This article is part of our The Daily Puck series.
Around the Rink
Based on studies done over the years, it's been estimated that baseball players hit their prime from ages 27-29, basketball at age 27, and it's 27 for offensive skill players in football. In hockey though, that number is closer to 25 for forwards. I think a big reason for this slant in the data is due to the fact that scoring has fallen fairly consistently across the league in the last few years, but I think the biggest thing it shows is that the value of speed is continuing to increase in hockey.
Patrick Kane is having a season for the ages when you consider the nature of the post-2004 lockout NHL, with 88 points in 66 games. Kane's having his best year at 27, something he's able to do because he's still a great skater and has an extremely high hockey IQ. The Conn Smythe winner will continue to dominate in the coming years, but don't expect another monster year like this one in the future, as Kane will only lose his skating ability in the coming years.
The two best players of this generation follow this trend of peaking early. Sidney Crosby scored 120 points as 19-year-old in 2006-07 and 51 goals as a 22-year-old in 2009-10. Alex Ovechkin scored 171 goals and 331 points from 2007-10, when he was aged 22-24. Both are still two of the best players in the world, but Crosby's 63 points in 63 games as a 28-year-old and Ovechkin's 60 points in 63 games as a 30-year-old pale in comparison to their numbers as younger players.
The reason players' production tends to taper off when they lose a step is the same reason that 19-year-old Connor McDavid has been able to enter the league and score at the second-highest rate in the league (1.13 points per game). McDavid is clearly a prodigious player, but his blazing speed allows him more breakaway, partial breakaway, and odd-man rush situations than any other player in the league. The same can be said for 24-year-old Tyler Seguin (68 points), 23-year-old Evgeny Kuznetsov (66 points), and 22-year-old Johnny Gaudreau (63 points). This isn't to say that all you need to score is speed (just ask Michael Grabner or Daniel Paille), but that speed makes a huge difference in production for players possessing elite skillsets.
Projected Goalie Starters (all times Eastern)
Stars (Antti Niemi) vs. Senators (Andrew Hammond), 5:00 PM
Penguins (Marc-Andre Fleury) vs. Devils (Keith Kinkaid), 5:00 PM
Islanders (Jaroslav Halak) vs. Rangers (Antti Raanta), 5:00 PM
Red Wings (Petr Mrazek) vs. Blackhawks (Corey Crawford), 5:00 PM
Oilers (Cam Talbot) vs. Jets (Michael Hutchinson), 7:00 PM
Blues (Jake Allen) vs. Wild (Darcy Kuemper), 8:00 PM
For updates on projected goalies later in the day, check our Projected Goalies Grid.
Injury News for Teams Playing Sunday
Jordie Benn, D (lower body) – out Sunday
Patrick Eaves, RW (illness) – questionable Sunday
John Klingberg, D (lower body) – didn't make the trip to Ottawa
Patrick Sharp, RW (lower body) – will miss Sunday's contest
Craig Anderson, G (lower body) – a doubt for Sunday
Mark Borowiecki, D (knee) – out indefinitely
Clarke MacArthur, LW (concussion) – yet to pass his baseline test
Chris Phillips, D (back) – out for the season
Kyle Turris, C (ankle) – shut down indefinitely
Beau Bennett, RW (upper body) – began skating with the team Friday
Eric Fehr, RW (lower body) – also returned to practice Friday
Ben Lovejoy, D (upper body) – out indefinitely
Kevin Porter, C (ankle) – to miss 12 weeks
New Jersey Devils
Michael Cammalleri, LW (hand) – could be sidelined for the remainder of the season
Patrik Elias, LW (knee) – yet to rejoin his teammates for practice
Cory Schneider, G (undisclosed) – out Sunday
Jiri Tlusty, LW (upper body) – unlikely to return this season
Andrew Ference, D (hip) – out for the season
Eric Gryba, D (knee) – likely to miss a few more weeks
Oscar Klefbom, D (infection) – expected to be back sometime in March
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, C (hand) – resumed practicing Tuesday
Benoit Pouliot, LW (shoulder) – could miss the rest of the season
Grant Clitsome, D (back) – will not play this season
Nikolaj Ehlers, LW (eye) – out indefinitely
Bryan Little, C (back) – sidelined for the remainder of 2015-16
Anthony Peluso, RW (upper body) – out three-to-four weeks
Mark Stuart, D (upper body) – likely to miss another two-to-four weeks
Jacob Trouba, D (upper body) – a possibility for Sunday
St. Louis Blues
Brian Elliott, G (lower body) – out another three weeks
Jori Lehtera, C (upper body) – probable Sunday
Steve Ott, C (hamstring) – aiming for a postseason return
Alexander Steen, LW (upper body) – likely to miss three more weeks
Nate Prosser, D (illness) – questionable Sunday
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT – Through the first 18 games of the season, Crosby had nine points and left everyone wondering what had happened to him. There were even some who questioned whether or not he'd make the Canadian World Cup team. Crosby has played 45 games since then, notching 26 goals and 28 assists, which has rocketed him up to sixth position amongst NHL scoring leaders. In addition, Crosby has scored in each of his last four games, totaling three goals, four assists, and a plus-7 rating.
Dustin Byfuglien, D, WPG – Despite just one goal in the last 14 games, Byfuglien has been a model of consistency over the last eight games. Playing huge minutes (average of 27:01 TOI) and averaging around three hits a game, Byfuglien is riding an eight-game point streak, in which he's totaled a single point in each game.
Brock Nelson, C, NYI – With 21 goals, the 2010 first-round pick has already topped his previous career high of 20 goals, which he scored in 2014-15. However, Nelson hasn't been on the scoresheet in seven games, and has put just seven shots on goal in that period.
Teuvo Teravainen, C, CHI – Since Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise were acquired from the Canadiens on Feb. 25, Teravainen has an assist in each of the three games that have been played. With the additional depth each of those players provide, it allowed head coach Joel Quenneville to slot Teravainen on the third line in his natural position of center. Playing in the middle allows Teravainen more options when it comes to finding passing lanes and making plays, and with the former 27-goal scorer Fleishmann on his line, that should result in more assists and points for the 21-year-old Finn.