We’ve talked about the rules of hockey, why NHL games are so fun, and a few teams to watch this season, but which NHL players should you keep an eye on? Here are a few NHL stars, both veterans and rookies, who you should watch this 2018-2019 season.
Erik Karlsson – San Jose Sharks
This former captain and nine-year veteran of the Ottawa Senators is now with the Sharks trying to prove his worth as a star defenseman and get a fresh start. Though it hasn’t been a perfect transition, it’s fun to watch Karlsson play on a team that’s filled with talent. At just 26 years old, he scored 82 points (that’s 16 goals, 66 assists) during the 2017-2018 season, which averages out to a point per game. This’s a feat for any forward, but doing it on defense is relatively astounding. It’s no surprise he led all other NHL defenseman in goals… for the third straight season. And knock on wood, Karlsson also seems to stay healthy – he hasn’t missed a game in three seasons either. Pairing him up with defensemen like Marc-Édouard Vlasic, Brent Burns, and Joakim Ryan as well as the Sharks’ depth of forwards like Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, Tomas Hertl, and Evander Kane makes for some fun offensive explosiveness.
Alex Ovechkin – Washington Capitals
We can’t leave the GOAT off the list, especially with his flair for the dramatic. Possibly the best scorer in all of the NHL (in his generation, at least), Ovechkin has knocked in 50 goals in a single season seven times now – no big deal. The Russian left wing is one of the Capitals’ biggest offensive weapons and a fan favorite. If he can stay healthy, even at the age of 33, it’s very likely that he’ll reach the top of the NHL in scoring again. With center Nicklas Backstrom out with an injury and the Caps still winning, Ovechkin’s role is even more important. There’s no reason not to keep an eye on Ovi this year.
Patrick Kane – Chicago Blackhawks
According to Blackhawks right winger Patrick Kane, he feels better than ever at age 30 (he just had a big birthday). Not only that, he’s still loving the game and finding ways to improve. The three-time Stanley cup winner is currently on pace to score 49 goals and 101 points this season, a career high and certainly nothing to sneeze at. While the Blackhawks might be in a rocky place right now with the firing of long-time coach Joel Quenneville, Kane is stronger than ever. Tied at 6th in the NHL for goals and points, Kane is consistent and impressive… even when his team isn’t. Even though the Blackhawks recently lost eight games in a row, Kane maintains his positivity, saying, “We can turn this around. It never looks good for your chances if you lose eight in a row, but we had a nine-gamer once under Joel and made the playoffs. You have to take it game by game. It’s still early.”
Rasmus Dahlin – Buffalo Sabres
As a first-overall pick, this rookie has some big expectations to meet. But the Swede is already taking to the game well and impressing head coach Phil Housley with his timing and ability to beat guys and move the puck up the ice quickly. And he can score too. Rumor has it, Dahlin could potentially be one of those rare defensemen who wins the Calder, an award given to the best NHL player in his first year. Dahlin was a longtime prospect and legend heading into the league, playing on Sweden’s team during the 2018 Winter Olympics. He began scoring for the Sabres in the preseason and hasn’t stopped, continuing to live up to the hype by generating offense and throwing up stats that suggest he should get even more playing time. The 18-year-old has improved his team’s (previously horrible) defense and leads the defensemen in scoring. He’s a great passer as well as a mature and positive addition to the locker room. Keep watching this guy!
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With the Leafs scoring only one goal in their last two games, Tavares looks to ignite the offense tonight in #Winnipeg! In other news, the #NewYorkIslanders have moved the game featuring the return of Tavares from the #BarclaysCenter to #NassauColiseum. #Isles #Toronto #TML #MapleLeafs #TorontoMapleLeafs #Leafs #6ix #TheSix #NHL #Hockey #Sports #LeafsNation #GoLeafsGo #JohnTavares #Tavares #WeTheNorth #Canada #GoLeafs #TMLTalk
John Tavares – Toronto Maple Leafs
Another very hyped-up player, Tavares just signed a 7-year $77 million deal with the Maple Leafs. Teams have been looking at this guy since he was 14 years old. After nine seasons with the Islanders – during which he never scored fewer than 24 goals in a season (and snagged 40 or more assists during four different seasons) – the Maple Leafs finally got him. The team was young and weak on defense but Tavares turned down larger offers to join his beloved childhood team. So far the transition has been relatively seamless. According to coaches, the versatile Tavares makes everyone around him better. He plays both ends of the rink, wins battles, and plays shrewdly and consistently. He’s shown up and proven himself to be a leader, carrying the team when they need him to. He’s making quite the difference in Toronto and it looks like he’s worth the investment!