PHT Power Rankings: NHL’s most impactful offseason additions so far

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In this week’s PHT Power Rankings we take a look at how your team’s biggest offseason acquisition has performed through the first quarter of the season.

Who has been an impact player? Who has exceeded expectations? Who has failed to meet expectations?

This is by no means a final grade or a definitive statement on the move itself; it is more of an initial progress report to see what the early returns are. Things can still change the rest of this season and in future seasons.

We also tried to limit this to the *big* signings/trades. Players that were involved in bigger, multi-player trades and free agents that were signed to multi-year, long-term contracts since those are the moves that carry the most risk for teams.

So let us get to the rankings.

The impact additions

1. Jeff Skinner, Buffalo Sabres — The Sabres desperately needed a player like Skinner, and they didn’t really have to give up a ton to get him. He has given Jack Eichel a legitimate front-line running mate on his wing, while Eichel has given him an All-Star playmaking center. Neither player has ever had a linemate like the other in their careers, and the early results have been stellar for a Sabres team that is starting to look … kind of good.

2. John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs — When you sign a seven-year, $77 million contract to join the Toronto Maple Leafs and be what they hope is the missing piece for a championship team, there is going to be a ton of pressure to go with sky-high expectations. So far, Tavares has been just what the Maple Leafs hoped he would be. Entering play on Monday he is better than a point-per-game player and has given them the luxury of still having a No. 1 center even while Auston Matthews is sidelined.

[Related: Tavares living up to hype with Matthews out]

3. Ryan O'Reilly, St. Louis Blues — A shutdown center that is, as of Monday, on a 104-point pace this season offensively. Will he maintain that pace over 82 games? No way, but he has still been the Blues’ best player this season by a mile. They gave up a lot of assets to get him, but it was a definite quantity over quality trade. It is not his fault the team has failed to meet expectations.

Better than expected so far … will it last?

4-5. Max Domi and Tomas Tatar, Montreal Canadiens — I admit it, I thought the Canadiens’ offseason was a disaster and was going to be another step backwards for the organization. Maybe in time it will still play out that way. So far, though, everything general manager Marc Bergevin touched over the summer has somehow turned to gold. A lot of Domi’s early success is tied to a 24 percent shooting percentage that is going to come down, but he has at least rebounded from back-to-back down years in Arizona.

Speaking of rebounds, Tomas Tatar is showing that he is still a really good player and that his post-trade deadline struggles with the Vegas Golden Knights were a fluke. Do not expect him to maintain this current scoring pace, but he is a proven 20-25 goal scorer in the NHL and should once again be at that level this season, even if his production regresses a bit the rest of the way.

6. Mike Hoffman, Florida Panthers — His production has been remarkably consistent through the first quarter of the season with a 15-game point streak entering the week. He has not had a truly dominant game (two points is his season high) but entering Monday he has had at least one point in all but two games this season (the first two games of the season).

[Related: Can Max Domi continue current pace?]

7. Elias Lindholm, Calgary Flames — During his time in Carolina Lindholm was a top-five pick that was just simply good, but nothing really special. His career high in goals? 17. His career high in points? 45. Certainly not a bust, but also not really an impact player. Through his first 20 games in Calgary he has erupted offensively and is a point-per-game performer and on pace to shatter all of his previous career highs. On one hand, he is still only 23 years old and should be, in theory, entering his peak years in the NHL. On the other hand, that 21.6 shooting percentage is set for a big fall in the second half.

8. Jaroslav Halak, Boston Bruins — I still think if the Bruins are going to win the Stanley Cup — or at least seriously compete for it — they are going to have Tuukka Rask in net for it. Right now, though, Halak has been the best goalie in Boston and has been a huge surprise with a .935 save percentage and a 7-2-2 record entering play on Monday. After a disastrous season with the Islanders in 2017-18, and in his age 33 season, this is a pretty stunning performance.

Not quite what we expected (yet), but still pretty good

9. Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks — The offensive production has not been what we have come to expect from Karlsson, but that does not mean he has been bad. When he is on the ice the Sharks are controlling more than 59 percent of the total shot attempts and more than 55 percent of the scoring chances that take place. Those are dominant numbers. The offense will eventually come and like many of the players on the Sharks at the moment he is getting crushed by lackluster goaltending. I would be willing to wager that by the end of the season he would be near the top of such a ranking.

10. Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes — Pretty much the same story as Karlsson. Probably been a lot better than his traditional box score numbers would indicate and getting hurt by bad goaltending.

11. Ilya Kovalchuk, Los Angeles Kings — He has shown flashes of still being able to be a dominant top-line player, and also flashes of being a 35-year-old that had not played in the NHL in more than five years. He alone was never going to be enough to fix what ailed this team, but he is still on pace for 20 goals and 60 points this season. That pretty much makes him an offensive powerhouse in relation to the rest of the players in Los Angeles.

What should have been expected

12-13. Michael Grabner and Alex Galchenyuk, Arizona Coyotes — They have been nice additions for a Coyotes team that should be able to threaten for a playoff spot in a weak Pacific Division. Galchenyuk missed some time at the start of the year but now that he is healthy is on track for another season around 20 goals and 50 points, while Grabner has been a tremendous addition to the team’s lethal penalty kill unit that has helped drive their early start.

14. Carter Hutton, Buffalo Sabres — He was never going to repeat his performance from a year ago when he finished with the league’s best save percentage. While it would have been great for the Sabres if he somehow managed that, they mainly just needed him to be competent and give them a chance to win on most nights. He has done that.

[Related: The Sabres are good]

14-15. David PerronTyler Bozak, St. Louis Blues — The Blues needed scoring depth and spent big money this summer to try and find it. O’Reilly has played at an All-Star level, while their two big free agent acquisitions — Perron and Bozak — are producing at about the level you would expect David Perron and Tyler Bozak to perform at. Are they game-changers? No. But if the Blues’ goaltending situation was not the total dumpster fire it has been so far the team would would probably have a few more wins and all of their offseason additions would look a lot better.

The disappointments

16. Max Pacioretty, Vegas Golden Knights —  Pacioretty has simply not produced the way anyone expected him to. He had a down year in Montreal in 2017-18, and so far this season has seen his production fall off even more. It has to be even more frustrating at the moment for Vegas when you look at Tomas Tatar — traded for Pacioretty, along with top prospect Nick Suzuki — scoring for the Canadiens the way Vegas hoped he would score for them when they gave up a boatload of draft picks for him at the trade deadline.

17. James Neal, Calgary Flames — Just a total non-factor in every area for the Flames so far. Hopefully for the Flames it is just a poorly time slump at the start of a new contract because they are paying too much money over too many years for this level of production.

18. Jack Johnson, Pittsburgh Penguins — This was a questionable signing — at best — from the very beginning, and so far the results are everything critics of the deal thought they would be. Not good.

Jury is still out/Incomplete

James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia FLyers — He has only played in four games this season due to injury, but he looked really good in those games and seemed to be just what they needed to improve their scoring depth. When healthy he has been one of the top goal scorers in the league for a couple of years now, and he probably still has a couple years of that remaining when he is healthy. He just has not been healthy for the Flyers yet.

Paul Stastny, Vegas Golden Knights — Along with Pacioretty he was supposed to help give the Golden Knights a second dominant scoring line to go along with their top line of Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith. Pacioretty has struggled mightily so far and Stastny has appeared in just three games due to injury. He also does not appear to be close to returning. Too soon to call him (or Pacioretty, for that matter) a total bust, but the early results are not what Vegas was hoping for. Both due to bad luck (Stastny’s injury) and just all-around disappointing play (Pacioretty).

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Bruins’ Rask granted leave of absence for personal matter

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The Boston Bruins announced on Friday afternoon that goaltender Tuukka Rask has been granted a leave of absence relating to a personal matter.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said the matter is not health related and that it is “important to respect his privacy and allow him to deal with it for the next few days.”

At this point the Bruins have not recalled a backup goaltender from their American Hockey League team in Providence, but are expected to do so Friday evening. Zane McIntyre is the only one of the two goalies in Providence with NHL experience having appeared in eight games during the 2016-17 season. They also have Daniel Vladar, a 2015 third-round draft pick, playing there.

Rask appeared in the Bruins’ 8-5 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday night, allowing three goals on 14 shots in just over 25 minutes of ice time.

It has been a tough start to the year for Rask on the ice as he has managed only a .901 save percentage in his eight appearances. Among the 36 goalies that have appeared in at least eight games, that places him 23rd in the NHL.

At this point it is not yet known how long Rask will be away from the team, but they do play two games this weekend when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday and Sunday before leaving on a four-game road trip next week.

As long as Rask is away, the starting goaltending duties will obviously fall on Jaroslav Halak who has played surprisingly well for the Bruins so far this season.

In his nine appearances he has a 4-1-2 record and an incredible .936 save percentage. It is a pretty stunning performance given how much he struggled a year ago for the New York Islanders. Outside of the Bruins’ top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak, he has probably been the team’s best player so far. At the very least, he has been the biggest surprise. For now, it seems, they may have to rely on him even more.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Morning Skate: Business trip for Panthers; Notre Dame, Michigan going outdoors

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• It might be a trip to Finland, but it’s all business for the Florida Panthers. [NHL.com]

• Dallas Stars netminder Ben Bishop is no fan of goalie analytics. “When it’s some old hockey fan that doesn’t even get the shots right on the game, how are they going to get that right? You go to every different building, and sometimes they count the dump-ins as shots on goals. Well, half the buildings don’t count those, because they don’t know the rules. When you go to some buildings, and they don’t count it, and there are four or five shots that don’t count. … That’s what’s frustrating. That’s what you get paid on. That’s your job.” [ESPN]

• The Notre Dame and Michigan men’s teams will play outdoors at Notre Dame Stadium on Jan. 5 at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. [USCHO]

• An upper-body injury will keep Vancouver Canucks forward Brandon Sutter out “weeks.” [Sportsnet]

• When it rains, it pours for the Vancouver Canucks when it comes to injuries. [The Canuck Way]

• The Erik Karlsson-Marc Edouard Vlasic pairing isn’t breaking up anytime soon for the San Jose Sharks. [Mercury News]

• The Pittsburgh Penguins had a great road trip in Western Canada. What can they take away from it? [Pensburgh]

• A look at how puck luck in the NHL affects the standings. [TSN]

• It looks like Ryan Murray is finally starting to put it together for the Columbus Blue Jackets. [1st Ohio Battery]

• “We’re finding our way, we’re finding our identity as a team.” The San Jose Sharks are coming around after a slow start. [NBC Bay Area]

• Depth scoring is needed for the Tampa Bay Lightning. [Raw Charge]

• A look at the Chicago Blackhawks as the calendar is about to turn to November. [Faxes From Uncle Dale]

Michael Rasmussen will see his development continue at the NHL level with the Detroit Red Wings. [MLive]

• Why the Boston Bruins should let Jaroslav Halak take the No. 1 goalie job for a while and allow Tuukka Rask to rest. [Black and Gold Hockey]

• Will we ever see another offer sheet signed? [Spector’s Hockey]

• “John Ziegler Did More Harm Than Good for Hockey” [Puck Junk]

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Halak is back; Domi continues tear

Associated Press
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Three Stars

1. Jaroslav Halak, Boston Bruins

He still has game. Halak stopped all 26 shots the Philadelphia Flyers sent his way in a 3-0 win for his Boston Bruins. The Bruins backup already had one shutout this season over the Buffalo Sabres on Oct. 4 and now has his second before the month is through. What’s interesting about this is that with Tuukka Rask‘s struggles (.901 save percentage), Halak is creating a goaltending controversy in Boston.

In five starts this season, Halak has a 3-0-2 record with a very impressive .945 save percentage.

2. Max Domi, Montreal Canadiens 

His team didn’t win, but that wasn’t Domi’s fault. He did his part, scoring twice in the game — two wicked wrist shots that Buffalo Sabres goalie had no chance on. Domi has been on a tear as of late, highlighted by a five-game point streak and 10 points in his first nine games for of the season. Putting Domi at center with the Canadiens has paid dividends so far.

3. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Whenever you start to feel that Sid has taken a step back he proves otherwise. You’ll see below what I mean. Crosby’s three points helped the Penguins demolish the Calgary Flames 9-1 in Cow Town. Crosby led the way, but Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist each had two goals and Matt Murray made 38 saves (although the one he didn’t make ruined an otherwise solid performance). Crosby is now up to three goals on the season. Three days ago he didn’t have one.

Honorable mention — Jason Dickinson of the Dallas Stars

Dickinson broke out with two goals and three points as the Stars cruised to a 5-2 win against the Anaheim Ducks. Prior to Thursday’s game, Dickinson had three goals and six points in his brief NHL career.

Highlights of the Night

Crosby. No need for comment:

Nugent-Hopkins dazzles on this one:

Blunder of the night 

Matt Murray was cruising to a near-40 save shutout when James Neal threw out a knuckle puck. Brutal way to end a shutout bid.

“Oh, wow.”

Factoids

Scores

Bruins 3, Flyers 0

Sabres 4, Canadiens 3

Predators 4, Devils 3 (OT)

Blue Jackets 7, Blues 4

Wild 4, Kings 1

Blackhawks 5, Rangers

Stars 5, Ducks 2

Oilers 4, Capitals 1

Penguins 9, Flames 1

Coyotes 4, Canucks 1

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

PHT Morning Skate: Ducks sign Ritchie; Capitals’ faceoff woes

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson and general manager Marc Bergevin rocked the Tomas Plekanec turtleneck during the forward’s 1,000th game ceremony on Wednesday night. [Getty Images]

• And then there was one. Nick Ritchie finally came to terms on a three-year deal with the Anaheim Ducks, leaving William Nylander as the only remaining unsigned restricted free agent. [Ducks]

• Jake Dotchin also signed with the Ducks, and filed a grievance against the Tampa Bay Lightning for having his contract terminated last month. He needs to pass through waivers first before joining the Ducks. [Raw Charge]

• Will Connor McDavid’s record night help spark a turnaround for the Edmonton Oilers? [TSN]

• The Toronto Maple Leafs’ centers could turn into what the Pittsburgh Penguins have, says Evgeni Malkin. [NHL.com]

• Will the real Penguins please stand up? [Pensburgh]

• Digging deep into the Vegas Golden Knights’ sluggish start. [Sportsnet]

• Those tough Western Conference battles he now experiences reminds Anaheim Ducks forward Adam Henrique of the old Devils/Rangers tilts. [ESPN.com]

• How the Washington Capitals are going about fixing their faceoff woes. [NBC Washington]

• A small sample size, but what can we take away from the Columbus Blue Jackets’ five games so far? [Jackets Cannon]

• The offense isn’t quite there yet for Nashville Predators forward Kevin Fiala. [Tennessean]

• A visual of what the Arizona Coyotes’ zero even strength goals looks like. [The Point]

• Time for the Chicago Blackhawks to start grabbing points in regulation and not relying on overtime. [Blackhawk Up]

• It’s a new, dynamic look in goal for the Boston Bruins with Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask between the pipes. [Bruins Daily]

• What should the Calgary Flames do with Sam Bennett? [Flame for Thought]

• At some point this season the depth of the Dallas Stars is going to have to step up. [Defending Big D]

• It doesn’t matter who’s in net for the San Jose Sharks, they need to play tighter in front of Aaron Dell or Martin Jones. [NBC Bay Area]

• Finally, get to know a bit about Jack Hughes, the likely No. 1 pick in next June’s NHL entry draft:

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.