NHL Star Power Index: Lightning’s Nikita Kucherov on torrid pace, Canucks’ Quinn Hughes continues to thrive


Welcome to the NHL Star Power Index: A weekly gauge of the players who are controlling substantial buzz around the league. When a player is included on this list it may not be a good thing — it means that they are capturing a large amount of the hockey world’s attention.
These players are in no particular order when it comes to the amount of buzz that they’re creating. We’ll revisit the Star Power Index every week throughout the regular season.
Nikita Kucherov TB • RW • #86 G 10 A 12 +/- -1 View Profile
Nikita Kucherov has been a source of constant production for the Tampa Bay Lightning throughout the franchise’s run as one of the NHL’s elite teams. Early in the 2023-24 season, Kucherov is playing at an elite level yet again.
Over his last three games, Kucherov has been on fire to the tune of 11 points (four goals and seven assists). That stellar stretch has allowed the Lightning star to take the league lead in points with 22.
During that span, Kucherov registered at least four points in two of those three contests. Kucherov racked up a goal and four assists in a 6-4 win against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday, while also tallying two goals and two assists in a 6-5 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday.
While it wasn’t quite as lethal as the previous two games, the Lightning forward also recorded a goal and an assist in a 5-3 win against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. What was so impressive about that performance was the fact that Kucherov sniped a shot past Canadiens goaltender Jake Allen just 22 seconds into the game.
Kucherov’s sensational shot was on display after the Canadiens turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Forward Brandon Hagel slid the puck across to Kucherov for a one-timer near the top of the face-off circle, and Kucherov didn’t miss his opportunity.
Kucherov is currently on pace for 139 points (63 goals and 76 assists) this season. That would surpass Kucherov’s career-high of 128 points (41 goals and 87 assists) that he set during the 2018-19 campaign.
The 30-year-old is playing some of the best hockey of his career right now after tallying 113 points (30 goals and 83 assists) in 2022-23. If anywhere near this level of play continues for Kucherov, it’s hard to imagine he won’t be near the top of the league’s points leaders when the dust settles on the 2023-24 season.
Quinn Hughes VAN • D • #43 G 5 A 15 +/- +16 View Profile
The Vancouver Canucks may be one of the biggest surprises in the NHL through the first month of the 2023-24 season. As was documented last week, star center Elias Pettersson is playing out of his mind, but Canucks defenseman Quinn Hughes has been just as impressive.
Hughes currently leads all NHL defensemen with 20 points (five goals and 15 assists) while also recording the most assists at his position. Over his last four games, the Canucks blue-liner has racked up 12 points (two goals and 10 assists), registering at least three points in three of those four contests.
The highlight of Hughes’ recent stretch was a five-point performance (one goal and four assists) in a 10-1 win against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 2. In doing so, Hughes joined Jeff Brown (five assists vs. Kings in 1995) as just the second defenseman in franchise history to record a five-point game. Hughes also became the first NHL defenseman to register five points since Buffalo Sabres blue-liner Rasmus Dahlin achieved the feat with two goals and three assists on Jan. 7, 2023.
Hughes also joined some elite company as he landed at 257 career points in the win over the Sharks. Only 10 defensemen in NHL history have tallied more points through their first 294 career games, as Boston Bruins legend Bobby Orr tops the list with 329 points (96 goals and 233 assists).
In addition to his performance against the Sharks, Hughes also accumulated a goal and three assists in a 6-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Monday. It marked the second time in three games that Hughes found the back of the net.
In his sixth NHL season, Hughes has developed into one of the league’s top blue-liners. Hughes has never registered more than eight goals in a single season, but he’s currently on pace for 34 goals. While this pace likely won’t last, Hughes’ offensive acumen could be huge for the Canucks, who are sitting in second place in the Pacific Division behind only the Vegas Golden Knights.
Artemi Panarin NYR • LW • #10 G 7 A 13 +/- +2 View Profile
Artemi Panarin has arguably been the NHL’s most consistent player over the opening month of the season.
The New York Rangers forward has put together a 12-game point streak to start off the 2023-24 campaign. That mark ties the second longest of Panarin’s career and surpassed Darren Turcotte for the second longest point streak in Rangers history.
Additionally, Panarin also became the eighth player in franchise history to reach the 20-point mark of the season in 12 or fewer games. In doing so, Panarin joined the likes of Pavel Bure (11 games in 2001-02), Carey Wilson (11 games in 1988-89), Walt Poddubny (11 games in 1986-87), Rod Gilbert (11 games in 1972-73), Jaromir Jagr (12 games in 2006–07), Frank Boucher (12 games in 1929-30) and Bill Cook (12 games in 1929-30).
Panarin has tallied three goals and five assists in his last four games, including registering multiple points in three of those contests. Most recently, the 32-year-old registered a goal and an assist in a 5-3 win over the Detroit Red Wings.
In Tuesday’s win against the Red Wings, Panarin benefitted from a tremendous setup from one of his teammates. During the second period, forward Alexis Lafreniere dug the puck out behind the net and dished a centering pass to Panarin in front. Panarin blasted a one-timer past Red Wings netminder Ville Husso and gave the Rangers a commanding 4-0 lead at the time.
Panarin has tallied multiple points on seven occasions over his first 12 games. His 13 assists also lead the team, so his playmaking skills have been at an elite level thus far.
Obviously, Panarin will probably see his point streak end at some point, but he’s going to continue to be one of the top offensive producers for New York.
The Los Angeles Kings were in the market for an upgrade at goaltender entering the 2023 offseason. The team ended up signing veteran netminder Cam Talbot to a one-year deal, and it’s a pact that has paid off for both parties so far.
In nine games, Talbot has racked up a 7-2-1 record to go along with a 2.03 goals-against-average and a .930 save percentage. Over his last four starts, the Kings goalie owns a 1.00 goals-against-average and .966 save percentage. In addition, the Kings have been victorious in all four of those outings.
Talbot’s best outing came in a 5-0 shutout win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. The 36-year-old turned aside all 24 shots he faced in the victory. In doing so, Talbot became just the fifth goaltender in NHL history to record a shutout with six different teams. He joined Sean Burke, Lorne Chabot, Dwayne Roloson and Jaroslav Halak as the only NHL goalies to achieve that feat.
Talbot’s 2.03 goals-against-average is the seventh-best in the league, while his seven wins are tied for first among NHL goaltenders.
In addition to his stellar outing against Philadelphia, Talbot also yielded just two goals in a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 2. Prior to that, the veteran goaltender stopped 29 of the 30 shots he faced in a 4-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 31.
Obviously, it’s still too early in the 2023-24 season to determine if Talbot was one of the top bargains of the offseason. However, if he can put together a sub 2.50 goals-against-average and win a large amount of games for the Kings, that definitely could end up being the case.


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