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12 breakout stars through first quarter of season

Emergence of young goalies, success of Golden Knights among early-season highlights

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

Goalies and a new building, forwards and a new scoreboard, a T-shirt, a new team and two hilarious guys producing some memorable skits. They're all featured in our look at 12 first-quarter breakout stars in the NHL:

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning

Vasilevskiy, who is 23 years old and in his first full season as Tampa Bay's No. 1 goalie, is an early top candidate for the Vezina Trophy. He is first in the NHL in wins (15), and has a 2.32 goals-against average, a .929 save percentage.

Coach Jon Cooper said Vasilevskiy has been the Lightning's most valuable player, which is saying something because Tampa Bay also has the NHL's top two scorers in Steven Stamkos (36 points) and Nikita Kucherov (33 points).

Video: CHI@TBL: Vasilevskiy makes an unbelievable pad save


Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights, the League's 31st team, are riding a seven-game home winning streak a quarter of the way through their inaugural season, allowing them to be firmly entrenched in a Stanley Cup Playoff position and on pace for more than 100 points.

That the Golden Knights are on pace to be the best expansion team in NHL history, better than the 1993-94 Florida Panthers, who had 83 points, is even more startling when you consider they have already used five goalies, the most of any team in the League this season.

What if, as Vegas' social media team questioned on its edgy Twitter account Sunday, this isn't a fluke and the Golden Knights really are just a good team?


The boys from "On the Bench"

Characters Olly Postanin and Jacob Ardown, otherwise known as Steven Campbell and Ryan Russell, a pair of Alberta-born and -raised hockey fanatics, have brought their physical and edgy humor into the hockey's pop culture with their web-based series "On the Bench," where they teach the "fundies" (fundamentals) to star NHL players in various "eppies" (episodes).

Olly and Jacob, donning a mixture of western wear, old-school hockey gear and sweaters, have tried to teach Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele how to "grease the stick" to win a face-off and Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel how to work on his "wristy" so he can go "bar down into the top corns."

They played a game of 2-on-2 against Dallas Stars forwards Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, worked with Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on techniques for clearing the traffic in front of him, and went over various "fundies" with Los Angeles Kings forwards Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli and Kyle Clifford.

They get schooled in every video by the NHL players, who show no remorse either for Olly and Jacob's lack of skill.

The videos have become a social media sensation. "On the Bench" has more than 311,000 followers on Instagram, more than 125,000 on Facebook, more than 31,500 on YouTube, more than 23,500 on Twitter and more than 30,000 on Snapchat.

Video: Mark Scheifele gets face-off tips from On The Bench


Jaden Schwartz, St. Louis Blues

Ask around about Schwartz, the Blues' 5-foot-10, 190-pound left wing, and you'll hear coaches, players, executives and scouts praise him for his combination of skill, grit and intelligence. But not until this season has he been treated as an elite forward, a potential Hart Trophy candidate.

Schwartz has moved up the ladder, going from a good top-six player to a front-line scorer this season. He has 30 points (11 goals, 19 assists) in 22 games, putting him among the offensive leaders this season in multiple categories.

Schwartz is on pace for moré than 100 points. His previous NHL career-high was 63 points (28 goals, 35 assists) in 75 games in the 2014-15 season.


Prudential Center's scoreboard

It's massive.

That's the guaranteed first reaction you'll have when you see the new scoreboard hanging above center ice (and basically the entire neutral zone) inside Prudential Center, home of the New Jersey Devils. It is the largest in-arena, center-hung scoreboard in the world, according to the Devils.

The scoreboard, designed by Trans-Lux, an LED solutions company, weighs 88,401 pounds, covers 9,584.9 square feet and is nearly four stories tall when measured from the bottom of the barge to the top of the main frame.

The video screens in the scoreboard are equivalent in square footage to 1,300 50-inch televisions. One of the four main screens on the scoreboard is nine times the size of any of the screens on the previous scoreboard that hung above center ice in Prudential Center.


Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets

The Jets may finally have their goalie of the present and the future.

Hellebuyck, 24, is playing like a real No. 1 and has essentially run away with a job that was thought to be Steve Mason's to lose going into the season. Mason has struggled (2-3-1, 3.31 goals-against average, .907 save percentage), but Hellebuyck (11-2-2, 2.45 GAA, .925 save percentage) has is among the League leaders in all the major statistical categories for goalies.

Hellebuyck can be a restricted free agent after the season, meaning he's in line for a big payday.

Video: ARI@WPG: Hellebuyck snags Stepan's wrist shot


Little Caesars Arena

Oh, how far the Detroit Red Wings have come from Joe Louis Arena. Their new home, Little Caesars Arena, is a modern-day paradise complete with every amenity you could want compared to the building they called home from 1979-2017.

Little Caesars Arena cost $863 million to build. It features two outdoor plazas, four restaurants, seven clubs, a glass-enclosed concourse making you feel like you're on an indoor city street, a 600-foot video screen that wraps the arena, an LED grid ceiling, a 5,100-square foot scoreboard, a 25,000-square foot locker room area for the Red Wings, a players' family lounge, built-in practice facility and historic artifacts from former homes, Olympia Stadium and Joe Louis Arena.


Anthony Mantha, Detroit Red Wings

The Red Wings might as well usher in a new core of potential star players along with their new arena. Mantha looks like he'll be a fixture of the new-era Red Wings.

Mantha has 19 points (10 goals, nine assists) through 22 games. He's been the prototypical power forward the Red Wings need him to be, skilled with great hands and unafraid to go to the net, to throw around his 6-foot-5, 225-pound body and to drop the gloves if necessary.

Arguably his biggest impact has come on the power play. Mantha leads the Red Wings with five power-play goals and seven power-play points. He had 36 points (17 goals, 19 assists), including one power-play goal and three power-play points, in 60 games last season.

Video: CGY@DET: Mantha deflects home his second PPG

Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes

Keller has been one of the few bright spots in what has been an otherwise difficult first quarter for the Coyotes. He leads Arizona and all rookies in goals (11). He also leads the Coyotes in points (20) and has been at or near the top of the leaders among rookies in that category all season as well.

The Coyotes were hoping that Keller would make an immediate impact, but few could have predicted his impact would be as significant as it has been. Max Domi, who plays on Arizona's top line with Keller and center Derek Stepan, said Keller reminds him of a younger version of Patrick Kane, who won the Calder Trophy in 2008 with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders

In Barzal, a 20-year-old rookie, it appears the Islanders finally have a No. 2 center to play behind captain John Tavares. Now all they have to do is lock up Tavares to keep the 1-2 punch intact for years to come.

Barzal has climbed into the Calder Trophy conversation and into a tie with Keller for second place in rookie scoring by making an impact in almost every game, including his five-assist performance in a 6-4 win against the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 5.

Islanders coach Doug Weight said Barzal plays like someone who wants to be a star. He's on his way.

Video: PHI@NYI: Barzal roofs wrist shot past Elliott for PPG


Ryan Reaves, Pittsburgh Penguins

Reaves isn't on this list for what he has done on the ice, although he's been the shot of energy and adrenaline the Penguins hoped he would be when they acquired him in a trade from the St. Louis Blues on June 23. Instead, Reaves makes this list for what he has done to teammate Phil Kessel.

It started when Reaves pranked Kessel by donning a frightening mask and scaring the wits out of Kessel on Oct. 27. Reaves posted a video of the scene to his Twitter account (@rreaves75) and told Sportsnet he did the same thing to former Blues teammate Scott Gomez.

Next came the game of one-on-one basketball in the parking lot outside the Penguins' practice facility. Reaves said Kessel challenged him, but didn't stand a chance.

Then, during a segment with Scott Oake on Sportsnet after a game at the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 4, Reaves wore a T-shirt with a picture of Kessel superimposed over Michael Jackson's from the "Thriller" album cover.

Reaves told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he has more Kessel-themed T-shirts coming.

Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers

Moving captain Claude Giroux to left wing and putting Couturier between him and Jakub Voracek started as a preseason experiment by Flyers coach Dave Hakstol. It has become a fixture, in part because Couturier's offensive game is finally flourishing in his seventh NHL season.

Known primarily as a shutdown center for most of his first six seasons, Couturier is now an offensive force with 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists) in 22 games, putting him on pace for 86 this season.

Couturier never had more than 39 points in any of his previous seasons. At his current pace, he should have at least 40 by Christmas.

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