It didn't take the Amazing Kreskin to figure out that the Red Wings would beat up on the rest of the league, that the Penguins would reel without Jaromir Jagr or that the Canadian Olympic team selections would be controversial. Amid such predictability, several players have suddenly blossomed into stars (all stats through Sunday).
D ERIC BREWER
22, Oilers (5 goals, 10 assists). He averaged 17:22 of ice time in his first three seasons, but coach Craig MacTavish has increased that by almost six minutes per game. Brewer leads the team in hits (97) and was chosen for Canada's Olympic squad.
RW JAROME IGINLA
24, Flames (28 goals, 21 assists). The NHL's leading scorer is big and hard to muscle out of the slot. Off-season training made him speedier, accelerating his maturation into a prolific power forward in the Cam Neely mold.
C JOE THORNTON
22, Bruins (17 goals, 29 assists). The top pick in the '97 draft is only now fulfilling his star potential. Last season Mike Keenan, Boston's coach at the time, urged him to be more physical, completing his game.
LW MIKE YORK
24, Rangers (16 goals, 26 assists). A converted center with good puckhandling skills, he is thriving on the FLY line with Theo Fleury and Eric Lindros. After a 31-point season last year, he's the league's fifth-leading scorer.
—Daniel G. Habib