Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
There have been many surprises this season in the National Hockey League. The rejuvenation of Marc Savard in Boston. The emergence of young goaltender Steve Mason in Columbus. And the horrible play of the New York Rangers.
But no other story may be more surprising than that of the New Jersey Devils and emerging superstar Zach Parise.
All but left for dead in the early months of the season by many, me included, when All-World goaltender Martin Brodeur went down to injury, the Devils somehow found their way into an astonishing lead in the Atlantic Division and a solid shot at another run at Lord Stanley's Cup.
Parise's play this season has been nothing short of remarkable, and fantasy owners have not missed it. Playing for a team that has traditionally been a "defense-first" organization that likes its scoring to come off opponent miscues, Parise is bucking that trend.
Through 60 games Parise has racked up 70 points (35 goals, 35 assists) and is on pace to exceed the 90-point plateau, with 100 points not out of the question. To put that into perspective, consider this: The New Jersey Devils have never had a player record 100 points in a season before in 34 years of existence.
Patrik Elias holds the single season record with 96 points, a number that is very attainable for the 24-year-old Parise. Another number that is very attainable is Brian Gionta's single season goals scored mark of 48, which Parise will tie with 13 more goals.
And if he had some more help surrounding him, Parise could take a real shot at the single season "hat trick" by challenging Scott Stevens' single season mark of 60 assists.
While Parise's success wasn't out of nowhere, he had scored 30 goals in each of his last two seasons in New Jersey, doing it under the conditions he has this season is what makes things so unbelievable.
Depending on what service you used last summer to put your fantasy draft board together Parise ranked somewhere in the 90's when all players, including goalies, were ranked. That translates, roughly, into a eighth-round selection.
People saw the Devils style of play, their reliance on Brodeur and a stout defense and the lack of offensive talent around Parise and figured there was only so much the talented winger could do, and that was basically what he had done in the past two season.
There was no upside, the feeling was that Parise had his a plateau.
Then with the lose of Brodeur people figured the Devils were in major trouble and would suffer through a very disappointing season.
But a funny thing happened. Parise started scoring and has yet to stop.
He is now a top-five player helping someone, with the forethought and wisdom to take a chance on a 30-goal scorer that late in their draft on a usually low- scoring team, win a league championship because they saw not a 'this is all you get forward' but a young player coming into his own and becoming a superstar.
That is the biggest surprise of all.