Originally published by NHLRumors.com
With the season underway in the NHL, and through the offseason, NHLRumors.com brought you different series looking at value signings, best signings, worst signings in free agency, and of course the approach taken by Ottawa and Anaheim to sign their restricted free agents. Now we are going to look at surprising teams in both the Eastern and Western Conferences.
In Part One of a two-part series, we will be heading out West. Again no West Coast Bias here. Normally we start in the Eastern Conference. However, the more surprising teams are in the Western Conference specifically two in the Pacific Division and one in Central Division with the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, and Vancouver Canucks.
Western Conference Surprising Teams
The Anaheim Ducks are much better than most of us anticipated. Many figured they would be at the bottom of the standings with San Jose in the Pacific Division. Head coach Greg Cronin has got this team playing with an edge. And regardless of what you think of how GM Pat Verbeek is handling Leo Carlsson, who has four points in six games including three goals, Verbeek’s team is winning.
Remember there were question marks about the signings in the offseason. Radko Gudas and Alex Killorn. Those weren’t pieces for a rebuilding team. Well, right now Verbeek again shows he knows more than the analysts do.
Frank Vatrano is on a tear in Anaheim. He has 10 points in 10 games including having nine goals in nine games with back-to-back hat tricks. But it is the youth movement outside of Trevor Zegras, who has yet to find his game, that has been producing for the Ducks.
Troy Terry is living up to the new contract he just signed. Then there is World Junior hero Mason McTavish, who is lighting it up with 12 points (five goals and seven assists) in 10 games. Ryan Strome has 11 points in nine games as the Ducks get contributions from everyone. Let’s see how they handle John Gibson being out and Lukas Dostal between the pipes.
We all knew the Arizona Coyotes were going to be a fun team to watch this season. And they are always a good home team. But who knew the other night in Anaheim that an early season matchup between the Coyotes and Ducks was going to be a must-watch?
Arizona has a good, young, and exciting team. Ownership and management are always head coach Andre Tourigny to implement his system to perfection. There are no more changes coming in the desert. They just need a new building.
The team on the ice is playing well. Especially with the addition of Sean Durzi on the back end. He has really brought stability to the defense. Add in players like Nick Schmaltz, Clayton Keller, Matias Maccelli, Jack McBain, and Nick Bjugstad, this Coyotes has a nice mix of veterans and young players. Not to mention Karel Vejmelka and Connor Ingram between the pipes.
Speaking of young players, how about Logan Cooley? Cooley finally got his first NHL goal the other night. But he has made an immediate impact on this lineup. He is making teams earlier in the draft wish they had taken him. Who knows the ceiling for this player?
It is fun to watch hockey out in Arizona again, hopefully, they get a new building soon.
Maybe the Vancouver Canucks are not a surprising team, but there were question marks surrounding this team entering the season. Nobody knew how this team was going to respond after last season. However, head coach Rick Tocchet had a summer to institute his system.
Now there were people who were picking the Canucks to make the playoffs. However, nobody expected this kind of start. Vancouver is 7-2-1, again they beat up a bad Sharks team. But those are points you need to get this time of year.
Elias Pettersson continues to perform in a contract year. He has 19 points one behind Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils. Quinn Hughes on the backend looks like a Norris Trophy winner. J.T. Miller is off to a good start. So are Andrei Kuzmenko, Conor Garland, and Brock Boeser. With all the turmoil off the ice involving Boeser and Garland, those two have really stepped up.
The question will be can the Canucks keep it going with a drop-off after Hughes on defense?
That does it for the Western Conference NHL Surprising Teams. In Part Two of the series we look at the Eastern Conference NHL Surprising Teams.