NHL Barometer: Surprises and Disappointments

NHL Barometer: Surprises and Disappointments

This article is part of our NHL Barometer series.

To celebrate the All-Star break, this article will zoom out to look at the biggest surprises and disappointments around the league thus far. A surprise is someone who has substantially exceeded expectations, while a disappointment is a player whose production is far from what hoped for before the year began.

Surprises 

Matt Duchene, C, DAL – Duchene, bought out by the Predators in June, was signed by the Stars as a free agent. That decision has benefitted both the sides, especially Dallas, as Duchene is on pace to top 70 points on the season for the fourth time in his career, with 17 goals and 45 points in 48 contests after posting 22 and 56 in 71 contests last season. Centering the second line, Duchene has lengthened the Dallas lineup for the low cap hit of $3 million. A free agent after the season, Duchene should be in line for a multi-year contract based on his play to date. 

Ryan O'Reilly, C, NSH – It seems fitting to post O'Reilly after Duchene as Nashville filled the center spot that used to manned by Duchene with ROR. The Predators can't be unhappy with that swap, as ROR has far exceeded his 2022-23 total of 16 goals and 14 helpers in 53 games with St. Louis and Toronto by notching 17 markers and 25 assists in 51 contests. He has posted 19 of those points on the man-advantage, almost matching his total from the two prior seasons. In

To celebrate the All-Star break, this article will zoom out to look at the biggest surprises and disappointments around the league thus far. A surprise is someone who has substantially exceeded expectations, while a disappointment is a player whose production is far from what hoped for before the year began.

Surprises 

Matt Duchene, C, DAL – Duchene, bought out by the Predators in June, was signed by the Stars as a free agent. That decision has benefitted both the sides, especially Dallas, as Duchene is on pace to top 70 points on the season for the fourth time in his career, with 17 goals and 45 points in 48 contests after posting 22 and 56 in 71 contests last season. Centering the second line, Duchene has lengthened the Dallas lineup for the low cap hit of $3 million. A free agent after the season, Duchene should be in line for a multi-year contract based on his play to date. 

Ryan O'Reilly, C, NSH – It seems fitting to post O'Reilly after Duchene as Nashville filled the center spot that used to manned by Duchene with ROR. The Predators can't be unhappy with that swap, as ROR has far exceeded his 2022-23 total of 16 goals and 14 helpers in 53 games with St. Louis and Toronto by notching 17 markers and 25 assists in 51 contests. He has posted 19 of those points on the man-advantage, almost matching his total from the two prior seasons. In year one of the four-year, $18 million deal he signed with the Predators, ROR has surpassed all expectations.

Trent Frederic, RW, BOS – If someone would have told you before the season that Frederic would be manning a second-line right wing spot in Boston, you might have said that the Bruins were having a down year. The latter is certainly not the case, and the play of Frederic has contributed to their solid campaign. Frederic has 14 goals and 15 assists in 49 games, nearly matching his production of 2022-23, when he tallied 17 markers and 14 helpers in 71 contests. Add in 84 hits and you have a winger contributing across the board. 

Yegor Sharangovich, RW, CGY – Sharangovich fell from 46 to 30 points last season, then found his way out of town as New Jersey dealt him to Calgary in the Tyler Toffoli trade. Heading West has proven to be a boon for Yegor, as his production has spiked for the Flames. In 49 games, Sharangovich has 20 goals and 15 assists, putting him on pace to set a new career high. One caveat is that we need to see where Andrei Kuzmenko fits in the lineup, but all signs have Kuz on the second line with Sharangovich retaining his first-line position.

Joel Farabee, LW, PHI – Farabee saw his goal production decline last year for the season year in a row. After tallying 20 markers in 2020-21, he posted 17 in 2021-22 and 15 last season. Farabee has turned it around this season, posting 17 goals in just 50 games. In addition, he has added 23 assists, giving him a career-high with 40 points. The scary part is that Farabee has tallied just six points on the man-advantage, boding well for a solid stretch run if he can up that power-play output somewhat. 

Brock Faber, D, MIN – While Connor Bedard is still the favorite to win the Calder Trophy, Faber's recent play while Bedard has been out has made the race even closer. Faber has a pair of goals and 11 assists his last 12 games, giving him four markers and 25 helpers in 49 games. Faber, a former standout at both the University of Minnesota and for Team USA at multiple World Junior tournaments, was acquired from the Kings in the Kevin Fiala deal. He has stepped into the role as the Wild's top blueliner helping make up for the absence of Jared Spurgeon. 

Thomas Harley, D, DAL – Harley was viewed as a sleeper coming into the campaign, as the hope and belief was that he would be able to take a step forward this season. He has done that and then some, heading into the All-Star break with an impressive 12 goals and 29 points in 46 games on the season. A decent portion of that production came while Miro Heiskanen was sidelined, and with Miro back, Harley has lost his spot on the top power-play unit. But his overall fine play should allow him to remain more than relevant in nearly every league format.

Stuart Skinner, G, EDM – Skinner, profiled last week, deservingly makes the column again this week. He is the hottest goalie in the NHL having won 12 straight starts, contributing mightily to Edmonton's 16-game winning streak, and allowed two goals or less in 11 straight, posting a 1.41 goals-against average (GAA) and .950 save percentage over the course of the winning streak. The 11 consecutive victories give Skinner 23 on the year, putting him well on pace to exceed the career-high 29 he posted last year. He is the clear No. 1 goalie for the Oilers, removing any possible doubt that might have existed when the year started.

Connor Ingram, G, AZ – Ingram has hit a little bit of a rough patch lately, but that doesn't take anything away from the strides he has made this year and the fine overall numbers he has posted. While he sits 17th in the league with a 2.61 goals-against average, Ingram is tied for eighth with a .916 save percentage. Ingram has notched 17 wins for a so-so Arizona squad, keeping that team in the playoff hunt way longer than expected. He has become the clear No. 1 goalie in the Desert, replacing Karel Vejmelka.

Others include Vincent Trocheck, Vladislav Namestnikov, Marco Rossi, Blake Coleman, Sam Reinhart, Warren Foegele, Jake Neighbours, Brock Boeser, Cole Perfetti, Daniel Sprong, Victor Hedman, Noah Dobson, Quinn Hughes, Brady Skjei, Sean Durzi, Jordan Binnington, Charlie Lindgren, Jake Allen, Alex Lyon, Martin Jones and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen

Disappointments

Matty Beniers, C, SEA – After winning the Calder Trophy last year as the league's top rookie, Beniers came into the season with raised expectations. He is suffering through a brutal sophomore campaign, scoring just six goals with 13 assists with a minus-12 rating in 45 games. Seattle coach Dave Hakstol has consistently moved Beniers down the lineup to little avail, as his struggles have continued. Beniers has one marker and three helpers his last 12 contests, continuing his season to forget for the Kraken. 

Alex Ovechkin, LW, WAS – The Great 8 has picked up his production lately, but overall, it's been a disappointing year in the Nation's Capital. After tallying 50 and 42, respectively, the past two seasons, Ovechkin entered the year just nine lamplighters shy of tying Wayne Gretzky's all-time record of 894 goals. Ovechkin has scored just nine times this season, with just one of those coming in the last month. Ovi is still likely to break the record, but his downturn in output has put that somewhat at risk. 

Cam York, D, PHI – The hope in Philly was that York would take a major step forward following the trade of Ivan Provorov. While he has made some strides, he has not grabbed a hold of the role as the Flyers' top blueliner. First, Travis Sanheim filled that spot. Then Egor Zamula had his time in the sun. Now, Jamie Drysdale looks to be next in line. York does have six goals and 11 assists, in line with his production last year in four fewer contests, but the hoped-for spike in output has not and likely will not happen.

Devon Levi, G, BUF – Buffalo entrusted their goaltending position to Levi to start the season. That decision proved to be questionable at best. Levi has spent time in the AHL and has ceded the role to Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Levi has posted a 9-7-2 record with a 3.30 goals-against average and .891 save percentage on 20 games for the Sabres. How the remainder of the season plays out depends on if Buffalo ends up in playoff contention and how UPL plays, but as of now, Levi is second in the pecking order between the pipes for the Sabres. 

Others include Pierre-Luc Dubois, Trevor Zegras, Lukas Reichel, Tyler Bertuzzi, Timo Meier, Erik Karlsson, Owen Power and Igor Shesterkin.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jan Levine
Levine covers baseball and hockey for RotoWire. He is responsible for the weekly NL FAAB column for baseball and the Barometer for hockey. In addition to his column writing, he is master of the NHL cheat sheets. In his spare time, he roots for the Mets and Rangers.
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