Sure, we’ve all heard the names Crosby, Ovechkin and Miller, but what about Ladd, MacArthur and Bobrovsky? New names have emerged that some fans may not be too familiar with, but they’ve certainly have given fans a reason to watch. I’ve compiled a list of the Top 5 biggest surprises in the Eastern Conference so far this season starting with:
5. Clarke MacArthur – Toronto Maple Leafs
Although his goal production has cooled down as of late, MacArthur has been a pleasant surprise and he has been a solid addition to the struggling Maple Leafs thus far. MacArthur, who leads all Maple Leafs in scoring with 13 points in 16 games has seen himself propelled to the Leafs’ top line this season. MacArthur was initially drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the 3rd round and has played 2 full seasons– 2008-2009 with the Buffalo Sabres where he tallied a respectable 31 points in 71 games and in 2009-2010 split between the Sabres and the Thrashers where he tallied 35 points in 71 games. What I’ve liked so far is that a relatively unknown forward has found himself leading a team in points. Although I don’t expect MacArthur to have eye-popping numbers at the end of season, I do expect his solid season continue.
4. Brandon Dubinksy - New York Rangers
The 24 year old center has had a very productive year thus far. Dubinsky leads the Rangers with 17 points in 18 games, but even more impressive is his 10 goals, which is 5th in the league. Dubinsky plays along side of Ryan Callahan (who is also having a productive season) and has been a force to be reckon with. Dubinksky is another player who has a had some respectable seasons in the past where he has recorded 3 forty point season in a row, but he is now playing at nearly a point-per-game pace. I expect Dubinsky to continue having a breakout year and put up good numbers.
3. Jeff Skinner - Carolina Hurricanes
Who would have thought 7th overall pick Jeff Skinner would be leading all rookies in points this season? Not I! There is no doubt that Jeff Skinner has undeniable talent, but I thought we would be talking about Tyler Seguin or Taylor Hall in that position. Not only is Skinner leading all rookies in points, but he is also second on the Carolina Hurricanes and just behind superstar Eric Staal who has 17 points. Too be honest, I added Jeff Skinner because I’m surprised at how poised he looks out on the ice compared to the other rookies. It’s going to be a treat to watch this kid develop and expect him to develop into a superstar quickly.
2. Andrew Ladd – Atlanta Thrashers
It’s a shame that Atlanta has struggled to fill seats so far this season because they’re missing out on a star being born. Although it seemed only a matter of time before Ladd broke out, it felt like it took longer than it should after he regressed a bit in the 2009-2010 season. It seemed as though after the 2008-2009 season where Ladd put up a solid 49 points in 82 games, the 2009-2010 season would only show further progression for the talented winger. However, Ladd was overshadowed by the Blackhawks high-powered offense led by Pat Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. Ladd’s point production decreased and he only managed to tally 38 points. Despite winning the cup, Ladd’s production was unimpressive and he was shipped off to Atlanta for a 2011 second round pick and Ivan Vishnevskiy. Now on his new team, Ladd has shined and is playing at a point-per-game pace with 18 points in 18 games. Ladd also leads all Thrasher players in points. Hopefully Ladd will continue his excellent play and develop into the superstar that he was expected to be.
1. Sergei Bobrovsky – Philadelphia Flyers
Where the hell did he come from? Well, I mean, he came from Russia, but I doubt anyone would have expected the 22 year old undrafted goalie to be one of the top goalies thus far. Bobrovsky is sporting a spectacular 2.01 GAA, a sparkling .934 save percentage and a league leading 11 wins after 14 games. Bobrovsky played 4 years for Metallurg Novokuznetsk of the KHL before being signed by the Flyers. Bobrovsky only made the Flyers roster because of an injury to then starting goalie Michael Leighton; however, Bobrovsky has ran away with the starting position and has performed immaculately. Bobrovsky has been easily the biggest surprise this season since he was an undrafted goalie and a rookie. In the 2009-2010 season rookie goalies such as Tuuka Rask and Antti Niemi were very successful and Bobrovsky hopes to keep that trend alive in the 2010-2011 season. Here is just one of many of Bobrovsky’s saves this season:
I hope you all enjoyed my column. Keep up-to-date with all Eastern Conference hockey news every Tuesday here on TMM. Feel free to email me at [email protected] and you can also find me writing for Sabrenoise.com and of course all photos are courtesy of yardbarker.com