By Matt Citak
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, which means that it’s the time of year to stuff our faces with lots of food, but also, to think about all the things that we’re thankful for in our lives. Since we each do this personally, we figured it’d be fun to take a guess at what some of our favorite professional sports teams are thankful for as well at this time of year. Over the next several days, we’ll be rolling out lists for each of the major sports that give thoughts on what teams should be thankful for right now.
Here are what some NHL teams are thankful for this Thanksgiving.
(Ed. note: If you don’t get sarcasm, this may be the wrong post for you).
Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos
Some people around the league were worried how Stamkos would perform this season after missing 65 games last year due to a torn meniscus in his right knee. Well the 27-year-old Lightning captain has been sensational, as he is currently the NHL’s point leader. Stamkos and line mate Nikita Kucherov (2nd in the NHL in points) have helped elevate Tampa Bay to the honor of being the league’s highest-scoring team.
Arizona Coyotes: Clayton Keller
This season has been nothing short of a massive disappointment for the Coyotes, who find themselves at the very bottom of the NHL standings. But there has been one bright spot for Arizona, and it’s been the play of rookie forward Clayton Keller. Keller is second among the league’s rookies in points with 18 (11 goals, seven assists), while leading rookies in shots on goal and rookie forwards in average ice time. Keller looks to be well on his way to receiving the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews
Matthews is only 20-years-old and in his second NHL season, yet has already put together an impressive career. The young forward was awarded the Calder Trophy last season after finishing the year with 40 goals, which was the second most in the entire league. In only 17 games this season, Matthews has already racked up 12 goals and nine assists, helping boost the Maple Leafs to have one of the NHL’s best records thus far.
New Jersey Devils: The Youth Movement
No one expected the Devils to be in playoff contention this season, but the performance of several of New Jersey’s young players has put the team in the thick of the race. 22-year-old rookie defenseman Will Butcher (one goal, 14 assists) is tied with 18-year-old rookie forward Nico Hischier (three goals, 12 assists) for second on the team in points, while 19-year-old rookie forward Jesper Bratt (five goals, eight assists) is third with 13 points. These three, combined with Taylor Hall, form a very talented, young core for the Devils to build around moving forward.
Minnesota Wild: Devan Dubnyk
The season has not gone the way the Wild thought it would, as Minnesota is currently sitting in the basement of the Central Division. The team has struggled, but goaltender Devan Dubnyk is certainly not the person to blame. Dubnyk holds a .922 save percentage, and has a 2.48 average goals against. But the most impressive part of his 2017-18 campaign was his three-game shutout streak. More outings like that from Dubnyk could bring the Wild back into the playoff picture.
New York Rangers: Kristaps Porzingis
The Rangers are yet another playoff team from last season that has failed to live up to expectations thus far this season. Yet at Madison Square Garden, it would be difficult to tell that this is the case due to the play of New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis, who’s in the middle of a stellar campaign in his third NBA season. If Porzingis can keep it up, New York fans might just forget that Henrik Lundqvist is approaching his 36th birthday and at the tail end of his career.
Vegas Golden Knights: The Plethora of Goalies Within the Organization
There is no doubt that the Golden Knights are the biggest surprise team of the season. After getting off to a historic start, Vegas has been able to keep up their strong level of play, despite the team suffering more injuries to its goalies than one can imagine. The Golden Knights have had five different goalies in net through their first 19 games, and yet have found a way to go 12-6-1 in those games. The return of Marc-Andre Fleury will be a welcome one for the Golden Knights.
Colorado Avalanche: Finally Trading Matt Duchene
It took almost two years, but finally the dark cloud that is Matt Duchene’s future in Colorado is no longer hovering over the Avalanche. The Avs dealt their coveted veteran to the Ottawa Senators in a three-way trade that included the Nashville Predators, and boy are they happy the deal is finally done. Colorado picked up four players and three draft picks as part of the blockbuster deal, and can finally move forward as an organization without Duchene.
Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid
If anyone was wondering, Connor McDavid is still really, really good at hockey. Last year’s Hart Memorial Trophy recipient leads the team in points (25), goals (10), assists (15), and power play points (seven). Despite his play, many are pointing towards McDavid as the scapegoat for Edmonton’s early-season struggles. This seems quite hard to believe. Be careful, Oilers fans. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
Calgary Flames: The Fountain of Youth
The Flames went out and signed never-aging forward Jaromir Jagr to a one-year deal just days before the start of the season, and you better believe they are happy with that decision. Jagr has appeared in 10 games for the Flames, registering five points (one goal, four assists) while providing a veteran presence that the team needed. The 45-year-old forward is still producing, despite being the league’s oldest player by a large margin. It seems quite obvious that Jagr found the Fountain of Youth and won’t share its location with the rest of us.
St. Louis Blues: Jay Bouwmeester
St. Louis has gotten off to quite a hot start, as they currently lead the Western Conference in points. The Blues have been able to do this with one of their top defenders having missed every game thus far. Jay Bouwmeester was injured blocking a shot during the preseason, and missed the first 21 games of the season. But the Blues received good news this week when they found out that the veteran defenseman would be making his return to the ice. Bouwmeester’s return should help solidify St. Louis’ blue line.
Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford
Chalk the Blackhawks up as another team that has gotten off to a surprisingly slow start. While Chicago might be struggling to find its groove, veteran goaltender Corey Crawford has been lights-out. The 32-year-old ranks third in average goals against (2.19) and is tied with Sergei Bobrovsky for the best save percentage (.933) among the league’s starting goaltenders. If the rest of this Blackhawks team can get going, Crawford could help lead them to yet another deep postseason run.
Matt Citak is a producer for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter or send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.