Posted by:
The Sheriff

I've seen a Sports Illistrated Writer do this recently with MLB players so I'll do something different and do NHL players.  This is basically what the title says it was but I have a few rules.

1. Current players only.  I guess that is pretty obvious though.

2. Leadership is just important as ability so don't be looking for Ilya Kovalachuck in the top three or something like that.  I'm not going to go to the other extreme, ranking players too high just because they won a Stanley Cup.

3. It's about what the players are doing now.  Players like Mike Modano and Chris Chelios had great careers but I wouldn't rate them in the top 50 right now.

4. Players must be active, playing in the NHL.  That means you won't be seeing  players like Joe Sakic (retirement) or Jaromir Jagr (KHL).  You also won't be seeing any criminals on my list (Patrick Kane).

5. I didn't have time to check spelling/grammar and I did this kind of fast so it won't be the best piece of writing you'll ever see.

6. I myself am not a big fan of the stat +/- but you will see it used quite a bit as it is a quick way of judging a players' importance to the team.

That's it.  I also have a quick read at the bottom of the blog for all of those who don't feel like reading the whole thing.  It's based on my opinion so I'm sure there are going to be a lot of disagreements.  Here it is, starting with honorable mentions.  I may have missed a few in that catagory, point any out that I may have missed:

Honorable Mentions (Alphabetical Order): Brad Boyes, Dan Boyle, Mike Cammalleri, Alexander Frolov, Sergei Gonchar, Martin Havlat, Thomas Kaberle, Paul Kariya, Miika Kiprusoff, Alexei Kovelov, David Krejci, Steve Mason, Brenden Morrow, Evgeni Nabakov, Chris Osgood, Mike Ribeiro, Shea Weber, Todd White, Ray Whitney

Johan Franzen 50. C Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings

To start of my list, I had a very surprising pick, to say the least.  I'll ask you a question though, who has been the top playoff goal scorer for the past two years?  Sidney Crosby?  Pavel Datsyuk?  Evgeni Malkin?  Nope.  The answer is the Mule himself.  He's scored 14 goals in 28 playoff games, starting in the '08 postseason.  That year in the Red Wings Stanley Cup playoff run, Franzen scored 13 goals in 16 games!  If he didn't get injured, who knows what else he could have done.  Franzen has been good in the regular season too.  He's averaged over 30 goals per 82 games played over the past two years and he's a great checker.  His defense is underated. 

Patrick Marleau 49. C Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks

Marleau has had an up and down career.  When he's on, he's great.  When he's off, he's terrible.  Luckily, Marleau was on last season.  He scored 38 goals, 33 assists for a total of 71 points on a line that didn't give him a lot of support.  He's an aggressive player but clean, he just sat 18 minutes in the penalty box last season.  His defense was once pretty bad but it looked a lot better last year. 

Thomas Vanek 48. LW Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Sabres

 I know what you'll be saying.  Vanek doesn't pass, he doesn't back check and he takes too many penalties.  I know all of that but there's another thing, the dude can flat out score.  He has a pair of 40 goal seasons and one 36 goal season already in his four year career.  He's also had a shooting percentage over 18% twice.  He doesn't play amazing defense by any means but he is actually solid in that department.  Vanek showed how valuable he was to his team when he missed nine games and the Sabres were under .500 in those games.

Brian Rafalski 47. D Brian Rafalski, Detroit Red Wings

Rafalski is close to being the perfect defenseman.  Over the last four years, his point totals have all been within 10 points of each other.  His assists totals have all been within six assists of each other.  Consistent much?  Rafalski and Lidstrom combined for the top scoring defensive duo in the league.  In his zone, Rafalski is careful with the puck and hardly ever turns it over.  All this coming from an undrafted defenseman?  Fantastic. 

Ales Hemsky 46. RW Alex Hemsky, Edmonton Oilers

Maybe I shouldn't have ranked him so high, but Alex Hemsky really knows how to light up a scoreboard.  Hemsky has averaged at least 20 goals and 70 points per 82 games played in each of the last four years.  That's amazing considering that his linemates are Shawn Horcoff (53 points) and Sam Gagner (41 points).  He doesn't play great defense but he knows how to come up with a big goal in a key moment.  Click here to see a great play by Hemsky . . . and a not so great play by someone else.  

Jonathan Toews 45. C Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

In Toews' two year career, he's already proven a lot of things.  First, he's a great player and a star.  He's averaged 30 goals and 30 assists per 82 games played.  He is a good back checker and strong in his own zone.  Secondly, he's a great leader.  He's one of the youngest captains in the league (if not the youngest?) and has already led the Blackhawks on deep playoff runs.  The Blackhawks could give the Red Wings a run for their money in the central division and it's going to be because of Toews. 

Jay Bouwmeester 44. D Jay Bouwmeester, Calgary Flames

Look up the definition of a "work horse" in the dictionary.  All it will say is Jay Bouwmeester.  Bouwmeester has played all 82 games in five of his six NHL seasons.  He's been among the league leader, if not the leader, in minutes each year for the last few years.  He's also one of the fastest players in the league and is great on defense as well.  The Flames got themselves a steal when they traded for the rights to sign Bouwmeester this off-season. 

Patrik Elias 43. LW Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils

After having a terrible '06-'07 season and an even worse '07-'08 season, Elias finally turned back to his old form.  First, I want to show you how big a difference one year makes.  In the '07-'08 season, Elias tallied 55 points with a 7.6% shooting percentage.  Last year, Elias scored 78 points with a 12.6% shooting percentage.  He played at least 74 games both seasons.  Elias is another one of those players who almost does everything.  He's a great back checker, good scorer and he can hold his own on the defensive side.

Anze Kopitar 42. C Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

A Los Angeles Kings player on my list?  Isn't it amazing?  Kopitar is at the disadvantage of playing on one of the worst teams in the league and doesn't get much attention but he is one of the future stars of the NHL.  The 21-year old center has averaged 27 goals and 43 assists for 70 points per 82 games played throughout his short career.  He is also a great checker, thanks to his above average size (220 pounds).  Watch for the name Kopitar, if the Kings surround him with good players, he could be a star.  Wait . . . the Kings with good players?  LOL.  Let's get a hold of reality.

Shane Doan 41. RW Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes

It seems like Doan gets better as he gets older.  He had his top two point totals when he was 31 and 32.  Next year he'll be 33-years old and he doesn't look like he's slowing down any.  You can't really ask for anything more than what Doan is doing right now.  He doesn't do anything amazing but he does everything well.  He's a good bet for at least 60 points every year, he's aggressive, he'll get into fights if he needs to and he plays great defense.  A poor man's Jarome Iginla.  He could be the most underated player in the league.

Andrei Markov 40. D Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens

With one more point, Markov would have been the leading scorer on the Canadiens last year, as a defenseman.  His 68 points were second amongst defensemen and his 52 assists were first out of blue liners.  He was also one of the best powerplay performers in the league, scoring 39 points on the unit.  Markov isn't great on defense and he gives away the puck too often for no reason but he can hold his own.  His offense almost makes up for it any way. 

Corey Perry 39. RW Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks

The one thing I've always admired about Perry is his aggresive play.  He'll do anything to get his team pumped up and help them win the game, if that includes a big check, a fight or a goal.   He's averaged over 70 points per 82 games played over the last two years but he's also averaged nearly 120 penalty minutes per 82 games played.  If he can be aggresive without being dirty, he'd rank higher on this list.  For the record, his defense could improve too.

Paul Stastny 38. C Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche

The first Colorado player ranked on this list and also the last.  I was on the verge of not ranking Stastny at all due to injury issues and inconsistency but I had to put maybe the best, young two-way player in the league.  Stastny averaged over a point per game for his first two seasons with a shooting percentage over 16% before struggling with injuries last year.  Even with the injury problems, he still tallied 35 points in 44 games.  He is an excellent penalty killer as well and the future of the Colorado Avalanche. 

Simon Gagne 37. LW Simon Gagne, Philadelphia Flyers

Simon Gagne is coming off pretty much the best season of his career.  He scored 34 goals, had a career high 40 assists, with a 15.4% shooting percentage and a +/- of +21.  Gagne is the mold of a perfect all around player.  He plays good offense, good defense and isn't scared to hit some one, without being dirty.  He doesn't take meaningless shots that have no chance of going in, a great player to have on your team. 

Daniel Alfredsson 36. RW Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators

I really didn't know where to rank Alfredsson.  He certainly isn't in his prime years and he's lost a step or two.  Even with that being said, he is still better than everybody ranked below him.  Alfredsson scored 24 goals and 50 assists last year and had a +7 +/- on a below average team.  Look at Alfreddson's top teamates, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, to know just how good that is.  Alfredsson is still a great two-way player, a great leader and even though he led the Sens in points last year, I had to rank him this low.  He's a falling star.

Dion Phaneuf 35. D Dion Phaneuf, Calgary Flames

Even though Phaneuf is coming off the worst season of his career, he is still an excellent defenseman.  He has a great slapshot and is capable of a 20-goal season.  He is also a great shot blocker (averages about 88 per year) and a great checker (about 188 per year).  Phaneuf is a fun defenseman to watch, and I don't know if that could be said about too many other defenseman.  The two time All Star is a special player. 

Martin St. Louis 34. RW Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning

St. Louis is becoming one of the very few bright spots on a terrible Tampa Bay Lightning team.  First, his +/- was +4 on a team that, as a whole, got outscored by 69 goals!  Not many players have done that, although not many players ranked higher than St. Louis have had a chance to do that.  St. Louis led the team in goals (30) assists (50) and points (80).  It's sad to see all that talent go to waste on one of the worst teams in the league, if not the worst. 

Jeff Carter 33. C Jeff Carter, Philadelphia Flyers

Carter is a very underated player.  He scored 84 points last year and it's still Jeff who?  Carter led the Flyers in points (84) goals (46) and +/- (+22).   His 46 goals were second in the league only to Alex Ovechkin himself.  He's can also hold his own in the corners and he's a good skater.  He would have ranked higher on this list if it weren't for his below average defense and his post season performance.  He scored one goal in the playoffs with zero assists on 3.3% shooting percentage.  You just can't do that and expect to be ranked higher.

Nicklas Backstrom 32. C Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals

Backstrom is the first Capital ranked on this list, and the first of many, surprisingly.   From here and on, the Capitals have the most players ranked.  Backstrom may be the lowest ranked out of the group but he is no slouch.  He totalled 88 points during the regular season with a +/- of +16.  The baby faced center is also one of the cleanest top players in the league, averaging only 35 penalty minutes per year for his first year.  His 42 PP goals were more than anyone with at least 80 points scored.  Backstrom is just 21-years old so there are more great things to come, he could be ranked a lot higher on this list after next year.

Henrik Lundqvist 31. G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

This one was hard.  Lundqvist hasn't put up fantastic stats in the past and there are a lot of really good players who are not ranked as high as him.  I still felt the need to put a goalie here though.  Lundqvist has won at least 30 games every year of his career with a 2.31 GAA and a .917 save percentage.  Lundqvist is a model of consistency, he'll make the saves he needs to make, and he'll make more than that. 

Eric Staal 30. C Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes

Eric is easily the best out of the Staal brothers.  He has been a 30-30 player every year except for his rookie year, while scoring a career high 100 points in the '05-'06 season.  Staal has missed one, just one, game in his career.  How many players in the NHL have that kind of duribility?  Staal is one of the best goal scorers in the game and he is great on the powerplay.  He is also a big reason why the Canes returned to their Stanley Cup form from a few years ago and went deep in the playoffs. 

Rick Nash 29. LW Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets

Rick Nash finally lived up to his potential last year, and boy is he good.  Nash led the Blue Jackets playoff team with 40 goals and 39 assists.  His +/- was +11 on a team that was outscored.  He had a 15.2% shooting percentage which is great as well.  Keep in mind that Nash's linemates were Kristian Huselius (56 PTS) and Jakub Voracek (38 PTS).  How does a player get 79 points with that supporting cast?  It just shows how good Nash is. 

Daniel Sedin 28. LW Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

Here comes the Sedin debate.  I put some thought in to this and Henrik came out on top, but 28th isn't a bad ranking at all either.  Daniel has racked up two more career points in four less games than Henrik, scoring 70 more goals and totalling 106 less penalty minutes.  I was basically torn between Daniel and Henrik so I decided to turn to postseason play, but the both scored the same exact number of goals and assists.  I had to go with Henrik as the best one, he's just a little bit better . . .

Henrik Sedin 27. C Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

Like I said, it took some thought but I concluded that Henrik is the better Sedin twin.  He plays the more important position and Canucks coaches obviously think more than him, he has more minutes per game every year.  Henri kalso has a better shooting percentage (12.3%) and a better career +/- (+97).  Henrik is the better playmaker, checker and I'm sure that if he shot as much as Daniel, he would score more goals. 

Jason Spezza 26. C Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators

Spezza is in the same boat as Dany Heatley is.  Spezza is a great player and is still extremely talented, he just couldn't get his head into the game playing on a lousy team and his point totals dropped.  Spezza scored 73 points last year but he is much more talented than that.  He averaged almost 110 points per 82 games played from the '05-'06 to '07-'08 seasons.  He also shot a 21% in one of those years.  Spezza is still a great player though, he shot 13% last year and scored 32 goals, just not worthy to be put any higher. 

Mike Richards 25. C Mike Richards, Philadelphia Flyers

The first player ranked in the top 25, Richards is definitely deserving.  Richards scored 80 points last year with 30 goals and 50 assists.  Is that a perfect stat line or what?  His +/- was +22 and his shooting percentage was a decent 12.6%.  His '07-'08 stats were virtually the same.  Richards is a player you try to model your game after.  I know he takes too many penalties, I know he isn't the best defender ever (although he is still pretty good).  Richards is just a great all-around player.

Mike Green 24. D Mike Green, Washington Capitals

Mike Green scored 71 points . . . as a defenseman . . . while missing 14 games!  His PPG average of 1.04 is better than a lot of forwards ranked ahead of him and he would have been on pace for aroud 85 points if he played every game.  He also shot 12.8% with a +/- of +24.  Did I mention he's a defenseman?  The only drawbacks with Green is that he didn't perform great in the playoffs and he isn't nearly the defensive player as any other defenseman ranked higher than him on the list.  Still, Green is, without a doubt, the best offensive defenseman in the league.  He's only 23-years old so there are more great things to come.

Marc Savard 23. C Marc Savard, Boston Bruins

 Out of players ranked so far, Savard is the leading scorer with 88 points.  He isn't a great scorer but you don't need to be a genius to figure out that Savard is one of the best, if not the best play making forwards in the league.  He has racked up at least 63 assists for the past four years.  Those numbers are impressive enough without learning that Savard basically had no top goal scorer to pass to except for his one year in Atlanta with Ilya Kovalchuk.  Savard's +/- was an outstanding +25 last year and Savard was the MVP of the best team in the east.  He also led the Bruins in points in the playoffs.

Chris Pronger 22. D Chris Pronger, Philadelphia Flyers

Pronger is amongst the three elite defensemen of the league that all are fighting for the title of second best D-man in the NHL.  Pronger's case is certainly compelling.  He is always near the top of the league in minutes played per game.  He used to be one of the best checkers in the league but age is a burden, Pronger is now 34-years old.  Even though Pronger is one of the dirtiest players in the league, he's still a great two-way defenseman, usually scoring at least 45 points per year.

Zach Parise 21. LW Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils

Parise doesn't get enough credit for how well he plays.  He was the fifth leading scorer last year with 94 points and has had a 30-30 season every year except for his rookie year.  Parise's +/- was eighth in the league at +30.  He has never had more than 30 penalty minutes in one year and he was the leading point scorer for his team in the playoffs.  So why is he ranked so low?  He doesn't check much, he isn't a great defender and he's a bit of a puck hog.  Plus, he has never led a great team so far in his career.  Parise is one of the most overlooked players in the league.

Marian Hossa 20. RW Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks

If I was basing this list on regular season only, Hossa would be top 10.  He has scored at least 70 points in seven of the past eight years, which can't be said about too many other players.  Too bad this list is based on leadership as well.  Hossa has been on some pretty bad teams and he lost twice in the Stanley Cup Finals in the past two years, both losses weighing heavily on him.   Hossa has also scored less than .6 points per game in the playoffs.  You read that correctly.  I even feel that 20th was a little too high for someone who can't perform when his team needs him most.  After all, the playoffs are the only thing that counts.

Alexander Semin 19. LW Alexander Semin, Washington Capitals

 Would you look at that . . . another Capital in the top 50.  I guess it turns out that Alex Ovechkin isn't some do-it-all-with-no-help-from-anyone-else player after all.  Semin could be one of the best later in his career, but it's what they are doing right now.  Semin is still a top 20 player.  After a rough first three years, Semin scored 34 goals with 45 assists with a +25 +/-.  Semin is also a very efficient scorer, shooting 14.5% for his career with a 15.2% last year, which led the team.

Vincent Lecavalier 18. C Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning

It must be hard playing on one of the worst teams in the league.  Lecavalier had an off year, scoring just 29 goals with 38 assists, shooting 10%.  Don't blame him though, Martin St. Louis is the only  other player who actually knows how to pass or shoot on the team.  Lecavalier did have some great seasons in the past, a Stanley Cup in '03-'04, 108 points in '06-'07 . . . Lecavalier has the talent, he just needs to get his head and heart in to the game, which he didn't do last year.

Roberto Luongo 17. G Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

First off, I'd like to say that Luongo may be the most overated goalie in the league.  But that doesn't mean he isn't good.  Luongo was top five in GAA, save percentage and top 10 in wins last year.  Plus, if you could pick any goalie in the league to start a team with, you might have to pick Luongo.  Still, I have a very hard time ranking him this high.  His career record is under .500 and his career GAA isn't great.  But he's valuable and he's led some good teams in the past.  That has to count for something.

Marian Gaborik 16. RW Marian Gaborik, New York Rangers

This was probably the hardest decision I had to make on this list.  Gaborik is great when he's healthy, he's averaged about 90 points per 82 games played over the last four years, but when is he ever healthy?  He has played over 65 games just once in the last five years.  There is no denying that he's probably the fastest player in the NHL, the Minnesota Wild had a great record when Gaborik played and he has been one of the most efficient scorers in the NHL for the past few years but to rank higher on my list, you got to stay healthy.

Ryan Getzlaf 15. C Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks

Getzlaf is a huge rising star in the league.  Scoring just 39 points in his rookie year, he totaled 58 the next, then 82 in '07-'08 and finally 91 points last year.  He isn't a great scorer and he shoots too much but he is a great passer.  He's averaged 62 assists for the past two years and that's saying something on a team that has no real scoring threat.  He was also among the league leaders in hits.  Getzlaf is far from perfect at this stage of his career though.  He is a very dirty player (121 minutes in the box) and his +/- took a deep fall from '07-'08 to '08-'09.  Still, you can't take away that Getzlaf is a great playoff performer, a great leader and a great passer.

Henrik Zetterberg 14. C Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings

The '08-'09 season could have been one of the worst of Henrik Zetterberg's career and he is still ranked 14th.  That either shows you how good he is or how stupid I am.  Zetterberg scored 31 goals and 42 assists last year with a +/- of +13.  His point totals dropped 19 from the year before, with a 2% drop in shooting percentage and a -17 drop in +/-.  So why is he so high?  First, players have bad years occasionally (and even a bad year for Zetterberg is a good year for anybody else).  Secondly, Zetterberg has been one of the key parts of the Red Wings past two trips to the Stanley Cup and he is a very good playoff performer.  Also one of the best defensive forwards in the league.

Ilya Kovalchuk 13. LW Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta Thrashers

Arguably the best goal scorer in the NHL, Ilya has put the bread in the basket at least 38 times for the last six years.  He's never been a great passer but he did total 48 assists last year, a career high (which is because he actually had someone to pass to for once).  His career shooting percentage is 14.9%, better than Alexander Ovechkin himself.   There are definitely some flaws with Kovalchuk though.  He's not a good leader and he could be the worst defensive player in the league.  He does one half of the game better than anyone though, and that has to count for something.

Zdeno Chara 12. D Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

Is Chara really that good, or does he get a ton of attention just because of his 6'9", 261 pound frame?  I'm going to have to go with both.  Chara is one of the best offensive defensemen in the league.  He was third in goals (out of defensemen).  He is also money on the powerplay, scoring over 50% of his goals there.  He's one of the best checkers in the league.  When you're that big, you have to check.  There's no such thing as a friendly giant in hockey.  He isn't a great skater or great on defense but he definitely holds his own.

Martin Brodeur 11. G Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils

I had a hard time ranking Brodeur this low.  Who knows what kind of season he would have had if he had never gotten hurt?  His GAA was right around 2.20 before the injury then it went up to 2.47 after the season was over.  Then again, Brodeur is 37-years old.  The injury is likely not just a one-time deal.  Still, you can't get any more confident when Brodeur is in net.  He just broke the record for the most career wins (557) and he still has up  to three more very good years.  Last year was the first time in eleven years where he didn't win at least 37 games.  Only four goalies won over 37 games last year.  Brodeur is still a remarkable goalie, if not more than that. 

Dany Heatley 10. RW Dany Heatley, Ottawa Senators

No, Dany Heatley isn't the best scorer in the NHL although he may be the most efficient.  His 15.1% shooting percentage last year was better than anyone in my top ten and that was considered a down year for him.  His career shooting percentage is 16%.  It's no wonder why he had an off year though.  He's on a very bad team, although it is very talented.  He demanded a trade and then it all went down-hill from there.  Whether he stays with the Sens or not, it still looks like he'll have a better year next year.  From the '05-'06 to '07-'08 seasons, Heatley averaged over 100 points per 82 games played and never had a +/- under +29.  If this list was done last year, I'm sure Heatley is higher.

Scott Niedermayer 9. D Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim Ducks

I'm sure this one will draw a few complaints, but the truth is that Niedermayer is still a very good defenseman.  Niedermayer was third in points, third in assists and 11th in goals out of defensemen.  He is also as steady as they come defensively, you rarely see a puck get past him.  Niedermayer showed how valuable to his team he really is last year where he came out of retirement to join a struggling Ducks team and then they go on a roll with him.  NHL scouts and GMs rank him as the eighth best player in the league, definitely the second best defenseman. 

Tim Thomas 8. G Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

Fun fact: Tim Thomas is awesome.  I really wanted to put Martin Brodeur here, but like I said, it's based on what they are doing now and no one is playing goalie better than Thomas right now.  After four rough years to start his career, Thomas finally found his groove and led the league in save percentage and goals against average while ranking among the league leaders in wins.  Thomas is probably the most fun to watch out of any goalie in the NHL.  His dazzling, diving play would never be taught in a normal hockey school but it works for him, obviously.  His '08-'09 season could be a fluke, but he could have turned a corner.   Maybe 8th is too high for a goalie but it's a goalie who's writing the blog, so whatever I say goes!

Joe Thornton 7. C Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks

The Boston Bruins trading Thornton will go down as one of the greatest trades of all-time.  I mean, they already have Marc Savard.  What's the point of having two great players?  It makes ZERO sense to have a guy like Thornton on their team.  Well, the Sharks have certainly enjoyed Thornton.  He is one of the best leaders in the NHL and led the Sharks to the best record in the NHL with almost no help from partner in crime Jonathan Cheechoo.  The playoffs are a different story.  Thornton is three years removed from a 92-assist season.  He only had to score eight frikin goals to total 100-points that season!  Thornton may be slowing down though, he only scored 86 points last season! 

Now it gets interesting . . .

Evgeni Malkin 6. C Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin at sixth?  Gasp!  Am I losing my mind?  Not exactly.  Malkin is a pretty good player though.  He averaged 1.5 points per game throughtout the playoffs, which is, um, amazing!  He is also one of the better hitting forwards in the league and led the NHL in points this year.  Why is he only ranked sixth then?  He only scored 12.1% of his shots during the regular season and then shot 13.5% in the playoffs.  Not bad, but not good either.  Malkin also isn't a great defensive player, his +17 +/- on a Stanley Cup team isn't all that great.  Finally, his point totals are boosted by facing other team's second lines much of the time.  I've heard people say Malkin is the best player on the Penguins.  No way.  Do you ever wonder why every team puts all of their best players on Crosby and don't pay as much attention to Malkin?  I think there is a reason for that.

Nicklas Lidstrom 5. D Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings

A hero to old people everywhere!  Lidstrom is 39-years old and, quite frankly, you would probably think he's in his prime years by watching him play.  His career +/- is 409.  No joke.  That will put him in the same class as guys like Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr in a few years.  Lidstrom also owns five Norris Trophys and is one of the best leaders in the NHL.  He is also one of the cleanest players in the NHL while still being fantastic, he has never had more than 50 PIM in one season.  Not many people credit Lidstrom's offense but he was fifth in goals out of defensemen last year.  Screw Scott Niedermayer.  Screw Zdeno Chara.  Lidstrom is the best.  Nothing gets by this guy and judging by how he is playing right now, he'll keep playing until he's 80-years old.  Many of you would probably be mad why I ranked Lidstrom ahead of Malkin.  Defense is an underated position, it's not all about getting the flashy stats as a forward.  Lidstrom is a six-time Norris Trophy winner.  How many big time individual awards has Malkin won?  Not nearly as many as Lidstrom.

Alex Ovechkin 4. LW Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Some will say I ranked Ovie too high, some will say too low.  For all those who think he's too high, he single-handedly carried a team to the conference finals while becoming the best scorer and one of the best checkers in the league.  For all those who think he's too low, he's not all that great.  He's a puck hog, shoots too much and doesn't score enough for all the times that he shoots.  He has a lot of give-aways, missed shots and he doesn't know how to back check.  He also doesn't play great defense.  For all that think he has to carry a team with no good players, he has Mike Green, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom, three excellent players.  Still, I thought 4th was a fitting place.  There's an old hockey saying that "scoring isn't everything."  Actually, scoring is everything.  You have to score more goals than the other team, and that's certainly something Ovechkin has no problem with.

Pavel Datsyuk 3. C Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings

How about we start with the accoldates.  Datsyuk was third in the league in Plus/Minus, fourth in points, fifth in assists, two Stanley Cups, three All-Star appearences, four Lady Byng Memorial Trophys, two Frank J. Selke Trophys and two Hart Memorial Trophy nominations.  Whew!  His 14.7% career shooting is better than a certain player ranked No. 1.  Without a doubt, Pavel is the best leader in the NHL out of forwards.  He isn't the most talented player in the NHL but he is pretty close.  Some say he let the Wings down in the playoffs but he still averaged about a point per game, you can't do much better than that.  Too bad there are two really good players . . .

Jarome Iginla 2. RW Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames

Without Jarome Iginla, I'm confident that the Flames are one of the worst teams in the league.  Look who he has to play with, Mike Cammalleri and . . . um . . . some help?  The next best weapon on that team is 49-point scorer Daymond Langkow.  Iginla is rough player without being dirty (82 hits, 37 PIM).  He is also constantly among the league leaders in goals, assists and points scored.  He has never scored under 28 goals in the last 10 years.  Can that be said about too many players?  He is one of the few guys I would trust to start an NHL team with.  Iginla is just a great leader and a great player.  Him and the Flames give any team in the playoffs a run for their money.  Remember him in the Stanley Cup Finals a few years ago?  Iginla did everything he had to do, more than that, and even more than that.  Ask any scout in the NHL what player they'd start a team with and it would be Iggy.

Sidney Crosby 1. C Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Who else?  The only reason why people love to hate him is because he's so good.  After his Stanley Cup victory, I had to do it.  There were certainly some doubts if he could lead a team along the way.  At mid-season, it looked like there would be a slim chance the Pens would make the playoffs.  Of course, we all know what happened next.  Pittsburgh cruised to a No. 3 seed in the East with Crosby leading the way with 30 points in the last 18 games.  He didn't stop until the playoffs ended either, scoring 31 points in 24 games while scoring a goal 19% of his shots.  Then, he lifted the Cup.  Crazy!  The only question is, can he do it again?  Many people say that he has one of the best supporting casts in the league.  The truth is that Malkin is rarely on the same line as Crosby and he is scoring points with the likes of Petr Sykora and Miroslav Satan.  That's a supporting cast aboutn five times worse than Ovechkin's.  Since Crosby joined the league, his PPG is 1.38, .10 PPG above second place.  For the record, Ovechkin is second.  Is there any doubt to who should be first?


Quick Read . . .

1. C Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

2. RW Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames

3. C Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings

4. LW Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

5. C Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

6. D Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings

7. C Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks

8. G Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

9. D Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim Ducks

10. RW Dany Heatley, Ottawa Senators

11. G Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils

12. D Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins

13. LW Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta Thrashers

14. C Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings 

15. C Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks

16. RW Marian Gaborik, New York Rangers

17. G Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks

18. C Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning

19. LW Alexander Semin, Washington Capitals

20. RW Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks

21. LW Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils

22. D Chris Pronger, Philadelphia Phillies

23. C Marc Savard, Boston Bruins

24. D Mike Green, Washington Capitals

25. C Mike Richards, Philadelpiha Flyers

26. C Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators

27. C Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

28. LW Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

29. LW Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets

30. C Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes

31. G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

32. C Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals

33. C Jeff Carter, Philadelphia Flyers

34. RW Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning

35. D Dion Phaneuf, Calgary Flames

36. RW Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators

37. LW Simon Gagne, Philadelphia Flyers

38. C Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche

39. RW Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks

40. D Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens

41. RW Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes

42. C Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

43. LW Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils

44. D Jay Bouwmeester, Calgary Flames

45. C Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

46. RW Ales Hemsky, Edmonton Oilers

47. D Brian Rafalski, Detroit Red Wings

48. LW Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Sabres

49. C Patrick Marleau, San Jose Sharks

50. C Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings


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