By Ryan Boettcher, Staff Writer
With the NHL just over a month into its season, there have been quite a few surprises, growing expectations for teams and potential new audiences growing in the league.
One of the biggest standouts so far this season in the NHL is the Buffalo Sabres. Last season, the Sabres traded away their franchise player Jack Eichel to the Las Vegas Golden Knights after contract disputes and disagreements over his surgically repaired neck rehabilitation.
After this trade, the Sabres turned their focus to a full-on youth movement. Highlighted by their young stars in Owen Power, Jack Quinn and Casey Mittelstadt, the Sabres are currently defying all expectations, as they currently sit seventh in the Eastern Division, just behind the powerhouse teams in the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.
In addition to the Buffalo Sabres, another team that has stood out after a month of play is the Philadelphia Flyers. Under new head coach John Tortorella, the Flyers have come out with new energy and have been playing at a high level versus tough competition. Right now, the Flyers are fourth in the very tough Metropolitan Division and have been getting great production from Defenseman Tony DeAngelo, as he has two goals and six assists in 12 games.
Junior broadcasting major Brady Campbell spoke about these early season surprises from the Sabres and Flyers.
“I’m definitely surprised by the Sabres and Flyers so far. I thought that the Sabres had potential, but I did not think they would be this good this quickly,” Campbell said. “I expected the Flyers to be awful, but they’re playing well so far. I’m sure that they’ll fall off at some point.”
Highlighting the two New York hockey teams, the Islanders and Rangers both are off to great starts this season. Right now, the Rangers are fifth in the Metropolitan Division with 15 points, and the Islanders second in the division with 18 points in only 14 games played.
The Rangers and Islanders are being led by their elite starting goaltending. Reigning Vezina award winner Igor Shesterkin is currently 6-2 with 2.58 goals allowed per game average. On the other side, Ilya Sorokin is 6-3 with 2.20 goals allowed per game.
In addition, these two teams have some of the most explosive offenses in the league. The Rangers currently have one of the NHL’s top three performers in the month of October with Artemi Panarin, while the Islanders are scoring the sixth most goals per game with 3.6.
Even though the Rangers have a top three star of the month, graduate speech pathology student Ryan Branigan wants his favorite team to add a mega-star into the mix.
“A trade rumor that’s been popular has been for Patrick Kane. I don’t know if that is the best move given what it would take to get him, but that move would obviously be an exciting one,” said Branigan.
Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks has been rumored as a New York Rangers trade candidate as his time in Chicago is starting to become clouded with a youth movement and contract issues beginning to bubble. With or without Kane, Branigan went on to mention how important this season is for the fans and supporters of the Rangers.
“The Rangers’ expectations are at least to make the Stanley Cup, if not win it. Anything less than another deep playoff run will be looked at as a disappointment,” Branigan implored.
Brady Campbell, a fan of the Islanders, also has high expectations for his favorite team.
“Obviously, there were some things that were out of their control last year, but they were also not good. Most of the core is still here, and I definitely think this team should be a playoff team,” Campbell explained. “They are built for the playoffs, so once they get there, I think they could make a run, but the first important thing is to get back to the dance.”
Though the NHL season is just beginning, hockey fever is starting to sweep over New York once again, with Stanley Cup dreams in sight.