Where a player was drafted does not guarantee NHL success. There are many, many factors that determine how well a player performs on hockey's highest stage. First round picks typically have the talent, but don't get a free pass. They still need to put in the effort and show elite hockey sense if they are to be successful at the NHL level.
Many readers like to belittle Scott Gomez for his lack of production, but more so for that grossly bloated compensation package compliments of Glen Sather.
Gomez was full value for all the boos after starting the year with a pathetic seven points in his first 24 games, a sad 24 point pace. The 31-year-old then cranked it up, recording 13 points in as many games in December.
From December 15 to January 8, Gomez struck for 13 points in a dozen games playing with Brian Gionta and Max Pacioretty. Seven of those 13 points were scored via the power play. He was held off the scoresheet in only three of those 12 games.
Last year, Gomez registered 32 points over 37 second half games (70 point pace) and in 2008-09, he notched 31 points over the final 41 games (62 point pace). Over his last four seasons, Gomez has averaged 62 points each year.
The 27th overall pick from 1998 is set for a third straight 30 point second half.
Another player who started the year slowly was the Hurricanes Tuomo Ruutu. He had only two points after his first eight contests, but then caught fire, recording 32 points in his next 34 games (a 77 point pace). He has been especially hot over the last nine games, scoring 14 points.
He was taken ninth overall in 2001 by Chicago and dealt straight up for Andrew Ladd in February of 2008. Since the trade, Ruutu has averaged 57 points for every 82 games (in 192 games) with Carolina. The 27-year-old scored at a 53 point pace in 54 games last season (35 points) and recorded a career high 54 points the previous year.
Five picks before Ruutu was taken, Florida chose Stephen Weiss. In his last 16 games, he has 18 points. He recorded 11 points in his first 24 games this season. Weiss has logged back to back 60 point campaigns and is on pace for 58 points. Florida sits squarely in the middle of the pack for goal scoring, which is better than many, including yours truly, thought the Panthers would be at this point in the season.
So the question that needs to be answered is, can he maintain this pace? He has the talent and is a decent bet to challenge for a third straight 60 point season.
In his last 17 games, Phil Kessel has scored 17 points, including 11 over the latest eight. He is now on pace for 37 goals and 60 points. In his final season with Boston, he had 36 goals and 60 points. Last year, his first with Toronto, Kessel had 30 goals and 55 points in only 70 games.
The 23-year-old sniper was the fifth overall selection in 2006 and is in his fifth NHL season. I'm sure that Kessel would be thrilled if Burke could manage to find a legitimate center to play with down the stretch.
Last season, John Tavares started his NHL career with 19 points in 21 games and closed the season with 18 points over his last 13 games. This year he began slowly, recording 14 points in 26 games, but he's turned it around with 15 points in his last 13 games. Getting Okposo back in the fold will only spur the 2009 first overall selection to new heights.
Tavares is currently on pace for 31 goals and 60 points, but he will likely finish closer to 35 goals and 70 points.