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NHL Star Power Index: Canucks’ J.T. Miller scoring at will, Wild’s Joel Eriksson Ek having career year

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 proved to be loaded with offensive firepower this season, but J.T. Miller has really led the way when it comes to putting the puck in the net.

The Canucks star currently leads the team in points (75), while also being one of three players to have scored at least 28 goals on the season. Miller has also registered five goals and an assist over his last four games, including a hat trick performance in a 10-7 loss against the Minnesota Wild on Monday.

During the first period of Monday’s high-scoring affair, Miller showed off sensational awareness while scoring his first goal of the contest.

At the 13:21 mark of the opening period, Canucks defenseman Noah Juulsen fired the puck toward the net, but it ended up going wide. Juulsen’s shot actually ricocheted off of the boards behind the net and bounced back out in the front. Miller proved to be “Johnny on the Spot” as he happened to be on goaltender Filip Gustavsson’s blocker side, and wristed the puck into the back of the net.

Miller’s tally gave the Canucks a 2-0 advantage at the time.  

In the second period, Miller completed the hat trick with a tremendous individual effort. Center Pius Suter was able to chip the puck ahead in the neutral zone, and Miller did the rest. Miller made his charge to the front of the net, and went backhand to forehand to snap his shot past Gustavsson.

It marked the third hat trick of Miller’s career and his second multi-goal game of the 2023-24 season.

Miller is on pace for 106 points (40 goals, 66 assists), and he’s only five goals from breaking his previous career-high in goals (32). He’s recorded at least 82 points in each of his last two seasons, and his current career-high is 99 points (32 goals, 67 assists) in 2021-22.

If Miller can continue to score at an impressive rate, the Canucks will have a chance to make a Stanley Cup run this spring.

Much like Miller, Minnesota Wild star Joel Eriksson Ek had himself quite the day Monday.

Kirill Kaprizov and Eriksson Ek both registered hat tricks, while Miller also tallied a hat trick. It marked the first game that featured three hat tricks since Luc Robitaille, Jari Kurri and Mike Donnelly each tallied one for the Los Angeles Kings on Nov. 8, 1992.

If that wasn’t impressive enough, Kaprizov and Eriksson Ek also became the first pair of NHL teammates to each record six points in a game since Wayne Gretzky and Tomas Sandstrom did so for the Kings on Oct. 9, 1993. Minnesota’s top line of Kaprizov, Eriksson Ek and Matt Boldy ended up combining for 16 points in the 10-7 victory.

Eriksson Ek has really transformed his game over the past three seasons. The former first-round pick has hovered around the 50-point mark over that span, and he recorded a career-high 61 points (23 goals, 38 assists) during the 2022-23 season.

As the 2023-24 campaign chugs along, Eriksson Ek is poised to blow his previous career-highs out of the water. He currently has 52 points, tallying a career-high 28 goals with 26 games still to go in the regular season. 

Over his last four games, Eriksson Ek has registered a mind-blowing five goals and five assists. Monday’s contest was the latest example of Eriksson Ek developing into a huge offensive weapon for the Wild.

In the opening minute of Monday’s third period, Eriksson Ek was able to carve out some key real estate in front of the net when the Wild were on a power play. Veteran forward Mats Zuccarello possessed the puck in the face-off circle and dished it off to teammate Ryan Hartman, who slid it right back to Zuccarello. Zuccarello then sent the puck over to Eriksson Ek in the slot, and Eriksson Ek deflected it home.

Eriksson Ek capped off his hat trick performance just over a minute later. At the 1:44 mark of the third period, Zuccarello received the puck from Kaprizov in the face-off circle, and he didn’t hesitate to put the puck onto the stick of Eriksson Ek. The Wild forward scorched a one-timer from the slot that made its way past goaltender Casey DeSmith to give his team a 6-5 lead.

Eriksson Ek is having the season of his career thus far. The Wild now find themselves just two points out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, and Eriksson Ek’s tremendous play has helped the team in a big way.

Noah Dobson has thrived on the New York Islanders‘ blue line this season. With nearly a third of the 2023-24 season to go, the Islanders defenseman has been one of the team’s top offensive producers.

Entering Thursday, Dobson has already registered a career-high 58 points (seven goals, 51 assists) in just 55 games. The Islanders star has surpassed his previous career-high of 52 points (13 goals, 39 assists) that he racked up during the 2021-22 season.

Dobson is currently on pace for 86 points (10 goals, 76 assists) in the 2023-24 campaign. If he is able to reach the 10-goal mark, it would be the third consecutive season in which Dobson tallied double-digit goals after having 13 goals apiece in each of the previous two seasons.

The Islanders blue-liner has registered five assists over his last four games, and had tallied points in four straight games before being held off of the stat sheet against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday. His most spectacular performance came during Sunday’s Stadium Series game against the New York Rangers at MetLife Stadium, when he recorded three assists on the afternoon.

At the 7:18 mark of the opening period of Sunday’s contest, Dobson was bringing the puck up the ice when he noticed teammate Bo Horvat racing ahead of him. Dobson was able to thread the pass into a very small area, and Horvat ended up charging up-ice to score on a snap shot.

Dobson finished the game with two primary assists and a secondary assist.

The Islanders have really hit the jackpot with Dobson after selecting him with the No. 12 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. Dobson continues to become one of the NHL’s elite defensemen, and he’s certainly been a key cog for New York throughout the 2023-24 season.

The Florida Panthers are absolutely surging in the second half of the year, and have even leapfrogged the Boston Bruins for first place in the Atlantic Division. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was been one of the true constants for the Panthers amid their recent success.

Bobrovsky has returned to form this season as he’s tallied a 28-10-2 record, a 2.39 goals-against-average and a .915 save percentage. 

The veteran netminder has really thrived over the past month. Bobrovsky has yielded two goals or less in six of his last seven games, and he even appeared in the 2024 NHL All-Star Game earlier this month.

Most recently, Bobrovsky turned aside 28 of the 30 shots he faced in a 3-2 overtime win against the Ottawa Senators. In fact, Bobrovsky hadn’t allowed a single goal in five periods against the Senators before giving up a pair of third period goals in Tuesday’s contest.

As the regular season comes down the home stretch, the Panthers have looked poised for another Stanley Cup run. If Bobrovsky can continue to provide a stabilizing presence in net, the Panthers will be one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference when the postseason rolls around.

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