Every season we witness players who exceed expectations. Whether it's youngsters coming into their own sooner than anticipated, veterans getting their second – or even third – winds, or just those faring better than was predicted. Here's what else we know – the list of players who fall into these categories as of now will be a lot longer than the same list by the time we reach game 82 of the season. The question is who's for real versus who's just stormed out of the gates. The answer is…..you tell us!
What you're voting on is which players will finish 2021-22 with numbers as good or even better than their rates as of now. The extent to which a player is exceeding expectations is not the relevant factor, only whether he can remain at – or even improve upon – his current pace(s). I purposely said pace(s), as for purposes of this poll it doesn't matter if a player misses time due to injury. If a forward's current 82 game scoring pace is 88 points, you should vote for him if you believe he'll finish the season with 88+ points in 82 games or an 88+ point pace in fewer games. This also explains why some players are not listed as voting choices, since I wanted to pick those who not only were exceeding expectations but who I also thought had the most realistic chances of keeping up – or even improving upon – their current pace(s), versus those where it seems, due to their track record and/or metrics, all but assured that they'll come back to earth at least to some extent.
Note also I deliberately said current pace(s), not specifically scoring pace. The reason why is I wanted to do something I've rarely been able to do, which is have a poll where both goalies and skaters are included. For skaters the relevant guidepost is indeed their scoring pace, while for goalies it's their GAA as well as their SV%.
What follows is an alphabetical list of 20 players, with their relevant pace(s) through November 27th games. You should vote for any and all of those who you believe will maintain – or even exceed – these pace(s), meaning you should vote for zero if you think none will do so, all 20 if you think each and every player will do so, or some number in between based on those you believe will do so. The link to cast your vote(s) is at the end of the column.
Drake Batherson (Scoring pace = 88 points)
When I profiled him in a Goldipucks piece in the spring, I said there were great things in store. But even I didn't expect him to be this good this soon. His ice time, SOG Rate, and percentage of man advantage minutes all are in keeping with his strong start and his combined IPPs are a tick below what they were last season, so what we're witnessing should be sustainable and perhaps just the tip of the iceberg for a budding star.
Tyler Bertuzzi (Scoring pace = 78 points)
His output has been strong; however, how he's achieved it has been rather unusual, as 12 of his points came in just four games, meaning in the other contests he's been not even mediocre. Still, consistency is something that can come, whereas explosiveness has to be more innate. Chances are he should be able to maintain this pace, especially given his great deployment.
Oliver Bjorkstrand (Scoring pace = 82 points)
Arguably the lone shining l