NHL: Tomas Hertl and the 10 Young Stars Who Will Shine in 2013
Tomas Hertl Leads Herd of Young Stars in NHL
After watching the first 10 days of play during the 2013-14 NHL season, it is very clear that there is an influx of young and talented players coming into the league not seen since the 2005-06. It may just be a coincidence that both seasons occurred after a lockout damaged the previous season, but it is certain that the rampage of young players in each season has brought a heightened level of play.
Leading the way of this influx has been Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks.
Through the first four games of his career Hertl, has recorded an NHL-best six goals and is tied for the league lead with seven points, besting established stars such as Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos in each category. Nearly each of these goals has been the result of a marvelous individual display, including what will likely be deemed the best goal of the 2013-14 season in a game against the New York Rangers.
If you haven't seen the aforementioned goal against the Rangers, when Hertl flipped the puck from between his legs over Martin Biron's shoulder for his fourth goal of the game, I recommend you look it up.
But more than just performing in the offensive end of the ice, Hertl has been a ball of energy in the neutral and defensive zones for the Sharks as they have jumped out to a 4-0-0 record. While some would be scared of taking part in the physical battles that occur in the NHL, there has been no such fear from Hertl, as he has thrown around his 6-foot-2, 198 pound frame in an effort to play an all-around game. This commitment to play in each end has shown that Hertl is more than just an offensive wrecking ball, but that he has the all-around game which will translate into success throughout the 2013 season.
As I noted previously, it is clear that Hertl is not alone in the category of young stars who have made the 2013 season so exciting, and he will not be the only one to maintain success throughout the season. In fact, I have identified 10 other players who have played 50 games or less in the NHL prior to the 2013-14 season that will shine in the upcoming season.
10. Sean Monahan
Despite being drafted with the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft, there was genuine doubt as to whether Sean Monahan would stick with the Calgary Flames for the entire season. After posting six points in his first five games and seeing his playing time increase in each game, there is now no doubting whether Monahan will stick. The 6-foot-2, 187-pound center is a constant threat with the puck both as a playmaker and goalscoring threat, and will continue to make life miserable for opposing teams throughout 2013-14. Expect 50-60 points and a number of highlight-reel plays from Monahan.
9. Tom Wilson
If you love big, physical and talented hockey players, then Tom Wilson is a guarantee to be one of your favorite players to watch in 2013-14. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder is currently not finding many minutes for the Washington Capitals, but when on the ice, he has shown a propensity to stand up for teammates and throw big hits. This willingness to stand up for teammates was shown on October 3 against the Calgary Flames, as Wilson fought Lance Bouma after a questionable hit on Jack Hillen. Expect Wilson to continue putting his body on the line throughout 2013-14, in addition to depositing 15-20 goals as he begins to gain more playing time.
8. Brandon Saad
After watching Brandon Saad record 27 points in the regular season and six more in the postseason as the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, some people may think the 20-year-old was a veteran player. Saad is still very young, and with great offensive potential, there is no doubt that he will improve on his rate of .59 points per game from the 2012-13 season. Four points in four games to start off the season has been a good start towards that improvement, and sharing ice with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp will make sure that scoring chances are there for Saad. Expect Saad to convert nearly every chance that comes around on his way to a 20-goal and 55-point total for the 2013-14 season.
7. Aleksander Barkov
When Aleksander Barkov was drafted second overall by the Florida Panthers this June, there was little doubt that he would be on the team's opening night roster, but just what he has done since arriving has been nothing short of amazing. The 19 year old has recorded five points in five games while playing center on the Panthers' first line, showing the ability to perform adequately in all three zones of the ice. Barkov may not be the most gifted player in the NHL, but his 6-foot-3, 209-pound frame and adequate playmaking ability have ensured that he is never overwhelmed on the ice. It would be no surprise to see Barkov post 30 goals and 65 points for the entirety of the 2013-14 season, in the process putting himself in prime contention to win the Calder Memorial Trophy as the rookie of the year.
6. Valeri Nichushkin
When the Dallas Stars chose Valeri Nichushkin with the 10th pick of the 2013 NHL Draft, there were many people who felt the team had acquired the steal of the draft. Nichushkin was arguably the most talented player in the entire draft, but many teams had passed on him because of the fear that he would not leave Chelyabinsk Traktor of the KHL to come to the NHL. This theory was proven wrong when Nichushkin arrived in Dallas at the start of training camp, effectively showing that he preferred playing in the NHL over the KHL. With Nichuskin officially in town to stay, it would be no surprise to see the him wreak havoc on the wings and post close to 65 points in 2013-14.
5. Mikael Granlund
While Mikael Granlund performed adequately during his 27-game cameo during the 2012-13 season for the Minnesota Wild, there is no doubting that the center had significant room to grow. Through the first four games, Granlund has begun to show glimpses of this extended potential, posting three points in four games and showing the hard-working nature that is critical out of the center position. Playing between veterans Dany Heatley and Jason Pominville will only help Granlund's growth, and it would be no surprise to see him develop into a 1A center to Mikko Koivu over the course of the 2013-14 season.
4. Filip Forsberg
After receiving a five-game cameo with the Nashville Predators at the end of last season, it was clear that Filip Forsberg had the potential to play in the NHL. The 6-foot-2, 186-pound Swede displays a very well-rounded game, with his quick shot and nose for the net likely to stand out to viewers at home. Forsberg displayed his skills with an opening-night goal against the Minnesota Wild, which will likely be the first of many in 2013-14. Reasonable goals for Forsberg during the upcoming season would seem to be 25 goals and 55 points, to go along with dedicated play in the defensive end of the ice.
3. Nail Yakupov
With a total of 31 points in 48 games during the 2012-13 season, Nail Yakupov showed just why the Edmonton Oilers drafted him no. 1 overall in 2012. The 5-foot-11, 184-pound Russian was a constant threat on the wings because of his blazing speed and ability to pick corners at ease. With more time in the NHL, it would seem that Yakupov will only get better, and a total of 30 goals and 60 points seems to be reasonable in 2013-14.
2. Alex Galchenyuk
Alex Galchenyuk may have been the no. 3 pick of the 2012 NHL Draft, but no player from that class has been better to date. During the 2012-13 season, Galchenyuk posted 27 points in 48 games for the Montreal Canadiens, displaying incredible ability to both create opportunities for teammates and score goals on his own. This ability has translated exceptionally well into the 2013-14 season, as games Galchenyuk has posted seven points and generally been a constant threat whenever on the ice through four. It would be no surprise to see him post 25 points and 80 points during the 2013-14 season, in the process throwing his name in the hat as one of the best hockey players in the world.
1. Nathan MacKinnon
Despite being known as the other NHL player from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, there is no doubting that Nathan MacKinnon is an absolute stud. Through the first four games of the 2013-14 season, the 6-feet, 183-pound. center has more than justified the Colorado Avalanche drafting him no. 1 overall in 2013 by posting four points while playing on the team's third line. It seems all but sure that MacKinnon will move up from this role throughout the season, as his ability to score goals, create opportunities for teammates and contribute defensively have made him the most well-rounded young player in the NHL today. A total of 35 goals and 75 points does not seem out of reach during the 2013-14 season, and a fight for the Calder Memorial Trophy seems all but assured.
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