With the first quarter of the 2013-14 season complete, NHL.com looks at some of the biggest storylines -- and award contenders -- that have developed through the first part of the season.
Torey Krug burst upon the NHL like a flaming arrow when, as an emergency call-up, helped power the Boston Bruins past the New York Rangers in five games of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He became the first rookie defenseman in League history to score four goals in his first five postseason games and the 10th player in Bruins history to score a playoff goal before scoring in the regular season.
There's been no letdown in Krug's first full season. In fact, he's near the top of the rookie leaderboard and in front of the race for the Calder Trophy, according to NHL.com. Krug has points in five of his past seven games (two goals, three assists); his six goals are tied for second among defensemen behind Ottawa Senators defenseman and former 2013 Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson's seven, and his 12 points are tied for third in rookie standings.
A sizable contingent from the heralded 2013 NHL Draft class is making an immediate impact, yet it's the 22-year-old Krug, signed by the Bruins in March 2012 after his junior season at Michigan State, who's determined to not accept the status quo.
"Check back with me around Christmastime and we'll see where I'm at," Krug told Comcast SportsNet New England. "You just try to continue to be on top of things and don't be comfortable. That's when things can start to creep up on you."
His production may not equate to the 20-plus goals he's on pace to score, but Krug's booming shot and inner confidence will remain intact, and the Bruins will reap the rewards of his talents as his game continues to peak.
"I think you just let him play," Bruins coach Claude Julien told NHL.com. "His game offensively is almost a natural part of it, so you let him do that stuff. I don’t think there's too many times where he makes bad decisions up front. If he does, it's going to happen once in a while. There's always a risk and reward; you want to minimize that risk. That's what you want to do. But right now I think he’s doing well offensively, so I'm certainly not going to take that part of his game away from him."
Tomas Hertl, San Jose Sharks: Hertl caught everyone's attention Oct. 8 against the New York Rangers, when in his third NHL game became the fourth-youngest player to score four goals in a game. Now 20 years old, the NHL Rookie of the Month for October leads all first-year players in goals (12) and points (18), and is second with a plus-7 rating. Sure, the four-goal evening (punctuated by an ebullient between-the-legs goal) that made him famous has buffed his numbers, but Hertl ended the week of Nov. 11 with points in three of four games to help pace the 13-3-5 Sharks, so don't expect the kid from the Czech Republic to flame out anytime soon.
Seth Jones, Nashville Predators: He was hyped as can't-miss prospect and projected to go No. 1 in the 2013 NHL Draft. He slipped to No. 4 where the Predators happily grabbed a player they rated atop their list. Motivated to prove he deserved to be No. 1, all the 19-year-old defenseman has done is dominate his fellow rookies in average ice time per game (24:04) while riding shotgun for much of the season with Shea Weber (26:25 per game).
Jones' game is predicated not by the numbers (two goals, minus-6), but intangibles and advanced hockey sense. His maturity level is way beyond his teenage years and what he does with his extended minutes will keep him entrenched in the Calder race all season long.
"A lot of people say defensemen need five, six years to get their feet wet and get used to playing in the NHL," Predators teammate Matt Hendricks told NHL.com. "He's stepped in and has done a great job. You see mistakes in his game but he admits the mistakes in his game. He's not one to hide behind, 'Oh I'm a rookie.' He stands up for the media and says, 'I made a mistake there.' That's a very mature thing for a 19-year-old kid to do."
Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNHL
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