We’re less than a quarter of the way into the NHL season, but a number of teams, including the New Jersey Devils, have already separated themselves from the rest of the pack. In his latest for British Ice Hockey, reporter Luke James shares his insight on a hectic start to the campaign on the other side of the pond.
Erik Karlsson winds back the clock with the San Jose Sharks
It’s been a while since Erik Karlsson was considered one of the sport’s top offensive defencemen. After his trade from the Ottawa Senators to the San Jose Sharks, his influence slowly declined to the extent that his $11.5 million cap hit was viewed as an albatross contract.
But not now. Karlsson’s play this season has been spectacular: he leads NHL blueliners in points (28), goals (11), and assists (17). He is also tied for second in the league-wide points race, just four back from Connor McDavid for the overall lead.
While the Sharks remain outside the playoff picture, their 32-year-old alternate captain has played his way back into trade talk and onto the radar of San Jose general manager Mike Grier.
“To me, he’s probably one of the three best offensive defensemen in the League, and he’s been great for us. He’s done everything we’ve asked as far as preparation, practicing, playing,” explained the 47-year-old.
“So, maybe there’s a scenario where a team comes asking for him [in a trade], because I do think he’s a difference-maker. He’s someone who can go out there and win you a game – or win you a series, for that matter – so maybe something will come up down the road. We’ll see.”
Karlsson is a must-watch player this season, despite San Jose’s lowly position in the standings.
New Jersey Devils assert status as contenders
Sheldon Keefe was full of praise for the Devils after they beat his Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday [17 November].
“They’re deep, they’re fast, they’re skilled. They’re long on defence,” Keefe said of the Devils. “And they’re getting good goaltending. If you look at the way their lines are set up now, their top four scorers at 5-on-5 are on four different lines. Miles Wood leads the team in 5-on-5 goals and he’s playing on their fourth line. So, they have a lot of big things happening offensively.”
Keefe has a point. Since their rocky start to the season, the Devils have won eleven in a row and sit top of the Metropolitan Division, thanks – at least in part – to solid performances from netminder Vitek Vanecek.
— dom 🕰️ (@domluszczyszyn) November 18, 2022
However, there is much more to the Devils’ success than saves and bottom-six production: their stars have been exceptional. Nico Hischier, Jack Hughes, and Dougie Hamilton have developed chemistry off the bat, with their speed and puck-moving ability helping New Jersey rise into the playoff fight.
On Saturday [19 November], the Devils face the Ottawa Senators at 18:00 on ViaPlay. It’ll be must-watch hockey. Don’t miss it.
Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid is still the world’s best player
While it was Auston Matthews who won the Hart Trophy last season, Connor McDavid remains the world’s best player. He is off to an incredible start for the Edmonton Oilers, with his tally on the season already up to 32 points (15 goals, 17 assists).
“I don’t think anyone should compare themselves to him,” Vegas Golden Knights forward Jack Eichel said of McDavid. “I think with what he’s doing, and the way that he plays, he’s just on a level of his own. I don’t try to compare myself to anyone. I just try to be the best version of me.”
McDavid’s relationship with Leon Draisaitl is another important topic of discussion. In preseason, they told reporters that they have their eyes firmly set on the Stanley Cup.
“I think our time is now,” said the German of Edmonton’s championship credentials. “… On the ice, our games just mesh so well. I like to slow the game down and he’s flying through the middle. We obviously have a certain skill level that we’re fortunate to have that we can make these little plays, we can find each other. He knows what I want to do and I know what he wants to do. Put that together and you get a decent package.”
While the Oilers have plenty of work to do in the Western Conference, McDavid continues to lead the way with his individual exploits.
How many wins will the Devils reach this season? Join the conversation by tweeting @BritIceHockey.