the puck making its way to Strome, it got deflected and landed right in Kreider’s wheelhouse to the right of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. Kreider certainly didn’t miss as he was able to tuck the puck past Hellebuyck to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
Kreider’s power-play excellence has really been a huge feather in the Rangers’ cap throughout the season. It’s going to continue to be a huge asset for the Rangers as they continue their postseason push.
In five games in March, Kaprizov has accumulated four goals and four assists and has recorded in a point in each of those contests. Kaprizov also has had a pair of two-point performances, including a two-goal showing in a 6-3 to the Dallas Stars this past Sunday.
With the Wild trailing 4-1 against the Stars entering the third period, the 24-year old attempted to bring Minnesota back into the game. Kaprizov scored both of his goal in the period within a two-minute stretch late in the frame.
Kaprizov’s first goal was truly a lesson of patience paying off in the offensive zone. The Wild had a two-on-one developing with Kevin Fiala and Kaprizov and Fiala noticed Kaprizov being wide-open towards the net. Kaprizov received the puck, waited patiently for goaltender Jake Oettinger to make a move, and ripped a shot past Oettinger to give the Wild their first goal since the opening period.
Just 1:46 later, Kaprizov was the beneficiary of a loose puck in the offensive zone. Teammate Mats Zuccarello was able to corral the puck and immediately noticed an open Kaprizov across the ice as Oettinger was out of the position. As a result, Kaprizov had a wide-open net to shoot at and didn’t miss.
While Kaprizov’s efforts didn’t result in the Wild completing the comeback, his lethal shot was a force to be reckoned with in this game. Kaprizov has made phenomenal strides in his second NHL season and already has 71 points to his credit. The Wild star is currently on pace to register 107 points and clearly has shown that he is the future of the franchise in Minnesota.