Center: Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim)
One of the biggest surprises of the first half of the season is the Anaheim Ducks, as their 18-3-3 (39 points) record gives them the lead in the Pacific Division and is good enough for second in the entire league, only behind the Chicago Blackhawks. Ryan Getzlaf, the team's captain has been largely responsible for that. Coming off a bad season last year, Getzlaf knew that he had to improve his play in order for his team to succeed, and he has not disappointed so far this season. Ryan Getzlaf is currently fifth in league scoring, with 10 goals and 21 assists, which gives him 31 points. Getzlaf is also +14, which ties him for seventh in the league. Luckily for Ducks fans, Getzlaf signed an 8-year contract extension worth 66 million dollars this season, which means he will be the foundation of the Anaheim Ducks for years to come.
With the retirement of legendary defenseman and captain Nicklas Lidstrom this summer, a new era has begun in Detroit, headlined by new captain Henrik Zetterberg. Zetterberg's captaincy has gone well so far, as he has 6 goals and 21 assists, giving him 27 points, good enough for ninth in league scoring. Because of Lidstrom's retirement, the Red Wings were supposed to drop off this season, but that has not been the case, as the Red Wings are currently fifth in the Western Conference. Zetterberg has been a big reason for that, leading the team on the ice and off the ice. After Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom combined have lead the Red Wings for over twenty years, Zetterberg certainly has big shoes to fill. More likely than not, Henrik Zetterberg will fill those shoes quite nicely.
The Chicago Blackhawks have been on another level this season, starting the season with a 24-game point streak. That's half of the shortened season without a regulation loss - incredible! While every member of the team has stepped their game up this season, no other Blackhawk has stepped up more than Patrick Kane. Like Getzlaf, Kane is coming off a bad season last year, but he has surpassed his regular standards this season. Kane currently has 14 goals and 16 assists, which gives him 30 points, putting him in sixth in league-scoring. Kane's performance this season will definitely get him some consideration for the Hart Trophy, which is given to the league's most valuable player. Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks are hungry for a championship this season, and based on their dominance so far, they are the obvious favorites to win the Stanley Cup.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson is one of the NHL's most promising defenseman, but unfortunately for him, he often does not get the attention that he deserves simply because of the team he plays on. It's no secret that the Phoenix Coyotes aren't playing in the best market. If Ekman-Larsson were playing in Boston or Chicago, he would be a frequent topic of conversation. The young Swede has 3 goals and 14 assists, giving him 17 points. He is also a solid +7. Ekman-Larsson is going to be a perennial Norris Trophy candidate for years to come, and he's going to be the anchor on the Coyotes' defense for a long time - he has that much of an upside.
When people think of Francois Beauchemin, they generally don't think of him as an offensive defenseman. This season however, people are going to have to start looking at Beauchemin as an offensive defenseman. Beauchemin has 2 goals and 14 assists this season, giving him 16 points. He is also a stellar +17, good enough for fifth in the league. Beauchemin's play this season has been fantastic, as he is largely responsible for how well the Ducks have done so far this season. At the end of the season, count on Beauchemin being nominated for the Norris Trophy, given to the league's best defenseman.
Last season, the Nashville Predators had the best defenseman pairing in the league, with Shea Weber and Ryan Suter dominating the blue line. When Suter signed a 13-year, 98 million dollar contract with the Minnesota Wild this summer, it became obvious that the Predators would not be as good as they were last season, and they're not. The Predators are currently in eleventh place in the Western Conference, but Pekka Rinne has stood on his head all season. The gigantic Finnish goaltender is 9-8-5, with a 2.09 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage. Rinne also has 4 shutouts, which leads the league. Without Ryan Suter and with a very weak offense, Rinne is going to have to continue to stand on his head, more so than he did last season, if the Predators have any chance at making the playoffs. I wouldn't bet against the former Vezina Trophy finalist.