NHL’s greatest surprises early in 2022-23: Rising stars, disappointing begins, and what else didn’t we see coming?

October 29, 2022

As the primary month of the NHL’s 2022-23 calendar nears its finish, the Philadelphia Flyers are in first place within the Metropolitan Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning are tied for final within the Atlantic and Kyle Connor is eighth on the Winnipeg Jets in scoring.

Even the boldest of our predictions are being surpassed by the surprises of a season in motion.

What has been every group’s greatest shock thus far, for good, dangerous or ugly? The Athletic posed that query to the writers who know the groups greatest.

Right here’s what they stated.

John Klingberg’s lack of offensive influence: Probably the most notable of the free brokers signed by normal supervisor Pat Verbeek is enjoying quite a lot of minutes for Anaheim however having subsequent to no constructive influence within the early going. Klingberg was supposed so as to add additional oomph to a promising Geese energy play, and it has been lackluster and unproductive. He can nonetheless transfer the puck with one of the best of them, however he’s been surprisingly poor on his deal with, and turnovers have resulted. The Geese knew he could be no dynamo in his personal finish, however he’s anticipated to be so when he crosses the pink line. They weren’t relying on solely two assists and a minus-6 score within the first eight video games. — Eric Stephens

The vastly improved energy play: Even with out Nick Schmaltz, who performed solely 2:26 within the first recreation earlier than getting injured, the Coyotes’ energy play is buzzing alongside at a 27.6 p.c success fee, a major enchancment over final season’s Thirtieth-ranked PP, which managed solely a 13.9 p.c conversion fee. A giant a part of that has been the play of Shayne Gostisbehere, who leads the group in objectives (4), factors (eight) and PP factors (5) whereas gobbling up round 23 minutes of ice time per night time. Gostisbehere is on an expiring contract and goes to be intriguing trade-deadline bait for any contender needing a PP QB. — Eric Duhatschek

Nick Foligno’s resurgence: The Bruins positioned Foligno on waivers previous to the beginning of the season for cap functions. It has not affected him in any respect. The No. 4 left wing has three objectives and 4 factors in 9 video games whereas averaging 12:30 per look. He had simply two objectives in 64 video games all of final season and appeared like he might need hit the tip of the highway. Looking back, restricted offseason coaching, mixed with indirect, knee and head accidents, saved Foligno from performing to expectations. — Fluto Shinzawa

JJ Peterka’s seamless NHL adjustment: Peterka got here into the season with quite a lot of promise after an impressive season in Rochester, however his preseason was a bit uneven and expectations had been that he might have a while to regulate to the NHL recreation. As a substitute, he hit the bottom operating, with 4 factors in Buffalo’s first six video games. He has adjusted nicely to the tempo of the sport and has been one of many Sabres’ most constant forwards. That’s he’s doing so this shortly is a nice shock. — Matthew Fairburn

Nazem Kadri not lacking a beat: There wasn’t a lot cause to doubt that Kadri would achieve Calgary, no less than within the early years of the seven-year, $49 million contract he signed this offseason. However not many predicted he’d begin the season as one of many league’s hottest gamers. There’s the six-game factors streak, the three-point night time in opposition to the Penguins, the highlight-reel purpose within the Battle of Alberta whereas enjoying in hostile territory — and he’s doing this whereas enjoying alongside Andrew Mangiapane and Dillon Dube on a line that’s purported to be second fiddle. It has been an ideal match thus far. — Julian McKenzie and Hailey Salvian

Carolina Hurricanes

Jalen Chatfield’s dominance: Like I stated earlier this week, I ought to have identified higher than to wager in opposition to Chatfield. Whether or not paired with Calvin de Haan or Dylan Coghlan, he has been dominant. Heading into Friday’s residence recreation in opposition to the Islanders, the Hurricanes’ possession numbers with him on the ice had been simply shy of 70 p.c. His common of two.17 photographs per recreation (13 in six video games) was greater than Cale Makar (who’s performed greater than 183 minutes to Chatfield’s below 77 and will get tons of energy play time), and at five-on-five, no defenseman within the league was getting extra photographs per 60 minutes than Chatfield’s 10.85. — Cory Lavalette

Getting one thing for nothing in Jason Dickinson: Dickinson was, basically, acquired as a cap hit by the Blackhawks, who coaxed a second-round select of the Canucks with the intention to tackle his $2.65 million wage for this season and subsequent. However he has been a revelation, stepping in and posting a three-point recreation in his Blackhawks debut, 5 factors in his first 4 video games and serving to rework the penalty kill into an absolute wrecking crew, with 4 shorthanded objectives already. Can he maintain this up? Unlikely. However he’s gotten again to the all-around play he confirmed in Dallas and misplaced in Vancouver and has been an ideal match for Luke Richardson’s aggressive forechecking fashion. — Mark Lazerus

Alexandar Georgiev’s quick adjustment: Every of Colorado’s previous two beginning goaltenders — Philipp Grubauer and Darcy Kuemper — had an adjustment interval when first acquired. Georgiev, this previous offseason’s commerce acquisition, has appeared comfy from the beginning, particularly in a 44-save effort in opposition to the Rangers, his former group, on Tuesday. He has saved extra objectives than anticipated, in keeping with Evolving-Hockey, and has a .921 save proportion in 5 begins. It’s an encouraging signal for the Avalanche, who traded for Georgiev regardless of him not having expertise as a full-time starter. — Peter Baugh

Cole Sillinger shedding his momentum: It’s too early to deem this a sophomore hunch, however Sillinger’s second NHL season thus far has appeared nothing like his rookie season, when he scored 16 objectives. Sillinger lastly earned his first level of the season (an help) in Tuesday’s 6-3 loss to Arizona, and he has simply 15 photographs on purpose and 6 high-danger scoring probabilities within the Blue Jackets’ first 9 video games. With a greater begin, he might be enjoying on the highest line between Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine, however Boone Jenner (at season’s begin) and Jack Roslovic (as of Friday) have taken the spot. — Aaron Portzline

Ty Dellandrea’s versatility and influence: The Stars have a handful of candidates for this amongst their younger gamers, together with Nils Lundkvist and Wyatt Johnston. Nevertheless, by expectations-to-impact ratio, Dellandrea grades out the best. The Stars anticipated him to be an honest depth ahead, however as a substitute he’s been a participant who has helped drive manufacturing of no matter line he’s on, whether or not he was the appropriate winger for the second line with Mason Marchment and Tyler Seguin that received off to a sizzling begin or now serving to Johnston and Jamie Benn. As DeBoer stated of Dellandrea, “If we had two of him, we’d be alright.” Dellandrea has made a noticeable mark at even power and has been one of many high penalty-killing weapons within the NHL. — Saad Yousuf

Dominik Kubalik’s resurgence: Simply months after the Blackhawks opted to not make him a qualifying supply, Kubalik has opened the 2022-23 season on a tear. He had 10 factors in his first six video games, has already labored his manner onto the highest line and high power-play unit, and appears far more just like the participant who scored 30 objectives as a rookie than the one who struggled final season. He received’t keep this sizzling all 12 months, however he appears to be like like a legit contributor on a cut price contract. — Max Bultman

Stuart Skinner’s .957 save proportion: Skinner had simply 14 NHL appearances to his title heading into the season. That’s not loads, particularly because the Oilers are relying on him to make no less than 25 begins behind new No. 1 goalie Jack Campbell. Skinner has alleviated any issues thus far. He was excellent in reduction of Campbell in 2 1/2 durations in opposition to the Flames and was the largest cause the Oilers secured a highway win over the Blues. General, he has posted a .957 save proportion in three appearances this season. Certain, that’s unsustainably excessive, however the group has loved his early work. — Daniel Nugent-Bowman

Colin White, offensive dynamo: The Panthers signed White to a one-year, $1.2 average-annual-value deal after Ottawa purchased him out. Greatest-case state of affairs gave the impression to be that he’d rebound so as to add bottom-six defensive worth after a fully brutal finish to his time with the Sens. He’s been higher than that thus far, although, placing up seven factors in eight video games. Extra importantly, he’s meshing with Anton Lundell and exhibiting sufficient below the hood (63.6 p.c anticipated objectives fee) to counsel that he may stick with it. — Sean Gentille

Gabriel Vilardi’s scoring: Even when he lately downplayed a query in regards to the confidence he has now, the 23-year-old is enjoying with a ton of it after struggling to search out sufficient consistency to stick with the Kings full-time beforehand. Vilardi leads L.A. with six objectives and 10 factors at the same time as he has performed between the second and third traces. Coach Todd McLellan rewarded him Thursday with a third-period transfer to the highest line with Anze Kopitar and Adrian Kempe. It will not be everlasting, but it surely’s an indication of how a lot Vilardi has grown in a short while. Freed of the heavy accountability of enjoying heart, the 6-foot-3 ahead is utilizing his dimension to hog the puck within the offensive finish and his tender palms to make performs and be a finisher on the internet. — Eric Stephens

The ability play’s turnaround: Particular-teams play was an enormous a part of the Wild’s demise final season, notably the ability play after they wanted an enormous purpose within the first spherical in opposition to the Blues. Fixing that was a focus this previous offseason, and right here we’re, seven video games in, and the Wild’s energy play is clicking at 31 p.c, good for third within the NHL. Mats Zuccarello leads the league with eight power-play factors, and Kirill Kaprizov has chipped in six. — Michael Russo

The emergence of Arber Xhekaj: Xhekaj, 21, was not drafted and didn’t play within the OHL in 2020-21, however he managed to get invited to Canadiens coaching camp and signed an entry-level contract by the tip of it within the fall of 2021. A 12 months later, the rugged defenseman earned a spot on the Canadiens’ blue line earlier than enjoying a single minute of professional hockey at any degree. Xhekaj is assured and fearless (he shook Zack Kassian like a ragdoll throughout a battle) and has superb mobility and attention-grabbing offensive abilities. There’s a probability he’s despatched right down to the AHL in some unspecified time in the future, however he’s undoubtedly the speak of the city in Montreal. — Marc Antoine Godin

Nashville Predators

A moribund energy play: Granted, the Preds did get a much-needed purpose with the person benefit in a much-needed win over St. Louis on Thursday, however that elevated their celebrated energy play to twenty seventh within the league (9.7 p.c). This after the identical group with the identical method completed sixth final season at a sturdy 24.4 p.c. Typically the puck simply doesn’t go in for a stretch, however the Preds’ first unit has been far too discombobulated. And that ties immediately right into a collective gradual begin for this group’s high-priced gamers. — Joe Rexrode

How dominant they’ve been at five-on-five: Indicators pointed to New Jersey being group at even power after they made progress in entrance of the web final season and made a couple of key additions over the summer season … however to not this diploma. After Friday’s 1-0 win over the defending champion Avalanche, the Devils lead the league with a pleasant 67.8 p.c expected-goals fee at five-on-five, in keeping with Evolving-Hockey, proof of their efforts on each ends of the ice. Provides like John Marino have solidified the again finish, whereas the foundational gamers are main the way in which up entrance. The outcomes ought to come so long as the saves are there, and the Devils may turn out to be a drive if this retains up. — Shayna Goldman

New York Islanders

Lack of scoring from their facilities: We knew that the Islanders might need bother scoring, however after Friday’s two-goal recreation from heart Brock Nelson, they now have solely that many on the season from facilities. Nelson was the group’s main goal-scorer final season, with 37, and it was particularly regarding to see him not getting a ton of probabilities early. Mathew Barzal is extra of a playmaker than a goal-scorer, but it surely’s nonetheless stunning that he’s nonetheless on zero himself after signing an enormous extension. On a extra constructive observe, the Islanders have seven objectives from defensemen of their first eight video games. However they’re going to wish extra from the blokes up entrance. Perhaps Nelson’s two-goal night time can get the momentum going. — Kevin Kurz

New York Rangers

Igor Shesterkin being human: Final season’s Vezina Trophy winner and Hart Trophy finalist is sporting a really extraordinary .916 save proportion by way of 5 begins and made a puckhandling mistake that led to an Avalanche purpose Tuesday. Now, .916 continues to be nicely above the league common thus far, however the Rangers’ offense has been sputtering, so that they want Shesterkin to put on the cape once more. He hasn’t executed it but. — Arthur Staple

Shane Pinto’s goal-scoring: Should you requested Senators followers earlier than the season to foretell the group’s main goal-scorer close to the tip of October, you’d most likely have seen quite a lot of votes for Alex DeBrincat, Tim Stützle, Josh Norris, Brady Tkachuk, Drake Batherson — however no one was considering Pinto would emerge right into a dynamic goal-scorer this shortly. There was a lot emphasis on Ottawa’s newly improved high six that lots of people forgot about Pinto on the third line. However the rookie has made positive to remain within the highlight, with a scorching begin that has included a rookie franchise-record goal-scoring streak. Now, with Norris sidelined for an prolonged time frame, there’s a good probability Pinto can tackle a fair greater position. His stunning begin has actually lifted him into the early Calder Trophy dialog. — Ian Mendes

Philadelphia Flyers

Their 5-2-0 report: I don’t assume anybody anticipated the Flyers to win 5 out of their first seven video games, particularly provided that high gamers Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson have mixed for zero video games performed. Is it sustainable? In all probability not. The Flyers rank close to the underside of each five-on-five superior metric and have been carried by Carter Hart’s sterling play (.947 save proportion, undefeated in 5 begins). However whatever the course of, it’s nonetheless a shock to have a look at the Metropolitan Division standings with October coming to an in depth and see the Flyers on the high. — Charlie O’Connor

Pittsburgh Penguins

Danton Heinen’s showcase: Danton Heinen scored 18 objectives final season, so it’s not a shock he’s potted three already in 2022-23. However how he’s gone about it’s a nice improvement for the Penguins. Heinen has supplanted an injured Jake Guentzel on the highest line and has not appeared misplaced. He’s received puck battles together with his talent and has taken benefit of alternatives created by Sidney Crosby. The Penguins could be in bother with out him. — Rob Rossi

Nico Sturm and Evgeny Svechnikov incomes greater roles: Sturm was a comparatively under-the-radar free-agent addition, and Svechnikov got here aboard simply earlier than coaching camp began. They started the 12 months collectively on the fourth line however have been promoted to third-unit obligation largely as a result of they’ve been the best offensive duo on the membership. Sturm is tied for the group lead with 4 objectives, whereas Svechnikov has two objectives and 4 factors. The one ahead on the group with extra factors is Logan Couture after his three-point night time in opposition to Toronto. — Corey Masisak

How nicely they’re scoring by committee: Clearly the Kraken wanted saves final season, however scoring help was lacking as nicely. That’s what administration sought to repair over the summer season with additions like Andre Burakovsky and Oliver Bjorkstrand, together with an infusion of youth in Matty Beniers full-time and Shane Wright seeing his first motion. Nonetheless, even with these adjustments, the star-power issue was lacking. However thus far, Seattle’s offense has been better than the sum of its components. A couple of days again, @NHLtoSeattle measured that the Kraken lead the league in distinctive goalscorers, and that’s been key to their begin. — Shayna Goldman

St. Louis Blues

Jordan Kyrou’s gradual begin: The Blues had sufficient confidence in Jordan Kyrou’s future that they signed him to an eight-year, $65 million contract in September. As they’d be with any younger participant, the Blues are centered on the massive image with the 24-year-old and that appears brilliant based mostly on his 27-goal, 75-point season in 2021-22. That stated, Kyrou’s gradual begin this 12 months must be regarding. By means of six video games, he has only one level — a purpose in Sport 2. By means of six video games final season, he had two objectives and eight factors. — Jeremy Rutherford

Tampa Bay Lightning

Nick Perbix filling a necessity on protection: The Lightning blue line entered the season in flux after the commerce of Ryan McDonagh, departure of Jan Rutta and harm to Zach Bogosian. It meant a urgent want for replacements. We didn’t assume certainly one of them could be Nick Perbix, a 2017 sixth-rounder who has appeared sturdy in simply his first handful of NHL video games. There’s been a dropoff in Tampa Bay’s penalty kill and protection general, but it surely’s encouraging Perbix is exhibiting he’s an possibility on the appropriate aspect. — Joe Smith

Toronto Maple Leafs

Ilya Samsonov’s stable begin: The largest shock, usually, is the team-wide scuffling out of the gate. Probably the most nice shock, then again, must be Samsonov. He has received 4 of his first 5 begins and posted a .932 save proportion. His play has been all of the extra necessary with Matt Murray sidelined by harm. Can Samsonov stick with it? That’s the massive query. — Jonas Siegel

Vancouver Canucks

Blown third-period leads: Vancouver set an NHL report by opening the season with blown multiple-goal leads in 4 consecutive losses. At a micro degree, the penalty kill has been a catastrophe. J.T. Miller’s five-on-five influence each defensively and offensively has been sorely missing, and Thatcher Demko hasn’t appeared like his often sturdy self. — Harman Dayal

The stable goaltending with out Robin Lehner: On the shoulders of Logan Thompson and Adin Hill, the Golden Knights have the NHL’s second-highest group save proportion at .940. There have been main query marks within the crease for Vegas this season after Lehner underwent double hip surgical procedure, however these two unproven netminders have risen to the event up to now, with Thompson’s 29-save shutout Friday the most recent showcase. The Golden Knights’ group protection deserves a ton of credit score, too, protecting groups to the skin and making the goalie’s lives simpler, however Thompson and Hill have made key saves in massive moments and have but to permit a single tender purpose. — Jesse Granger

Backup goalie Charlie Lindgren’s sturdy play: A full-time NHLer for the primary time, Lindgren has shined in each of his begins together with his new group: a 36-save defeat in Toronto and a 38-save victory in New Jersey. He boasts a .925 save proportion and, per Sportlogiq’s analytics, has saved 0.67 objectives above anticipated. Lindgren has additionally endeared himself to the room and employees together with his effervescent character and tireless follow habits. Though he isn’t anticipated to problem undisputed No. 1 Darcy Kuemper and two begins is a small pattern dimension, the Caps have each cause to really feel assured about their determination to ink the 28-year-old to a three-year, $3.3 million contract this summer season. — Tarik El-Bashir

Winnipeg Jets

Kyle Connor being eighth in group scoring: Connor is coming off a 47-goal, 93-point season that set Winnipeg Jets 2.0 information, and he stays a top-line drive who troubles goaltenders each time he shoots. This season, he leads the Jets in photographs and anticipated objectives and has been skating in addition to ever. But he has only one purpose and 4 factors within the first eight video games, touchdown him eighth in group scoring. It’s too early to sound the alarm, but it surely’s every kind of unusual to have a look at the Jets scoring leaders and see Connor behind seven gamers, together with two defencemen and shutdown heart Adam Lowry. — Murat Ates

(High picture of Ilya Samsonov: John E. Sokolowski / USA Immediately)

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