Once again, it’s time for the Three Stars of the past week, in which we recognize the NHLers who’ve had the biggest impact in their own way since last Sunday. Let’s get right to it.
3. Aleksander Barkov, Florida: The Panthers captain led the way on offense for his first-place team in the Atlantic Division this week, netting three goals and seven points in four games. The 27-year-old Finn averaged 21:01 in ice time, and now has 25 goals in 40 games, just one fewer goal than he scored in 50 goals with Florida last season. That puts him on pace to demolish his current career-high of 35 goals in 82 games, which he set in the 2018-19 campaign. More importantly, his stellar two-way game is one of the keys to the Panthers’ success, and the reason why he is the current winner of the NHL’s Frank J. Selke Trophy as the league’s top defensive forward. He is at his peak, and he’ll continue to be a positive factor for Florida for years to come.
2. Igor Shesterkin, New York Rangers: The Rangers’ No. 1 goalie has also been his team’s most valuable player this season, putting together a 25-6-3 record thus far, along with a sparkling 1.95 goals-against average and .941 save percentage in 34 games. This week, Shesterkin was even better, posting a 1.01 G.A.A. and .968 SP in three games. Without him in goal, the Blueshirts would likely be fighting for one of the final playoff berths in the Eastern Conference; with him, the Rangers are in a battle with the excellent Carolina Hurricanes for top spot in the Metropolitan Division. The 26-year-old Moscow native is a deserving frontrunner for the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best netminder, and he’ll make the Rangers a team nobody wants to take on in the post-season.
1. Mitch Marner, Toronto: Marner finished the week tied with fellow Maple Leafs star and linemate Auston Matthews for the league lead in points, with nine in four games. Saturday night against Detroit, in only 15:07 of ice time, the 24-year-old Canadian winger netted four goals and six points. He now has 21 goals and 53 points in only 43 games, leaving him only one short of the 20 goals he generated for Toronto in 55 games last season, and putting him on pace to improve on his career high of 26 goals, which he set in 2018-19. More often than not, he averages more than 20 minutes per game, and he’s never looked more confident than he does right now. Leafs fans who have complained about him in previous years are suddenly quite quiet, and they’ll remain that way so long as he averages at least one point-per-game – and he looks like he’s not taking his foot off the gas.