Welcome to the NHL Star Power Index: A weekly gauge of the players who are controlling substantial buzz around the league. When a player is included on this list it may not be a good thing -- it means that they are capturing a large amount of the hockey world's attention.
These players are in no particular order when it comes to the amount of buzz that they're creating. We'll revisit the Star Power Index every week throughout the regular season.
The acquisition of Vladimir Tarasenko was expected to bring a jolt to the New York Rangers' forward group. However, it's been second-line winger Artemi Panarin that has seen his offensive production go through the roof lately.
In just his last two games, Panarin has tallied six goals and two assists, including a four-goal performance in a 6-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. It marked the first time in his NHL career that the Rangers star has recorded four goals in a game. As if that wasn't impressive enough, Panarin registered two goals and an assist in a 6-4 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday to continue his hot streak.
With eight points in two games, Panarin joined some very elite company. Panarin's six goals are now tied for the most in franchise history over a two-game span, as he joins Mika Zibanejad (March 3-5, 2020 & March 5-7, 2020), Mark Pavelich (Feb. 20-23, 1983), Steve Vickers (Nov. 12-15, 1972) and Frank Boucher (March 18-21, 1928) as the only Rangers to achieve that feat.
In five games since returning from the All-Star break, Panarin has been absolutely on fire from a playmaking standpoint. During that time, he's racked up six goals and six assists.
Panarin just appears to be seeing the puck so well right now. He's one of the main reasons that the Rangers have won six consecutive games and currently own an eight-game point streak, which they haven't done since the 2015-16 season.
It's been an up-and-down season for the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. After missing the majority of December, Colorado star Nathan MacKinnon is finally starting to hit his stride. MacKinnon has racked up four goals and three assists in five games following the All-Star break. The star center has recorded those four goals over his past three games.
His most productive performance came this past Saturday in a 5-3 win over the Florida Panthers when MacKinnon registered two goals and an assist. It marked just MacKinnon's third multi-goal game of the 2022-23 season.
MacKinnon added an empty-netter off another assist from Rantanen in the final minute of the third period to clinch the victory for the Avalanche.
As crazy as it sounds, the Avalanche are barely clinging to the third and final playoff spot in the Western Conference's Central Division with 61 points. With star defenseman Cale Makar currently out and captain Gabriel Landeskog still working his way back from a knee injury, MacKinnon's goal-scoring production is going to be crucial for Colorado down the stretch of the regular season.
It's no secret that Erik Karlsson is enjoying a career year. It's also no secret that it is boosting his trade value as the deadline approaches. Karlsson has registered a goal and three assists over his last three games. On Sunday, the San Jose Sharks defenseman recorded a goal and two assists in a 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals.
For the second time in his past four games, Karlsson got into the scoring column.
In San Jose's previous game against the Florida Panthers, Karlsson made some impressive history. With an assist, Karlsson became the fastest defenseman to reach the 70-point mark since Paul Coffey accomplished the feat during the 1988-89 season in just 45 games as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Sharks blue-liner currently has 73 points (18 goals & 55 assists), which is his by far his highest point total since arriving in San Jose.
Karlsson's previous best season came in the 2018-19 campaign when he recorded three goals and 42 assists. His 73 points are the sixth-most in the entire NHL, ahead of dangerous forwards like Dallas Stars winger Jason Robertson, Buffalo Sabres winger Tage Thompson and New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes. His 55 assists are tied for second among all NHL players and he only trails Tampa Bay Lightning star Nikita Kucherov (57).
With the Sharks aren't in playoff contention, it's possible that the franchise elects to capitalize on Karlsson's value. Now Karlsson does have a cap hit of $11.5 million, so the money isn't going to be an easy item to facilitate. However, if the Sharks are willing to eat some of the money, it's very possible that a deal could get done.
Over his last four starts, Hart has a 2-1-1 record to go along with a 1.25 goals-against-average, and a .961 save percentage. During that stretch, the Flyers netminder has stopped 125 of the 130 shots that he's faced and hasn't yielded more than two goals in any of those four outings. Hart also stopped all 40 shots that he faced in a 4-0 shutout win over the Winnipeg Jets back on Jan. 28.
If you look at Hart's numbers over the course of the season, they might not look overly impressive. But according to MoneyPuck, Hart possesses a staggering .956 save percentage when it comes to stopping unblocked shots. In addition, Hart also has recorded 294 puck freezes, which is second in the NHL behind only Arizona Coyotes goalie Karel Vejmelka. That means that Hart isn't allowing many rebounds when he's facing pressure in the crease.
The Flyers have struggled to find a franchise goaltender for quite some time. In the early 2010s, the team signed veteran Ilya Bryzgalov to a massive contract only to see him fizzle out. Then it was guys like Steve Mason, Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth that tried their hand at being the team's starting goalie, but didn't end up working out.
Now, the Flyers clearly have their franchise netminder in Hart.