Erik Karlsson is on the ice more than any other NHL player and is scoring unlike any defenceman in the past two decades.
The two-time Norris Trophy winner is on pace for 85 points, which would be the most since Brian Leetch of the New York Rangers in 1995-96. The electrifying star also is the key to the Ottawa Senators‘ push for the playoffs.
Karlsson is easy to keep an eye on because he plays almost 29 minutes a game. He’s dominant on the power play, where he’s put up 18 of his 52 points, good for fourth in the league.
If coach Dave Cameron continues to let his captain loose, Karlsson could surpass Leetch and challenge for another Norris Trophy.
Here are five other players to watch in the second half of the NHL season:
Patrick Kane: The NHL’s leading scorer by a mile with 30 goals and 43 assists for 73 points, the Chicago Blackhawks winger has been the best player on the ice so far. A year after Jamie Benn led the league with 87 points, Kane should surpass that by March and shatter the 100-point mark as the Blackhawks eye a fourth Stanley Cup in seven years.
Braden Holtby: The Washington Capitals‘ workhorse goaltender already has 30 wins in 39 games, so Martin Brodeur’s single-season record of 48 is in play. Holtby is a throwback, an aggressive goaltender who plays the puck like a skater, so the Capitals’ breakout gets a boost from him, too. It’s only a matter of time until he scores a goal.
Tyler Seguin: The best centre on the NHL’s most offensively dynamic team, Seguin is a superstar who just turned 24. The Dallas Stars’ top-line combo of Seguin and Benn will keep torturing Central Division rivals down the stretch. Seguin isn’t in the MVP discussion only because he, Benn and defenceman John Klingberg share credit for the Stars’ success.
Dustin Byfuglien: Arguably the player most likely to be dealt before the Feb. 29 trade deadline, the Winnipeg Jets defenceman is a one-of-a-kind player. Byfuglien is a 6-foot-5, 260-pound physical force who can hit like a freight train, skate smoothly and contribute offensively. Whoever adds him will pay a premium rental price but will get a difference-maker.
Aaron Ekblad: While living legend Jaromir Jagr continues to impress at almost 44, his soon-to-be 20-year-old teammate is just as responsible for the Florida Panthers leading the Atlantic Division. In his second professional season, Ekblad is a stabilizing force on the blue-line. And he’s only getting better.