Sunday, July 14, 2024

NHL Star Power Index: Leon Draisaitl essential to Oilers’ success, Matthew Tkachuk on pace for career season

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.

Connor McDavid may own the moniker of being the sport’s top player, but Leon Draisaitl has been just as essential to the Edmonton Oilers‘ success this season.

Draisaitl ranks second in the NHL in points (70) behind only McDavid’s 84. While McDavid does lead the Oilers in goals (38) and assists (46), Draisaitl only has two fewer assists than McDavid.

Much like McDavid, Draisaitl has been an absolute force on Edmonton’s power-play unit, which is converting an NHL-best 30.7 percent of its opportunities on the year. The 27-year-old star is second behind McDavid with 34 power-play points (15 goals & 19 assists) and recently showcased his value in a 7-1 win over the San Jose Sharks last Friday.

In what was his 600th career NHL game, Draisaitl registered a goal and two assists with both of those assists coming while the Oilers were on the man advantage.

Draisaitl is currently riding a four-game point streak and has recorded multiple points in three of those contests. The Oilers star also has four goals during that stretch, which was highlighted by a two-goal performance in a 4-3 win against the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday.

Considering how dangerous Draisaitl and McDavid are, it’s no wonder that the Oilers were able to get through a two-month period in which Evander Kane was out of the lineup. Now Kane is back, and with how well Draisaitl is playing, Edmonton is still hanging on in the playoff race at the season’s midway point.

Matthew Tkachuk has acclimated quite well to his new surroundings in South Florida: he’s currently on pace for his second consecutive 100-point season.

Entering Thursday, Tkachuk had 56 points and is on pace 107 points (42 goals & 65 assists) on the season. This comes just one season after the star winger registered a career-high 104 points (42 goals & 62 assists) in his final year as a member of the Calgary Flames.

Tkachuk has always had elite goal-scoring ability, but he’s become a facilitator. The Panthers forward already has 34 assists to his credit and is on pace for a career-high 65 assists on the season. In Monday’s 4-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres, Tkachuk tied a season-high with three assists and earned the primary assist on each one. It marked his third consecutive game with at least one assist.

It’s only the first year of the massive Tkachuk/Jonathan Huberdeau trade between the Flames and Panthers, but Florida has certainly gotten the better end of the deal thus far. Barring a completely stagnant second half, Tkachuk should notch his second consecutive 100-point campaign.

The Norris Trophy race to crown the NHL’s top defenseman is still wide open, but Adam Fox certainly is making a push for the honor.

Fox, who won the prestigious award in 2021, is quietly having another impressive season for the New York Rangers. The talented blue-liner currently leads the team in assists (36) and plus/minus (+19) while ranking second in power-play assists (14) and third in points (45). The 24-year-old star has been one of the biggest offensive producers for the Rangers, as he trails star forward Artemi Panarin by just two points for the team lead in that department.

However, where Fox has really thrived has been when it comes to setting up his teammates.

In January, Fox has registered eight assists, including at least one assist in seven of his last eight games. He’s also had six games throughout the 2022-23 season in which he’s recorded multiple assists.

As impressive as his assist numbers have been, Fox recently provided one of the most thrilling finishes of the NHL season up to this point. Last Thursday, teammate K’Andre Miller had tied the game against the Dallas Stars in dramatic fashion with just under a second to go in regulation. At the 1:16 mark of the overtime period, there was a mad scramble in front of the Stars net. Panarin was able to secure the loose puck, get it over to Fox, and Fox flipped a backhand shot past Jake Oettinger, who was out of position.

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