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Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks: Most of the rookie of the year attention has centered around the goalies Michal Neuvirth (suddenly chilly) and Sergei Bobrovsky, and flashy Carolina center Jeff Skinner. But folks in San Jose have been banging the drum for another skilled pivot named Logan Couture. The Guelph, Ontario, native has taken over the rookie scoring race with 21 points as of Friday morning. Couture also leads all rookies with four game-winning goals and is the only first-year player with a plus rating (plus-6) among the top five rookie point producers. Perhaps more impressive: The 21-year-old, selected ninth overall in the 2007 draft, leads the talent-laden Sharks in goals (14) and has scored six times in his past five games.
Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Sabres: The Buffalo Sabres are slowly edging back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture (they were in ninth place, five points back of eighth as of Friday morning). If they’re going to get all the way back, they’ll need Vanek to keep doing what he’s been doing the past couple of weeks, and that’s contributing on a regular basis. Vanek, talented yet prone to long stretches of silence, has scored seven times in his past nine games and chipped in 10 points over that period. For a team desperate for leadership, Vanek is leading in the best way possible: by example.
Patric Hornqvist, Nashville Predators: Hornqvist was one of the feel-good stories last season; the last overall pick of the 2005 draft (selected 230th overall) led the playoff-bound Predators with 30 goals. This season, not so much. Hornqvist has just one goal in his past 14 games. That paucity of scoring from a key member of the Preds’ limited arsenal may explain why Nashville finds itself clumped uncomfortably with more than half the Western Conference fighting for a playoff spot.
Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs: We have always resisted the temptation to join the group that considers the Leafs’ acquisition of Phil Kessel from Boston (for what now looks like back-to-back top five draft picks) a colossal blunder. But that temptation grows stronger by the day. Kessel’s scoring struggles, along with the Maple Leafs’ woes, also grow. Kessel has scored just once in his past 10 games and has gone without a goal in seven. Not coincidentally, the Leafs have won just twice in their past eight outings.