1. Steven Stamkos, TB The #1 overall pick from 2008 has burst onto the scene this season for the Lightning. He showed flashes of brilliance late last season and at the World Championships in May. But I doubt many expected Stamkos to put up the numbers he has all year long. He has 43 goals and 84 points in 73 games, and could flirt with the 100-point mark with a strong finish. Stamkos also had a monster 18-game point streak that extended from January into March. Bolts fans have definitely ‘Seen Stamkos’ live up to the hype earlier than some expectations. 2. Drew Doughty, LA Taken right behind Stamkos in the draft was this man, Drew Doughty. The young Kings defenseman has played so well that he’s become a candidate for the Norris Trophy! Doughty has consistently produced all year for the up-start Kings, and currently ranks third among defensemen in points. He also saw important ice-time with Team Canada in Vancouver; not that it should be a factor in the Norris race, but it just tells you where he is with his game – at 20 years old. This kid is going to be a superstar for years to come, and I have a feeling this season is just an appetizer. 3. Chris Stewart, COL Colorado’s 1st round pick from 2006 is finally starting to round into form! Chris Stewart has improved his game immensely this season, and is a big reason why the Avs are currently in the top eight in the West. ‘Stewie’ has been on a tear since a relatively slow start, and has 18 points in 11 games since the Olympic break. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast, and has good hands. Considering what he did last year with the team (19 points, minus-18), this has certainly been his breakout season in Colorado… and at the perfect time! 4. Patric Hornqvist, NSH In the 2005 entry draft, Hornqvist was ‘Mr. Irrelevant’. That’s right, 229 players were chosen before him as he was the last pick in the draft. The Predators definitely found a diamond in the rough with Hornqvist. Last year, coming over from Sweden, he struggled to adjust to the NHL game. This season has been a different story, though! ‘Horny’ has 28 goals in his first full season, with 8 of them being game-winners… simply put, he’s been clutch for the duration of this season. Hornqvist seems to be the ‘missing ingredient’ this team has lacked for a while. 5. Jimmy Howard, DET Coming into the season, Chris Osgood was undoubtedly the number one guy in Detroit. The backup job was Jimmy Howard’s to lose, and many thought this was his perfect chance to prove that he can be a productive goalie in this league. I don’t think we could have expected this kind of success from a guy who played just 9 games in the previous 3 seasons. Howard has overtaken Osgood as ‘the man’ in Detroit, and carried the team through their rough patch of injuries in the winter. He has 29 wins and a 2.30 goals against to his record, and should be considered for the Calder. His true test, though, will come in the playoffs.
Ten that didn’t make the cut: Craig Anderson, COL* Tomas Fleischmann, WSH Mark Giordano, CGY Andy Greene, NJ Jaroslav Halak, MTL Guillaume Latendresse, MIN Antti Niemi, CHI Jonathan Quick, LA* Tuukka Rask, BOS Keith Yandle, PHX
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