This is the first weekly file on the top NHL stars of the week. Every Sunday, throughout the regular season, we’ll be honoring the best three players of the previous seven days. Be sure to check back with THN.com each week to discover who was a dominant force in hockey’s top league.
Now, here’s the NHL stars of the first week of the 2021-22 campaign:
1. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings: Kopitar is off to a hot start to the year, scoring four goals and adding three assists in L.A.’s first two games. That torrid points pace likely won’t be sustainable for the 34-year-old, who generated 13 goals and 50 points in 56 games last season. However, there’s no reason he can’t become at least a 20-plus-goal-scorer, as he was in the 2019-20 and 2018-19 seasons. The Kings need their captain to lead the way off the ice, but just as important is his offensive output on the ice. L.A. has a solid chance to earn a playoff berth in the weak Pacific Division, but they won’t get there if Kopitar isn’t producing as he has to begin this season.
2. Jack Campbell, Toronto Maple Leafs: The Maple Leafs’ goaltending plans went up in smoke when ostensible No. 2 netminder Petr Mrazek was injured in Toronto’s second game of the season, and No. 1 goalie Jack Campbell had to be called in to play in the second of back-to-back games. However, Campbell has risen to the occasion, continuing the strong performances he had last season: In three appearances, Campbell has been terrific, posting two wins, a 0.86 goals-against average, and a .968 save percentage. The 29-year-old has allowed just two goals on 63 shots, and he’s given the Leafs a chance to win in all of their first three games. Some people still doubt Campbell can be a major force for Toronto over the long haul, but he’s certainly quieted any critics to start the year.
3. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning: Stamkos has dealt with serious injuries the past two seasons, hampering his offensive numbers to a degree. But the Bolts captain has looked healthy and dangerous in Tampa Bay’s first three games, notching three goals and four assists to tie Kopitar for the league lead in point-getters. The 31-year-old center has had three multi-point games to start the year, and he’s posted three power-play points and one game-winning overtime goal – and he’s done it playing only an average of 17:42 in ice time. The Lightning lost star sniper Nikita Kucherov to an injury in Saturday’s game against the Washington Capitals, and if he’s out for any long stretch of time, they’ll be looking to Stamkos to (a) stay healthy; and (b) produce points at a high level. Tampa Bay has other stars to lean on in Kucherov’s absence, but everyone knows Stamkos is central to the Lightning’s success. The longer he keeps on generating offense, the better the Bolts are going to be in the Atlantic Division standings.