The rise of Z
Eric Duhatschek has a nice piece today on Henrik Zetterberg, who at this early juncture is the NHL's leading scorer and a Hart Trophy candidate.
That makes me happy, for a whole host of reasons (some of which relate to my hockey pools), but mainly because it's long, long overdue that the Red Wings star be recognized as one of the league's best.
As Duha notes, Zetterberg's coming of age actually came in Sweden during the lockout, when he won the Swedish Elite League scoring title at age 24. He'd never managed more than 22 goals or 44 points in an NHL season prior to that, but when 2005-06 kicked off, he was a 40-goal man almost from the start.
Detroit had a roster still cluttered with veterans that season — Brendan Shanan, Robert Lang and Steve Yzerman were all hanging around — so it wasn't really until last season that this was Zetterberg's (and Pavel Datsyuk's) team upfront, and he made the most of that challenge.
Problem was, he missed 19 games due to injury, so his excellent totals were obscured a bit. Had he played a full season, Zetterberg's 43 goals would have put him tied for fifth in NHL goal scoring.
This year, he's headed so far to best 60, and a hearty 144 points. Certainly, he's going to fall off that pace at some point, but the only challengers within four points of him at the moment are greybeards Mats Sundin and Rod Brind'Amour, who as much a threat to win a scoring title as Chris Osgood at this point.
There's a bit of a cushion there, with Jarome Iginla and the fellows in Ottawa likely to play some catchup here in November, but when it's all said and done, Zetterberg should finally finish among the top 10 scorers and get some consideration for the league MVP.
Now that's elite.
So be sure to grab a 'Z' shirt before they raise the price.