Top Underachiever on Every Canadian NHL Team

Top Underachiever on Every Canadian NHL Team
© USA Today

The Maple Leafs host the New Jersey Devils tonight at Scotiabank Arena, a team that certainly in the eyes of many prognosticators at the start of the NHL has over-achieved so far.

The Devils are 13-3, first place in the Metropolitan Division, four points up on second place New York Islanders. The Devils are second in the Eastern Conference, just two points behind the Boston Bruins. They’re tied for second in the NHL for goals per game (3.75) and are third in goals against per game (2.44).

Who predicted that? It’s early we know, but remember most people had the Hurricanes, Rangers and Penguins finishing ahead of the Devils in the Metropolitan Division. Some people had the Blue Jackets in there as well.

In our fantasy NHL pool draft, the first Devil chosen was Jesper Bratt – deep in the third round. Jack Hughes went right after. Nico Hischier didn’t go until the seventh round. 

Maybe we didn’t know what we were doing, but who among you predicted this? Bratt is 11th in league scoring – six goals, 15 assists, 21 points.

Not a lot of underachievers in the Devils' lineup so far. Across the Canadian NHL teams so far, though, it’s easier pickings.

Vancouver Canucks (second-to-last in the Pacific, 5-9-3, for 13 points)

They’re calling for the coach’s head (Bruce Boudreau) in Vancouver right now, but that’s the easy way out. Anyone can replace a coach. The tougher call for GM Patrik Allvin is when to start pulling the roster apart. 

Lots of buzz these days around trading captain Bo Horvat, in the last year of his contract. Horvat though has 14 goals and 20 points in 17 games.  Trade him to clear cash space, but don’t deal him because he’s underperforming.

It’s tight, but our money for underperformance is on Tanner Pearson (one goal five points, minus 9), with a cap hit of $3.25 million, signed through 2023-24. Yikes. 

Calgary Flames (fifth in the Pacific, 7-6-2, for 16 points)

A lot was made of the Flames’ offseason, where they lost Johnny Gaudreau to free agency and Matthew Tkachuk to trade. Jonathan Huberdeau came back to the Flames in the Tkachuk trade with Florida. And again, we stress that it’s still early.

But Huberdeau was signed to a fat contract extension soon after his arrival in Calgary – eight years, $84 million - and he was supposed to be anchoring the top line. He had one goal and six points in his first 11 games. Last year he led the league in assists with 85. 

A few games, coach Darryl Sutter demoted him to the third line.

Edmonton Oilers (fourth in the Pacific, 9-8-0, for 18 points)

This is an easy one, and not one that could have been easily predicted coming into the season. Goalie Jack Campbell was signed as a free agent this summer, and not as a stopgap. At five years, $25 million, he was supposed to anchor a team that struggled with goaltending last season. 

But fans in Toronto know how Campbell can really get down on himself when he’s not playing well. Campbell played with the Leafs last season. And in Edmonton it hasn’t gone well – most recently six goals in a loss to Dallas on Nov. 5. Then seven goals allowed five days later against Carolina.

Winnipeg Jets (second in the Central, 9-4-1, for 19 points)

The Jets, under coach Rick Bowness, have been great so far. Not much to pick apart here. The Jets have had the hottest start since they returned to Winnipeg in 2011.

Much more has always been expected out of Pierre-Luc Dubois, and at 12 points through 14 games, and a minus-2, centering the second line, that hasn’t changed. Dubois is in the last year of a deal that pays him $6 million annually.

Toronto Maple Leafs (second last in the Atlantic, 9-5-3, for 21 points)

We’re still going to stick with forward Michael Bunting, despite the two-goal game against the Penguins two nights ago. We’ll see how he looks tonight. He said the other night he’s starting to get to the tougher areas of the ice more, and that’s more his game.

Bunting’s been playing primarily with studs Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, and has still been mired in a sophomore jinx (four goals, nine points and a minus-3)

Ottawa Senators (last in the Atlantic, 6-9-1, for 13 points)

It’s tough to go at the Senators, since they’re in a rebuilding mode. Alex DeBrincat, Claud Giroux and Cam Talbot – added this summer – have all played well. 

We’ll go with Nikita Zaitsev on defence. The 31-year-old is making $4.5 million (next year as well) and is a minus-3 in seven games. 

The Sens have been sitting him, then they waived him last week. But D Thomas Chabot is out with a concussion so does Zaitsev get another chance? Their issues on defence are why the Senators always seem to be front and centre in the Jakob Chychrun trade rumours.

Montreal Canadiens (sixth in the Atlantic, 8-7-1, for 17 points)

The Habs are rebuilding as well - and for our money have been a surprise so far - so it’s also hard to find any underachievers here. We’re looking for more out of Josh Anderson, though – sitting at four goals through 14 games, just six points. At 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, Anderson is a true power forward, and is in the third year of a $38.5 million contract. 

But he’s streaky and inconsistent, and that’s been on display this season.