NHL players, teams that leveled up during the 2021

The 2019 NHL season is over, and it’s time to take a look at the best players from that year. There was one player who really surprised us all during this past year: John Tavares. The New York Islanders captain had an amazing 17-year career so far with his team, but the last few years have been particularly special for him and his team. Their record of 48-34 in games played outside of Nassau Coliseum has shown how much they’ve improved as a franchise since their move in 2015 to Brooklyn.

The “best nhl teams 2021” is a list of the best NHL teams in 2021. The teams that have been mentioned are the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and more.

At a time when hockey is slipping into a pit of positive tests, postponed games, and a best-on-best Olympic competition that will only exist in our daydreams and video game simulations, it’s difficult to think of leveling up.

So, should we reminisce about the good old days? In 2021, ten athletes and teams made the jump, found the next gear, and advanced to greater heights — and what may be in store for them in 2022.


Here’s a nice example of how a pandemic may make a 12-month period seem like a 12-year period. Fox, 22, was coming off a spectacular rookie season in which he finished fourth in the Calder Trophy voting behind highly touted teammates Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes, as well as forward Dominik Kubalik.

However, the fourth is fantastic! That bodes well for Fox in the future, with the “future” in this instance being the first half of the following year, when he dominated the NHL with a 56-game season and became just the second defender to win the Norris Trophy in his second season.

Bobby Orr was the other.

Fox is tied for the league lead in points with Victor Hedman this season and would have played a key role for Team USA if the NHL had gone to Beijing. There’s progress, and then there’s a precipitous ascension like Fox’s.

In 2022, Fox leads the Rangers back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017.


I was wondering why Kadri, who is third in points per game (1.58) behind Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, hasn’t gotten nearly enough attention. There have been more articles wondering when Kadri’s season will end — “Should you fade Nazem Kadri’s point streak?” and “Cash out on Nazem Kadri?” for starters — than about how fantastic it is that he is averaging 5.2 points per 60 minutes.

Maybe it’s because the Avalanche aren’t as good as they were previous season, when they had a.732 point %. Perhaps fans have become used to athletes blowing up their numbers during their contract year. Whatever the situation may be, Kadri isn’t going anywhere. At least until his postseason ban, which is unavoidable.

Kadri is paid in 2022. It was done by someone. Colorado, hopefully.


Zegras went from making his pro debut with the AHL’s San Diego Gulls to inconsistent success with the Ducks in 2020-21 to being a rookie sensation in 2021-22 with 25 points in 30 games, one of which came as an assist for one of the most famous goals in NHL history.

He’s given press conferences while wearing Baby Yoda on his chest. He’s given more adorable, goofy interviews than Tom Holland. He was last seen getting terrified by Kevin Shattenkirk dressed as a bear, and he’s the best:

The Ducks have a new contender for GIF of the Year. pic.twitter.com/rfOKnmBuI8

December 21, 2021 — Adam Brady (@AdamJBrady)

Even if he doesn’t top rookies in scoring, Zegras wins the Calder Trophy in 2022.


“Minnesota Wild” and “goal scoring” used to be diametrically opposed. Even as recently as 2018-19, the Wild were averaging 2.56 goals per game, which ranked them 27th in the NHL. Their average goals per game in the league is 2.63. Marian Gaborik, after all, could only do so much.)

Coach Dean Evason’s version of the Wild, on the other hand, was blatantly offensive last season and through 30 games this season. They scored 3.21 goals per game last season, which was tied for second highest in team history. They’re averaging 3.63 goals per game this season. Kirill Kaprizov, thank you!

The Wild win the Winter Classic in 2022. It’s probably a good idea to get one of these forecasts out of the way first.

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Stephenson has been described as a quality NHL center with the potential to play with Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, two wingers who might easily take me to a few points if I’m not out of breath and searching for a Red Bull by my third shift.

Anyway, something funny happened this season: instead of being the center keeping a spot warm for someone like Jack Eichel, Stephenson’s point-per-game pace, and the continued excellence of that line, made people wonder if the Golden Knights wouldn’t be better off not giving his wingers to the surgically repaired star.

After the Knights are forced to sell William Karlsson for salary space in 2022, Stephenson remains the team’s top center.


Thompson was best remembered in Buffalo for his first two seasons as the prospect acquired from the St. Louis Blues in the Ryan O’Reilly deal, and for the fact that he wasn’t Jordan Kyrou or Robert Thomas. In his first 66 games with Buffalo, he scored 12 points.

Thompson showed some life last season, and then a lot more in his first 30 games in 2021-22, scoring 10 goals and assisting eight times. On average, his ice time increased by over four minutes each game. Much of it may be attributed to Don Granato’s decision to shift him to center.

“If you think about where he was last year just before training camp began to where he is now,” GM Kevyn Adams said.

Thompson never plays the wing again in 2022.


The Juice had showed promise in the past, but he had always been Pekka Rinne’s understudy. After a 2020-21 season in which Saros finally surpassed his mentor in games played and overall efficiency, the Predators veteran put up his gloves, placing sixth in the Vezina Trophy voting.

Was it a fluke season for a guy looking for a huge new deal and getting one? No! He turns out to be a fantastic goaltender, with the NHL’s second-best save percentage (.926) in 2021…


…just behind this goaltender, who has the best save percentage (.930) of any goalie who has played at least 30 games this calendar year. In addition, he has a 32-8-4 record.

Steven Valiquette, a goalkeeper analyst, told me: “He’s a goaltender for a street hockey team. That’s intended as a backhanded compliment, since I don’t believe anybody can read him. He’s an extremely reactive person. He’s out of the ordinary.”

There’s something lyrical about a goaltender attempting to lift a club that can’t seem to find its own success by any means necessary.

Saros and Campbell are finalists for the Vezina Trophy in 2022.


Vote for the captains of each division’s squad for the NHL All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas in 2022. Fans may vote up to ten times each day on NHL.com and via the NHL app.


The Carolina Hurricanes were the most successful regular-season club in the calendar year 2021, with a.724 point percentage. The Colorado Avalanche were the second most successful team (.711). What about the third? The Panthers of Florida! Isn’t this incredible?

If they stay on pace in 2021-22, the Panthers would have had consecutive seasons with a points percentage better than.600 for the first time in team history. They lost Joel Quenneville, who resigned after being accused of sexual assault while coaching the Chicago Blackhawks, but interim coach Andrew Brunette has kept them afloat.

In 2022, the Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning renew their ancient rivalry, this time on a more equal footing than ever before.


The best discovered a method to improve. If McDavid’s 1.81 points-per-game average continues, it will be the highest in his career over a two-season timeframe. In his last 85 games, he has 154 points, including 50 goals.

Opposing defenders have been reduced to scenery thanks to his highlight-reel goals. His ability to take control of games is unrivaled. And he still has space to grow, particularly on the defensive end of the ice (for what it’s worth, Auston Matthews is the greater two-way player).

But, if the greatest defense can also be a tremendous offensive, we may as well award the Selke Trophy to McDavid. It’s a shame he didn’t maintain his 200-point pace earlier in the season.

In 2022: I mean, with McDavid, 200 points is never really off the table, is it?

Foul of the Week in Jersey

From our Seattle friends:

(Seeing no actual jersey fouls during the Seattle game, and then…) pic.twitter.com/6MrPFi0b1D you were so near

December 12, 2021 — Jas Chaffin (@En4cer45)

It’s not every day you see a reference to Sammy Hagar from 1984 on a shirt for a 2021 expansion franchise.

Three reasons why NHL players aren’t competing in the Olympics

1. As someone who has covered a lot of NHL labor battles, I can imagine how aggravating it must be for the players to have used their pandemic leverage to reclaim participation in the 2022 and 2026 Winter Olympics, only to lose it in Beijing due to the same pandemic. What a turn of events!

I’ve been pondering the players a lot. After a decade of waiting to represent his nation in the Olympics, Steven Stamkos has realized that it is “something I probably won’t get a chance to accomplish anymore.” About Connor Hellebuyck, who is expected to be the starting goalkeeper for Team USA in 2022 but may not be in 2026. “I’ll be 32 years old. I’m sure I’ll be playing my best hockey, but it’ll be a different story this time “he said

All of the players who would have gone for the first time, and all of the players who would have gone for the last. What a pity. What a pity.

There will be players who complain that the COVID-19 tests are so frequent that they beg for the types of postponements we’ve seen, as if the NHL rigged the system to get out of an event it didn’t want the players to participate in in the first place. I’m as conspiracy-minded as the next person (I used to buy “The X-Files” on VHS! ), but omicron is now tearing across every metropolis in North America. It’s the contagiousness of the variation, not the frequency of testing. I don’t believe the NHL’s board of governors saw this coming during their meeting. That was on December 9th.


This season, ESPN, ESPN+, Hulu, and ABC will broadcast 103 exclusive regular-season games, with more than 1,000 out-of-market games accessible on ESPN+. • • Subscribe to ESPN+ to watch. • Watch NHL games on ESPN.

2. I’ve heard a lot of people pleading with the NHL and the NHLPA to bring the next World Cup of Hockey back into our life so we can have a best-on-best hockey competition again. That’s fantastic. Let’s make it a reality. It will generate income, fill slots for television partners, and highlight the rising talents who should have been featured in Beijing in February.

One thing is certain: it will not take place in September. If you recall the 2016 tournament favorably, it’s because you forget how boring the hockey was due to players’ lack of summer rust. The season is paused again in February, this time for a tournament that generates revenue for the league.

But let’s not kid ourselves into thinking that the enormous crystal paperweight awarded to the winner is a substitute for an Olympic gold medal. It’s not the case. The World Cup of Hockey is a non-competitive exhibition competition with none of the prestige of the Winter Games.

Every request for a new World Cup includes a plea to do rid of the “gimmick teams” that plagued the 2016 edition, which misses the reality that Team North America and Team Europe were the tournament’s only fascinating tales. Return to the same field as before. May the paperweight go to the greatest team.

3. Why isn’t the NHL’s major winner going to the Olympics? The men’s national team of China. It’s reasonable to think that not having the host country behind by 20 goals after the first period of a preliminary game is a smart method to expand the sport in a developing market. With Germany, Canada, and the United States all lacking NHL quality, one or two of these games may even be competitive. On ice, it would be a miracle in and of itself.

The week’s winners and losses

Professional players who aren’t in the NHL are the winners.

We should applaud the Eric Fehrs, Jordan Schroeders, Mikhail Grigorenkos, and Jacob De La Roses of the world, who will now get the chance to represent their country, compete for Olympic gold, and hope they aren’t confined in China for five weeks in the process.

‘Jeopardy!’ said the loser.

On Tuesday, “Jeopardy!” included a category on sports nicknames, including a question on former NHL great Rick Nash, whose answer revealed that his nickname was “The Slim Reaper,” which I had never heard before. Kevin Durant, perhaps? He’s known as “The Slim Reaper.” Rick Nash, on the other hand, was just “The Slim Reaper” in the locker room of the New York Rangers, which is hardly the sort of shared-knowledge information that could provide a “Jeopardy!” answer. He was also shown in the shot as a Bruin, not a Ranger. Checkmate!

Calgary is the winner.

Despite receiving $307.4 million in corporate welfare from the city as well as land, the Flames have decided to abandon their Event Centre Project because they are “unable to overcome a variety of difficulties connected to the Project’s growing costs.” As a result, the city now has a large sum of money to spend on other projects rather than an oil billionaire’s real estate investment.

NFTs are the losers.

The Seattle Kraken attempted their first NFT drop, with mixed results. They attempted to introduce them on Monday, but were forced to postpone owing to technical issues. Then they launched a tiered NFT purchasing campaign, with one tier offering two tickets to a Kraken home game for about $95 (bearing in mind that this is approximately half the price of the typical Kraken ticket this season).

The club subsequently amended the text of that tier to state that “winners” of the NFT would now get free tickets, turning it into a sweepstakes rather than a discount ticket sale, according to @NHLtoSeattle.

Alex Ovechkin is the winner.

Alex Ovechkin (@ovi8) was well-versed in the task.

@GEICO presents the NHL Career Quiz pic.twitter.com/EymHXpy8zn

21 December 2021 — NHL (@NHL)

Alex Ovechkin deserves praise for his encyclopedic understanding of his own career. It was remarkable to know the defensemen on “The Goal.”

Loser: To paraphrase Gretzky

At this point, I believe we can safely assume that Wayne Gretzky (A) expects Alex Ovechkin will shatter his goal-scoring record and (B) is OK with it. I don’t believe we need to ask him any more questions. We don’t need headlines like “Ovechkin ‘will pass me’ for NHL goals record, Gretzky says: report,” or “Ovechkin ‘will pass me’ for NHL goals record, Gretzky says: report.”

Headlines by Puck

  • At the Channel One Cup in Moscow, Russia’s national ice hockey team “sparked controversy in northern Europe by donning throwback uniforms from its Soviet history.”

  • A hockey rink at New England Sports Village will be renamed in honor of Bishop Feehan star AJ Quetta, who is currently injured.

  • Upper Deck has agreed to develop “the first items devoted entirely to professional women’s hockey” after striking an agreement with the Premiere Hockey Federation.

  • “The NHL’s hasty choice to forgo the Olympics worsens ice hockey’s collapse,” says one writer.

  • So, if the NHL had competed in the Beijing Olympics, who would have won gold?

  • Why the Flyers are on the path they are this season is a puzzle. “Being 29 games into a season, and despite a coaching change, you can really see them either making the playoffs, staying perfectly in the middle and barely missing the postseason threshold, or bottoming out and having us pumping out prospect profiles with even more gumption than normal, is truly the most Flyers thing.”

  • Sean Gentille talks about ‘NHL 04 Rebuilt,’ a near-complete reconstruction of “what many consider to be the greatest hockey game of all time, ripped from the past and maintained fresh, vibrant, and present by sheer force of will.”

  • At the World Juniors, keep an eye on the NHL draft prospects.

  • Finally, a shout-out to Derek, Adam, Rick, and the rest of the insane geniuses that exist outside of The Pensblog, a Pittsburgh Penguins blog that has reportedly come to an end. It’s just a fascinating mix of analysis, nonsense, and dank memes. Thank you very much for all of the “Free Candy.”

From your ESPN buddies

Our in-depth look at the NHL’s hiatus, the COVID-19 procedures, and what’s next.

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The “nhl stars” is a list of the NHL players, teams that leveled up during the 2021 season.

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