NHL’s most improved: 10 players who have taken off in 2022-23

One of the best parts of every NHL season is tracking which players take off like a rocket. It doesn’t matter how many skaters are labeled as can’t-miss breakout picks in September, there are always big performances that nobody saw coming — whether it’s a young piece blossoming into a franchise star, an overpaid veteran turning back the clock, or a spare part forcing his way into the team’s core.

There were two caveats in making this list. For starters, since we’re talking about “most improved,” we won’t be looking at rookies. Rookies are setting their first impression and baseline in the NHL — that means the likes of Stuart Skinner, Nick Perbix and Logan Thompson won’t be on here despite being remarkable stories.

Second, because there are so many breakout campaigns to choose from, we filtered out star players who had elite seasons very recently before 2022-23, such as Jason Robertson, Elias Pettersson, William Nylander, Jack Eichel, Dougie Hamilton and more. Yes, all of them took a significant step, but come on, everyone already knew they were top talents going into this season.

There are so many deserving candidates and whittling this list down was very hard; it definitely isn’t perfect. But here are 10 of the most improved players of this season so far, presented in no particular order.

It was as recently as a year and a half ago that Josh Morrissey’s sliding play had some wondering if his contract was among the league’s worst.

Who would have thought that just 18 months after his mediocre 2021 campaign, Morrissey, who’s always been known more for his solid two-way game than his dazzling offense, would have more points than the likes of Cale Makar, Adam Fox and Roman Josi? Morrissey’s on pace for 89 points, his scoring pace ranking third among all NHL defensemen.

How has he suddenly exploded offensively?

Morrissey’s skating has been unlocked as a terrifying weapon now that Rick Bowness has given the green light for his defenders to be a lot more aggressive and involved in the attack compared to his predecessor Paul Maurice. Morrissey’s creating a ton off the rush with his zone entries, trailer chances and even some breakaway goals — he’s finally been given the chance to play the rover style that we see from the game’s other elite offensive defenders.

The 27-year-old has emerged as a dual threat — he’s absolutely wired pucks past goaltenders as a goal scorer but also fooled defenses with the slap pass to set up teammates on the backdoor on many occasions as a playmaker.

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Morrissey’s underlying play-driving numbers aren’t stellar but that doesn’t tell the full story of his all-around impact beyond offense. Neal Pionk has really struggled this season and playing together as a pair with Morrissey to start the campaign sank Morrissey’s numbers. He’s been much better at driving two-way results since, and for anybody still not convinced, he took big strides last season when he drove a 54.3…

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Read More: NHL’s most improved: 10 players who have taken off in 2022-23 2023-01-17 21:52:18

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