One scout's midseason opinion on NHL's hottest stars on ice


The NHL has reached the halfway point, and it's time for one man's opinion of the best performers over the first 40 games. This man is Marcel Pelletier, a former NHL goaltender and now a scout for the Boston Bruins.

* Goal: Patrick Roy, Montreal Canadiens; Kirk McLean, Vancouver Canucks; Mike Richter, New York Rangers.

Pelletier's comment: "Roy is the steadiest goalie in the NHL. The Canadiens are still a top team, but they aren't that much better than a lot of teams. The reason they are doing so well is Roy.

"McLean has kept Vancouver at the top of the Smythe Division all season. Richter is the reason the Rangers have made such a surge in the last month or so. He is very solid in the goal and is a team leader."

* Defense: Ray Bourque, Boston Bruins; Brian Leetch, Rangers; Kevin Hatcher, Washington Capitals; Scott Stevens, New Jersey Devils; Paul Coffey, Pittsburgh Penguins; Sylvain Cote, Washington.

Comment: "Bourque is Mr. Defense. No one else is even close to him. He can play offense and defense and is equally proficient at both aspects of the game. Leetch is the best offensive defenseman in the game. He is more advanced than anyone else at that aspect of the game, including Coffey. Hatcher continues to be the cornerstone of the Capitals. Without him, their defense wouldn't be what it is, and the defense is what is carrying Washington this season. Cote has been an excellent addition because he can also play offense and solid defense."

* Center: Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh; Mark Messier, Rangers; Wayne Gretzky, Los Angeles Kings; Rod Brind'amour, Philadelphia Flyers; Jeremy Roenick, Chicago Blackhawks.

Comment: "Lemieux, when he wants to play, is the best, but you never know when he wants to play. He has great size, stamina and skill. Gretzky is still great. He had a slow start, but has come on strong. Messier has found a home in New York. He loves the attention, something he never had before, and he has responded."

* Left wing: Kevin Stevens, Pittsburgh; Randy Burridge, Washington; Kirk Mueller, Montreal.

Comment: "Stevens has become the most improved player in the league. He makes Pittsburgh click. He has a great shot and is always around the goal. Burridge has found players who play his type of game. He was a steal from Boston for Steve Leach."

* Right wing: Brett Hull, St. Louis Blues; Mark Recchi, Pittsburgh; and Rick Tocchet, Philadelphia.

Comment: "Hull has the quickest, hardest shot in hockey, and he's not afraid to shoot. He's a real scorer who knows where the cage is at all times and is very good at capitalizing on a goalie's weakness. Recchi is a 50-goal scorer. He is very good around the goal and is not afraid to stick his nose in there."

* Awareness: The key to being a good official in any sport, according to Gordon Broeseker, an NHL linesman, is awareness.

"I don't care what sport it is, but if you want to be a good official you have to aware of what's going on around you at all times," he said.

* Milestones: Rangers right wing Mike Gartner, a former Washington Capital, on Friday became the 34th player in NHL history to score 1,000 points. In 13-plus seasons in the league, Gartner has 521 goals and 479 assists.

* Down on the farm: Center Pat Peake, a Washington selection in the 1990 draft, scored the winning goal in Team USA's 3-2 victory over Czechoslovakia in the World Junior Championships in Fuessen, Germany. Left wing Brian Sakic, also a Capitals 1990 draft choice, scored four goals in a recent game for Tri-Cities in the WHL. Sakic is the younger brother of center Joe Sakic of the Nordiques.

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