NHL Quarter-Way Rankings: The Top 10 Overachievers After 20 Games
With the NHL officially a quarter of the way through its 2010-11 season, teams are beginning to fall into place. Star players are settling into their front roles, while the grinders are finding their spots on their respective teams.
The standings are starting to look more realistic than when the year started (i.e, the Toronto Maple Leafs are no longer leading the Eastern Conference).
However, while a large part of the league is looking its usual self, it seems as though some players haven't gotten the memo. Whether they're young, old or just plain average, some players have been greatly exceeding their expectations for the year.
A handful of goaltenders and skaters alike have surprised us by performing above their expected levels.
After a quarter of the NHL season has passed, here are the Top 10 Overachieving Players.
10. Milan Hejduk: Colorado Avalanche
Right wing Milan Hejduk has been playing with an extra jump to his game lately. His game had been regressing prior to this season, but apparently that regression has halted.
The 34-year-old has posted five goals and 15 assists in 19 games so far. Those stats put him on pace for an 86-point season, which would be his highest point total since the 2002-03 season.
The native of Usti, Czech Republic is in a contract year, so it's not a huge surprise his production has greatly increased.
9. Lubomir Visnovsky: Anaheim Ducks
Defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky returned this year after surgery to repair his labrum, and so far he is showing no signs of rust.
Visnovsky only played 16 games last year due to the injury. In 22 games this year, the 5'10", 197-pound native of Slovakia has posted three goals and 14 assists, as well as a plus-five. He is looking as he did in the 2006-07 campaign, when he posted 67 points as a member of the Los Angeles Kings.
Visnovsky, also 34, leads the Ducks with an average of 25:14 of ice time per game.
8. Clarke MacArthur: Toronto Maple Leafs
The Atlanta Thrashers walked away from Clarke MacArthur's $2.4 million arbitration reward last summer, making him a free agent. From there, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed him for $1.1 million, less than half the salary he would have been making in Atlanta. So far this year, it seems as though MacArthur is out to prove that he is, in fact, worth the money he was awarded.
Nicknamed "Clarke Kent" by Leafs fans due to his quick start to the year, the left winger has posted seven goals and 10 assists in 18 games for the Leafs, as well as a plus-two.
MacArthur, 25, is also in a contract year. He has been juggled around the top two lines for the Leafs this year.
7. Michael Neuvirth: Washington Capitals
Michael Neuvirth approached this year as the backup for Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov. Since then, he has stolen the job and impressed the entire league.
Neuvirth has posted a 12-3 record along with a 2.55 goals against average and a .914 save percentage. Those 12 wins currently lead the league in that department.
Neuvirth, 22, has played in 18 games so far this year, which already surpasses his total of 17 from last season.
6. Teemu Selanne: Anaheim Ducks
Apparently Teemu Selanne has discovered the secret of halting the aging process. At age 40, the right winger is showing no signs of slowing down, as most expected him to.
The "Finnish Flash" looks as he did in his prime. Thus far, he has posted eight goals and 14 assists in 22 games, operating at a point-per-game pace.
Selanne is playing in the final year of his contract, and while he could likely return next year and perform well, the general thought is that he will retire after this season. However, when has Selanne ever been one to listen to the general thought?
5. Kris Letang: Pittsburgh Penguins
Kris Letang is finally becoming the defenceman he was meant to be.
In his fourth season on the Penguins, Letang has stepped into a lead role with the club. The 23-year-old has posted three goals and 15 assists thus far, along with an impressive plus-nine. Those 18 points lead the league among defencemen.
Letang, as well as fellow defensemen Alex Goligoski, boasts a newfound confidence. Their improved play has led to more ice time.
4. Jeff Skinner: Carolina Hurricanes
In his rookie year, center Jeff Skinner has surprised the majority of the hockey world. After making the Hurricanes out of training camp, he has impressed everybody with his strong play and formidable skating.
The 18-year-old from Markham, Ontario has posted six goals and nine assists in 19 games. Those 15 points lead all NHL rookies, with Logan Couture the next-closest rookie, posting just 12 points. Skinner will absolutely get looked at for Rookie of the Year.
3. Carey Price: Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price has been subject to an enormous quantity of criticism of late. The controversial trade of playoff star, goaltender Jaroslav Halak, caused the city of Montreal to erupt with complaints. However, Price has shut them up...for the time being.
Price holds an impressive 11-6 record, with the 11 wins putting him in a tie for second in the league. His 2.11 goals against average and .928 save percentage are also admirable.
Many expected Price to fail with the departure of Halak, but it's apparent that he's done just the opposite. The battered goaltender has flourished so far, shining in the light of the Montreal media.
The fourth-year goaltender looks to keep up his strong play. If he doesn't, he will once again be the whipping boy of the Montreal Canadiens.
2. Sergei Bobrovsky: Philadelphia Flyers
Sergei Bobrovsky was signed from the KHL in the offseason to help with the Flyers goaltending problem.
However, that was all he was expected to do—help.
Unexpectedly, "Bob" has prospered with the starting role in Philadelphia. His 11-3 record, while excellent for any goaltender, is all the more remarkable for a rookie goaltender coming from Russia. He also owns a .925 save percentage and a 2.29 goals against average.
Bobrovsky is making a strong case for himself as an NHL goaltender, and will likely also be a candidate for Rookie of the Year.
1. Tim Thomas: Boston Bruins
I don't think there was a soul on the entire planet who predicted Thomas would bounce back like this.
At 36 years of age, Tim Thomas is an NHL star. It's incredible, especially considering he was the backup goalie of the Bruins when the season started.
Young goaltender Tuukka Rask was pretty much given the reins of the team last season and approached this year expecting to have the starting role. However, nobody accounted for a big return from Thomas. The aged goaltender nursed an injury for the majority of last year, which greatly affected his play.
Thomas has returned this year fully healthy, and he boasts the stats to prove it. He has posted 10 wins and one loss with a 9.59 save percentage. However, his most impressive stat is likely his 1.37 goals against average.
Thomas has essentially proved his critics wrong by showing up healthy, stealing the starting role and posting absolutely stellar numbers.
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