Under The Radar – (Western Conference Edition)
This week we continue our look into some of the players set to make waves in the NHL this season. Although not quite yet superstars, these five players have shown they have the ability to change the course of game in instant.
Wearing #73, Toffoli forms an integral part of the Kings’ “That 70s Line” along with veteran #77 Jeff Carter and winger #74 Dwight King.
In only his second season in the NHL, Toffoli netted 23 goals for the Kings and racked up 49 points. With sublime handling skills and a seemingly infinite amount of patience on the puck he can be a danger anywhere in the offensive zone. He’s also pretty dangerous on the penalty kill, leading the league last season with 5 short-handed goals.
Here he is taking playing a game of keep away with the Oilers defence before roofing a perfect shot past Viktor Fasth:
Wilson has been a fixture in the Predators line up for the past five seasons. However, it was only last year that he began to show exactly what he’s capable of on the ice. Scoring 20 times in the regular season and an impressive 5 goal showing in just 6 playoff games, Wilson earned himself a new four year $15.75 million contract.
With his lighting quick wrist shot, Wilson is deadly in the slot. Add to that the fact that he’s not afraid to park in front of the net and feed off deflections and broken play. He’s pretty quick on his skates and can be devastating on the counter attack.
Watch as Wilson takes it end to end against Chicago and scores his first of the playoffs:
As if Minnesota didn’t have enough young defensive talent already. Marco Scandella, together with his defensive partner Jarod Spurgeon played a huge role last season in shutting down some of the best offensive talent in the west.
Strong on his skates, positionally sound and, when its called for, hard hitting, it’s no wonder Scandella averaged just under 22 minutes a game in just his third season in the league. He has a huge offensive upside as well. An ability to link up with his forwards when the offensive rush is on and also a hard slap shot that can penetrate any goalie’s defence.
Here is Scandella forgoing the slap shot and firing up the spin-o-rama for a highlight reel goal:
12 months ago, if anyone was asked to forecast the top 5 offensive defensemen in the league I doubt they’d have included Dennis Wideman in their list. Obviously not bothered by expectations (or lack of) Wideman proceeded to rack up 56 points in the 2014/15 season, placing him 4 overall in defensive scoring and only 4 points behind PK Subban.
Wideman has a huge one timer which netted him the lion’s share of his 15 goals last season. He’s also deadly on the powerplay, tying for team lead with Johnny Gaudreau on points with the extra attacker. Even with the up on offensive production his defensive play hasn’t suffered, helping guide the Flames to the playoffs without their captain and defensive star, Mark Giordano.
Here he is one-timing a goal through the Ducks defense off a feed from Johnny Hockey:
The only reason the words “Jayden Schwartz” aren’t on more people’s lips as we head into the season is his lights out teammate Vladimir Tarasenko. Schwartz lived in Tarasenko’s shadow last season despite racking up 28 goals and 63 points.
Schwartz doesn’t have Tarasenko’s hands or bullet speed down the ice but he’s one of the most well rounded hockey players in the league. He’s always in the right place at the right time. He knows when break to the net to get a pass, when to hang back and send a shot through the screen and most importantly, when to track back and help his defensemen. He may not be Tarasenko but that’s not a bad thing. Every team needs a Jaden Schwartz and he’s sure to keep proving that next season.
Here he is scything through the Lighning defense in Tarasenko-like fashion and scoring an OT winner:
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