Puck Drop: Hockey’s Biggest First-Quarter Stories

As of this Wednesday, the 2018-19 NHL season will officially be a quarter of the way to completion. To mark the occasion, let’s touch on a few of the biggest stories we’ve seen so far this year, both on and off the ice.

Elias Pettersson Dominates

The rise of Elias Pettersson may be the most surprising and exciting storyline of the NHL season so far.

Though preseason predictions anticipated solid numbers from Vancouver’s rookie forward, nobody could have foreseen the dominance that Pettersson has shown already this year. With 11 goals and 7 assists in just 16 games (he missed six games with a concussion), Pettersson is on pace to be a shoo-in for this season’s Calder Trophy.

Pettersson plays with the electric skill and athleticism of the 20-year-old phenom that he is, but with an awareness and intelligence rarely seen in players who haven’t yet put in their share of minutes on the ice.

For example, check out this bank pass to Brock Boeser. This play is just nuts.

Thanks to the consistently exceptional play of Pettersson and teammate Bo Horvat, Vancouver is experiencing a turnaround that has the potential to be among the greatest ever. Last season’s squad managed to score just 73 points in total; Pettersson is on pace to beat that number singlehandedly, and the Canucks enter the second quarter of the season in potential playoff position.

What’s Up With William Nylander?

So, here’s the thing about the Toronto Maple Leafs. They are already enjoying their position atop the NHL standings (currently tied with Tampa Bay), but they have the potential to get a whole lot better.

Toronto has spent the entire season so far without star forward William Nylander, who is in the midst of a contract negotiation that has yet to come to fruition. Nylander racked up a whopping 61 points during each of his first two full seasons on Toronto’s roster. The Leafs are good enough to make up for Nylander’s absence, but imagine how good they would be if they didn’t have to.

Nylander has until December 1st to sign a deal, or he won’t be eligible to lace up his skates for the remainder of the 2019 season.

Injuries Have Ransacked The NHL

This feels like an especially brutal season when it comes to major injuries. Here are just a few of the notable players that are missing time going into the second quarter of the season:

  • Auston Matthews (shoulder)
  • Sidney Crosby (upper body)
  • PK Subban (upper body)
  • Brock Boeser (groin)
  • Jonathan Quick (knee)
  • Antti Raanta (lower body)
  • Charlie McAvoy (concussion)
  • Andrei Vasilevskiy (foot)
  • Thomas Vanek (lower body)

The list goes on, and it’s safe to say that injuries have frustrated a lot of teams this season.

Gritty

If you read my weekly pop culture feature, you’re already aware of my deep and abiding love for the NHL’s newest mascot, Gritty.

Gritty is not only one of the highlights of the NHL this season; he is exactly the googly-eyed antidote that a tired nation didn’t know it needed. Since his introduction to the world prior to the start of the season, Gritty has become a pop culture phenomenon in his hometown of Philly and beyond. Whether he’s threatening rival mascots, dancing in the snow, or tossing a rowdy kid into the penalty box, Gritty can do no wrong.

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