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.
The story has been well-documented. The Toronto Maple Leafs have exited in the opening round of the playoffs in each of the last six seasons.
The front office recently made a bold move to help make sure that a lengthy postseason run would be in the card this time around. Last week, the Maple Leafs acquired center Ryan O'Reilly from the St. Louis Blues and it's already paying huge dividends.
In Tuesday's 6-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres, O'Reilly recorded a hat trick and dished out an assist in his third game with his new team. It was just the fourth hat trick of O'Reilly's 14-year career and his first since April 24, 2021 against the Colorado Avalanche.
O'Reilly got off to a hot start on Tuesday as he scored the game's opening two goals just 37 seconds apart early in the first period. The 32-year old later added an empty-net goal at the 18:50 mark of the third period to clinch the hat trick.
With O'Reilly's hat trick coming in just his third game with Toronto, he achieved a hat trick in the third-fewest games in Maple Leafs history. Auston Matthews (one game, Oct. 12, 2016), Reg Noble (one game, Dec. 19, 1917), Corb Denneny (two games, Dec. 22, 1917), and Harry Meeking (Dec. 22, 1917) were the only players in franchise history to accomplish feat quicker.
O'Reilly was the beneficiary of a historic night from Mitch Marner, who tied a Maple Leafs for assists in a road game with five.
On O'Reilly's first tally, John Tavares was able to shuffle the puck ahead to Marner before taking a hat. Marner then was able to throw the puck in front to O'Reilly, who had just enough of a step on his defender, and O'Reilly buried a shot into what turned out to be a wide-open Sabres net due to goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen being out of position.
On O'Reilly second goal of the night, there was a higher degree of difficulty, but the same connection was made. The play developed with Tavares dishing the puck off to O'Reilly and O'Reilly dropped it off for Marner. Once he received the puck, Marner gave it right back to O'Reilly as he cut towards the net and O'Reilly flipped a beautiful backhanded shot into the net for his second goal in just 37 seconds.
In three games since joining the team, O'Reilly has registered three goals and two assists. Prior to his arrival in Toronto, the veteran forward only had 19 points (12 goals, seven assists) in 40 games with St. Louis.
Ironically enough, O'Reilly's big night came against the Sabres, who were the team that traded him to the Blues back in 2018 in the deal that brought Tage Thompson to Buffalo. O'Reilly ended up being a key piece when the Blues won the Stanley Cup during the 2018-19 season, so it'll be interesting to see if he can be the missing link that the Maple Leafs have been searching for..
In what has been an otherwise disappointing campaign, Kane has turned it on as of late. The Blackhawks star has registered seven goals and three assists over his last four games.
Among was the most impressive of those performances came when Kane recorded a hat trick and an assist in a 5-3 Blackhawks' win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday. It marked his second consecutive multi-goal game and first hat trick since Feb. 25, 2022 against the New Jersey Devils.
Kane also had a two-goal performance in a 4-3 overtime win against the Ottawa Senators this past Friday. He's had three multi-goal games in his last four contests and those are the only three that he's recorded throughout the entire 2022-23 campaign.
As magnificent as all those goals were, the most jaw-dropping may be the one that didn't end up counting.
During Tuesday's game against the Vegas Golden Knights, Blackhawks forward Tyler Johnson had tied the game in the final minute of regulation to send it to overtime. In the final seconds of the overtime period, Kane had the puck on his stick on a breakaway.
The Blackhawks star ripped a slap shot that beat Golden Knights netminder Laurent Brossoit. Unfortunately for Kane, the officials ruled that the puck didn't cross the goal line until after time had expired in overtime.
Kane did register an assist in the game and Chicago ended up winning in the shootout despite Kane not scoring a game-winning goal.
There were previously concerns that Kane could be dealing with a hip injury, but the Blackhawks star has clearly put those concerns to rest. Now perhaps trade talks will ramp up considering that the NHL trade dead deadline is less than two weeks away.
Kane does have a no-trade clause that he can choose to exercise, so he can determine where he gets traded. He'll be an unrestricted free agent this summer, so it's likely that the Blackhawks will be doing everything in their power to try and move him in order to get some kind of return.
Goalie Pheonix Copley is currently on his third NHL team, but appears to have finally found a home.
After limited stints with the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals, Copley signed a one-year, $850,000 contract with the Kings and began the 2022-23 season in the AHL. After Jonathan Quick and Cal Petersen struggled early on this year, Los Angeles quickly decided to call up Copley to the big club.
Copley has been put together a terrific stretch in recent weeks. In his last four starts, the 31-year old has accumulated a 2-1-0 record, a 1.38 goals-against-average, and a .945 save percentage.
The Kings netminder has yielded two or fewer goals in each of those four outings, including allowing one goal or less in two of those games. Copley also posted his first shutout of the season in a 6-0 Kings win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 11, stopping all 25 shots that he faced.
Copley has impressed Kings brass so much this season that the team signed him to a one-year contract extension through the 2023-24 campaign earlier this month.
It's been a true success story for a goaltender that has bounced back-and-forth between the AHL and NHL level with multiple organizations. Copley appeared in 237 career AHL games before finally getting his chance to be a starting goalie in the NHL and he's making the most of it.
Dylan Larkin is in line to have one of the best seasons of his NHL career and it couldn't have come to a better time.
The Detroit Red Wings star is in the final year of a five-year, $30 million contract and is slated to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Larkin has maintained that he wants to remain with the franchise, but the two sides haven't been able to come to terms on a long-term extension.
Larkin is currently on pace for 83 points this season, which would be a new career-high. His previous career-high came during the 2018-19 campaign when he tallied 73 points (32 goals, 41 assists) in 76 games.
The Red Wings center has been enjoying a strong stretch lately as he has registered two goals and four assists over his past four games. Larkin has also scored four goals in his last five games.
Last Thursday, Larkin matched a career-high with three assists in a 5-2 Red Wings win over the Calgary Flames. It marked the sixth time in his career that Larkin has notched three assists in a game and the first since Feb. 12, 2022 against the Philadelphia Flyers.
During one of his three assists on the night, Larkin displayed tremendous vision on the ice as he set up one of Detroit's goals.
At the 2:27 mark of the second period, forward David Perron was able to get the puck away from the board and over to Larkin in the face-off circle. Larkin immediately noticed teammate Robby Fabbri standing in the opposite face-off circle wide-open and found him with ease. Fabbri was then able to rip a scorching snap shot into the back of the net for a power-play goal to give the Red Wings a 2-1 lead.
Larkin has lead by example all season as he paces the Red Wings in points (56), goals (22), assists (34), and power-play goals (11). For a player that is in line for a big contract, it's been a monster season for the Red Wings star and continues to get better.