Instead of entertaining millions of North American hockey fans this holiday season, the NHL is tormenting its supporters with an ongoing lockout that shows no signs of ending.
On Monday it was reported that both the league and the players' union have agreed to work with a mediator, just days after the NHL announced the cancellation of regular season games through mid-December plus January's All-Star Game in Columbus.
With little if any progress having been made this fall, NHL fans would be wise to focus their attention overseas, where a plethora of locked-out superstars are showcasing the very skills that have made the NHL so popular.
Let's take a look at a trio of superstars that fans should be watching this season.
Evgeni Malkin, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Russia
Pittsburgh Penguins' stud center Evgeni Malkin is looking right at home in the Kontinental Hockey League this season, playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in his native Russia.
The reigning Hart Memorial Trophy winner (awarded to the NHL's league MVP) has been setting up teammates at an incredible rate, assisting 22 times in 24 games overseas this season. Malkin is on an even better pace than he was last year with Pittsburgh, when he recorded 59 helpers in 75 regular-season games.
There's no doubt about it: The 26-year-old is incredibly talented and fun to watch. He also has 11 goals this season for Magnitogorsk, proving to be an unstoppable force with the puck.
Goals like the one above demonstrate Malkin's unrivaled nose for the net.
Tyler Seguin, EHC Biel, Switzerland
It's shocking to think that Tyler Seguin is only 20 years old. The Ontario native has lit up the NHL for two seasons already and is now dominating on the ice for Switzerland's EHC Biel.
In just 20 games this fall, the Boston Bruins center has 32 points: 20 goals and 12 assists. We knew Seguin was talented and could score with the best of them, but he only had 40 goals in 155 career NHL games coming into this season.
This hat trick against HC Ambri-Piotta (above) proves that the sky is the limit for Seguin.
You won't find another locked-out NHL star averaging a goal per game overseas this season. Seguin's play truly is must-see television.
Ilya Kovalchuk, SKA St. Petersburg, Russia
Just over five months ago, Ilya Kovalchuk was helping lead the NHL's New Jersey Devils to the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, but now he's shredding defenses with KHL club SKA St. Petersburg.
The 29-year-old Kovalchuk was drafted No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2001, and has since developed into a lethal left winger. The Russian star has 29 points (fifth-most in the KHL this season) in 22 appearances for SKA.
Thanks to Kovalchuk's consistent brilliance, SKA is in first place in the Western Conference. After a dominant playoff performance for the Devils last spring, with 19 points in 23 games, it looks like Kovalchuk will soon be powering SKA to a KHL title run.
Provided he stays healthy, Kovalchuk will be a star to keep an eye on as the NHL lockout wears on.
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