Stars of Tomorrow: Top 10 Players of the Week
All throughout the NHL season I will be following the stars of tomorrow. My criterion for these players is two years in the NHL or less than 160 games combined (with minor exceptions).
Many players take that next big step in year three and really come into their own. Some sooner, some later, but the development of a star is fascinating to watch.
The rankings will be updated as the season unfolds to reflect who's living up to expectations and who is not.
In the second week of the season many new faces made their way onto the list. This is to be expected somewhat because many of these players are still looking for consistency. Without further ado, here are 10 players who are climbing their way up the ladder this week.
10: Matt Moulson
When I was doing my offseason rankings of top rising forwards in the game I got a lot of slack for excluding some of the young Islander players. It was more of a case of oversight than it was blatant exclusion. These kids are good and it won't be long until this franchise is relevant once again.
A key player leading the way is Matt Moulson. Last year he put up 30 goals in his first full season. Not a bad feat when you consider his surrounding cast. He's making sure that it wasn't a fluke as he's started the year with five points in his first six games.
This past week he helped New York hand the Leafs their first loss of the season, defeat the high-flying Avalanche, and took the Penguins to overtime. He's on pace for another big year.
9: Luke Schenn
Luke Schenn has had a steady climb up the NHL ladder over the last few seasons. There were a lot of expectations on him playing in a hockey mad market, but he's showing fans that he's the real deal.
Toronto won another two games this past week before falling to the aforementioned Islanders, but Schenn was a key factor in this streak with three assists this past week. He still remains somewhat of an unknown offensively, but if he can keep contributing like this then Leaf Nation will have a great young all-around defenseman in their stable. His future is bright.
8: Colin Wilson
Colin Wilson isn't about to set the league on fire with his offensive play, but Nashville have a dynamic young center on their roster and he's starting to pay dividends early this NHL season. The team came up on the short end of the stick in two overtime losses this week, but Wilson notched a goal and two assists to help earn them some valuable points in the standings.
He started the year at center, but with Lombardi banged up they will move him back to his natural position.
7: T.J. Galiardi
Is there anybody that does not like T.J. Galiardi? This youngster is a coach's dream.
He's fast, smart, and works his pants off. He can kill penalties, play the power play, shutdown opposing skilled lines and do what he's doing now: scoring points on the top line.
He didn't start the year well, but he's really picked up his play the last few games notching two goals and an assist en route to two more wins. There will be a lot of Avalanche players on this list this year and if you get a chance to watch them play you won't be disappointed.
6: John Tavares
John Tavares was primed for a breakout year this season until he suffered a concussion in the first week. Head injuries have been a hot topic around the sports world this season, but it was good to see him return to action in Week 2.
He didn't waste any time getting back into the thick of it as he scored two big goals and added a helper. It will be interesting to see if he is as streaky as he was last year or if he can put it all together for an entire season. I would side with the latter.
5: Cal O`Reilly
At 24, O`Reilly isn't a bright-eyed young player in this league, but he's a talented player looking to stick in the big leagues for the first time in his career. If he continues to play like he has this past week he won't have any trouble making that happen.
The Predators are a team that draft well and develop their players the right way and we are starting to see the results. With four assists this week, O'Reilly is as hot as they come in the NHL right now. Let's see if he can keep it up.
4: James Neal
The Dallas Stars are one of the nice surprises to start the 2010 season and one of the main reasons for their success is James Neal. This big scoring winger has five points in the past three games and is on the verge of having a huge season.
He has 20+ goals in his first two seasons and there's no reason why he can't reach 30 this year. As mentioned in the opening slide, many players really break out in their third year and this could be the case with Neal.
3: Alex Goligoski
Alex Goligoski is the only young player to make this week for the second time in a row. With another goal and three more assists he is becoming a huge offensive cog in the Pens success. The team is getting hot with three straight wins this week and Goligoski is tied for second in the NHL in defensive scoring. Sergei Gonchar who? Time will tell if it is just a hot start or this production is for real. Keep an eye on this guy.
2: Anthony Stewart
Speaking of hot starts, Anthony Stewart has four goals in his last two games. What is remarkable about this? That matches his entire output from his previous 108 NHL games. If you look up a description for him in a media guide it will say "physical winger". If he keeps up this scoring touch they'll need to add "scoring" beside it. Fantasy owners aren't fighting to grab him, but he was definitely good enough to make this list.
1: Chris Stewart
One Stewart that fantasy owners are drooling over is Chris from Colorado. This 22-year-old is the real deal and this past week he put the NHL on notice that a new power forward is emerging. Some wondered if his 28 goals last year was a product of his surrounding cast or if he's truly on his way to stardom.
With four goals this week it's safe to say he's headed for bigger and better things. This could be a 40-goal season for Stewart if he can stay healthy. If he doesn't, at least he made No. 1 on my list this week.