It’s already December and most teams are over a third of the way through their NHL schedules. The season is going by faster than Connor McDavid in transition and we’ve already seen some historic performances by teams and individuals. Today, we’re going over the most unexpected superstars of all three positions this year.
FORWARD – Tage Thompson
The 25-year-old scored 38 goals last year and signed a 7-year extension worth $50 million, so it’s not as if he’s completely coming out of nowhere. However, I’m not sure if many people would have predicted Thompson to be fourth in league scoring with two six-point games at this point in the year. Even with Buffalo still struggling in the standings, Thompson has recorded 41 points in 28 games for the Sabres, leading the team by nine over Rasmus Dahlin and Jeff Skinner. The 6’6 forward has shockingly good hands for a player his size, as well as good speed and a terrific shot.
With Tage making $7.1 million per year starting next season through 2030, Buffalo could easily have one of the best contracts in the league if he continues this play for the next few seasons. Point production like this is always tough to keep up, but with his age and skillset, it’s certainly a possibility.
DEFENCEMAN – Erik Karlsson
Since joining the Sharks in 2018, Karlsson has never played more than 56 games in a season or scored more than 45 points. With his age going up and numbers going down, most people assumed he would never again get back to the level he was at during his two Norris-winning seasons in Ottawa. Clearly, we were wrong. The 32-year-old blueliner has been electric this season, scoring 12 goals and 37 points in 30 games. With 52 contests left in the year, he’s just ten away from a new career high in goals scored, a mark he set in the 2014/15 campaign.
Karlsson is carrying a heavy load for the Sharks in every way this year and leads the team in points and ice time. Even though the scoring has slowed down a little from where it was at the end of October, Karlsson has still been the most unexpected superstar at defence this year.
GOALTENDER – Linus Ullmark
Has Ullmark been one of the most unexpected superstars of all this year, or has he enjoyed his success because of the team in front of him? Although it’s impossible to tell how he’d be playing in another city, the numbers don’t lie when it comes to how he’s playing in Boston. Ullmark leads the NHL in GAA and Save Percentage, while boasting a league-best record of 16-1-0. Before this season, his best in those categories were a 2.45 GAA and a .917 SVP. This year, he’s currently at a 1.77 GAA and a .941 SVP. Regardless of the team he’s playing for, the 29-year-old has enjoyed some unprecedented personal and team success in the crease. If Boston wants to go all the way this year, they’ll need to continue to get great production from Ullmark when games get more important.
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