Exhibition is over and the games now count for real points. Despite the small sample size, some squads are already drawing many positives from the season's initial offering. Here are three teams that can celebrate exceeding expectations.
They've been powered to the NHL's best record by contributions from new face Brayden Schenn, acquired in an offseason deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, and center Paul Stastny, who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Jaden Schwartz has also chipped in with seven points.
It seemed reasonable to assume the Blackhawks would take a step back this season, particularly given the inexperienced blue line the club pieced together over the summer. In the early going, though, Chicago's done anything but take a step back - the team stands atop the league with an eye-popping 21 goals in four games.
The Blackhawks have also been sound defensively, allowing just seven goals for a league-best plus-14 goal differential. After being reacquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets, Brandon Saad has wasted little time getting reacclimated to his old surroundings, tallying seven points. He's also sparking offense from captain Jonathan Toews, who is scoring above a point-per-game pace.
Playing with house money is doing the trick for the Golden Knights. The free-wheeling expansion club came away with the victory in its first three games - an NHL record. A team that pundits nearly unanimously predicted would finish in the league basement is leading the Pacific Division and enjoying the first phase of its inaugural season.
Among the many key contributors for the Golden Knights, two stand out: three-time Stanley Cup champion goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who's allowed just four goals in three contests, and James Neal. He lost to Fleury's Penguins in this spring's final while with the Nashville Predators, but now he's putting on a show in Sin City, notching five goals in three games.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)