Welcome to the NHL Star Power Index: A weekly gauge of the players who are controlling substantial buzz around the league. When a player is included on this list it may not be a good thing — it means that they are capturing a large amount of the hockey world’s attention.
These players are in no particular order when it comes to the amount of buzz that they’re creating. We’ll revisit the Star Power Index every week throughout the regular season.
One of the biggest storylines in the beginning of this season was whether or not the Chicago Blackhawks would trade star winger Patrick Kane. That finally came to a resolution earlier this week as the Blackhawks moved Kane to the New York Rangers for a conditional 2023 second-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round pick.
On Thursday, Kane made his Rangers debut in a 5-3 Rangers loss against the Ottawa Senators. Kane failed to recored a point, but registered four shots-on-goal in 19:36 of ice time. He was reunited with former Blackhawks teammate Artemi Panarin as he skated on the Rangers’ second line with Panarin and center Vincent Trocheck.
“My first game as a Ranger was a pretty cool experience,” Kane said after the loss. “Obviously, I would’ve liked to play a little bit better and come out with the win. But hopefully it’ll come. I haven’t played in a little bit. Maybe a little bit rusty.”
Prior to his arrival in New York, Kane was playing some of his best hockey of the season. Entering Thursday, Kane had a four-game point streak and scored seven goals during that stretch. During his final game with the Blackhawks, the 34-year-old star scored a pair of goals and registered an assist in a 4-3 win against the Dallas Stars on Feb. 22.
In anticipation of the impending trade, Kane left the team’s road trip and sat out until Tuesday’s trade was made official.
The Rangers now find themselves in a very strong position following the trade deadline. The team was able to acquire both Vladimir Tarasenko and Kane without parting with any of its young nucleus of Filip Chytil, Kaapok Kaako, or Alexis Lafreniere. In a seven-game playoff series, there’s going to be very few teams that will be able to slow down an offensive group that is that deep.
The Buffalo Sabres haven’t qualified for the postseason since the 2010-11 campaign, but Tage Thompson is nearly single-handedly attempting to change the franchise’s fortunes. Entering Friday, the Sabres currently sit just four points out of the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference with 66 points. The team has won three of its last five games and Thompson’s stellar play has been responsible for the recent surge.
Thompson has recorded a point in seven of his last eight games and has scored at least one goal in three of his last five contests. Over those last five games, the Sabres star has tallied five goals and three assists, including a hat trick performance in a 6-5 overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning last Thursday.
It marked Thompson’s NHL-leading fourth hat trick of the season.
As if the hat trick performance weren’t impressive enough, Thompson has scored a goal apiece in back-to-back games against the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets.
It may only be 60 games, but the 25-year-old star has already recorded a new career-high point total (80) with 41 goals and 39 assists. This comes after Thompson registered 68 points (38 goals, 30 assists) last season in 78 contests.
Thompson was expected to develop into a star, but not one of the league’s biggest in such a short time. Now the Sabres center is one of the sport’s most gifted goal scorers and he continues to showcase that ability on a nightly basis.
It’s been hard to view the Vezina Trophy conversation as anything more than a one-horse race as the 2022-23 season has progressed. That’s because Linus Ullmark is currently putting together a season for the ages.
Ullmark leads the league in wins (31), goals-against-average (1.88) and save percentage (.938). In addition, Ullmark added another remarkable accomplishment to his long list of accolades as he recorded a career-high 54 saves in a 4-3 overtime win against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday.
Ullmark’s 54 saves were the most in a regular season game by a Bruins goaltender since shots-on-goal began being tracked during the 1955-56 campaign. His 54 saves bested the previous regular season franchise record of 51, which was set by Tim Thomas on in 2007.
Oh, and Ullmark even got into the scoring act over the past week. He became the first goaltender in franchise history to score a goal and the first NHL goalie to accomplish the feat since Jan. 9, 2020 when Nashville Predators netminder Pekka Rinne did it. Check out the highlight:
All of the sudden, the Ottawa Senators are surging into the playoff race. Claude Giroux has a lot to do with that.
He has tallied 10 points over his last four games en route to a four-game winning streak for the Senators. The veteran forward has also registered points in seven of his past eight contests. His most impressive showing came in a 6-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Monday. In that game, Giroux scored a goal and dished out three assists to pace the Ottawa offensive attack.
The Senators are just four points out of the second Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference. Since Jan. 25, Ottawa has won 11 of its last 15 games to climb in the standings.
On Thursday, the Senators made a huge splash prior by acquiring star defenseman Jakob Chychrun from the Arizona Coyotes. Chychrun should provide some more help at the blue line while also adding more scoring punch to take even more of the pressure off of Giroux and company.
The impact that Giroux has had on the Senators’ locker room can’t be understated. Now Ottawa has a chance to return to the postseason for the first time in six years.