Buying or Selling Hot NHL Starts to the 2015-16 Season

Steve Macfarlane@@MacfarlaneHKYFeatured ColumnistOctober 22, 2015

Buying or Selling Hot NHL Starts to the 2015-16 Season

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    The Usual Suspects.

    If you haven't seen the movie, it's a spectacular crime drama full of twists and turns. If you've seen the early list of NHL scoring leaders, you'll notice the same title doesn't necessarily apply through two weeks of action.

    Jamie Benn, last year's scoring champion, is near the top again. So is his partner in crime, Tyler Seguin. Other familiar names include John Tavares and Vladimir Tarasenko. But there are plenty of others you may not expect to see leading the points-per-game race.

    The following slides focus on some of the hot starts you may not have expected and offer thoughts on whether they will continue.

    We'll leave out some of the highly touted rookies lighting it up early and assume none of them are quite set to become the first 100-point freshmen since Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby in 2006.

    What you'll see are names of players you may have thought were past their prime or clicking at a pace well above their career averages. There are those who are in new roles, with new teams or even in a new league.

    Click ahead to see whose hot starts we're buying and selling for the 2015-16 season.

     

    Stats are courtesy of NHL.com unless otherwise noted.

Martin Jones

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    The numbers: Martin Jones has looked the part as the San Jose Sharks' starting goaltender after serving as Jonathan Quick's backup for two seasons. The 25-year-old has a 4-1 record, a pair of shutouts, the sixth-best save percentage, at .957, and eighth-best goals-against average, at 1.18.

    The verdict: Buying

    The bottom line: Jones is following the path blazed by former Kings backups Jonathan Bernier and Ben Scrivens but so far looks poised to far exceed their success as starters. He had his worst game in a 4-0 loss to the New York Rangers but wasn't at fault for the goals conceded in that one.

Mike Smith

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    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    The numbers: The Arizona Coyotes are 3-2-1 and one of the most exciting teams to watch in the early season thanks to some young players showing no fear and the apparent rejuvenation of 33-year-old starting goaltender Mike Smith. He leads the league with 178 saves and has a .932 save percentage, which is much higher than his career average.

    The verdict: Selling

    The bottom line: Smith turned a career year in 2012 into a massive contract with the Arizona Coyotes. He hasn't lived up to the six-year, $34-million deal, and there's little reason to believe he will in the third year of his extension. After winning three consecutive games while allowing just a pair of goals to start the year, he's made three more appearances with a sub-.900 save percentage in each, conceding 11 goals.

Jaromir Jagr

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    Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

    The numbers: Jaromir Jagr is among the top 10 in goal scoring, top 12 in points and looks to have recaptured some of his youthful exuberance to start a season in which he has promised to bring the old mullet hairstyle back. His point-per-game pace is a throwback to his pre-KHL days in the NHL.

    The verdict: Buying

    The bottom line: It's been 25 years since Jagr scored his first NHL goal, and he's still going strong. Sure, there have been some down moments in between, but in every situation in which he's being used regularly and relied upon for scoring, he's come through. Bringing along his young linemates in Florida is a perfect situation for the 43-year-old.

Henrik Zetterberg

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The numbers: The Detroit Red Wings captain, Henrik Zetterberg, has rebounded nicely to his dip in production last season and has two goals and nine points through his first six games to set himself up as one of the league's top producers over the first two weeks. He has at least a point in every game so far.

    The verdict: Selling

    The bottom line: It's not that Zetterberg lacks elite skill, it's just that the 35-year-old's body hasn't been able to hold up in the past couple of years, and at his age, it's safer to bank on the wear and tear ultimately taking its toll.

Artemi Panarin

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    Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

    The numbers: Artemi Panarin is lighting it up in his NHL debut, putting up seven points through his first six games with a pair of goals and five assists for the Chicago Blackhawks.

    The verdict: Buying

    The bottom line: Panarin was a hot commodity as a free agent from the KHL, and he has fit in perfectly alongside the similarly small and skilled Patrick Kane on the Blackhawks' second line. Unless he's hurt or taken off that line, Panarin should enjoy the kind of success he has so far all season. He's a candidate for the Calder Trophy as the league's best rookie.

David Krejci

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    The numbers: David Krejci has four goals and 11 points through the first six games of his season, including five on the power play and another into an empty net. He was atop the league scoring after Wednesday's games.

    The verdict: Selling

    The bottom line: Krejci has never been a point-per-game player in a decade of NHL hockey and the quality of his linemates is arguably the lowest it ever has been. The fact his numbers are so buoyed by the power play and that his usual second-line cohorts, Matt Beleskey and David Pastrnak, have a total of five points between them doesn't bode well for the future of his five-on-five contributions, either. He's still a great player, but don't count on him setting personal bests.

Kyle Turris

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    Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

    The numbers: Kyle Turris has four goals and four assists in his first six games of the season, placing him in the top seven in NHL scoring after Tuesday's games. He's had four multi-point games so far this term.

    The verdict: Buying

    The bottom line: The 26-year-old has been on a steady rise since joining the Ottawa Senators in a trade with the Coyotes early in the 2011-12 season. He amassed a career-high 64 points last season—his second straight campaign with at least 20 goals—and it shouldn't surprise anyone if he eclipses the 70-point mark this time around. He has great chemistry with young linemates Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman.

Martin Hanzal

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    Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    The numbers: Martin Hanzal has eight points—all assists—in six games for the Arizona Coyotes so far. It's a different look for Hanzal, who has always been a bit more of a shooter than setup guy.

    The verdict: Selling

    The bottom line: Hanzal's success is going to mirror that enjoyed by his team, and you shouldn't expect the Coyotes to be pushing for a playoff spot by the time April rolls around. Working with rookies Anthony Duclair and Max Domi has led to the hot start, but they could go through some struggles as young players as well.

Blake Wheeler

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    Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

    The numbers: Right up there with John Tavares, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin is the Winnipeg Jets' Blake Wheeler. The 29-year-old, who has always been a bit under the radar because of where he played, has three goals and eight points through his first six games—at least a point in each one so far.

    The verdict: Buying

    The bottom line: Wheeler has been a force for the Jets for years, collecting at least 60 points in all three of his full seasons in Winnipeg. But during the lockout-shortened campaign in 2013, Wheeler blasted past his usual averages with 19 goals and 45 points in 48 games. That would prorate to 32 goals and 77 points. There's no reason to believe he's not capable of doing the same this year if he stays healthy.

Ales Hemsky

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    The numbers: Ales Hemsky is on a point-per-game clip for the Dallas Stars with a goal and five assists through six games. Impressively, he's doing it without the benefit of much time with Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin, or Jamie Benn.

    The verdict: Selling

    The bottom line: Hemsky is talented and has found chemistry with rookie Swede Mattias Janmark, but two things are working against the 32-year-old sustaining his early pace. One is the injury factor: Hemsky has never played all 82 games in a season and is coming off hip surgery. He's also playing less than 14 minutes per game and is part of a power-play unit that rarely sees the ice.

John Carlson

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    Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

    The numbers: John Carlson is right behind the NHL's top-scoring defenseman Erik Karlsson. Carlson has a pair of goals, including a game-winner, and six points in five games.

    The verdict: Buying

    The bottom line: Carlson had 55 points in a breakthrough season last year, and with the departure of Mike Green, he should have even more of an opportunity on the power play. His man-advantage minutes are up almost two minutes per game from last season, and he has half of his points this year on the power play.

Francois Beauchemin

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    Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

    The numbers: The Colorado Avalanche acquired free agent Francois Beauchemin to shore up a porous defense. Instead, he has added offensive support with five points—all assists—through his first six games.

    The verdict: Selling

    The bottom line: Beauchemin has never been a major offensive weapon, cracking the 30-point plateau only once in his decade-long career. Although he started quickly with multi-point efforts in his first two outings with his new club, signs of Beauchemin falling back to his averages are already there. He's been held without a point in four straight games and has a minus-three rating in that span.

James Neal

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

    The numbers: James Neal is second in the NHL with five goals and has seven points through six games. He's also got a deciding shootout goal to his credit. He's done all his damage in his last three games and is showing signs of his sniping self.

    The verdict: Buying

    The bottom line: Neal went from elite-scorer status in Pittsburgh while playing with stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to the big name in his new city of Nashville. It didn't go overly well. Neal scored 23 goals but just 37 points in 67 games. He started with no points in his first three games this year, but his three-game explosion bodes well for his confidence in Year 2 with the Preds.

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