Phil Kessel skates in a game against the Ottawa Senators. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/NHLI via Getty Images)
It’s funny how the sports media works sometimes. We get so excited over “potential” that we are often looking ahead more than we are at the present. To wit: Tavares or Hedman? It will not matter one bit for another eight months, but it sure is fun to speculate.
Similarly, when these young phenoms do not come flying out of the gate, we – not to mention the fans who read the articles - ask, “what went wrong?” In Tampa, for example, Steven Stamkos is still without a point. Most people recognize this is largely due to the rookie being 18th on the team in ice time, but something close to Patrick Kane’s numbers were promised in many circles and that is not likely to happen right now.
Not that it is going to stop me from continuing to speculate on future successes and prospects, but let us state the obvious here: some NHLers take longer to develop than others. While a raft of 2008 first-rounders arrived in the league this year, the ones who have made a relatively seamless transition are the exceptions to the rule. It is great to see Mikkel Boedker and Luke Schenn thriving, but it is not a knock on the others for taking a little longer.
With that in mind, let us look at Phil Kessel.
There was a time – back in late 2005 – when “Phil the Thrill” was being called the American Sidney Crosby. A year behind Sid in the draft, Kessel was a lock for the No. 1 seeding in 2006, until the hype machine digested itself and the inevitable questions that come with an 18-year-old wunderkind began to loom over the youngster’s head – fitness level and attitude being at the top.
Sufficed to say, Kessel dropped to No. 5 that year and his career got off to an uneven start (missing time with a harrowing bout of cancer certainly was an understandable factor).
But look at Kessel now. The speedy winger is off to his best start to date, notching six goals and seven points through eight games, good for second on the Bruins. At this pace, he will obliterate his point totals from his previous two campaigns and his work with Patrice Bergeron gives the Bruins two dangerous offensive lines (with Marc Savard headlining the other).
On the other coast, Devin Setoguchi is doing big things for the San Jose Sharks. Drafted back in 2005 with the likes of Crosby, Carey Price and Anze Kopitar, Setoguchi played a full slate of major junior before splitting last season between San Jose and Worcester of the American League. Now, 17 points in 44 games as a rookie is OK, but as a sophomore, Setoguchi has rung up eight points in nine games, which ties him for second on the Sharks with heavy company such as Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle.
The lesson here? As much as we want these kids to get off to huge, Calder-worthy seasons right away, it is important to remember how rare that is. The hockey world has certainly been spoiled lately with brilliant young stars, but it is a career these kids will ultimately be remembered for, not just the first couple years.
Thought this was kind of fun: On the Camrose Kodiaks (Jr. A) website, the players were each asked a series of this-or-that questions for their profiles. Given the choice between The Hockey News and Maxim, the lad magazine beat venerable THN 12 votes to nine. Diss! Oh well, it’s not our fault Megan Fox doesn’t play hockey.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Monday and Wednesday, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his prospect-watch feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.
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