At the quarter-point of the 2013-14 season we've been focusing on all of the big, prevailing stories and trends in what has been a great season so far. But I wanted to bring attention to some of the more unheralded, under-the-radar players who have been excellent this season but haven't really earned enough attention.
It starts with two veterans defying expectations with the Calgary Flames and ends with two youngsters turning heads with the Boston Bruins.
Center - CGY
GOALS: 9 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 13
SOG: 41 | +/-: -5
The Flames have faded since their excellent 3-0-2 start. But one thing a lot of people aren't talking about is the play of the veterans in Calgary. I love Sean Monahan
and we can talk about how he has been amazing. But I also love the way Mike Cammalleri
and Jiri Hudler
They've provided leadership, especially for a young player like Monahan. But more than anything they are contributing offensively. Look at their totals and the way they've been playing and it's really impressive. Hudler leads the team with 21 points in 22 games and Cammalleri has nine goals in 15 games. Ever since Cammalleri came back from injury he's been great. He could score 30 this season even though he missed seven games with an injury at the start of the season.
They are mentoring but also producing at a high level. I know a lot of people aren't talking about them. Your first instinct when you talk Calgary is to talk about Monahan, who has been very impressive. But those veterans have done an amazing job so far.
Even though the Flames have been losing lately, no one is overlooking them. With the exception of a 7-3 loss to the Dallas Stars on Nov. 14 they're giving a lot of teams some tough games this season. They're very relentless. They don't quit, they don't stop. A lot of that comes from another veteran in Dennis Wideman, who is playing huge minutes on the back end. That's big, especially in the absence of their captain, Mark Giordano, who has been out with an injury.
People don't usually mention Boston and Calgary in the same sentence but they are both tough teams to play. And in the case of the Bruins, their under-the-radar players are the ones people weren't talking about at all entering the season.
Right Wing - BOS
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 11 | PTS: 14
SOG: 28 | +/-: 4
We need to talk about Reilly Smith
. He was considered a throw-in in the trade with Dallas that sent Tyler Seguin
to the Stars, but this is a player who has some second-line skill. He's a very talented guy but he's still defensively conscious. Bruins coach Claude Julien
knows he can trust Smith and put him out there. Smith is someone who has shown he can come in and play in that structure. In addition to that, they know he's going to be able to chip in offensively. He had a two-point night Nov. 18 against the Carolina Hurricanes
and set up Carl Soderberg
's game-tying goal Thursday against the St. Louis Blues
. He's a really good player so far that people aren't talking about.
We also need to talk about my man Torey Krug. He is an excellent player. I give the Boston Bruins a lot of credit. In the end Krug could have signed with the Bruins or the Chicago Blackhawks. He chose Boston and it has worked out really well for him and the Bruins.
He has the mentality of a Martin St. Louis in terms of his work ethic. Speaking to him, the biggest thing I take away is he isn't complacent. This is what he wants to do and bring to the table every day. That's very impressive. This is a unit known for big, tough guys like Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg, but Krug has more jam than people recognize. He is not afraid. He also adds a different dimension to that back end with his skill set. But there's a compete level there too.
I have to credit the Bruins' staff for signing him but also for just letting him play his game and not keeping the shackles on him. They let him go out and be Torey Krug. It's paid off for their team. Look at how well he played in the postseason for them last season. He was a star right away.
I remember Jaromir Jagr telling me last season when he was with Boston that he thought the best part of the team was its defense. That's coming from Jaromir Jagr. Torey Krug doesn't just get in that lineup but also stars in that lineup. That tells you everything you need to know.