The NHL features some of the best talent from across the globe. This past week alone, has highlighted the large supply of goal scorers the hockey world has to offer. We look at who’s been the best player from Canada, the United States and Europe.
Canadian: Mathew Barzal, center, New York Islanders
The 20-year-old center is starting to look more like a seasoned vet than a young rookie. At the start of the season no one was looking for Barzal to have a breakout season, but just after the halfway mark of the season he’s becoming a clear favorite to take home the Calder Trophy.
Barzal and the Islanders only played two games this past week, but that hasn’t stopped Barzal from being the leading scorer for the week across the NHL. He earned his second five-point game when the Islanders played inner-city rival New York Rangers. Barzal followed it up with a solid three-point game against the Montreal Canadiens.
The strong play of Barzal has played a key role in getting the Islanders into a wild card spot. Barzal has led the Islanders to three-straight wins and they now have a one-point lead on the Rangers for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. If the Islanders maintain a strong offensive presence and can get more consistent goaltending, they’ll only continue to rise in the standings.
On a more selfish note, Barzal’s play has helped solidified him as the player to beat in the Calder race. Only a month ago, the rookie of the year race was extremely close. Along with Barzal, Arizona Coyotes’ Clayton Keller and Vancouver Canucks’ Brock Boeser were also in the mix to take home the rookie of the year title. However, with other rookies starting to cool off and Barzal not looking like he’s ready to slow down, he’s becoming the lone favorite. He leads all rookies with 47 points — the next closest is Boeser with 40 — and he also sits atop rookies with the most assists (31).
It’s getting to a point that it’s probably best to start asking what Barzal can’t do. He’s been one of the most consistent players in the league throughout the last few months, and he’s quickly becoming a fan-favorite. While he’s still young, and has a bright future ahead of him, Barzal has been one of the best Canadian players this season.
American: Johnny Gaudreau, left wing, Calgary Flames
There aren’t a lot of things more enjoyable than watching Johnny Hockey do what he does best. His speed and skill has made up for his short stature and helped him become one of the trickiest players to defend in the NHL.
Gaudreau made his NHL debut back in the 2013-14 season when he played in the Calgary Flames season finale. His first goal in his first game was a sign that a great career was only just beginning. Gaudreau’s one-game season is the only one that saw him record less than 60 points, and through 45 games this season he’s already notched 54 points.
Gaudreau and the Flames have been unstoppable of late. His speedy play couldn’t have come at a better time for the Flames. He’s collected two goals and six assists for eight points this past week. Gaudreau and teammate Sean Monahan have helped lead the Flames to a seven game win streak, which has helped the team rise drastically in the standings. The Flames have surpassed several teams in the standings to claim the second spot in the Pacific Division with 54 points.
If Gaudreau continues to play the way he has in the last week, the Flames won’t be slowing down anytime soon. He’s easily been one of the best Americans in the NHL and continues to be one of the most fun players to watching throughout the league.
European: Mikael Granlund, right wing, Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild, much like a lot of the teams in the Western Conference, have found themselves sliding in and falling out of the playoff picture throughout this season. One of the main reasons the Wild currently have hold of the second wild card spot has been Mikael Granlund.
Granlund has been one of the most consistent players in the Wild’s lineup throughout the past few seasons. He’s only posted less than 40 points in two of his five complete seasons — one of which he only played in 27 games — and so far this season he’s collected 36 points and is well on his way to achieving at least 40 points.
After struggling with a lower body injury to start the season, Granland has come into his own of late and become the second leading scorer on the Wild’s roster — he’s only three points from claiming the top spot. In the past week, Granland has taken the ice in four games and recorded six points, notching two goals and four assists.
If the Wild want to continue to be in the playoff picture as the season goes on, they need Granlund to maintain his high level of play. Seeing that he hasn’t really hit a rough patch this season, the Wild seem to be in a good place to make a push at the playoffs. Expect the Wild to claim a wild card spot with Granlund leading the way.