The 2011-2012 NHL season is a little over a quarter of the way through, and so far the season has been full of suprises and nothing short of exciting. Here are a few stories that have taken this young season by surprise, and some things to watch the remainder of the season.
The Florida Panthers are looking like a team that intends to play in the playoffs. At 16-9-5 with 37 points, they have surprised the Southeast Division and have grabbed the division lead. They have done this by getting solid play out of Kris Versteeg, Tomas Fleishmann, and Goaltender Jose Theodore. Not to mention, some key veteran leadership from Ed Jovanovski. GM Dale Tallon looks to have built a team that will contend for a playoff spot and beyond. Definitely a team to keep an eye on throughout the remainder of the seasom.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, who sit in 6th place in the Eastern Conference have looked like the pieces are finally coming together for a team that hasn’t seen the postseason since 2003-04 season. Led by elite play maker Phil Kessel with 17 Goals, and 35 points, and the secondary scoring from Joffrey Lupul (13 goals, 20 helpers) the Buds seem to have a team that can punch there ticket for the post season. GM Brian Burke has once again put together a tough, physical, fast team that has been fun to watch.
The player that I have been most excited to watch is Edmonton Oiler rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. He has proven why he was selected first in last years NHL entry Draft with putting together a solid rookie campaign of 13 Goals and 19 helpers. His vision on the ice has drawn comparisons to Joe Sakic and even “The Great One” Wayne Gretzky. Comparisons aside this kid has become the odds on favorite for the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie, and appears to be on the verge of becoming one of hockey’s elites. What makes the story even better, is the fact that Edmonton has created a great atmosphere for its young players to play, and in return these players have began to turn the tides for its organization. Edmonton sits at 11th in the Western
Conference and looks like they can battle for a playoff run.
These are just a few of the stories that have grabbed my attention in this young 2011-2012 NHL season. No doubt the season will bring more excitement as the league has more parity with teams battling for playoff spots night in night out, so early on in the season.
Here are a couple predictions for the next few weeks:
- The coaching carousal will continue as L.A. Kings coach Terry Murray will be fired.
- Jonathon Toews will continue his torrid point streak, and become the favorite for the Hart trophy, given to the NHL’s best player. His rise will be helped by the stellar play of new father Patrick Sharp.
Be sure to look back in the next few weeks to see how my predictions have held up and also for more NHL coverage.