Patrik Elias usually gets overshadowed when talking about the New Jersey Devils scorers.
Fans and analysts alike bring up Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise first, then move on to the "secondary scorers," like Travis Zajac, Dainius Zubrus and Elias. For a player who holds the team record in assists (481) and points (816), it's a surprise that he continues to fly somewhat under the radar.
That time, however, is up.
Elias leads the team with 19 points in 19 games, the only Devils skater averaging at least a point per game. Even though he ranks third in shots (44), he has the second-highest shooting percentage on the team, converting on 18.2% of those opportunities. He also leads the team on the powerplay, collecting four points (3g, 1a) for a special teams attack that looks to finally be clicking.
Somehow, the Devils' assistant captain is making it look easy. He's making passes through tight defense and snapping easy-looking wrist shots by goalies. He's done all this while continuing to shift to center. Despite playing there for parts of the last few seasons, Elias isn't a center, but has continued to improve.
He's also helped players like Petr Sykora enjoy some early season success. Elias has an assist on three of his four goals this season, as the old teammates have found their chemistry again.
Advanced statistics just further the proof that he's been the best early this season. While on the ice, New Jersey averages 3.56 goals for per 60 minutes. Off the ice, that number drops to 1.85 per 60 minutes.
With all his offensive success, it's easy to forget about his two-way skill. Elias carries a heavy load defensively and continues to help shut down the opponent's top line. According to Behind the Net statistics, Elias faces the second-highest quality of competition on the team, with a plus-0.76 rating. He helps hold opponents to 20.9 shots per 60 minutes on the ice, a number that jumps to 26.5 per 60 minutes when he's on the bench. Opponents score 2.22 goals per 60 minutes with the Devils center on the ice. Off of it, that number jumps to 3.11.
Corsi ratings neatly tie up the early season success of Elias. Corsi averages together the amount of shots a player helps create on offense and takes away defensively. On the ice, Elias holds a plus-9.34 rating, ranking him among the team leaders. Off the ice, that number plummets to minus-7.59. Those numbers prove the positive impact Elias has on the ice and the importance of his two-way play.
He's also been a leader in the locker room, continuing to be one of the most vocal players. He admitted to making two costly mistakes during Monday's 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers, taking full credit for the blocked shot that led to a Stephen Weiss shorthanded goal. He hands out compliments when teammates are doing well and calls out the team when they don't meet their expectations. He's always been a de-facto team leader, and his pride in that position shows during each postgame press conference.
With Parise and Kovalchuk off to slow starts, New Jersey needed someone to pick up the slack. Elias rose to that occasion, continuing to provide the strong leadership we've grown accustomed to seeing. The offense has come with it, and the 35-year-old doesn't look like he can remain under the radar for too much longer.