Wednesday, July 17, 2024

NHL Star Power Index: Canucks’ Elias Pettersson continues hot start, Devils’ Tyler Toffoli piling up goals

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.

The Vancouver Canucks have had quite the start to the 2023-24 season as the team has registered 13 points over their first nine games. Elias Pettersson has been a big reason for that success.

Pettersson has registered 16 points (five goals and 11 assists) thus far, which puts him in some pretty historic company. Tony Tanti (19 points, 1983-84), Patrick Sundstrom (17 points, 1983-84) and Paul Reinhart (16 points, 1989-90) are the only players in team history to tally at least 16 points over the first nine games.

The 24-year-old Pettersson has been on a tear recently with three goals and three assists over his last three games. Pettersson’s most impressive performance came Tuesday when he tallied his second career hat trick in a 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators.

Pettersson started his scoring early in the second period when he took a pass from teammate Quinn Hughes and did the rest all by himself. The Canucks star glided into the slot and ripped a shot that Predators goaltender Kevin Lankinen couldn’t keep out of the back of the net despite getting a piece of.

Later in the period, Pettersson displayed some tremendous patience when he netted his second goal of the night. Pettersson had the puck on his stick in the face-off circle, and he was able to use his pinpoint accuracy to get another shot past Lankinen.

Pettersson was able to cap off the hat trick with an empty-netter with under three minutes to go in the contest.

It’s been an unreal start to the 2023-24 season for Pettersson. Entering Thursday, the star center is second in the NHL in points behind only Jack Hughes (18). That’s surprising considering Pettersson has registered multiple points in six of his nine games this season.

If Pettersson can change this insane trajectory, the Canucks could return to the postseason in 2023-24.

It’s hard to have a better start with a new team than the one Tyler Toffoli has had with the New Jersey Devils.

Toffoli joined the Devils following a trade from the Calgary Flames over the summer. In his first eight games with New Jersey, the veteran winger has racked up seven goals.

Toffoli’s seven goals are the most by any player in the first eight games with the organization. The 31-year-old edged out Paul Gardner (1976-77, Rockies), Lanny McDonald (1979-80, Rockies), Bobby Holik (1992-93, Devils) and Devante Smith-Pelly (2015-16, Devils), who each registered six goals apiece in their first eight contests with the franchise.

Over the past week, Toffoli has tallied six goals and an assists in just four games, including back-to-back multi-goal performances against the Montreal Canadiens and Washington Capitals.

Most recently, Toffoli registered a goal in a 6-4 loss against the Washington Capitals.

Toffoli has had a knack for making things happen around the net, and this contest was no different. Midway through the second period, Devils defenseman Luke Hughes made his way to the face-off circle before flipping a shot that Capitals goaltender Hunter Shepard turned aside. However, there was a huge rebound and Toffoli was able to slide the puck under Shepard for the goal.

Toffoli has really thrived skating on New Jersey’s top line alongside Jack Hughes and Timo Meier. He is coming off of a career-high 34-goal season with the Flames a season ago, and he could set a new career-high if this type of production continues. 

Toffoli is currently on pace for 71 goals, which obviously isn’t going to happen. However, racking up 30-40 goals playing with a star center and playmaker like Jack Hughes isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.

Adam Fox has established himself as one of the premier defensemen the NHL has to offer. Through the first few weeks of the 2023-24 season, it’s looking like Fox is embarking on another Norris Trophy-caliber campaign.

Fox is thriving thus far with 11 points (three goals and eight assists) out the gate, but he has really turned it on over the last week.

The Rangers blue-liner is currently on a four-game point streak, and he’s racked up two goals and four assists over that span. In addition, Fox has recorded an assist in each of those four contests.

Fox is currently tied with Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes for the league lead in points at the position. His eight assists are tied for second in the NHL among defensemen with only Detroit Red Wings blue-liner Moritz Seider having more with nine to his credit.

In Saturday’s 4-3 overtime win over the Canucks, Fox rose to the occasion and helped will the Rangers to victory.

Fox tallied a goal and an assist, marking his third multi-point performance of the year and his second consecutive game with a power-play goal.

In the third period, Fox scored a goal from an unlikely spot to tie the game at 2-2. Star forward Artemi Panarin was carrying the puck out by the blue line when he saw Fox cutting toward the net. Fox ended up tapping the puck into the net just to the blocker side of Canucks netminder Casey DeSmith.

Fox certainly doesn’t get enough credit for being a goal-scoring threat. The Rangers defenseman has tallied back-to-back double-digit goal seasons, and he’s off to a solid start in 2023-24. 

If he can continue being an offensive producer, Fox could definitely add another Norris Trophy to his resume this season.

Goaltender Alexandar Georgiev hasn’t exactly had the most stellar stretch in the crease as of late.

The Colorado Avalanche netminder has accumulated a 4.00 goals-against-average over his last four starts. During that span, Georgiev has yielded at least three goals in each of those starts, including four apiece in three of those outings.

According to MoneyPuck, Georgiev has just a .944 save percentage when facing unblocked shots on the season. 

Georgiev had been thriving through the first four games of the 2023-24 campaign. The Avalanche goaltender had a 1.00 goals-against-average over that stretch, plus he recorded a 18-save shutout against the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 19.

Since then, Georgiev has been lit up by the Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins over his last four outings. 

The Avalanche are obviously slated to be one of the top Stanley Cup contenders when the 2023-24 postseason rolls around. However, Georgiev is going to need to return to his early-season form if he wants to help the Avalanche reach that level of success when the lights are the brightest.

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