ESPN presents the best player in the world of the week, celebrating the player who has the best stats, impact or storyline to earn the honor. To nominate someone, please email us here by midnight on Monday each week. Photos and context are encouraged!
Vitek Vanecek, Hershey Bears (AHL)
The second time a Bear makes the cut this season on this list. Vanecek went 2-0-1 in three road starts and stopped 94 of 99 shots he faced. That included a 40-save effort in a win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and his first shutout of the season, a 25-save effort against the Charlotte Checkers on Saturday. The Bears' goalies are this guy and Ilya Samsonov, while Braden Holtby is one step up with the Capitals. If Washington's goaltending was a Hershey candy bar, it'd be one of those giant novelty ones you buy your aunt at the Hershey store that you originally went into just to get some free Kisses for yourself. That's how they get you.
Jill Saulnier, Les Canadiennes Montreal (CWHL)
The leading scorer in the Canadian Women's Hockey League through four games, Saulnier had three goals and three assists for Montreal last weekend. Saulnier played for Team Canada at the 2018 Olympics and was the first female Nova Scotian to ever score a goal in the Olympics. Now you can win that bar bet.
Hunter Lamb, Lloydminster Bobcats (AJHL)
Things got a little Messi recently for Hunter Lamb:
Using his head ���� pic.twitter.com/B2fvzKLy1y
- BarDown (@BarDown) October 18, 2018
The 18-year-old forward from Swift Current had a puck bounce off his helmet, which we're sure he totally meant to do, to score a goal in a game last week. When your coach tells you to get your head in the game and you take it literally, this is the result.
Justin Brazeau, North Bay Battalion (OHL)
Is nine points in two games good? It seems good. Brazeau took sole possession of the OHL scoring lead with four goals and five assists last weekend. Much of that came in a win on Sunday, when he tied a franchise record with seven points, including a natural hat trick in the first period. After a tryout in the San Jose Sharks' development camp, the 20-year-old is back in the OHL.
Ryan Kenny, Islanders HC (USPHL Premier)
It's a goalie goal!
- USPHL (@USPHL) October 21, 2018
But not just any goalie goal. It's a short-handed goalie goal by Ryan Kenny, 19, playing in his first season with the Islanders of the USPHL Premier league.
Danny Normandeau, Fairfax Thunder (Novice Beer League Hockey)
From reader Eric Vanhove: "I nominate my Novice Beer League Hockey team mate Danny Normandeau. Norm (in his late 30's, I think) has been playing hockey for about a year. He has gone from a bender who could hardly skate to a terror on the ice. In the Fairfax [Virginia] Thunder's 6-1 victory Saturday night against the Fairfax Cretaceous Puck, Norm scored a hat trick and had an assist on the other three goals. We think that it all has something to do with the genetics ... he is Canadian, after all."
McKullen Astill, South Shore Lumberjacks Jr. A (Maritime Junior Hockey League)
Astill, a 20-year-old from Edmonton, had himself a heck of a run of games. He had his first hat trick of the season on Oct. 17, and his second hat trick of the season the next day, adding an assist and scoring what was the game-winning goal in overtime. He has eight goals in his last four games. "We may never see a hot streak like this again," declared the Jacks' Facebook page. Well, without the benefit of a sports almanac from the future, there's really no way to fact-check this, but we'll go with it.
Honorable mention: Anthony Duclair, Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL)
We'd be remiss if we didn't pay The Duke his proper respects for this goal of the year candidate:
- NHL (@NHL) October 18, 2018
This is Christian Folin's waking nightmare. That's four points in seven games for Duclair, who is desperately trying to avoid journeyman status at 23 years old. But he's not the NHLer who tops our list this week ...
And the best player in the world of the week is ...
The best line in hockey at the moment is the one with Landeskog on it, skating with Mikko Rantanen and some guy named Nathan MacKinnon. Landeskog was a monster in three games last week, scoring six goals and adding an assist. That included his third career hat trick and the game-winning goal in a victory against the Devils. On Monday, he was announced as the first star of the week for the NHL; that night, he added another goal and an assist to his season total of eight goals and four helpers.
For scoring more goals in a four-game span (7) than John Tavares has scored in nine games this season (6), Gabriel Landeskog is the best player in the world of the week. Congrats!