Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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NHL Star Power Index: Connor Bedard embarking on historic stretch, Kirill Kaprizov scoring at lofty pace

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 Bedard is showcasing the kind of ability that had him touted as generational talent heading into the 2023 NHL Draft. 

The Chicago Blackhawks rookie phenom has registered eight points (four goals, four assists) in his last two games. In doing so, Bedard became just the second teenager to record eight points over a two-game stretch in NHL history, joining Dale Hawerchuk as the only players to achieve that feat.

Bedard has also already tallied three or more points in four games over his rookie campaign. He became just the fifth 18-year-old in NHL history to register consecutive three-point games, joining Steve Yzerman (1983-83), Ron Francis (1981-82), Hawerchuk (1981-82) and Wayne Gretzky (1979-80). 

Bedard racked up a goal and four assists in a 7-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday.

Early in the second period, Bedard made his way onto the score sheet. After the Ducks dumped the puck into the offensive zone, forward Nick Foligno chipped the puck off the board and onto the stick of Bedard. The Blackhawks rookie displayed an abundance of patience as he waited for teammate Philipp Kurashev to get into position on a two-on-one. Bedard then whipped a pass over to a wide-open Kurashev for a one-timer goal.

Later in the frame, Kurashev found a way to return the favor to Bedard. The Ducks were trying effortlessly to get the puck out of their own zone, but Bedard was able to furiously chip the puck back in deeper. Foligno was then able to pass the puck over to a cutting Kurashev, who ended up making a tremendous play. Upon receiving the pass, Kurashev passed up on shooting the puck from the slot and set up Bedard on a scorching one-timer for the goal.

Bedard’s line was absolutely humming throughout the night as the trio combined for three goals and a mind-boggling 10 assists. Foligno and Bedard both tallied four assists, while Kurashev picked up two of the goals on the night.

Even with missing a large chunk of time earlier this season, the Calder Trophy still has Bedard’s name written all over it. The Chicago rookie currently has 51 points on the year, and he has a 13-point advantage over Minnesota Wild defenseman Brock Faber despite missing over a month of the campaign.

Kirill Kaprizov has really raised his scoring numbers in a big way since the All-Star break.

Since the All-Star break, the Minnesota Wild star is averaging 1.65 points per contest, tallying 28 points (14 goals, 14 assists) over that 17-game stretch. In addition, Kaprizov has been finding the back of the net at an impressive clip as he’s scored seven goals over his last five contests.

Kaprizov tallied two goals and an assist in the Wild’s 4-1 win against the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday. The star forward ended up registering the 25th multi-goal game of his career and tied Zach Parise for the second-most such performances in team history. Kaprizov now only trails Marian Gaborik for the most multi-goal games in franchise history (41).

It also marked the second time in which Kaprizov scored multiple goals in his last five games.

In Tuesday’s victory, Kaprizov got the Wild started on the right foot by opening the scoring. Just 6:29 into the contest, Wild defenseman Brock Faber nearly lost the puck to Coyotes forward Liam O’Brien in the offensive zone, but was able to regain possession. Faber then was able to dish the puck back out to Kaprizov at the blue line. Kaprizov patiently skated to the edge of the face-off circle and fired one past the blocker of Coyotes goaltender Karel Vejmelka thanks to a screen in front.

Kaprizov also displayed some sensational passing ability in the second period as he set up teammate Ryan Hartman on a goal. 

At the 18:16 mark of the second period, Kaprizov was able to dig the puck free around the net after an attempted pass from forward Frederick Gaudreau was blocked. Kaprizov secured possession of the puck and put a pass right on the tape of the stick of Hartman. Hartman was able to score on a one-timer from point-blank range in front of Vejmelka to give the Wild a 2-1 lead.

Kaprizov’s helper brought him to 40 assists on the season and marked the second time in his four-year career that he tallied at least 40 assists. 

Kaprizov likely isn’t going to match his career-high of 108 points he set during the 2021-22 season, but he’s currently on pace for 101 points (46 goals, 55 assists) this year. If the Wild want to continue to make a playoff push, Kaprizov will need to continue to play at an elite level like he has been.

Prior to the 2024 NHL trade deadline, the Colorado Avalanche and Buffalo Sabres completed a deal that involved two very talented young players in center Casey Mittelstadt and defenseman Bowen Byram. It was a trade that filled a need for both sides, and Byram has really thrived early on during his time with his new team.

Byram has tallied three goals and an assist in three games since being acquired by the Sabres last week, and has scored in two of those contests. The former top-five pick registered a pair of goals in the Sabres’ 7-3 win against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. 

It marked the third two-goal game of the 2023-24 season for the 22-year-old blue-liner.

Midway through the opening period, Byram got into the scoring column for the Sabres. The Buffalo defenseman fired the puck across the ice to teammate Zach Benson, who fired a shot that was turned aside by Red Wings goaltender Alex Lyon. However, the puck shot out back toward the point, and Byram was able to fire the puck back on net for the goal.

Byram added another goal midway through the second period to help put the game out of reach. Sabres star forward Tage Thompson sent a scorching shot on net from way out and Lyon made the initial save. However, Byram happened to be at the right place at the right time, and deposited the rebound in close.

While they did part with a talented center in Mittelstadt, the Sabres may have really improved their blue line. Now, the Sabres have a core of defensemen that include Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power and now Byram. If Byram can realize his potential in Buffalo, this deal could end up being a steal for the Sabres.

Igor Shesterkin has had an up-and-down 2023-24 season, but he’s bounced back in a big way of late.

The New York Rangers goaltender is coming off of back-to-back shutout performances as he kept both the Carolina Hurricanes and St. Louis Blues off the scoreboard over the last week. Most recently, Shesterkin stopped all 28 shots he faced in a 1-0 win against the Hurricanes on Tuesday.

It marked the fourth time in Shesterkin’s career he’s tallied consecutive shutouts. In doing so, the star goaltender joined the likes of Lorne Chabot (six times), Ed Giacomin (five times) and John Ross Roach (four times) as the only Rangers netminders to record back-to-back shutouts on at least four occasions.

In his last eight games, Shesterkin has registered a 6-1-1 record to go along with a 1.25 goals-against-average and .963 save percentage. The Rangers goalie has surrendered a grand total of 10 goals over his last eight games, including yielding one goal or less in six of those contests.

Shesterkin is certainly heating up at the right time with just over a month remaining in the regular season. If Shesterkin can continue to be a dominant force in the crease, the Rangers definitely could make a deep Stanley Cup run later this season.

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