Three Stars from second night of the 2020-21 NHL season
1. Connor McDavid / Leon Draisaitl
Could we see McDavid and Draisaitl finish first and second in NHL scoring for another season? That’s a tall task, but after Wednesday, it feels dangerous to doubt them.
As this post notes, calling anyone but Connor McDavid the best player in the NHL might be dangerous. It kinda felt like McDavid scoring the first hat trick of the season (and adding an assist) was a bit of statement, wasn’t it? That McDavid pulled off that hat trick with such style only made it better.
Of course, Draisaitl wasn’t a slouch, either. The reigning Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner collected four assists as the Oilers avenged their season-opening loss to the Canucks. Considering all of the action on the second night of the 2020-21 NHL season, it feels fair to bottle up McDavid and Draisaitl as 1A/1B and include some other highlights from the night. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins deserves a mention, too, with a three-point game. RNH could really drive up his earning potential if he sticks with at least one of McDavid or Draisaitl for most of this 56-game season.
(Check out more on Connor McDavid’s hat trick + assist here.)
2. Patrik Laine
Narrowing things down after McDavid – Draisaitl isn’t easy. With the steak being comparable at the top of the heap, let’s let the sizzle stand as the tiebreakers.
Heading into the 2020-21 NHL season, there was no shortage of drama between Patrik Laine and the Jets. He got pretty snippy when asked about his future. If it weren’t for even more public drama between the Blue Jackets and Pierre-Luc Dubois,* we’d probably be inundated with even more Laine – Jets talk.
Laine hasn’t always been able to walk the walk, but he soared on Thursday. Starting with a nice first goal of the season, and ending with nifty overtime game-winner, Laine generated three points (2G, 1A). Maybe the 22-year-old can prove that his ceiling is higher than it looked in recent, slower years?
* – Was there something in the water in that 2016 NHL Draft? Auston Matthews‘ contract caused indirect drama. Second and third picks Laine and PLD could one day get traded. And Jesse Puljujarvi went through years of rumors and struggles. Sixth pick Matthew Tkachuk … well, he inspires a different kind of drama.
3. Kirill Kaprizov
In Laine’s case, we received a reminder why those trade rumors have been so abundant. Kirill Kaprizov entered Thursday with a different kind of hype. Wild fans — and fans of the sport — have been dying to see what Kaprizov can pull off in the NHL after all that tantalizing time in the KHL.
Well, Kaprizov didn’t need much time to make a great first impression.
In overtime, Kaprizov capped a great night with a “totally meant to do that” clincher.
Beyond that OTGWG, Kaprizov collected two assists as the Wild squeaked out a win against the Kings. While it’s a bummer that Marco Rossi is sidelined indefinitely with an upper-body injury, Kaprizov gave the Wild a big injection of fun and skill. And hope.
Some honorable mentions
- Tomas Hertl could easily bump Kaprizov or Laine off of that list. He scored two goals and one assist for the Sharks. If the Sharks can shake off 2019-20, it will be thanks to rebounds from talented players like Hertl. Stranger things have happened, especially during these strange times.
- T.J. Oshie and other Capitals had big nights. Oshie collected three points in Washington’s win.
Highlights of the Night: Star performances from McDavid, Kaprizov, Laine
Sometimes the three stars nods just meld well with the best highlights of the evening. This seems appropriate for the second night of the 2020-21 NHL season.
Truly, all three of Connor McDavid’s goals are worth watching. It’s old hat to describe a star player as “making it look easy,” yet sometimes that’s absolutely true of McDavid. You’re just not supposed to be able to do this, at least not so regularly, in the clamped-down modern NHL.
Here’s that “totally planned that, but not enough to get it called back” OTGWG from Kaprizov:
The Flames and Jets really put on a sloppy-fun show (granted, Noah Hanifin‘s hit on Kyle Connor wasn’t fun, even with some Laine violence). Open-ended play like that could really suit a scorer like Patrik Laine. Things get even looser in 3-on-3 OT, and Laine made the ultimate difference for Winnipeg:
The league released this list of COVID protocol related absences for Jan. 14 (teams without absences were omitted):
Boston – Karson Kuhlman
Colorado – Erik Johnson
Columbus – Mikko Koivu
Dallas – will be released prior to its first game
Detroit – Christian Djoos; Darren Helm
Edmonton – Gaetan Haas; James Neal
Los Angeles – Kurtis MacDermid; Cal Petersen; Sean Walker
Minnesota – Alex Stalock
Nashville – Mikael Granlund; Luca Sbisa
NY Rangers – Justin Richards
Philadelphia – Shayne Gostisbehere
Pittsburgh – Kasperi Kapanen
San Jose – Max Letunov
Vancouver – Jordie Benn; J.T. Miller
Scores from second night of NHL season
Capitals 6, Sabres 4
Bruins 3, Devils 2 (SO)
Islanders 4, Rangers 0
Hurricanes 3, Red Wings 0
Predators 3, Blue Jackets 1
Sharks 4, Coyotes 3 (SO)
Golden Knights 5, Ducks 2
Jets 4, Flames 3 (OT)
Oilers 5, Canucks 2
Wild 4, Kings 3 (OT)
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.