Tuesday, June 25, 2024

NHL Star Power Index: Zach Hyman on a goal-scoring tear, Rasmus Dahlin continues to thrive

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.

After spending the first six seasons of his NHL career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Zach Hyman opted to sign a seven-year deal with the Edmonton Oilers. Since arriving in Edmonton, Hyman has thrived on the team’s top line.

In Toronto, Hyman was almost an afterthought at times and only topped the 20-goal mark in two of those six campaigns. Despite the fact that Hyman was a restricted free agent, the Maple Leafs were up against the salary cap and just didn’t have the means to re-sign the versatile forward.

Their loss has quickly become the Oilers’ gain.

When a team possesses players like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on their roster, it can already be said that they have depth among their top six forwards. With Hyman in tow on top of that, it’s almost an embarrassment of riches. In his first season in Edmonton, Hyman tallied 27 goals and 27 assists, which were both career highs. As impressive as that was, Hyman is slated to blow those numbers out of the water in Year 2 with the Oilers.

Entering Thursday, Hyman has registered 25 goals and a career-high 32 assists while earning 20:39 of ice time on a nightly basis. Hyman currently has a six-game point streak and also has a four-game goal streak. In addition, Hyman has racked up five goals over that four-game stretch.

Hyman is currently on pace for 43 goals on the season, which would obliterate his previous career-high. He recently turned in a four-point effort (one goal & three assists) in a 4-2 Oilers win against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.

Hyman obviously benefits from many of the opposing team’s eyes being on McDavid and Draisaitl when the three are on the ice together, but the 30 year old will likely continue to rack up the goals as the season goes on.

It’s a crime that Rasmus Dahlin wasn’t named to the 2023 NHL All-Star Game. The Buffalo Sabres‘ star defenseman continues to showcase himself as one of the premier players at the position.

Dahlin is currently second in the NHL in points (53) and goals (14) behind only Erik Karlsson in both categories while also ranking fourth in the league in assists (39). Those 39 assists are sixth in all of the NHL. The Sabres blue-liner does all of this while being a workhorse that averages 26:08 of ice time on a nightly basis.

Dahlin has registered at least one point in three of his last four weeks, including back-to-back two-point outings against the Anaheim Ducks and New York Islanders. In each of those contests, the 22-year-old star recorded a pair of assists.

Despite consistently playing elite hockey, teammate Tage Thompson will be the only Sabre representing the franchise at the NHL All-Star Game in South Florida next month. 

“I guess the fans want to see forwards. It is what it is,” Dahlin told the Buffalo News on Monday. “I’m going on vacation and I’m going to have a good time, but, obviously, I want to be there. That’s just how it goes.”

Considering the season that he’s having, Dahlin has strongly placed himself in the Norris Trophy conversation for the league’s top defenseman. He’s made a huge jump into one of the top stars at his position and everyone is starting to take notice.

The New Jersey Devils have surprised everyone as one of the top contenders in the Metropolitan Division this season. One of the biggest reasons for that success is in between the pipes.

Goalie Vitek Vanecek has been tremendous throughout the first half of the season. He ranks sixth in goals-against-average (2.30) and seventh in wins (20) while registering a pair of shutouts on the year.

Vanecek has allowed just a grand total of three goals over his last two starts, which both resulted in overtime victories against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Vegas Golden Knights. On Sunday, Vanecek stopped 25 of the 26 shots that he faced in a 2-1 Devils’ win against their division rivals in the Penguins. 

During the month of January, Vanecek has racked up a 7-0-0 record to go along with a 2.08 goals-against-average and a .931 save percentage. The Devils goalie hasn’t allowed more than three goals in any of those starts and has also yielded two or fewer goals in four of those outings.

The Devils have really been searching for a franchise netminder since Martin Brodeur left following 2013-14 seasaon. Cory Schneider had a few strong seasons after coming over from the Vancouver Canucks, but New Jersey hadn’t had a dependable goalie in quite some time. Until now.

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