Early Report Cards for Top NHL Stars in 2013-14 Season

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistOctober 11, 2013

Early Report Cards for Top NHL Stars in 2013-14 Season

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    It's never too early to make judgments and assessments about hockey players, even if the season is only a week old.

    General managers and coaches are always grading their players and determining whether they are getting the most from them.

    Much will change as the season progresses, but here are the early report cards for the league's best players.

10. C Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings

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    Assessment: Pavel Datsyuk is expected to be the triggerman for the Red Wings offense and play exceptionally in all three zones. So far, so good for Datsyuk. He scored one goal and one assist in the Wings' first four games. He has has been superb in the faceoff circle, winning 61.1 percent of the drives. He has been on the ice 20:48 per game.

    Grade: B+

9. C Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

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    Assessment: Patrice Bergeron is never going to be among the leading scorers, but he is clearly one of the best players in the league because he is so skilled defensively and in the faceoff circle. The Bruins have played three games, but Bergeron is not yet at full speed after recovering from a myriad of injuries suffered in the Stanley Cup Final, including a punctured lung.

    Bergeron has a goal and a plus-one rating. He is averaging 17:56 of ice time per game and he is winning 52.2 percent of his faceoffs. That figure is likely to go up as the season progresses.

    Grade: B

8. RW Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Assessment: Patrick Kane was the best player on the best team during last year's Stanley Cup playoffs, and he came away with the Conn Smythe Trophy. Kane was serious about his offseason conditioning and has started the season in excellent form. He has scored three goals and an assist in the Blackhawks' first three games. It seems he can do something to create a scoring opportunity anytime he gets the puck on his stick.

    Grade: A-

7. C Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Assessment: Perhaps no player in the league is as skilled and creative with the puck as Malkin, with the exception of his teammate Sidney Crosby. When Malkin is in the offensive zone, he has the skills to put the puck in the top corner with the backhand or the forehand, and he can put a 60-foot pass on the tape of his teammates' stick. A bit of a slow start for Malkin, as he has just two assists through the Pens' first three games. He is plus-two and has won 53.1 percent of his faceoffs.

    Grade: B

6. C Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Assessment: Toews is perhaps the most single-minded player in the game. The only thing that concerns Jonathan Toews is doing whatever it takes to bring the Blackhawks a victory. He is a superb skater, excels in the faceoff circle and will play some of the best defense in the league. Toews is also a skilled offensive player. He has one goal and two assists in the first three games. He is averaging 19:54 of ice time per game and is winning 54.0 percent of his faceoffs.

    Grade: B+

5. C John Tavares, New York Islanders

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Assessment: John Tavares has become a sensational player, and it has showed up in his overpowering scoring. Tavares had 28 goals and 19 assists last season, adding three goals and two assists in the Islanders' playoff series with the Penguins.

    More than anything, Tavares has become a top leader for the Islanders because his teammates know that he will get the job done in all situations. He has scored two goals and added two assists in the Islanders' first three games. He is averaging 20:43 per game, but he has struggled in the faceoff circle, winning 44.4 percent of his draws.

    Grade: A-

4. D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

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    Assessment: Some may not rate Erik Karlsson this high, but when he is healthy and on his game, he is the best offensive defenseman in the game by a wide margin.

    While much of his 2013 season was torn apart by an Achilles injury, he came back strong for the postseason. Karlsson is the dominant figure on the ice for the Senators and is averaging 27:07 of ice time. He has scored one goal and one assist this season. He has not yet hit full speed, but he must be accounted for on every shift.

    Grade: B

3. RW Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

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    Assessment: Alex Ovechkin remains on a roll. After capturing the goal-scoring title in 2013 when he netted 32 goals in the 48-game season, Ovechkin is hot once again.

    He has scored five goals and two assists in the Capitals' first four games. While the Caps are just 1-3 in those games, there doesn't seem to be any slowing down for Ovi, who has put 32 shots on net and has scored on 15.6 percent of them.

    Ovechkin wants his game to be peaking when he puts on his Russian Olympic uniform and plays for his home fans, and there appears to be no stopping him.

    Grade: A

2. C Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Assessment: It's only a matter of time before Steven Stamkos finds his stride and starts putting pucks in the back of the net.

    He found it in the fourth game of the season, when he scored a hat trick in the Lightning's 7-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday. Stamkos had been held off the board before that game, but he has three goals and three assists. Nobody can score in more ways than Stamkos, and another 50-goal season seems quite likely once again.

    Grade: A-

1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

    Assessment: The 2013 playoffs ended badly for Sidney Crosby when the Penguins lost in four consecutive games in the Eastern Conference Final, but that appears to be in the past as Crosby and the Penguins are rolling once again.

    Crosby has two goals and two assists through the Penguins' first three games. He is averaging 20:30 of ice time and winning 59.5 percent of his draws.

    Grade: A-