Ranking whether five of NHL's surprising fast starts are for real – USA TODAY


SportsPulse: NHL insider Kevin Allen looks at the teams that should be concerned with their play early in the season. USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is emerging as an early Vezina frontrunner.(Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)

The NHL season is 11% old — not enough time to make true declarations about teams or players but just enough to assess small sample sizes and whether they are sustainable.

Here’s a ranking of the confidence level we have that these surprising fast starts will continue during the season.

1. Andrei Vasilevskiy (2.22 GAA, .936 SV%)

This is a scary sight for opponents because the Tampa Bay Lightning entered the season as a Stanley Cup contender. Vasilevskiy is among the league leaders in save percentage, with an 8-1-0 record. He’s on this list because he’s still unproven and posted a .917 SV% last season, while his five-on-five mark was 25th among goalies with at least 1,000 minutes. Vasilevskiy, a first-round pick, is only 23 and has game-changing potential. Tampa Bay also has shown it can play a 200-foot game, comfortable in close and low-scoring  contests. Vasilevskiy could quickly emerge as a frontline goalie — this year.

More: NHL: No ‘fundamental errors,’ but ‘certain things’ need to be improved after strange Jonathan Quick incident

More: Golden Knights keep making history with 7-1 start

2. Jaden Schwartz (six goals, 13 points)

Schwartz ranks third in the NHL with 13 points. It’s even more impressive considering the St. Louis Blues have dealt with a myriad injuries, and Vladimir Tarasenko, who is not one of them, isn’t leading the team in scoring. Couple Schwartz’s high-energy, fearless style with his skill and you have player who is always near the puck and in the middle

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