There’s two players whose performance make them a natural for this feature.

Just making it to the NHL was a victory for the former punchline of the 2007 draft. For more than half a decade, it was a running joke that the 4th pick of the draft was clearly a flub, a mistake, or pure incompetence on the part of the Los Angeles King’s draft team. At the start of this season, Patrick Kane who went first overall in that draft had already won a Cup, Sam Gagner had a 8 point game, and the second defenseman taken in the draft had already played 220 regular season games. Thomas Hickey on the other hand languished in Manchester getting jumped over by Slava Voynev, Jake Muzzin and others. And then things changed.

January 15th the Los Angeles Kings waived him. The New York Islanders pounced. After playing nearly every game of the regular season Hickey could look at his NHL stats and say “I belong”. On a team that despite lacking a training camp, and having turnover on its blueline improved it’s penalty kill rank year over year, as a rookie he contributed over a minute of ice time there. He also boasted a better plus-minus than any of the teams defenders save Vishnovsky. On a team whose total goal differential was a minus-4, Hickey put up a plus nine tying him for third among all rookie defensemen. Most importantly, he helped an NHL team to the playoffs.

The other guy who needs some public adulation today, if less of an introduction is Brian Elliot. The resurgence of the Saint Louis Blues goaltender has him making a startling leap over last years numbers through four games. In last years team wide second round meltdown against the eventual Cup winners, he struggled to put up a .904sv%. This year, his four games is the most of any goaltender, and his .935sv% is hands down the best of his playoff career.

This is a semi-regular feature that will run until I get bored. This feature will highlight a player on track for a much better season than recent history indicates. 

When the Collective Bargaining Agreement was still a matter of speculation, one of the things that nearly everyone thought was a give was the much ballyhooed “penalty free buyout”, because as we all know the best way to teach responsibility is by having a handy stack of get out of jail free cards free for the taking. Three names topped the list of probable buyouts. Rick “10 Games and Bust” DiPietro, Scott “I Score Yearly” Gomez and Wade “The  Seven Million Dollar AHL Defensemen” Redden. To the bemusement of many, DiPietro is the only one who was not bought out.

After being bought out the speculation in most quarters was that the 35 year old blue liner would head to Europe, retire or possibly get a job in someones farm system. Unless last years 109 point totaling, St Louis Blues count as someones farm team, Wade Redden has done a bit better than just finding another seat on the bus.

With 10 percent of the season gone he’s got as many goals as Pavel Datsyuk or Daniel Sedin. He’s done this on a bit less ice time than either of them, and in a league he hasn’t played in for nearly three years. He’s picked up two goals, and two blocked shots in addition to a pair of goals in the three games of his NHL return.

Having left the NHL for the Connecticut Whale just with just seven games to go to make him a 1000 game man, the 2005-6 NHL +/- Award Winner must have doubted he’d ever make it. All things being equal, February 5th in front of his new home town crowd in St Louis will mark his 1000th game. If Lloydminster Saskatchewan has a happier native sun this week I’m not sure who he is.