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Top 5 early season surprises

Jared Clinton
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Gustav Nyqvist (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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Top 5 early season surprises

Jared Clinton
By:

From Nyquist throwing his hat in the ring as a serious Rocket contender to a resurgence on the Isle, we've already seen our fair share of surprises and the season isn't even two weeks old.

The year has just begun, but already we've seen more than our fair share of surprises. Here's your top-five before we enter the second Saturday of the season:

5. Gustav Nyquist continues to shoot out the lights

After the summer of Advanced Statistics, it would have been fitting if Red Wings’ sophomore forward Gustav Nyquist’s shooting percentage fell off.

In 2013-14, Nyquist shot an outrageous 18.3 percent and proprietors of so-called fancy stats said he was due for regression. You wouldn’t have gotten much disagreement from anyone about that, either. Extrapolated over an entire year, that would have been nearly 40 goals for the Swede.

So far – and yes, it has only been four games – Nyquist has already potted four goals on 11 shots, good for a 36.4 shooting percentage. Certainly, he’s due to regress to somewhere near the league average of somewhere between 8.5 to 9 per cent, but when? If he keeps this up, he might be throwing his name into the ring for the Rocket Richard.

4. Edmonton’s woes continue

It seems like every year there’s chatter about how this could be the year the Edmonton Oilers will finally put it all together. Unfortunately for Oilers fans, it doesn’t seem like this will be that year.

Edmonton has yet to win a game in 2014-15 and has posted a league-worst goal differential of minus-12.

Fortunately, hances are the Oilers are going to start to catch a couple breaks in the coming weeks, as their Corsi percentage is in the top half of the league and they’ve got an incredibly low PDO – a measure of save percentage plus shooting percentage which should generally float around 1.000. The Oilers are currently at .909.

3. The Nashville Predators can’t lose

Behind the strength of new head coach Peter Laviolette, the Nashville Predators are currently the tops of the Central Division.

At nearly three goals for per game, it’s possible the days of the defend-to-win Predators may be gone. With new additions James Neal, Mike Riberio, Derek Roy, and help from youngsters Filip Forsberg and Seth Jones, the Predators have looked like they may be able to dig their way out of the Central Division basement after finishing only four points ahead of the lowly Winnipeg Jets in 2013-14.

2. Darcy Kuemper posts back-to-back shutouts

After his outstanding start in 2013-14, it was likely Josh Harding’s job to lose in Minnesota. However, a bizarre accident in the Wild dressing room led to a broken ankle for Harding and a shot at the starting gig for Darcy Kuemper.

You can be sure GM Chuck Fletcher and head coach Mike Yeo would like to take some credit for the idea to start the 24-year-old goaltender. In the Wild’s first two contests, a home-and-home set with the Colorado Avalanche, Kuemper posted 16- and 30-save shutouts, respectively.

His two shutouts match his total from 2013-14, in which Kuemper racked up 12 wins and eight losses.

1. Garth Snow shocks the hockey world, Islanders prosper

The hockey world knew that the Blackhawks were going to move defenseman Nick Leddy and that the Bruins had to make a move. No one could have guessed that both of those trades would include the New York Islanders.

Much-maligned Islanders GM Garth Snow showed an incredible amount of savvy landing both advanced statistical darlings, picking up Leddy and now-former Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk for a song.

Add his new acquisitions to a roster that already included names like John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner, and breakout star Brock Nelson, and the Islanders look like they may be a force to be reckoned with.

On top of it all, the Islanders may have finally found a solution in goal with Jaroslav Halak. After time spent between the Blues and Capitals last season, Halak inked a four-year deal and he may be a long-term solution on the Isle.

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Top 5 early season surprises