Welcome once again to THN.com’s Three Stars of the Week. In this regular feature, we identify a trio of players who’ve stood out above all others in hockey’s top league. Let’s get to it.
3. Samuel Montembeault, Montreal
The Canadiens goaltender had a stellar week, going 3-1-0 with a 2.43 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. The 26-year-old Montembeault had short NHL runs with the Habs and Florida Panthers in the past two seasons, but with 26 games played this season, he’s bested his previous career high of 25 appearances, which he set last season. The Canadiens came into the season with veteran Jake Allen as their No. 1 netminder, but Montembeault has given them his best stretch of hockey at the NHL level.
Montembeault is signed through the 2023-24 campaign at a very reasonable $1 million per season, so it’s with wondering whether Montreal GM Kent Hughes would be willing to offer him in a trade. The goalie market is quite thin, and if the Canadiens believe their rebuild won’t be done by the time Montembeault is in his prime, they should be exploring all trade options for him. Either way, his emergence as a force between the pipes is a bonus for the Habs, as they look to the future for the best days of the team.
2. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado
After returning from an injury that limited him to 34 games this season, MacKinnon has come on like gangbusters this week, generating six assists and eight points in four games. The 27-year-old Avalanche captain now has 38 assists and 51 points this season, putting him on track to challenge his career-best point total of 99, set in 2018-19.
The Avs have struggled because of a slew of injuries this year, but losing their most talented player, for any stretch of time, will hurt them in terms of wins and losses. But now that MacKinnon is back, he’s demonstrating that his health isn’t an issue, and he’s going to do his part to get Colorado back into a playoff berth in the Western Conference.
At a salary of $6.5 million this season, he’s one of the NHL’s biggest bargains, and anyone who’s seen him dominate games over the course of his decade-long NHL career knows it’s unwise to bet against him.
1. Zach Hyman, Edmonton
The veteran Oilers winger led all NHL point-getters this week with four goals and nine points in three games.
It’s no small wonder, then, that Edmonton is currently enjoying a six-game winning streak. We know what to expect out of superstar Oilers forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, but when support players like Hyman contribute this amount of offense, Edmonton is going to be very difficult to beat.
The 30-year-old has put up 24 goals and 56 points in 47 games this year – a pace that would put him on track to score 41 goals and 96 points, numbers that would blow away his career-best totals of 27 goals and 54 points, both of which were set with the Oilers last season.
Hyman’s $5.5-million annual salary was thought by some to be an overpay when Edmonton signed him as an unrestricted free agent two summers ago, but Hyman has gotten better and better. He’s in his prime right now, and his prowess on offense takes some of the pressure off of Draisaitl and McDavid to be the be-all and end-all for the Oilers. And his two-way game allows the Oilers to play him, on average, more than 20 minutes per night.
He’s going to be an integral part of Edmonton’s success, this year, and for many years to come.