Top 10 players who can keep up their hot start to the 2016-17 NHL season

 

We’re almost a month into the campaign and by now you should be able to grasp who is the real deal and who isn’t. What players out there can keep up their hot start and who are just frauds is the most important question to ask yourselves at this time of year. Whose hot start can translate into long-term success this season? It’s easy to say Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid will keep up their pace. This column will look at the non-elite players (although number one is pretty close to becoming elite at this pace).

Most of these guys will obviously drop off somewhat. They are not all going to finish with 70-plus points. But there are encouraging signs why they can keep up their hot start for most of the season. Onto the list.

 

10. Mark Streit

It’s no secret that I was high on Streit going into this season. He was my choice for sleeper pick in the pre-season experts panel and number two on my picks players due for a bounceback season. He’s getting plenty of ice time. His 20:35 is third on the team and second among Flyers defensemen even though he’s mostly on the second power play unit. He’s on pace for 151 shots, which be the most for him since 2009-10. And he’s starting in the offensive zone 62 per cent of the time, which is much higher than last year’s 46.9 per cent and higher than any point in the last five years.

 

9. Mika Zibanejad

So far, the Rangers are winning the Zibanejad -Derek Brassard trade. Zibanejad has nine points in 13 games and is on pace for 57 points although he has just one point in his last five games. His overall time on ice doesn’t look that hot, but he is second on the Rangers with 2:56 power play minutes per game. He’s on pace for a career high in shots, even though his shooting percentage is almost half what it normally is. He’ll start to pop more goals once he gets back closer to his career shooting percentage average.

 

8. Mike Green

Green is having somewhat of a resurgence in Detroit this season with nine points in 13 games. That puts him on pace for 57 points. The last time Green broke 50 points was back in 2009-10 when Rob Blake was in his last NHL season. He’s the undisputable power play guy in Detroit this year. Last year Niklas Kronwall was the main power play quarterback. His overall time on ice is up four minutes over last year. More time on the ice = better chance to get points.

 

7. Richard Panik

Panik is easily this year’s most surprising player and is on pace for 69 points. His linemates are excellent as he is usually playing with Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane. His offensive zone starts is 60.6 per cent, a crazy high number when you think he is paired mostly with the defensive-minded Toews. And there’s no real competition to be replaced in a top-six role.

 

6. Damon Severson

Severson has been excellent for the low-scoring Devils so far this year with nine points in 10 games. Those nine points lead all New Jersey players. He’s finally the main guy on the power play. Last year felt like the Devils had a different power play quarterback every game. This year it’s been Severson and Yohann Auvitu. Severson’s overall ice time is up two minutes a game from a year ago.

 

5. Nick Foligno

The former 70-point player — it’s still a little weird to say that — has been great for the Blue Jackets to start the season with 12 points in 10 games. Foligno plays on the Blue Jackets top line with Brandon Saad and Alexander Wennberg and is on the top power play unit with Wennberg and Cam Atkinson.

 

4. Jakub Voracek

Voracek’s hot start is a bit of a surprise considering how bad he started last year when he had five points in his first 16 games. Most importantly is that while he’s not playing with Claude Giroux at even strength, he’s also not stuck playing on the fourth line with scrubs. He’s also on pace for 328 shots, which would be his career high by about 100. And his power play and overall ice time is the highest it’s been in the past five years.

 

3. Patric Hornqvist

Hornqvist is on pace for 27 goals and 68 points. So, it’s fair to say he could flirt with 30 goals and 70 points, the latter which would be a career high for him. Three reasons why: The reasons are obvious: He’s playing regularly with Sidney Crosby on the top line and on the second power play unit with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. Hornqvist is also shooting the puck a ton, and is on pace for 300-plus shots.

 

2. Zach Werenski

The Blue Jacket rookie has been much better than expected with 10 points in 10 games to start the season. He’s the top power play option for defensemen for Columbus and it’s not even close. Werenski has averaged 2:26 power play minutes per game. Seth Jones is the next highest defenseman at 1:25 and then Ryan Murray follows at 22 seconds per game. Werenski is also on pace for 213 shots. That would be only the second time since 1990 that a rookie dman took that many shots (Dion Phaneuf took 242 in 2005-06).

 

1. Nikita Kucherov

Kucherov seems as sure as a bet as anyone to hit the 70-point mark for the first time in his career. He’s already got 15 points in 10 games, which is 110-point pace. His power play time on ice is up. And he’s playing clicking with better linemates. Last year he played with a struggling Tyler Johnson. This year he’s been lineup more with Steven Stamkos