Teams and players that have been huge surprises early in 2013:
We all knew that the Northeast division would be strong and competitive this year, but I thought that if there was one weak link within the conference, surely it would be the Canadiens. Through their first sixteen games, however, this just hasn’t been the case. Montreal is currently in the midst of a five-game tear and sit atop the Eastern Conference standings with 23 points. This young and talented team won’t be conceding games easily this year and look to finally be on the verge of something really special.
Cory Conacher (C - Tampa Bay Lightning)
This young Lightning centerman is small in stature, but huge in talent and heart. His feisty demeanor and speedy play are reminiscent of a young Martin St. Louis, who just happens to be his teammate. Conacher is averaging nearly a point per contest through the Lightning’s first fifteen games in 2013. Look for him to continue to produce in similar fashion throughout the year.
Viktor Fasth (G – Anaheim Ducks)
This 30-year old Swede may not have the height of fellow Scandinavian goaltenders like Pekka Rinne or Kari Lehtonen, but with the way he’s been playing for the surprise Ducks none of that matters. After spending all of his professional career up to this point in Sweden, Fasth is certainly making the most of his first season in the NHL. In nine games started this year, Fasth has an undefeated record of 8-0 with a shutout and is putting fellow Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller’s future highly in doubt with the club. It was also just announced that Fasth has signed a two-year contract extension with the team.
Speaking of the Ducks, is there a more surprising team this year? Anaheim came into 2013 with very questionable goaltending, aging veterans and a group of young players which were seemingly always just short of reaching their full potential. However, it turns out that the Ducks are very mighty, indeed. Ageless wonders Sakku Koivu and Teemu Selanne continue to put up points game-in and game-out while guys like the aforementioned Viktor Fasth are coming through the woodwork and playing outstandingly well. If it weren’t for the stellar Chicago Blackhawks, the Ducks may be sitting atop the NHL in points right now as they have just two regulation losses all season.
Mike Ribeiro (C – Washington Capitals)
Ribeiro was brought in to Washington to bolster the play of guys like Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom for a team that needed just a bit of help getting over that final hump, but little did anyone know that Ribeiro himself would be the one doing all of the scoring. The 33-year old veteran has been one of the few real scoring threats this year for a disappointing Capitals team and has helped propel the team’s power play, with four of his five goals coming on the man-advantage.