All of the greats have always possessed that ability to think the game faster than their competition. From Rocket Richard to Wayne Gretzky to Sidney Crosby, they have all had this high level of “hockey IQ.” It is a trait that is easy to recognize in the elite, generational talent, but other players do possess it. A certain Devil drafted in the first round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft has it as well.
I tried to define what “it” is above, but I will go into a little more detail. It is often something that does not translate directly onto the score sheet, but often has a profound impact on how the player produces. “It” combines knowledge of the game, thinking ahead of the competition, and being ready for the unexpected.
Parise slipped a bit in the ’03 draft because teams were worried about his small stature. The Devils jumped at the chance to move up and take him, and they have not looked back. Parise had a modest 32 points in his rookie season, and nearly doubled that total posting 62 last season. He is currently on pace for 90 points, and this is far from a surprise to me. He thinks the game differently than most other players in the league. If you get a chance to watch the Devils, keep a close focus on Parise. He always seems to be in the right position, giving his teammates a smart pass to make, or a decoy to help them beat a defenseman.
He is an extremely skilled player, but not overly flashy. Because of this, his upside is often capped off; as it seems the 100+ point players all have some element of flash and artistry to their game. Parise’s rare combination of will and skill allow him to always be generating chances, and his general lack of fear allows him to go to the tough areas to get goals.
I have been a fan of his since he was a Fighting Sioux, and was as shocked as Pierre McGuire when he started to slip on draft day. Parise is definitely not an unknown commodity anymore, especially in keeper leagues. But his upside still remains an unknown, and for this he may be worth trying to pursue. His ability to think the game like past greats like Gretzky, Yzerman and Sakic is what will separate him from other talents in the game.
And since this is a fantasy hockey site, I cannot go an entire article without mentioning some numbers. He is currently on pace for 40 goals, 90 points, and over 300 shots. If he meets those numbers, do not be surprised. If he surpasses those numbers, do not be surprised. He may not be in the system or have the shot to put up over 50 goals, but he has the ability, consistency, and determination to be a consistent 100-point player.
See Angus' blog, ask him a question, or comment on Parise here...