NHL Star Power Index: Cale Makar is next great offensive-minded defenseman; Jordan Kyrou thrives on big stage

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.

There have been many offensive-minded defensemen that have come through the NHL ranks. Despite being only 23, it’s becoming abundantly clear that Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar is becoming the next great one. He’s blossoming into a generational talent right in front of our eyes.

Makar currently leads all NHL defensemen with 14 goals and we’re not even at the halfway point of the 2021-22 season. The Avalanche star continues to make incredible plays in the offensive zone, and he may be in another stratosphere now following a recent goal.

During Tuesday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks, Makar singled-handedly put his team on his back and won the game. Midway through overtime, Makar handled the puck behind the net before circling back out towards the blue line — or it would appear. He ended up pulling a spin move on Blackhawks forward Kirby Dach, deking his way towards the net and lifting a sensational backhand shot past veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to give the Avalanche to a heart-pounding 4-3 win in extra time.

Needless to say, social media was in a frenzy following Makar’s insane goal. Sure, the enormity of the situation added to the allure of the goal, but make no mistake about it, this is the clubhouse leader for goal of the year and it isn’t even close.

The way Makar was able to stop on a dime and make his way towards the net was nothing short of phenomenal. The Blackhawks defense didn’t exactly slow down his effort, but he still needed to deke Fleury and Makar accomplished that feat with ease. 

If we’re looking at the big picture, Makar is having one of the most impressive goal-scoring seasons for a defenseman in quite some time. Is Makar going to eclipse Paul Coffey’s record of 48 goals in a season? Probably not. He’d need to go on an insane tear in order to make that happen. While it’s a little early to place Makar in the conversation with all-time greats like Coffey and Bobby Orr, the trajectory is certainly there and this recent goal was living proof of that.

There’s very few goaltenders across the league that have struggled more than San Jose Sharks netminder James Reimer.

Over his past four games, Reimer has surrendered 19 goals, which averages out to 4.75 goals-per-game. During that stretch, the veteran goaltender has given up seven goals to the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes currently own the worst record in the entire NHL and still managed to light up Reimer. In addition, Reimer yielded six goals against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 2 and was pulled from the game after the opening period. 

How did Reimer bounce back from his struggles against the Penguins? He gave up four goals in two periods against the Detroit Red Wings and was pulled after two periods of play. Now, the Sharks don’t exactly have the most daunting defense playing in front of him. The Sharks have allowed 107 goals on the season, which is the 11th-most in the league.

But regardless of who is really at fault here, it’s tough to keep trotting out a netminder that has surrendered 13 goals in two games. If this trend keeps up, it’s going to be extremely difficult for the Sharks to not consider making a change.

The 2022 Winter Classic truly belonged to St. Louis Blues winger Jordan Kyrou.

Kyrou put together a performance for the ages as he registered four points (two goals and two assists) in a 6-4 win over the Minnesota Wild in last weekend’s Winter Classic. It marked the most points that any NHL player had accumulated in any outdoor game.

It was a masterful performance for Kyrou despite the frigid temperatures at Target Field. Kyrou made an impact all over the ice and his playmaking ability was on full display.

Midway through the second period, Kyrou displayed his patience when he set up Vladimir Tarasenko on an impressive goal. Kyrou brought the puck into the zone, waited for the play to develop and slid a cross-ice pass to Tarasenko for a bang-bang one-timer that Tarasenko didn’t miss.

With plays like this, it’s no wonder that Kyrou is second on the Blues in assists (20). His vision is sensational, whether it’s finding an open teammate or picking his spot to put the puck on net. 

The Blues forward has scored at least one goal in three consecutive games and had two games of at least three points during that stretch. Kyrou is two points away from tying his career high, which he recorded last season.

Kyrou is one of the building blocks for the Blues. After all, Tarasenko reportedly requested a trade and the franchise even left the talented winger unprotected in the 2021 Expansion Draft, where he went unselected. Obviously, there haven’t been any recent reports suggesting that Tarasenko wants out of St. Louis, but Tarasenko is a free agent following the 2022-23 season. 

If Tarasenko does leave St. Louis over the next year or two, the Blues should have no problem building around Kyrou.

Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin rang in the New Year by etching his name into the history books … yet again.

Last Friday, Ovechkin scored his NHL record-breaking 275th power-play goal of his career. Ovechkin had previously been tied with Hall of Famer Dave Andreychuk after he tied Andreychuk back on Dec. 15.

Ovechkin was also able to accomplish the feat in 409 fewer games. It also seemed fitting that Ovechkin scored the goal on a one-timer, which has been his bread and butter over the years due to his cannon of a shot.

It’s been no secret that the hockey world is watching as Ovechkin has his eye on the NHL’s all-time goals record. Earlier this season, the Capitals star passed Marcel Dionne and Brett Hull to take fourth place on the all-time goals list. Entering Friday, Ovechkin is just 12 goals from tying Jaromir Jagr for third place on the all-time list.

History is great and all, but sometimes athletes are setting records when they don’t have much left in the tank. That’s not the case with Ovechkin. He is currently on pace for 121 points (58 goals and 63 assists) this season, which would be a career-high. The Capitals winger previously had 112 points (65 goals and 47 assists) during the 2007-08 season in which he won the Hart Trophy.

Since surpassing 100 points in four of his first five NHL seasons, Ovechkin hasn’t recorded 90 or more points since the 2009-10 campaign. Barring injury, Ovechkin looks like he’ll be able to skyrocket past 90 points considering that the season isn’t even halfway over.

Oh and he’s third in the NHL in points behind only Edmonton Oilers stars Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, who currently have 53 points. Ovechkin is certainly in the MVP conversation at this point and that seems mind-boggling considering that he’s 36.

It’s phenomenal to see Ovechkin still dominating at the highest level. This is a guy that is still worth the price of admission and it’s impressive to be able to watch him thrive for however many years he has left.

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