The final countdown on the 2022-23 season is on as teams are hitting the last 10 games on their schedules. There is no better time to start reflecting on the season and taking stock of what happened throughout the year.
Some players stood out in a big way through 2022-23. Whether it be smashing a career-high in points, a major bounce-back season, or putting up unreal numbers on a bottom-feeder team, all of the following players had a noticeably surprising season.
So, here are five players that surprised us all in 2022-23.
After being the first overall pick in 2011, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has since established himself as a solid, reliable NHL player. But he never really broke out in a big way to become a superstar. Until this season, that is.
Nugent-Hopkins, with 96 points, is currently on pace for well over 100 on the season, far surpassing his previous career high of 69 and more than doubling his 50 points in 2021-22. His 35 goals are also a new milestone for him.
He has sort of become an unsung hero for the Edmonton Oilers. Nugent-Hopkins fits into any role, anywhere in the lineup. Now this season, with his offensive explosion, he has blossomed into one of the most versatile star players in the league. And likely the most important Oiler behind Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Erik Karlsson‘s time with the San Jose Sharks has been nothing short of difficult. In his fourth season with the team, he has missed significant time and seen his offensive production, once at the top of the league for defenders, plummet.
But this season has been a bounceback for the ages for Karlsson. For once, he has been healthy and played most of the season. His 90 points are top of the league for a defender. He could very well be the first defender to hit 100 points since Brian Leetch in 1991-92. And, he is likely to be a finalist, if not the winner, of the Norris Trophy.
Karlsson is doing all of this on one of the worst teams in the league. An incredible story. The biggest question is whether this is a one-off or if it will be the norm for the next few seasons of his career.
Josh Morrissey has been a solid, reliable defender for years for the Winnipeg Jets. Not too flashy, and not a star, but he has grown into a legit top-pairing defender. This season, however, he took his game to a new level and is one of the major factors why the Jets had been so successful this season.
He has far surpassed his previous career high of 37 points by putting up, so far, 69 points, 15 of which are goals. His defensive game has also been stellar. And his 55.7 on-ice expected goals percentage shows just how valuable his game is on both sides of the puck.
Morrissey has been good enough to find himself as a Norris Trophy favourite for the first time in his career.
Clayton Keller is setting franchise records for the Arizona Coyotes this season. He is on pace to score over 85 points, which sets him on the path to becoming the highest-scoring season in franchise history and the first since Keith Tkachuk, the current holder of that record, to have 80 points in a single season.
That would beat his previous career high by over 20 points. And he is doing it on one of the worst teams in the league. Keller is showing himself to be an offensive force without much support. It will be exciting to watch him when he has stronger and more developed linemates at his side as the Coyotes progress through their rebuild.
On a Seattle Kraken team that has seen significant year-over-year growth, one player stands out above the rest. Vince Dunn.
The Kraken defender has nearly doubled his previous career high in points of 35. He currently has 61 and is on pace for about 68.
Dunn has always been a more offensive defender but has never really gotten the regular ice time to make this large of an impact. Now in his sixth season, it is only the second time he has averaged over 20 minutes of ice time per game, and his 23:47 per game this season is a career-high.
He has taken on a much bigger role in the Kraken"s defense in 2022-23, including more powerplay time, and has become a crucial factor in why the team has one of the deepest scoring lineups in the league.
There are countless others who have had incredible seasons, and bounce-back years and are out there exceeding expectations and setting career highs. These are just five of the more prominent ones.
Who would you add to this list? Drop a comment down below!
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