10 Surprise Performances From The First Half Of The NHL Season

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Things are about to get interesting NHL fans, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.

With every team having reached the midway point of the 82-game schedule, the playoff races are about as tight as they could be.

Just seven teams, including the shocking Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild, seem to have a decent grip on post-season berths. Nine teams in the Western Conference and another nine teams in the Eastern Conference all have legitimate shots at making it.

With the trade deadline looming, jockeying teams will decide whether to be buyers and sellers in about six weeks.

The runs that some teams have been on owe a lot to a few unsung, or just plain surprising, heroes who have contributed immensely to their team’s fortunes.

With that in mind, here are 10 players we believe have astonished everyone including themselves with elite level performances.

10. Jeff Skinner – Carolina Hurricanes

With a recent modest 6-4 run, the Hurricanes have allowed themselves to keep pace with a slew of Eastern Conference teams vying for a wild card, and or playoff position as a top three. They have 49 points, one less than middle of the pack teams Toronto, Ottawa and Philadelphia. One player the ‘Canes can point to as being the catalyst for their overall well-being is Jeff Skinner. After a disastrous 2014-15 (31 points, -24), the 2011 Calder Trophy winner turned things around last year, scoring 28 goals and 23 assists and logging a -1. However, Carolina failed to make the playoffs. This season, the Toronto native is leading his team in scoring and is on pace to set a personal best in points. He has 35 points (17 goals) through 43 games, which could translate to 67 points, which would top his career high 63 in 2010-11. In his last seven games (five of them Carolina wins), Skinner has four goals and four assists, including a three-point effort in a 5-3 win over Columbus on Jan. 10.

(AP Photo/Billy Hurst)

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