In the NHL, handing out midseason grades is a tricky proposition.
Entering Monday’s games, there are 15 teams that have yet to hit the 41-game mark, including the New York Islanders, who have played just 34 of them.
There have been 104 games postponed due to players and coaches entering the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol, and another 25 games were rescheduled to accommodate those postponements. The league claimed the material changes to the schedule were significant enough that it needed to opt out of the Beijing Olympics to use the scheduled February break for make-up dates.
Some games weren’t postponed, and teams played significantly short-handed, either in missing key players or not icing complete lineups.
Keep all of this in mind in checking out our grades for the 2021-22 season thus far. Some teams have clearly exceeded expectations, while others have subverted them. Plus, the first-half MVPs, as well as players who want to hit the “do over” button right about now.
Note: Kristen Shilton assessed the Atlantic and Pacific Division teams, while Greg Wyshynski handled the Metropolitan and Central Division clubs. Stats are from Hockey-Reference.com, Natural Stat Trick and Evolving Hockey, unless otherwise noted.
Midseason MVP: Brad Marchand
The always-entertaining Marchand has been the heart, soul and leading scorer for the Bruins this year. And if there was any doubt about his value to the team, just look at the tidal wave of panic his upper-body injury caused last week. Everyone knows Boston isn’t the same without Marchand.
Player who needs a reset: Nick Foligno
The veteran winger hasn’t exactly lived up to that two-year, $7.6 million free agent contract Boston signed him to last July. Foligno’s been in and out of the lineup with injuries, and hasn’t produced much when he is available. Seeing rising stars like Oskar Steen scratched to make room for Foligno hasn’t gone over well with the fanbase, either.
Overall grade: B+
Boston has recovered nicely from its slow start and COVID issues. The team has looked more cohesive, more physical and, frankly, like the competitive Bruins we expect to see.
Midseason MVP: Rasmus Dahlin
If Buffalo were having a better season, Dahlin would likely draw more attention for the breakout campaign he’s putting together. Under coach Don Granato, Dahlin is flourishing on the Sabres’ blueline, leads the team in scoring and is on pace to shatter his previous numbers in every offensive category as well. It’s no wonder he’s a first-time All-Star Game selection this year, too.
Player who needs a reset: Victor Olofsson
When you’re a regular forward that hasn’t scored a goal since October, something has gone wrong. That’s Olofsson’s year to date in a nutshell. Olofsson’s production has slowed dramatically, he’s been bumped off the Sabres’ top power play unit of late and his game simply hasn’t measured up to where it’s been in seasons past.
Overall grade: C
Officially parting ways with Jack Eichel launched a new era of sorts for Buffalo. So far, that’s been marred by major goaltending issues, injuries and not much winning.
Midseason MVP: Moritz Seider
There are actually a number of Red Wings who could fill this spot. I’m going with Seider, the rookie defenseman who’s been consistently strong through the first half. He’s a workhorse (shouldering 22-plus minutes a game), has been leading Detroit in assists and is trusted in all situations. Impressive for any defender, let alone one who’s just 20 years old.
Player who needs a reset: Filip Zadina
When a name starts popping up in change-of-scenery trade scenarios (as Zadina’s as of late), it’s a telling sign of how that guy’s season is going. Detroit just isn’t getting much out of its talented 22-year-old forward. Zadina’s production has been spotty, his defensive play isn’t improving and ice time has been dwindling. Not good for the player, or the team.
Overall grade: B
There’s been a lot to like about Detroit’s first half, mainly because of its emerging talent. Lucas Raymond, Alex Nedeljkovic, Seider, Tyler Bertuzzi, even Dylan Larkin — all are having great seasons, raising the bar on expectations in Motor City.
Midseason MVP: Jonathan Huberdeau
There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Huberdeau’s first half in Florida. He’s been the Panthers’ best player, leading scorer and an anchor of consistency through myriad storms that the club has faced. But Huberdeau is more than just the Panthers’ MVP; he should be in the mix for the Hart Trophy, too.
Player who needs a reset: Spencer Knight
It’s tough being a young, backup goalie in the NHL. Instead of playing every other night in the minors, you’re spending a lot of time on the bench in the big leagues. That’s starting to catch up with Knight, who has just three NHL wins since early November. Florida needs to decide what the best move is for the 20-year-old’s development moving ahead.
Overall grade: A+
The Panthers can make just about any team look silly. Lately, they’re scoring at an unparalleled clip, with 63 goals in 12 games since coming back after the NHL’s COVID pause. If that keeps up through the second half of this season, expect Florida to have a long playoff run ahead.
Midseason MVP: Nick Suzuki
If the best ability is availability, then Suzuki has been ahead of the curve in Montreal. He’s the only forward to appear in every game for the Canadiens, and leads the team in points while playing nearly 20 minutes per game.
Player who needs a reset: Jeff Petry
In a crowded field of candidates, Petry stands alone. Petry’s decision-making has been an issue, and for a long-time top-pairing defenseman who has been a pillar of consistency in seasons past, this first half has produced baffling results.
Overall grade: D+
That Montreal is playing without all-world goaltender Carey Price earns them a slight reprieve from a failing grade. But really, there is a lot of talent on this Montreal team that’s just not showing up. It will be on new general manager Kent Hughes to devise a solution.
Midseason MVP: Drake Batherson
Batherson is a reason to tune in for Senators’ games every night. He’s been great fun to watch as a burgeoning playmaker with his impressive, dynamic skill set setting him apart. It’s no wonder coach DJ Smith keeps rolling Batherson out all over the ice, trusting his forward to have an impact in every aspect of the game.
Player who needs a reset: Matt Murray
Granted, Murray hasn’t played a whole lot in net for Ottawa this season. But that’s also been part of his (and the team’s) problem. Murray won only two of his first nine starts, and produced a save percentage over .900 in just four of those outings. Along the way, he’s gone through waivers, been down to the minors and dealt with illnesses/injuries. Hitting reset on this year would be welcome heading into the second half.
Overall grade: C
Getting a read on the Senators is tough since they’ve played less than most other clubs. Are they a victim of circumstance? Or just a below-average squad? The second half of this season will tell the tale.
Midseason MVP: Andrei Vasilevskiy
No single player means more to Tampa’s success than its goaltender. Vasilevskiy is just that consistently good. The Lightning have an impeccable group of offensive players and a solid blue-line corps that feeds off the confidence Vasilevskiy radiates from between the pipes. When Vasilevskiy is at his best, a Lightning three-peat seems extremely possible.
Player who needs a reset: Erik Cernak
This season has been tough on Tampa’s top-pairing defenseman. Cernak has missed extensive time battling injuries, and that’s hurt the Lightning’s blueline depth in a big way. Now turning the corner on his latest absence, Tampa has to hope Cernak can bounce back and bolster their D for the second-half crunch.
Overall grade: A-
Tampa has the talent, it has the results and it has the championship pedigree. What the Lightning really need more than anything is a few more games with a healthy lineup.
Midseason MVP: Jack Campbell
In short order, Campbell has gone from career back-up to potential Vezina Trophy contender. That happened just in time too, as Toronto’s been leaning on Campbell to carry the load in net all year. He’s been up to the task, ranking among the NHL’s best in save percentage and goals-against average, and bailing the Leafs out with a few hard-earned victories.
Player who needs a reset: Justin Holl
Perhaps Holl set the bar too high in his breakout season last year. He’s had a hard time sustaining that previous success in the first half of this year. While rookies like Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren are making strides, Holl’s game feels stagnant, particularly for a second-pairing D. Toronto’s going to need an improved second half push from Holl.
Overall grade: A-
The Leafs recent tendency to squander leads hasn’t been great. Coach Sheldon Keefe calling his team “soft” was bad, too. Toronto’s foundation is strong though, and should keep carrying it back on track.
Midseason MVP: Frederik Andersen
It’s not every offseason that a team blows up its goaltending after finishing third in the NHL in team save percentage (.915). But thanks to Andersen, the Hurricanes now have the second-best save percentage in the NHL (.919). The former Maple Leafs goalie went 20-6-0 in his first 26 starts, with a .930 save percentage. You could pluck any other player out of Carolina’s lineup and the Canes will survive. But not Andersen, who is No. 3 among NHL goalies in goals saved above average (19.8).
Player who needs a reset: Jordan Staal
There weren’t many candidates, as the Hurricanes had the highest points percentage in the Eastern Conference through 36 games. But Staal, 33, could use a better second half. He has posted the lowest points per 60 minutes (1.0) of his career, and is a team-worst 2.6 goals scored below average. His ice time has reflected this, too: 16:57 per game on average, which would be the lowest since his rookie season. It’s not all bad, however: He’s the primary penalty-killing forward on one of the best PKs in the NHL.
Overall grade: A+
Through 36 games, the Hurricanes were the best defensive team in the NHL (2.25 goals-against average) and fourth best in team offense (3.50). Their special teams have been in the top five. Their stars — Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov, having a bounce-back season — are leading a team that’s exhibited incredible depth. While he still won’t win any popularity contests outside of Raleigh, defenseman Tony DeAngelo has done everything they signed him to do as a replacement for Dougie Hamilton.
Midseason MVP: Jakub Voracek
The 32-year-old winger spent his first three seasons with the Jackets and landed back in Columbus in an offseason trade that saw the Blue Jackets send Cam Atkinson to the Flyers. While he isn’t the 80-point forward he once was, he remains an elite passer whose output this season had him hovering around the top 20 assist leaders among forwards. But most of all, he has gravitas, making an impact on any line on which he has played.
Player who needs a reset: Joonas Korpisalo
The 27-year-old goalie struggled last season to build on the promise of his 2020 playoff bubble performance, and the struggles have intensified this season, as he’s second worst in the NHL in goals saved above average. Korpisalo is a pending unrestricted free agent who doesn’t factor into the Jackets’ long-term plans. Unfortunately, his play this season might have shrunk the market for him as a trade candidate. GM Jarmo Kekalainen should have moved him earlier.
Overall grade: B
The Blue Jackets were a .500 team around the midpoint of the season, which is better than many expected. Oliver Bjorkstrand remained a consistent offensive force. Boone Jenner has had a nice return to goal-scoring form. Zach Werenski has been their backbone on defense, while Adam Boqvist — whom they acquired in the Seth Jones trade — has been good offensively. Then there’s Patrik Laine, who has finally shown some “Patrik Laine” moments in Columbus. He’s a restricted free agent and could be a big part of the future that’s getting brighter by the game for the Jackets.
Midseason MVP: Jesper Bratt
The 23-year-old Swede doesn’t get a scintilla of the attention that Jack Hughes receives, so he’ll have to settle with being the best play driver and leading scorer on the Devils this season. Their 5-on-5 offense drops by well over one expected goal per 60 minutes without Bratt on the ice. Most importantly, he has managed to stay in the lineup (for the most part) and had 33 points in his first 35 games.
Player who needs a reset: Mackenzie Blackwood
It’s never a good sign when a player makes more news for his vaccination status than for anything he does on the ice. Blackwood eventually got the jab and then watched many more shots fly by him. The goalie has posted a .894 save percentage in 23 games, giving up 3.2 goals below average this season. Only 36% of his appearances have met the “quality start” threshold. The Devils aren’t exactly a defensive wall in front of him, but he hasn’t bailed them out nearly as much as he did last season.
Overall grade: C-
The Devils have had their share of bad lineup luck. Free-agent coup Dougie Hamilton suffered a broken jaw after a solid 30 games. Hughes has been an outstanding point-per-game player, but missed 17 of their first 38 games. Goalie Jonathan Bernier, acquired to solidify their tandem, is done for the season following hip surgery. There have been some highlights — the consistent play of Nico Hischier and a strong rookie season from Dawson Mercer among them — but lowlights like terrible 5-on-5 defense and middling special teams have kept coach Lindy Ruff’s team out of the playoff race.
Midseason MVP: Ilya Sorokin
Had this been a vote, it would have been a landslide. The 26-year-old goalie has been the only consistently good thing about this team in 2021-22, posting a 10-7-5 record with a .927 save percentage in 22 games. He recently earned points in eight of nine games as the Islanders staggered forward in the standings.
Player who needs a reset: Kyle Palmieri
The winger was signed to a four-year, $20 million free-agent deal to provide goals. In 25 games, he provided exactly one of them, a prime example of the diminished returns for this team. He’s currently out of the lineup with a lower-body injury.
Overall grade: D
The extenuating circumstances for the Islanders’ lack of success are glaring. They spent their first 13 games (5-6-2) on the road as UBS Arena was completed, and then promptly went winless in their first seven games in the new barn. COVID-19 rocked their schedule, as they played just two games between Dec. 20, 2021 and Jan. 13, 2022. Defenseman Ryan Pulock was limited to 12 games due to injury. Their bizarre defensive deficiency at the start of the season has been stabilized, but they still can’t score, ranking third worst in goals-per-game average. A recent upturn in fortunes keeps this from being a total failure, but they still have a less than 10% chance of making the playoffs, per Money Puck, after making the conference final in consecutive seasons.
Midseason MVP: Igor Shesterkin
The leader for the Vezina Trophy, and a goaltender who’s going to end up with strong support for the Hart Trophy as well. The 26-year-old went 18-4-2 in the Rangers’ first 40 games, leading the NHL in save percentage and goals saved above average. Just over 78% of his appearances were considered quality starts. A brilliant season for a burgeoning star. Good luck finding anyone now who would take issue with the Rangers giving a four-year contract to a goalie with 47 NHL appearances at the time.
Player who needs a reset: Patrik Nemeth
Nemeth was given a three-year free-agent deal by the Rangers, and just hasn’t played up to expectations this season. They’ve tried him with several defensemen, including reigning Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox for a spell, and none of them had an expected goals percentage above 50% at 5-on-5. He’s also not reaching the minimal offensive standards he’s set in recent campaigns.
Overall grade: A
While some of their underlying numbers are baffling — the Rangers are last in shot attempt share at 5-on-5 — there’s no denying a .700 points percentage through 40 games. Nor is there any denying that Chris Kreider (25 goals), Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Ryan Strome have all been great, while Fox is making a strong case for another Norris Trophy win. Coach Gerard Gallant arrived at the right time in the Rangers’ maturation as a contender.
Midseason MVP: Claude Giroux
While linemate Cam Atkinson (15 goals) deserves to be in the conversation, we’ll give the nod to the 34-year-old captain whose 2.7 points per 60 minutes is slightly ahead of his pace from last season. It could be a bittersweet end to a fantastic run in Philadelphia for the captain, who is an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Player who needs a reset: Keith Yandle
Yandle is due to break the NHL “Iron Man” record with his 965th straight game played this week. Perhaps then a decision could be better made on his lineup status. The 35-year-old free-agent signing has 13 assists in 40 games and has played at a below-replacement-level pace across the board. He played less than 14 minutes in five of six games recently. Perhaps more than a reset, he needs a refresh.
Overall grade: D-
GM Chuck Fletcher made some significant additions in the offseason. Some have been good (Atkinson), some have been fine (Martin Jones, Rasmus Ristolainen) and one has been unfortunately incomplete — defenseman Ryan Ellis, limited to just four games this season due to injury. But the team never jelled, and losing Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes from the lineup won’t help even the best-laid plans. Alain Vigneault (8-11-4) was fired to jolt the team; instead, the Flyers followed a nine-game winless streak from earlier this season with a 10-game winless streak under interim coach Mike Yeo. Their chance to make the playoffs is now projected at less than 1% by Money Puck.
Midseason MVP: Tristan Jarry
With a nod to leading scorer Jake Guentzel, who has performed with or without Sidney Crosby in the lineup, Jarry has been a stabilizing force for the Penguins this season. He’s second in the NHL in goals saved above average and has been an absolute rock for the Penguins, starting 30 of their first 39 games. GM Ron Hextall put faith in Jarry after his lackluster 2021 postseason, and so far it’s paid off.
Player who needs a reset: Jason Zucker
If we’re being honest, Zucker probably wants a reset for his tenure in Pittsburgh. The winger had 13 points in 31 games for the Penguins, which is a slight decline in production from last season, which was a steep decline in production from his 2019-20 campaign. He’s currently on injured reserve and in the second-to-last season of a five-year contract.
Overall grade: A-
No team in the NHL is better than the Penguins at playing through absences in their lineup. Crosby, once again a point-per-game player, missed 12 games. Evgeni Malkin made his season debut on Jan. 11. Bryan Rust missed 22 games. Yet coach Mike Sullivan has guided the Penguins to third place in the Metro, thanks to the play of Jarry, Guentzel, defenseman Kris Letang, a revelatory season from forward Evan Rodrigues and a group of veterans who know their way around adversity. Rumors of the Penguins’ demise have been greatly exaggerated — or at least were significantly premature.
Midseason MVP: Alex Ovechkin
If he’s potentially the MVP of the NHL, logic would dictate he’s also the MVP of his team. Ovechkin led the NHL in goals and points after 41 games, which is not something one expects out of a 36-year-old. In those 41 games, the Capitals were 14-2-5 when Ovechkin scored a goal, and 8-8-4 in games when he didn’t. He was a steadying force in a season that saw the Capitals play through significant absences.
Player who needs a reset: Carl Hagelin
The 33-year-old forward is having a nightmarish season, with seven points in 39 games. If Hagelin stays on that pace, it would be the first time in his career that he’d have less than 1.0 points per 60 minutes in all situations. The lack of production is one reason Hagelin has been a target of scorn by Capitals fans.
Overall grade: B+
Like their archrivals, the Penguins, the Capitals have done an admirable job of playing through some significant time missed by players like Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Anthony Mantha. But they’ve played their way into a playoff seed with top-10 offensive and defensive efforts in front of better-than-average goaltending from Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov. Ovechkin has done the rest.
Midseason MVP: Karel Vejmelka
It would be interesting to give GM Bill Armstrong some truth serum and find out how he really feels about the 25-year-old goaltender’s surprising season. After failing to win in his first nine NHL appearances, the rookie has gone 6-5-0 and has posted a .910 save percentage on the season. Armstrong appeared to have constructed a roster destined for a top draft pick. While that’ll probably still happen, Vejmelka has made the Coyotes more competitive than expected.
Player who needs a reset: Jakob Chychrun
The defenseman was 10th for the Norris Trophy last season with 41 points in 56 games, and looked like the kind of player the Coyotes might build around for the future. Fast forward a season, and Chychrun has 8 points in 29 games and has skated to a minus-31. Buzz on where he could be traded has replaced Norris Trophy buzz for Chychrun this season.
Overall grade: D+
The Coyotes were designed to be terrible, as Armstrong amassed a war chest of draft picks to rebuild the franchise. Mission accomplished: They have a .300 points percentage, rank last in the NHL in team defense and second to last in team offense. But they’ve also won a quarter of their games, going 10-26-4 through 40 contests. Given their roster, their move to the Central Division and the general expectations surrounding them, that’s better than expected. Among the highlights: forward Clayton Keller (2.4 points per 60 minutes) and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (25 points in 40 games).
Midseason MVP: Alex DeBrincat
Through 41 games, the winger had 24 goals. The next-highest goal scorer on the team was Brandon Hagel with 10 goals, aka the only other player who was in double digits at the midway point. This would be the third time in DeBrincat’s career that he’s over 0.50 goals per 60 minutes. His career high for goals was 41 in 2018-19; provided there isn’t a second-half swoon, he’s on track to top that.
Player who needs a reset: Dominik Kubalik
His third NHL season has seen a dramatic drop in offensive production. The winger has 9 goals and 7 assists in 41 games. After two seasons with nothing lower than a 2.6 points per 60 minutes average, Kubalik has plummeted to 1.5 points per 60. He’s obviously not alone in needing a reset — 21-year-old Kirby Dach also saw his production drop and closed out the first half with one point in nine games — but Kubalik’s lack of scoring consistency is a surprise.
Overall grade: C
There must be a slight curve to this grade. The Blackhawks have had a tumultuous season, and that word doesn’t even come close to truly defining the experience. In October 2021, president of hockey operations Stan Bowman and senior director of hockey administration Al MacIsaac were out of the organization after investigators released their findings on how the team handled sexual assault allegations against former video coach Brad Aldrich during the 2010 Stanley Cup run. Coach Jeremy Colliton was fired after a horrible 1-9-2 start. Interim coach Derek King helped stabilize things, going 14-10-5 while attempting to improve the team’s defensive structure.
There have been highlights like the play of defenseman Seth Jones and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, two offseason additions who were expected to help return Chicago to contender status. The Blackhawks are not out of the hunt, but have only an 8.3% chance of making the postseason — ahead of an offseason that could redefine the franchise, with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews hitting free agency in 2023.
Midseason MVP: Nazem Kadri
So far, it’s been the best season of the 31-year-old center’s career. Kadri has 51 points in 36 games. He has produced when he’s played with the Avalanche’s top-line players and he’s produced down the lineup as well. His gritty and tenacious play has set the tone for them in many games. A well-earned All-Star season — and oh, did we mention it’s a contract year?
Player who needs a reset: The Colorado penalty killers
There isn’t one player in particular who needs a reset — even goalie Darcy Kuemper has improved after a shaky start — but the Avalanche are 27th in the NHL on the penalty kill (74.8%). They’re 11th in times short-handed per game (3.05) and fourth in power-play goals surrendered (30) through 39 games.
Overall grade: A
The Avalanche posted a .756 points percentage in their first 39 games, with a plus-47 goal differential. They accomplished this with Nathan MacKinnon missing 10 games, Devon Toews missing 11 games and Valeri Nichushkin missing 16 games. If this holds, it would be the most successful regular season in franchise history. Obviously, Colorado will be judged by its success or failure in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But it’s been an incredible regular season so far for the Avs, including superlative performances from Norris contender Cale Makar (38 points in 35 games) and Mikko Rantanen (21 goals).
Midseason MVP: Joe Pavelski
An argument could be made for Jason Robertson, who has been an electrifying presence and leads the Stars with a 1.23 points-per-game average. But he missed eight games, while Pavelski hasn’t missed a game. He’s the team leader in points (43) and is second in goals (16) behind Roope Hintz (17). He leads the Stars in goals scored above average (12.9). The 37-year-old center is in the last year of his contract.
Player who needs a reset: Anton Khudobin
While more than a few Dallas players would like a reset on their seasons — hello, Alex Radulov — none have had the fall from grace that Khudobin had. In nine games, Khudobin posted a 3-4-1 record with a .879 save percentage. He was sent through waivers with no takers, and has been on the Dallas taxi squad.
Overall grade: C
There’s clear separation between the top four in the Central Division and the Stars, but Dallas remains in the race for the final wild-card spot in the West. If the Stars make the cut, they’re a veteran team that could make a statement in a short series — provided they get the goaltending. If they don’t, it promises to be an offseason of change, with several key free agents. One of them, defenseman John Klingberg, could be gone well before then if the trade buzz is any indication.
Midseason MVP: Kirill Kaprizov
There was a moment around the eighth game of the season when Kirill Kaprizov hadn’t scored a goal and people started to wonder how he’d follow up his stellar rookie season. He has scored 17 of them since that point, adding 30 assists to total 47 points in 36 games to lead the Wild. His shooting percentage (12.9%) is down a bit from last season, but Kirill is still The Thrill.
Player who needs a reset: Cam Talbot
The Wild’s No. 1 netminder (24 games) has a 15-8-1 record, but that’s more about the team in front of him than his own play. Talbot has a .909 save percentage and has played barely above replacement level this season. Backup Kaapo Kahkonen (.922 save percentage) has been the better of the two.
Overall grade: A
The Wild have a .689 points percentage, second only to the mighty Avalanche in the Central Division. They’re getting strong seasons from players like Mats Zuccarello (36 points), Ryan Hartman (18 goals) and Alex Goligoski, who has quietly put together a comeback offensive season (2.2 points per 60 minutes) as a 36-year-old free-agent addition. Once again, their goaltending has let down the team defense in front of it, but the Wild have made up for it with a top-five offense this season. A real contender in the West.
Midseason MVP: Juuse Saros
The goalie played in 35 of the Predators’ first 43 games, posting a 22-11-2 record with a .925 save percentage. Saros, 26, has 18 goals saved above average this season and over 71% of his starts were quality starts. He’s the foundation for everything the Predators have built this season, although Norris contender Roman Josi (42 points), resurgent Matt Duchene (38 points), Filip Forsberg (1.07 points per game) and rookie sensation Tanner Jeannot (25 points) have done their share of heavy lifting.
Player who needs a reset: Philippe Myers
The 6-foot-5 defenseman was part of the Ryan Ellis trade with the Flyers but hasn’t had an ideal start with the Predators. He has been a frequent scratch this season, appearing in just 19 games with two assists and playing to a replacement level in those games.
Overall grade: B+
The Predators’ .640 points percentage puts them fourth in the Central Division and right in the thick of it for a playoff berth. Their streakiness can be concerning, but it’s been a season of overall good vibes for coach John Hynes — including the unexpected career turnarounds for Duchene and Ryan Johansen.
Midseason MVP: Jordan Kyrou
This is the season that the Blues knew Kyrou had in him, and the reason they refused to move him despite other teams coveting him in prior trade talks. The winger had 40 points in his first 36 games this season, including 15 goals. He produced with a variety of linemates, but he has really clicked with fellow next-wave forward Robert Thomas (31 points).
Player who needs a reset: James Neal
The veteran winger signed a one-year deal with a $750,000 cap hit to join the Blues in the offseason, seeking to reignite his career. Instead, he has two goals and two assists in 19 games, having been sent through waivers and currently riding with the St. Louis taxi squad.
Overall grade: A
The Blues have a .662 points percentage in 40 games. The moves that GM Doug Armstrong made in the offseason — adding Pavel Buchnevich and Brandon Saad, managing to hang on to Vladimir Tarasenko — have all been beneficial. They’re a top-five team offensively, in the top third of the league defensively and remain a physically grinding contender — provided either Jordan Binnington or Ville Husso gives them the goaltending they need in the postseason.
Midseason MVP: Kyle Connor
Through 38 games, the winger has 22 goals and 19 assists. His 41 points are 12 better than the next-highest scorer on the team, in Pierre-Luc Dubois. He has played in every situation for the Jets and made an impact. An argument could be made that Connor Hellebuyck might deserve a nod here, as he posted a .937 save percentage in winning 14 games for the Jets. But he’s had better overall runs for Winnipeg in the past.
Player who needs a reset: Blake Wheeler
The 35-year-old winger has been limited to 24 games this season. Injuries and a bout with COVID-19 interrupted his season, which began rather slowly with five points in his first 15 games. He has shown moments of getting back on track, including 10 points in a five-game span in December. He has played only two games in 2022 so far.
Overall grade: C+
The Jets were 13-11-5 when coach Paul Maurice stepped down, saying he was no longer the person to lead the team to success through “the law of diminishing returns.” Dave Lowry (4-4-2) took over on an interim basis, guiding a team that has a .539 points percentage through 38 games. The Jets currently have a 39.5% chance of making the playoffs, but are going to need more from a handful of players to make the cut — and, most of all, they’ll need them to stay healthy.
Midseason MVP: Troy Terry
He may not have mastered “The Michigan” like teammate Trevor Zegras, but Terry has deservedly drawn ample attention for an all-around superb start to this season. In his first 38 games, Terry scored 22 goals, had a gaudy 24.4 shooting percentage and was producing consistently at even strength (26 of his 36 points came at 5-on-5). Sure, Terry has benefitted from the resurgence of linemate Ryan Getzlaf too, but he’s also carved quite a path of his own through the first half.
Player who needs a reset: Rickard Rakell
For a player that’s consistently hit the 40-plus point mark his career, Rakell’s gone through a real slowdown in production. He had 16 points in 32 games to start the season despite ample playing time (over 17 minutes per game) from coach Dallas Eakins. In the past, Rakell’s been a difference-maker up front for the Ducks. So far, he’s been more of a passenger. Anaheim could use a lot more juice.
Overall grade: B+
There’s no question the Ducks are exceeding expectations to this point. Eakins has been open about the fact that there’s still a rebuild happening in Anaheim, and yet the team consistently finds ways to stay in the playoff hunt. There’s a lot to feel optimistic about for the Ducks’ present and future.
Midseason MVP: Jacob Markstrom
The Flames ask a lot of Markstrom, and he’s had no trouble delivering. Calgary’s netminder led the NHL in shutouts with five through 26 starts, and was top-5 among league starters in save percentage (.926) and goals-against average (2.18). While the Flames’ high-flying forwards have been providing support, it’s Markstrom that’s helped Calgary be one of the NHL’s stingier teams early on. To keep the Flames on pace in the Pacific, Markstrom will have to stay hot.
Player who needs a reset: Sean Monahan
It took until just about the halfway point of the season for Monahan to register his first multi-goal game of the season. That’s just how things are going for Calgary’s center, where the hard work he’s lauded for hasn’t necessarily been showing up on the scoresheet, with only 18 points in his first 35 games. Fortunately for the Flames, they’ve had other shooters come to life. But a boost of output (and confidence) from Monahan would go a long way, too.
Overall grade: A-
Calgary was really humming before their COVID-19 pause in December, and the team hasn’t found a similarly successful groove since returning. This doesn’t mean the Flames can’t, or won’t, be that powerhouse performer again. In a highly competitive division, they best not take too long figuring it out.
Midseason MVP: Leon Draisaitl
No, I haven’t forgotten about Connor McDavid (clearly). Draisaitl and McDavid go one-two in any Oilers’ MVP conversation. Draisaitl holds the edge here for slightly better numbers (26 goals and 54 points in 36 games) and of course being one of the NHL’s most unstoppable, electrifying and consistent overall players. Even when the Oilers are struggling (as they have assuredly been), Draisaitl finds ways to have an impact.
Player who needs a reset: Mikko Koskinen
There was a time, early in the Oilers’ season, when things were going fine for Koskinen. And then, the wheels fell off. Mike Smith‘s injury issues worsened, coach Dave Tippett made some puzzling public remarks about Koskinen’s play and the netminder went seven straight games without a win. Edmonton certainly didn’t enter this season expecting Koskinen to be their No. 1 guy, but that’s where they’re at with Smith sidelined again. He’s going to need a lot more support from the organization to pick things up in the second half.
Overall grade: C+
We’re being generous with the Oilers’ grade because they do still have two of the NHL’s best players in their ranks. But to be outside the playoff picture at this halfway point? To have gone through a stretching winning just two of 15 games? To have so much talent, and so little to show for it? That’s a tough pill to swallow.
Midseason MVP: Jonathan Quick
Things have not, perhaps, gone excellently for Quick (or the Kings) lately. But make no mistake: L.A. wouldn’t be in such a strong position at the halfway mark without being able to count on Quick. Going into the season, many expected Cal Petersen to usurp Quick as the Kings’ starter, but the 36-year-old was not about to pass the torch freely. Boasting a .914 save percentage and 2.56 goals-against average through 25 starts, Quick has more than proven his continued worth.
Player who needs a reset: Andreas Athanasiou
For a young center like Athanasiou, who’s meant to be in his prime, this has been a tough start to the season. Injuries have held the 27-year-old back, limiting him to just 11 appearances through mid-January. It’s not the type of impression Athanasiou was hoping to make after signing a one-year, $2.7 million free agent contract last summer. A strong showing could have led to an even bigger payday this July; now Athanasiou’s main concern has to be getting healthy enough to salvage the second half.
Overall grade: B+
The Kings are a solid performer across the board, without blowing you away anywhere in particular. It’s a formula that’s working for them though. And so long as Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Quick are going, L.A. has every reason to keep rising.
Midseason MVP: Timo Meier
In one mid-January game, Meier produced more goals (five) than all but five of his teammates had generated all season. Considering San Jose has been closer to the bottom of the league in goals so far, Meier’s contributions have become increasingly vital. He’s been notably consistent up front too, going consecutive games without a point only twice through 36 games. The Sharks have been less reliable as a team overall, but Meier’s seemed to get better night after night.
Player who needs a reset: Kevin Labanc
Before Labanc was sidelined by a shoulder injury in December, he wasn’t playing the kind of role befitting a player in season two of a four-year, $18.9 million pact. Mostly, Labanc was languishing in a fourth-line spot and had registered two even-strength points in 21 games. If Meier had been well ahead of the offensive curve, Labanc’s early returns were well below expectations. Will that change when he’s back in the lineup? Given the size of its investment, San Jose has to hope so.
Overall grade: B
The Sharks are a good team teetering on the cusp of really good. They’ve also played more games than many clubs around them in the standings. The true test of San Jose’s mettle will be staying in the playoff picture once the rest of the league starts catching up to their games played totals.
Midseason MVP: Jared McCann
If nothing else, McCann is having a career year in Seattle. His team-leading 15 goals in 34 games was also a personal best, and McCann’s been an overall solid performer for a Kraken team that can’t lay claim to many of those. McCann has played less than Seattle points leader Jordan Eberle, but his analytics and point-per-game rate surpass nearly everyone else on the squad. It’s been a rocky welcome to the NHL for these Kraken, yet McCann’s presence and success has to be seen as a positive.
Player who needs a reset: Philipp Grubauer
This has been a nightmare start to the season for Grubauer. Coming up with a 9-15-4 record, .883 save percentage and 3.26 goals-against average on the heels of a Vezina Trophy-caliber season in Colorado had to be a worst-case scenario no one saw coming. Whether Grubauer can change the tide, for himself or the Kraken, remains to be seen, but he’s already bore a brunt of the blame for why Seattle hasn’t been more competitive in its inaugural season.
Overall grade: C-
Hey, it’s hard being the new guy. Especially when the Vegas Golden Knights gave executives a blueprint for expansion team success that no one wanted to see emulated. Seattle has work to do on filling holes and eventually finding its full potential.
Midseason MVP: Thatcher Demko
Apparently Bruce Boudreau wasn’t an option in this category, so here we are. Demko is well deserving of the distinction, though. Before Boudreau came on board behind the bench, the Canucks were in the thick of a terrible first half. Even then, Demko was a player the team could rely on to give his best every night, and provide some semblance of hope for a win. Despite the Canucks struggling in front of him, Demko’s numbers remain strong (.917 save percentage, 2.62 goals-against average through 32 starts). If Vancouver claws its way into the postseason conversation, it’ll be on the back of Demko’s play.
Player who needs a reset: Elias Pettersson
If anyone would like to start this season over, it’s probably Pettersson. His play definitely improved after Boudreau took over, but nine goals and two multi-point outings in 39 games isn’t the impact Vancouver needs from its star center. Even as Pettersson slowly rounds into form, it’s not nearly fast enough for what the Canucks need accomplished up front. The only way now is forward, and Pettersson needs to be at the forefront of a Vancouver push from here on out.
Overall grade: C+
The Boudreau Boost has been real. But will it sustain the Canucks in the second half? Can Pettersson and Brock Boeser emerge? Will the defense tighten up? So many questions. But plenty of time, too, for answers.
Midseason MVP: Chandler Stephenson
When Vegas was without Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, Stephenson seemed to take it as a challenge to raise his own game. That has sustained the forward throughout a strong first half, where he’s been leading the team in points (38 through 40 games), was hitting the mark with a strong shooting percentage (20%) and has earned time in every situation. Between injuries and COVID-19 illnesses, coach Peter DeBoer has had to patch and paste his lineup a lot. The constant has been Stephenson, ready and willing to take on whatever responsibilities asked of him.
Player who needs a reset: William Karlsson
One of Vegas’ top-paid players hasn’t been performing as such this season. Karlsson comes in at nearly $6 million per season, but scored only six goals and 13 points through 26 games, and has failed to really excel in any area on the ice. The center has overcome injury issues but still feels somewhat average given the investment in his talent. The good news on Karlsson is that lately it seems he has perhaps found that reset button by getting more involved offensively with some dynamic playmaking.
Overall grade: A-
The Golden Knights have had a slow build into their current position pacing the Pacific. And they’ve done it without some of their best players (namely Pacioretty) being available for much of the early going. There’s good chemistry throughout the lineup, and with a solid foundation in place, Vegas will be hard to push off the top stop.