We're a little under 8% of the way through the season at this point, but so far scoring has been way up this season as team's have averaged 3.00 goals per game compared to 2.71 in 2015-16. If that trend continues then this will be the most offensively productive season of the salary cap era, but the problem is that trend hasn't been continuing. A week ago today I Tweeted that the league average was 3.17 goals per team per game, so obviously we've seen a substantial decline since then.
That being said, one of the interesting sources of that early offensive outburst has been this season's rookie crop. Toronto's Auston Matthews and William Nylander have stood out with 10 and nine points in six games respectively, but they're far from the only rookies off to a great start. Patrick Laine, Travis Konecny, and Devin Shore all have six points while Jimmy Vesey, Anthony Beauvillier, Zach Werenski, and Sebastian Aho are at five points each. To look at it another way, there are currently six rookies that are averaging a point-per-game or more, excluding Stars forward Justin Dowling as he's only played in one contest.
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It's going to be interesting to see where this leads. Keep in mind that Artemi Panarin recording 77 points as a rookie last season represented a very rare occurrence in the modern NHL. Since the 1994-95 lockout, a total of seven rookies have recorded 70 or more points: Alex Ovechkin (106), Sidney Crosby (102), Evgeni Malkin (85), Paul Stastny (78), Panarin (77), Patrick Kane (72), and Scott Gomez (70). So to have two players reach that mark this season - and possibly two from the same team to boot - would be pretty special. Though certainly it's too early to know how the rookie race is going to play out.
Speaking of perhaps getting too excited over a small sample size, Shea Weber has gotten off to a fantastic start with the Montreal Canadiens, recording three goals and nine points in seven games. That has to be particularly gratifying for Canadiens fans after how harshly Montreal's trade with P.K. Subban going to Nashville was judged. That being said, it's far too early to call that trade a win for Montreal and that likely won't change at any point during the 2016-17 campaign.
That's because the biggest problem with it wasn't Weber's projected play in 2016-17, it's his contract. Weber is 31 years old and signed through 2025-26 at a $7,857,143, so that deal is likely to be a problem for Montreal at some point, possibly even within the next few years if Weber starts to see a significant decline in his mid-30s. That's the risk factor that makes the Weber-Subban trade so much more of a marathon than a sprint.
Moving on from that to a much younger defenseman, 22-year-old Hampus Lindholm inked a six-year, $31.5 million contract with the Anaheim Ducks this morning. There are some initial areas of concern there. For one, the Ducks appear to be over the cap now, so I'd expect them to make a corresponding move or even trade soon, though at the time of writing that hasn't happened. The other is that Lindholm missed both training camp and the first eight games of 2016-17 as a restricted free agent, so rust might be a big factor. In fact, it wouldn't be shocking to me if Lindholm takes a while to get going and ends up having a disappointing campaign, but in general he is a top-two defenseman capable of recording 30ish points per season and has some upside left, so this is a great signing.
It also means that Jacob Trouba is the last remaining restricted free agent. Like Lindholm, Trouba is one of the league's rising defensive stars, but the big difference is that Trouba requested a trade back in September. Since then things have largely been at a standstill, or at least that's how it appears from the outside looking in. The key date is December 1st as he can't play in the 2016-17 unless he has a contract by then, but that's still more than a month away so it's a bit early to get too concerned about the possibility of him missing the full season.
I wouldn't put too much stock into the idea that he will miss the 2016-17 campaign anyways. I would think that logically it would make more sense to accept a one-year deal before it comes to that so Winnipeg at least gets something out of him this season and Trouba doesn't miss a full season - not to mention a full pay year. We're not at a point yet where that's the only option as the Jets and Trouba might still agree to a longer-term deal or Winnipeg might trade him, but I'm saying that if push comes to shove, something should be worked out.
Lastly, I just want to draw attention to Edmonton's 6-1-0 start. It's in stark contrast to last year when they didn't get their sixth win until Nov. 11 (6-10-0), 2014 when they waited until Nov. 9 (6-8-1), and 2013 when it took them until Nov. 19 (6-15-2). Edmonton has been so bad for so long, but one aspect of the recurring problem there has been the Oilers' sluggish starts. That might have had a snowballing effect on those young teams and while a hot start doesn't guarantee long-term success, at least Edmonton is going forward in a position of relative strength.
As expected the Oilers' offense has been an area of strength and Connor McDavid in particular has excelled with four goals and a league-leading 11 points in seven contests. However, the key to Edmonton's success thus far has been Cam Talbot. Reliable goaltending is something Edmonton typically lacked during its prolonged rebuild, but so far Talbot has a 2.49 GAA and .927 save percentage in seven starts and most recently has allowed just two goals in Edmonton's last three games versus St. Louis, Winnipeg, and Washington.
There's a good chance that McDavid is going to continue to challenge for the Art Ross Trophy as long as he stays healthy, but if Edmonton is going to make the playoffs this season, it will likely need Talbot to remain solid going forward.