He may have been left off the NHL All-Star Game roster, but Ottawa Senators forward Mike Hoffman is still earning that big raise he wanted. Don't cringe, Ottawa — we're talking Dany Heatley money here.
On the surface, the comparison might seem a bit out there, but hear me out.
In his first two years with the Senators, Heatley posted back-to-back 50-goal seasons with his own personal set-up man in Jason Spezza, plus another linemate by the name of Daniel Alfredsson.
In his first season-and-a-half in the NHL, Mike Hoffman has been Ottawa's best pure goal scorer since Heatley left town.
As a rookie last season, Hoffman broke out with 27 goals and he's followed that up by being among the NHL's best goal scorers this year, on pace to score 40.
But unlike Heatley, Hoffman hasn't benefited from a linemate with world-class passing and vision — or Alfredsson (he is learning from Alfie's tutelage). Nor has he had the benefit of a consistent spot in the team's top-line.
The native of Kitchener, Ont., has had to fight for ice time under head coach Dave Cameron, who has pushed Hoffman to improve his all-around game.
Hoffman averaged 14:33 per game last season, less ice time than teammates Mark Stone, Kyle Turris, Bobby Ryan, Mika Zibanejad, Clarke MacArthur and Milan Michalek.
Hoffman still led the team in goals.
No pedigree, no problem
Heatley was a highly-touted superstar, drafted second overall by the Atlanta Thrashers and a member of Team Canada at several international competitions. Hoffman, meanwhile, was Ottawa's fifth-round pick in 2009 who had to play junior hockey in Quebec because no team in Ontario wanted him.
After four seasons with Ottawa's affiliate in Binghamton, Hoffman has had to prove himself each and every game at the NHL level.
Despite that lack of pedigree, he's actually shown a stronger ability than Heatley to create offence on his own using speed, skill and a quick release – one eerily similar to Heatley's.
Hoffman sought a big raise last summer, taking the Senators to arbitration with a $4-million payday in mind.
Ottawa countered with $1.75 million and, all things considered, won the ruling when the arbitrator awarded Hoffman a one-year, $2 million contract.
At 26, Hoffman is entering his prime years by NHL standards. His continued production and improved play will earn him the contract he desires.
If Ottawa plans to keep Hoffman long-term, they should know he will eventually earn the kind of money paid to a top-flight goal scorer in the NHL. They will have to pay up.