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Weekes on the Web

Friday Four: Rookies turning heads early

NHL Network's Kevin Weekes also discusses Canucks' hot start, Ducks' struggles

by Kevin Weekes / NHL Network Analyst

Each Friday throughout the season, Kevin Weekes will be bringing you his Friday Four. He will be blogging about four players, teams, plays, or trends that have caught his eye.

 
Young players taking over League

Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, took the League by storm in his first regular-season game Oct. 12 with four goals against the Ottawa Senators. Teammates William Nylander, Connor Carrick and Mitchell Marner also have gotten off to strong starts. Not to be outdone, Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets, the No. 2 pick in the draft, had a hat trick, including the overtime winner against Matthews and the Maple Leafs on Wednesday. These young players are advanced and know so much more in terms of the blueprint, a big factor in why they are able to make an impact so soon. It's must-see TV when Matthews, Laine or Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers are playing.

You look at McDavid. Not only does he accelerate probably faster than anyone in the League, but he can do everything at that speed - think the game, make plays and finish - which are all very different things to do. You put all them together at that rate of speed, and that's impressive.

What also changed was coaches not reducing those players and stringing them along. A lot of young players weren't given much of a chance and would just have to chip it in and out of the zone and then go for a line change. Teams are depending on these guys and putting them in a position to succeed.

Video: EDM@CGY: McDavid shows speed on great breakaway goal

 
Goalies spark Canucks, Canadiens

Give the Canucks a lot of credit for how they are playing. They are the only undefeated team left in the League (4-0-0) despite not having a lead in any of their first three games. They're 3-0 in games decided after regulation, something that was a problem last year (9-13).

Goaltender Jacob Markstrom played really well filling in for Henrik Lundqvist for Team Sweden at the World Cup and has gone 3-0-0 with a 1.65 GAA and .932 save percentage so far for the Canucks. He seems more technically sound than he was before, and Vancouver is getting balanced goal scoring with seven different players scoring its nine total goals.

Video: BUF@VAN: Markstrom robs Okposo twice one-on-one

The Canadiens managed to stay afloat with Al Montoya filling in for Carey Price, who missed the first three games of the season with the flu. Montoya was a great addition for the Canadiens. He went 2-0-1 with a 1.30 goals-against average, a .962 save percentage and a shutout for Montreal, continuing his success after playing behind Roberto Luongo in Florida last season.

Price finally played a regular-season game after almost a year, getting the win against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, and Alex Galchenyuk (one point in each game this season) has shown he can shoulder the load offensively if needed.

 
Another slow start for Ducks

The Ducks are struggling again which befuddles me with players such as forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on their roster. Anaheim is 1-3-1, and let's not forget, they started last season 1-7-2 last season before rebounding to win the Pacific Division. The Hampus Lindholm contract situation still needs to be resolved. He's a key piece and they need him on defense to join Sami Vatanen and Cam Fowler. The Ducks won the Jennings Trophy last season, allowing the fewest goals in the League after their poor start, which shows you how important their defense is. The Ducks were able to break out of it last season, but being behind the eight ball again this early could be a problem.

Video: ANA@PHI: Perry unleashes a slapper to even the game 

 
Red lights all around

Where is all the complaining about goal scoring now? A lot of it has to do with all the quality young players, but I think the World Cup of Hockey 2016 was a huge help too, because it forced players to hit their stride and be NHL-ready much earlier.

A good example is Detroit Red Wings forward Thomas Vanek, who was impressive for Team Europe and has three goals and three assists in four games for the Red Wings. Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand was the highest goal scorer for Team Canada at the World Cup (five goals) and has come out strong with three goals and six assists in four games for Boston. His World Cup teammate, defenseman Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks, also has gotten out of the gate quickly with three goals and six assists in five games. I think the World Cup also spiked a lot of the intensity from players who weren't there, perhaps to prove they should have been or should be next time.

Video: DET@NYR: Vanek redirects Nielsen's shot for PPG 

 
HONORABLE MENTION
 
Rangers looking good

The additions New York made during the offseason have been really good so far. Right from camp, center Mika Zibanejad has looked excellent. I want to see more minutes from center Brandon Pirri, who is not a fourth-line player. Forward Michael Grabner helps the Rangers' speed game. And all this in addition to the fact New York is defending better and the forwards are having better breakouts. The only thing I would suggest is seeing more of defenseman Dylan McIlrath in the lineup. He has played in one of the Rangers' four games, and his size (6-foot-5, 236 pounds) can help keep opposing players away from Lundqvist. New York's two losses each came by one goal, thanks to outstanding performances by goaltenders Carter Hutton of the St Louis Blues and Jimmy Howard of the Red Wings.

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