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James Neal, acquired from the Dallas Stars before last year's trade deadline, is a 24-year-old winger having a breakout year with the Pittsburgh Penguins this season. When thinking of the Pittsburgh Penguins, franchise faces such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin come to mind.
However, James Neal is quietly emerging himself as a new face for the franchise.
Second on the team in scoring only behind Evgeni Malkin, Neal has posted 26 goals along with 20 helpers for a total of 46 points in 48 games this season. On pace to record 78 points by season's end, the winger is currently hot, recording six points in three games.
With the concussed Crosby out indefinitely, expect James Neal to keep putting up consistent numbers and help the Pittsburgh Penguins stay in playoff contention. The Pens are currently sitting on sixth position in the Eastern Conference—seven points ahead of the ninth place Toronto Maple Leafs. Expect the Pens to keep getting better thanks to the elevated play of James Neal.
David Backes, Scott Hartnell, Loui Eriksson, Matt Moulson and James Neal are the NHL's most underrated forwards for one similar reason: They play the game hard every time they are on the ice, and their results this season prove that.