All-Star festivities showcase subsequent era of NHL stars
New Jersey Devils gamers watch from the bench typically and marvel at among the issues Jack Hughes can do on the ice.
“Every game, at least a couple times, I’ll be like, ‘Oh my God, that guy’s amazing,’” ahead Michael McLeod stated. “He just gets it done every night.”
The similar goes in Buffalo, the place Rasmus Dahlin described Sabres teammate Tage Thompson’s improvement as “a ticking time bomb.” And in Dallas, the place coach Peter DeBoer lay awake dreaming of teaching Jason Robertson with the Stars.
While being an All-Star is previous hat for the NHL’s previous guard of Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and even unquestioned finest participant on the earth Connor McDavid, the festivities this weekend in South Florida are a showcase for the league’s subsequent era of stars, led by Hughes, Thompson and Robertson. Hughes is an All-Star for the second consecutive season, Thompson and Robertson every for the primary time, and their emergence may upend the way in which the standings — and leaderboards — search for years to come back.
“Once you establish yourself as an NHL player, the next step is how you figure out how to try to win,” stated Hall of Famer, two-time MVP and six-time Stanley Cup champion Mark Messier. “It’s been fascinating to me to see these players going through that process of becoming not only NHL players but bona fide superstars but more importantly how they’re trying to figure out how to win in this league.”
With Thompson, Robertson and Hughes all within the high 10 in targets and factors, it’s no coincidence every participant’s respective staff is within the playoff race on the break. So are the shocking Seattle Kraken, the one staff with out an All-Star after rookie Matty Beniers was injured, however they’ll want him extra down the stretch to make it of their second season of existence.
The Devils are on tempo to play playoff hockey for the primary time since 2018 and simply the second in 11 years thanks largely to Hughes, who trails solely McDavid, Boston’s David Pastrnak, Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen and Thompson within the goal-scoring race. Mike Rupp, who received the Cup with New Jersey in 2003, anticipated Hughes to supply at a 100-point tempo however didn’t anticipate his scoring to develop into so significant this season.
“He’s scoring in big moments,” stated Rupp, an NHL Network analyst who will see Hughes up shut this weekend in Sunrise. “It’s the way he’s doing it. He’s carrying his team at certain times. He’s pushing his team along, Jack and Tage, (too). And I think that is the incredible part is they’re not just great talents: They’re great talents, and they seem like they’ve got nerves of steel.”
Thompson’s nerves and playmaking skill might be on show within the playoffs if Buffalo can end robust and knock both Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins or Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals out of a wild-card spot. The Sabres have by far the league’s longest playoff drought at 11 seasons, and in the event that they snap it, Thompson will probably be a giant a part of it even earlier than beginning a $51 million, seven-year contract he was rewarded with final summer season.
Messier credited Thompson for getting stronger within the offseason, augmenting the arms that made the now 25-year-old a 38-goal scorer in 2021-22 and placing him on observe for greater than 50 this season. Norris Trophy-winning defenseman P.Ok. Subban, who skilled Thompson’s development firsthand from taking part in in opposition to him a number of occasions the previous 5 years earlier than retiring and becoming a member of Messier as an ESPN analyst, sees him as a taller model of Hughes with the identical stage of ability.
“What separates him from a lot of players in the league, and is going to separate him from a lot of players in the league going forward, is his ability at that size to do everything at top speed (with) his range, his skill with the puck, his skating ability,” Subban stated. “He has all the tools to be a dominant player in this league for a long time.”
So does Robertson, who’s coming off a breakout 41-goal season and like Thompson signed a profitable extension earlier than opening evening. The 23-year-old from California, who’s Filipino American and hopes to be a task mannequin for gamers of Asian descent, has a giant character that matches his play and will quickly be one of many faces of the league.
Robertson has placed on a present this season with 66 factors in 51 video games.
“You kind get used to it, and you almost have to sit and think about it after about how special it is what you’re witnessing,” DeBoer stated. “It’s unbelievable. He’s making it look easy.”
And, together with Hughes and Thompson, he’s making it simpler for the NHL to not lean on Crosby and Ovechkin, each of whom broke in additional than 15 years in the past.
“Obviously they’re all-time greats, but it was kind of just them,” Rupp stated. “It was a couple guys that had to really carry the league. (Now) there’s a ton of guys carrying it, so I think that puts the league in a very healthy spot with superstars.”
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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