Kyle Okposo had the best season of his career in 2013-14 for the New York Islanders, finishing with 27 goals and 69 points in 71 games. He moved to the top line next to John Tavares, and then continued to produce after the Islanders superstar was injured at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
On the surface, it looks pretty similar for Okposo this season. He has 27 points in 31 games, but only seven goals. More of a playmaker than a scorer anyway, a regression in goals could have been expected considering he shot nearly four percent better than his career average in 2013-14.
Okposo's point total this season is being propped up in part by 12 on the power play. He's averaging 6.0 points per 60 minutes with the extra man, which is nearly double last season (3.2). Check out his goal and point production at even strength in the accompanying table.
One of the most fascinating stories of the 2014-15 season has been the surprising play of the Calgary Flames.
Thought to be in rebuilding mode, the Flames made a couple of modest additions during the offseason, but nothing that swayed most prognosticators to believe they were ready to compete in the rugged Western Conference. Here they are though, sitting in third place in the Pacific Division and sixth in the West with a 17-10-2 record and maybe most impressively a division-best plus-14 goal differential.
"The preseason predictions that we were going to be in the 'Connor McDavid Derby,' I didn't believe that at all," president Brian Burke said at the NHL Board of Governors meeting in Boca Raton, Fla. "In fact, I called a couple people in the media and complained about it. I thought that we would be better than that.
Time remains undefeated in life, and it may be causing a shift in the balance of power for the Atlantic Division.
The Boston Bruins have four division titles, two Stanley Cup Final appearances and a championship in the past six seasons, but they also didn't have quite the cache of young star players other successful franchises like the Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks and Pittsburgh Penguins possess.
Injuries have been a problem so far this season, but so too has a trio of teams with younger impact talent. This could be a problem for the Bruins not just in 2014-15 but in the years to follow. The Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings and especially the Tampa Bay Lightning look poised to contend for Atlantic Division titles for the next several seasons, in part because of their collections of young talent.
It is fair to say the opening quarter of the 2014-15 NHL season has been relatively sanguine, compared to many campaigns.
All 30 coaches who began the season in charge remained so on American Thanksgiving. There have been a few trades, but beyond two the New York Islanders made just before opening night to shore up their defense there hasn't been a landscape-altering move.
There have been injuries and the Pittsburgh Penguins will miss Pascal Dupuis and the Vancouver Canucks will miss for Dan Hamhuis, but no star players are lost for the season and a few (Victor Hedman, Zdeno Chara and Ryan McDonagh come to mind) are about to return.
There are not many franchises in the NHL where a 10-7-1 start to the season would elicit varying degrees of panic amongst the fan base, but the Chicago Blackhawks live in that space in 2014.
The Blackhawks have been one of the best teams in the NHL for seven seasons now, winning the Stanley Cup twice and reaching the Western Conference Final twice in the past six campaigns. There is an expectation to be playing in June 2015, or this season will be considered a failure.
So 21 points in 18 games, which as of Thursday morning was only good enough for ninth place in the West, has set off warning alarms in some homes in the greater Chicagoland area. One person who is not concerned? That would be Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman.
The Nashville Predators have lacked dynamism at the forward position for years, but they appear to have bolstered the group significantly in that department this offseason.
One move was obvious, adding James Neal in a trade for Patric Hornqvist. Maybe Neal won't score 40 times without Evgeni Malkin feeding him the puck, but he's still scoring plenty on Nashville's top line.
The other "addition" came from within. Filip Forsberg had a goal and five points in 13 games last season with Nashville, at times looking like a tantalizing prospect and others looking like a guy not ready for the NHL. If it weren't for Vladimir Tarasenko, Forsberg might be the breakout star of the 2014-15 season to date.
The St. Louis Blues have won six games in a row despite injuries to forwards Paul Stastny and T.J. Oshie (and a temporary absence for captain David Backes). One of the biggest reasons the Blues have stormed back near the top of the League standings after an uneven start is the play of forward Vladimir Tarasenko.
While Stastny was the headliner among the offseason additions, with forward Jori Lehtera and a full-time roster spot for goaltender Jake Allen probably next in line, one of the best reasons to think St. Louis could improve in 2014-15 was the maturation of Tarasenko and forward Jaden Schwartz. Tarasenko is off to a great start with eight goals and 14 points in 12 games, including the best goal of the season to date Monday at Madison Square Garden and then the lone goal of the game one day later across the Hudson River at Prudential Center.
Tarasenko is already one of the top Russian players in the NHL (in the NHL is an important distinction, because he was not happy with his role on the national team in February). Where does he stack up among the top Russians in the League? Here's a look at the most productive players from his homeland since Tarasenko joined the Blues at the start of the 2012-13 season:
The Minnesota Wild began the 2013-14 season with a spike in their possession statistics, as a team long considered one of the most passive in the NHL tried to change its identity.
As the season wore on, the Wild slipped back to the middle of the pack in puck possession, but a dominating performance against the Colorado Avalanche and a strong showing against the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs was a nice way to finish with the arrow pointing upward.
The Wild appear to have consolidated those postseason gains and built from the success. Minnesota has arguably been the most impressive team of the 2014-15 season, and are a late goal at Honda Center and a crazy third-period collapse at Madison Square Garden from probably being considered the best team in the League to this point.
Last season was a celebration of NHL hockey in California, from an outdoor game at Dodger Stadium to the three teams staging an impromptu state championship in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Los Angeles Kings became state champs and then League champs. The Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks pushed the Kings to seven games, and both spent the offseason trying to process a missed opportunity.
All three teams remain among the League's elite in the early part of the 2014-15 season, but an intriguing aspect of the Ducks and Sharks is both teams are going to give a lot of starts to goaltenders who are inexperienced at this level.
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