I hate missing guys. I'm not talking about the guys who, after a few years you write off and then they explode from out of nowhere (right, Dustin Penner?). Those guys are players who – at one time or another – I have already formed an idea in my head where their potential is at. Even if I have since changed my mind, like with Penner, I can always change it back.
No, it's the players who I didn't see coming in the first place that get to me. The examples that come to mind are Milan Hejduk (I was so blinded by Chris Drury's impending arrival that I didn't think much of Hejduk's upside), Patrice Bergeron (was off my radar when he came to camp as an 18-year-old) and Mike Richards. I knew Richards was coming and I knew he would be good – but only 70-point good. Now we have another one. Colorado forward Ryan O'Reilly.
One thing I've learned is not to be so skeptical early on and learn to embrace the trend. With Hejduk, I wrote off his second season of 72 points as a fluke, but grudgingly admitted he would be a 65 or 70-point player. After 79 the next season, I still felt he overachieved. Two years later he had 98 points. With Richards I was a little better – I bought in about 10 games into last season, after he already had a 75-point year under his belt.
With O'Reilly, I had him pegged a third-line checker who would fit in nicely behind Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny. He could potentially do what Michal Handzus did for the Flyers and produce about 55 points a season. While his two-way skills (and 200-pound frame) saw to it that he cracked a desperate Colorado lineup as an 18-year-old, his production has been off the charts. Nine points in his last seven games and he is a plus-10 in that span. Only five players in the entire league have more points than he does in the last 14 days. He is tied for the rookie points lead (see below for rookie standings).
While it seems as though O'Reilly is well on his way to being a Calder contender and flirt with 65 or 70 points, the season is far too early for that talk. The wind will come out of Colorado's sails eventually and when that happens, O'Reilly will come down to Earth. I don't think he'll make it to 55 in 2009-10, but one thing that has come of this is that I won't downplay his long-term upside. He may still be what I've always pegged him at, but I won't be ruling out 85 points at some time in his career. Lesson learned.
Michael Grabner seems to have adjusted to the pro life and it's showing at the NHL level. With Daniel Sedin on the shelf, Grabner has been recalled and he has four points in five contests. Now the news that Kyle W