NHL veterans from around the league are off to extremely impressive starts so far in 2013. While we expected the lockout to have an impact on the legs of players across the board, it's the seasoned veterans that seem to be coping with the abbreviated training camp, lack of preseason and intense regular season schedule the best.
Which veteran will be able to keep this momentum rolling and which are just enjoying a bit of brief success before regressing back to usual form?
The list of veteran players enjoying early success is a long one. I'm just going to cover a handful of guys I think have been the most impressive to date and ones that I feel are the most likely to either keep that success going or are the most likely to fall off the map. There are plenty of other fun and inspiring NHL veteran stories out there but you'll just have to uncover them for yourself.
Jaromir Jagr - Dallas Stars
This list had to start with either Jaromir Jagr or Teemu Selanne. I ended up going with Jagr first simply because it was just so unclear what he'd be able to do in a Dallas Stars uniform.
Through his team's first three games, Jagr has already notched two goals and two assists. He's playing with the same quick hands we've grown accustomed to seeing ever since he broke into the league back in 1990-91. Granted, his hands (and feet) have slowed a bit, but he's still at a level capable of making opposing goaltenders look silly.
There's no reason why you shouldn't expect Jagr to keep up his scoring pace. He's got some nice talent around him in Dallas (Ray Whitney - worthy of a post of his own, Brenden Morrow, Loui Eriksson) and the coaching staff is making a conscious effort to limit his time on the ice in an effort to keep him fresh.
Teemu Selanne - Anaheim Ducks
In what might be his final year in the NHL, Teemu Selanne has started things with a bang. Selanne has tallied four points (two goals, two helpers) in his team's first two games and looks just as potent offensively as he has at any point over the past few years.
Anaheim has been closely monitoring his shifts, trying to limit them as to keep their prized veteran as fresh as possible over what should be a grueling regular season. So far, he is averaging 15 minutes per game, a mark that should keep his offensive prowess intact.
Selanne lit the lamp 26 times last year and 31 times the year before that. Barring injury, there's no reason to expect Selanne's pace to slow even at the ripe old age of 42.
Steve Sullivan - Phoenix Coyotes
Steve Sullivan made big news around the NHL when he recorded a hat trick (the eighth of his career) in a game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. At 38, Sullivan's offensive skills have declined significantly when compared to his old form he enjoyed during the early 2000's. This has resulted in Sullivan being bounced around the league, skating with three different teams (NSH, PIT and now PHO) in the past three years.
Prior to his hat trick, Sullivan had been held in check in his team's previous two games. While it's still safe to assume Sullivan will contribute, don't expect him to be a lethal scorer on the ice. Those days are behind him. More realistically, Sullivan will chip in the odd goal or point but he won't be one of the top offensive weapons on the Coyotes and he certainly won't have too many more multiple goal nights in his future.
Andy McDonald - St. Louis Blues
Andy McDonald might be one of the most underrated forwards in the NHL. For instance, in Yahoo's Fantasy Hockey, the forward was only owned in 18% of all leagues prior to the season starting. Even after his hot start, fans still aren't convinced as evidenced by his owned percentage rising to just 43%.
At 35, McDonald is one of the youngest players on this list but I felt he deserved a mention as he's quickly becoming another terrific story out of St. Louis. McDonald skated in just 22 games in 2010-11 due to a concussion, and like any player that suffers an injury to the head, it was unclear what form McDonald would be in upon returning. He looked strong when he was finally healthy, but most wanted to see what form he'd be in after he had a bit more time to put his concussion behind him.
Based on the early returns in 2013, McDonald's concussion is a distant memory. He's been skating with one of the most exciting rookies in the NHL, Vladimir Tarasenko, and he seems to still have his impressive speed and his quick shot which have already resulted in the forward recording points in each of his team's first three games. Look for McDonald to be a major contributor in the St. Louis offense throughout the rest of the regular season.
Martin Brodeur - New Jersey Devils
Last season there were plenty of hockey fans believing that Martin Brodeur was washed up. They thought his best days were a distant memory and that New Jersey would be wise to bring in a new face between the pipes.
Brodeur, 40, seems to have heard all of these doubters, as seen through his inspired play in his first two games. He shut the door completely on the Philadelphia Flyers, picking up his 120th shutout of his career (Let that number sink in, it's ridiculous). Through his first two games, Brodeur has looked like the Brodeur of old. His positioning has been steady, his reflexes sharp and his save percentage is nearly perfect, sitting at .977%.
Still, it's early. Brodeur has faced a decent, yet not elite New York Islanders squad as well as a Philadelphia Flyers team that has more questions than answers. That's not to take away from Brodeur's accomplishments, but it is to say that he might not have faced his toughest test yet. Look for Brodeur to be in a decent, if not reliable option in net but don't expect him to continue at this rate.
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