NHL Week 3. What we learned

[adsanity_group align='alignnone' num_ads=1 num_columns=1 group_ids='54295871']

Can you believe some teams are nearly at the 20 percent point of the season? Seriously, this shorter season is flying by.

Maybe it’s because the three-game matchups against rivals each week causes things to be a bit of a blur, The lazy thing would be to just mention that Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are hockey superstars and call it a day – especially when the pair connect for 11 points in an 8-5 win over Ottawa to close off the week.

But that’s too easy. McDavid leads the league with 22 points and Draisaitl sits second with 21 – for reference, Mitch Marner and Nathan MacKinnon sit tied for third with 14 apiece. McDavid and Draisaitl are once again proving that they’re otherworldly superhumans who can’t be stopped and, who knows? Maybe 100 points in a 56-game season is doable.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the other major storylines from the past week:

Mete, Bennett looking for new homes

Well, that didn’t take long.

After Pierre-Luc Dubois and Patrik Laine requested trades from their respective teams (before getting traded for each other), we’ve got two more in the form of Flames forward Sam Bennett and Canadiens defenseman Victor Mete. It’s worth noting both players have the same agent in Darren Ferris, but both requests make sense to a degree, even if both teams did the obvious thing of denying the reports.

Since getting selected fourth overall by the Flames in 2014, Bennett has struggled to be an effective offensive contributor outside of the playoffs. Last season, he was buried deep in the lineup and had just 12 points in 52 games – only to nearly tie that performance in the playoffs with eight points in 10 games. This year, Bennett has just one assist in seven games and has just not generated much on Calgary’s third line – a new home is desperately needed.

In Mete, the Canadiens are finally dressing him for the first time this season against Vancouver after sitting out the first seven games. I’d say that’s a good indication of how they feel about the 22-year-old  in his fourth year with the club. He has struggled to stay with the Canadiens full-time in his four-year career and he hasn’t been able to progress back up to the top pairing after starting his NHL tenure alongside Shea Weber. If Mete wants playing time long-term, it’s not going to be in Montreal because it’s clear Claude Julien isn’t a Mete-believer at this point.

Where either of the two players go is a mystery. Both are relatively cheap at $2.55 million (Bennett) and $735,000 (Mete), but they need to prove that they’re more than just depth pieces. New homes will help that, but keep in mind that cross-border trading is a challenge due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

Ty Smith is a Calder Trophy leader

Last week, I mentioned that Ty Smith was one of the NHL’s top early-season breakout players. From following Smith’s junior career, we knew just how great of an offensive defenseman he is and knew under the right system, he’d thrive in the NHL. I just can’t say I expected him to be so good as a rookie, where he currently leads all rookies with eight points in nine games.

It especially comes as a surprise given his lack of ice time. At 5-on-5, Smith is fifth among defensemen with 13:41 of even-strength ice time per-game, but he’s made the most of it. Smith is currently first in the NHL with 2.44 assists-per-60 and 2.92 points-per-60, meaning Smith is making the most out of his “limited” chances.

The 2020 Calder Trophy race has been fascinating, with many team’s rookies getting an extended look with most other development leagues on hold. When the AHL finally hits full steam this month, we might see some options sent down to the minors in hopes of getting more ice time. I don’t think Smith will ever play a game outside the NHL again, and as the Devils continue to get better, so will Smith. But right now, full marks to someone who, for the most part, wasn’t one of the top names for the league’s top rookie honor.

Some unexpected goalies are shining through

We knew the goalie situation was going to be quite interesting in 2020-21 thanks to a more condensed season – how were teams going to utilize their backups? And so far, that’s been an interesting development. 

Among goalies with at least three games played, the names with the best 5-on-5 save percentage are Mackenzie Blackwood (.982), Chris Driedger (.971), Jake Allen (.957), Kevin Lankinen (.957), and Andrei Vasilevskiy (.955). Blackwood is one of the top young goalies in the NHL and Vasilevskiy is a Vezina Trophy winner – the others, though, are quite interesting.

But with Driedger, he started just 15 games over four seasons before this season, but was pretty darn good in his time in Florida last season. Allen was one of the best backups in the NHL a season ago in St. Louis, but that hasn’t slowed down in his new home in Montreal. Lankinen, though, was the third goalie to start the season but has been the only netminder to breathe some life into one of the league’s worst crease situations to start the season.

It goes a bit deeper from there. Vitek Vanecek (WSH), Cal Petersen (LA), and Brian Elliott (PHI) are three others that started as backups but have outshone their starting counterparts, leaving some teams to revisit their crease situations. With each team playing multiple contests against rivals in a short span, that ability to rely on a backup is very key, but are we starting to say goodbye to the days of the pure No. 1 starting goalie like we used to know it?

The Tony DeAngelo situation is getting REALLY ugly

If you’re an avid user of Twitter, you know by now that the internet is very much against New York Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo. 

DeAngelo was waved by the Rangers on Sunday, going unclaimed 24 hours later on Monday afternoon. On the surface, it would be surprising to cut a defenseman coming off of a 15-goal, 53-point season, even if he was off to a weak start to the season. But it goes deeper than that: the Rangers made the move after an alleged altercation involving goaltender Alexandar Georgiev following an overtime loss on Saturday. 

Just 25, DeAngelo has been at the center of controversy dating back to his junior hockey days when he was suspended eight games by his own team in 2013-14 after making racist comments to a teammate back in 2014, with reports saying it was his second league suspension at the time – although the first wasn’t publicly stated. That same season, DeAngelo was suspended one game for abuse of officials, only to get a three-game suspension for the same reason as an NHL rookie. 

Real Kyper at Noon

DeAngelo also recently made a stir on social media over his vocal support for former U.S. President Donald Trump. Once Trump’s account was suspended for inciting violence at the United States Capitol, DeAngelo left Twitter, but not without making some final remarks that drew negative attention to him and the Rangers. 

DeAngelo’s offensive play made him a valuable commodity, even signing a sizable two-year, $9.6-million deal over the off-season. But with all the off-ice drama, plus poor on-ice performance away from the puck that led to being scratched twice this season, it’ll be interesting to see what happens next for someone who has the skill to be an NHLer, but the baggage that’ll spook teams away.

Minnesota dealt a Wild blow

When the Wild somehow snagged Marco Rossi with the ninth pick of the 2020 draft, we knew there was a good shot that he would have a chance to shine as an NHL rookie this season.

But instead, Rossi hasn’t played since the 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton, where the prized prospect didn’t look like his normal self with no points. Rossi contracted COVID-19 in November but was cleared to play for the World Junior championship – unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the 19-year-old has fully recovered at this point. 

Rossi was sent back to Austria over the weekend due to complications from the virus and is unexpected to return to action this season. Wild GM Bill Guerin is confident that Rossi will be fine in the long run, but we just simply don’t know enough about the long-term effects of the virus, either.

Hoping for the best for one of the best young talents in the NHL.

[adsanity_group align='alignnone' num_ads=1 num_columns=1 group_ids='54295872']