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2012 NHL Season: Top 50 Blue-Collar Forwards

Mike BurseCorrespondent IApril 5, 2012

2012 NHL Season: Top 50 Blue-Collar Forwards

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    Every year, the superstars such as Sidney Crosby, Evengi Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Claude Giroux, Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Nicklas Lidstrom, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews get all the accolades for leading their teams through the season offensively. However, who are the players who make hits, block shots, take the puck from the other team and minimize turnovers that help to carry their teams through the grind that is the 82-game NHL regular season?

    These players create opportunities for the superstars through their fearless play along the boards, in the corners and in front of the net. Without enough blue-collar players in a franchise's lineup, it surely won't make the playoffs.

    This list is based on statistics from the 2012 NHL regular season. We place value on hits, blocked shots and takeaways on this list.

    Let's take a look at the top 50 NHL blue-collar forwards for the 2012 regular season.

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50: Chris Thorburn

2 of 51
    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    70 143 45 13 13

    Thorburn has been a valuable member of the Jets during their first season back in Winnipeg. He has bounced around a little bit the past few years but has matured into a solid blue-collar, two-way player. He should be a valuable third- or fourth-line player for the Jets moving forward.

49: R.J. Umberger

3 of 51
    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    75 101 69 43

    24 

    Umberger is a solid NHL player, and while he is overpaid he is still an effective member of a dismal Columbus Blue Jackets team. At his price point, the Jackets could look to move him for another draft pick and a solid third- or fourth-liner at the draft. Or they could hold onto him to assist in their rebuild.

48: Ryan Kesler

4 of 51
    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    75 107 59 43 20

    Kesler is a very good NHL player. He is a solid second-line center on any team in the league and could likely sub in as a first-line center on the weaker teams. His play has spoken for itself once again this season. Look for him to be a key contributor on the scoreboard and to shut down opposing forwards in the playoffs this year.

47: Alexei Ponikarovsky

5 of 51
    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    80 139 36 33 18

    He is an effective third-line role player, but do not expect much more from him. At this point in his career, the teams know what they are going to get from him in terms of production. He could stand to use his size more effectively, though.

46: Samuel Pahlsson

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    78 121 36 44 10

    The Canucks will be looking for him to provide veteran leadership and solid play in a shutdown role during this year's playoffs. He helped the Anaheim Ducks to a Stanley Cup in that role, and Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis is hoping Pahlsson can help the Canucks do the same this year.

45: Vladimir Sobotka

7 of 51
    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    70 148 29 28 11

    He has been a valued member of the Blues' turnaround this season. He is another one of those players whose true value will be shown in the playoffs. Look for him to fly under the radar and pot the occasional big-time goal in the postseason as well.

44: Ryan Getzlaf

8 of 51
    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    80 182 69 35 90

    In a down season offensively for Getzlaf, his defensive play remains consistent. He uses his big body effectively to grind down opponents. I fully expect him to bounce back as a dynamic player next season. He is just now coming into the prime of his career and he will help resurrect the once "Mighty" Ducks.

43: Jamie McGinn

9 of 51
    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    76 155 37 29 24

    Since his trade to the Avalanche, he has seen his production skyrocket. I do not expect him to continue his current points pace through next season. But he has shown that he can be a contributing member to a future Stanley Cup run for Colorado.

42: David Clarkson

10 of 51
    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    79 166 19 31 16

    Clarkson is the type of player any team in the league would love to have on its third or second line. His 30-goal outburst this year is also a welcomed bonus to the Devils. As much as Parise and Kovalchuk lead this team offensively, Clarkson is a big reason why it is able to get the room it needs to score.

41: Chris Kunitz

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    80 177 28 26 30

    Kunitz has been lucky to ride shotgun on a line with Malkin and Neal. Prior to this, he was seen on Crosby's wing fairly often. There is a reason why Penguins Coach Dan Bylsma puts him with these players. He is a great blue-collar presence to go along with their skill. He never shies away from contact in the corners and digs out many pucks for the stars in Pittsburgh.

40: Mike Fisher

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    71 116 75 44 34

    Fisher was once the heart and soul of the Ottawa Senators. Now he is the heart and soul of the Nashville Predators. He is the ideal second-line center for a team like Nashville. He will be a big part of the Predators' Stanley Cup run this season.

39: Milan Lucic

13 of 51
    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    79 196 26 25 44

    Lucic is a fierce competitor and an intimidating presence; just ask Mike Komisarek. He contributes in many ways besides his offensive output. He is a key cog in the machine that is the Boston Bruins, and his value only increases come playoff time.

38: Derek Stepan

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    80 136 43 50 25

    John Tortorella has done a great job coaching the Rangers this season. Stepan has become a solid two-way presence for New York.

37: Scott Hartnell

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    80 184 36 27 42

    Scott Hartnell is the type of player I would want leading my franchise. He is an intense competitor on the ice but also knows that he is playing a game for a living and should have fun. He is always taking on the ice and trying to get under the opponent's skin. Even at the All-Star Game he was chirping Dion Phaneuf after a goal with a gentlemanly "Suck it, Phaneuf!"

36: Eric Nystrom

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    72 173 36 20 23

    Nystrom may have finally found a long-term home in Dallas. He has clearly caught the eye of coach Glen Glutuzan and has seen his role increase incrementally this season.

35: Matt Cooke

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    80 154 40 37 23

    What a transformation Cooke has undergone this season. He is a very effective two-way player and has hit a new career-high in goals scored. He has maintained his blue-collar style while taking far fewer penalties and not costing his team suspensions. He is a great story in the NHL this season.

34: Craig Adams

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    80 158 45 12 7

    Adams is a great player to have on your fourth line. The former Harvard grad is a silently effective role player and one of the best penalty killers in the NHL.

33: Jarret Stoll

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    76 161 45 19 16

    He has carved out a role for himself with the Kings this season. While he still has more offensive upside, Kings coach Darryl Sutter has been impressed with his improving defensive game.

32: T.J. Oshie

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    77 123 43 59 14

    Oshie is another of the Blues' players who has helped turn around their season since Ken Hitchcock was hired as coach. Oshie has offensive skill to go along with his blue-collar play, and that will make him a key contributor in the postseason this year for the Blues.

31: Patrick Dwyer

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    72 129 62 33 12

    The Hurricanes have seen improvement in general under new coach Kirk Muller. Dwyer is an effective third-line player who will be a key role player for Carolina moving forward.

30: Erik Cole

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    79 183 29 38 36

    If there is one thing ex-general manager Pierre Gauthier did right, it was signing Erik Cole this past offseason. He has been lighting up the score sheet and maintaining his valuable contributions defensively. Montreal will surely bounce back and be a playoff contender next season, and Cole will help it do so.

29: Maxime Talbot

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    79 149 58 30 19

    Talbot did the unthinkable in the offseason. He left Pittsburgh for its hated cross-state rivals, the Flyers. Since leaving Pittsburgh his offensive production is up, but that is not why the Flyers wanted him.

    He has continued his solid defensive play for Philadelphia and should be a clutch goal scorer in the playoffs. Perhaps he can provide an advantage for the Flyers in a potential first-round series with his former team, with his knowledge of its systems and players.

28: Evander Kane

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    72 170 28 34 14

    Kane has developed very well this season under coach Claude Noel. He is becoming the player the then-Atlanta Thrashers drafted him to be. He may not become an elite player, but 60-70 points and solid blue-collar play are not out of the question.

27: Colton Gillies

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    73 157 45 31 14

    Gillies moved midseason from Minnesota to the lowly Blue Jackets. What the Jackets have plenty of is players like Gillies, third- and fourth-liners. But they do not have enough top-six talent to compete. Gillies, however, has shown he can be a contributing member of an NHL team.

26: Derek MacKenzie

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    66 189 19 26 10

     

    Here is another Blue Jacket to go along with the others on this list. On a better team, he likely would not have had the chance to play as much as he has. However, he makes Columbus' depth in terms of blue-collar players much better.

25: Zack Smith

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    79 163 42 48 28

    He is a player who is loved in Ottawa, like Darcy Tucker was loved in Toronto. He will be a key member of its playoff run this year. Look for him to be a long-term member of the Senators, and he may still have a little more offensive upside.

24: Brooks Laich

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    80 117 89 52 30

    He is a very good second- or third-line center. If the Capitals make it into the playoffs, he will be relied on to handle the other team's star player.

23: Nick Foligno

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    80 193 30 35 26

    Foligno is now a veteran player in the NHL. The Senators now look to him to provide leadership to their young squad. He leads through his solid blue-collar play on the ice.

22: David Steckel

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    74 167 65 31 29

    He is a player who thrives on being given a role and executing it. He has seen his role greatly increase under new coach Randy Carlyle. Expect him to be centering the Leafs' fourth line and be a relied-on penalty killer for the team next season.

21: Alex Ovechkin

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    76 211 41 34 48

    Here is a surprising name on this list. However, he is a very physical player, and despite his lack of offensive production (for his standards) he is still a solid blue-collar superstar. His goal totals are comparable to last season's; however, the absence of Nicklas Backstrom for an extended period of time shows through in his assist totals.

20: Colin Greening

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    80 188 47 31 26

    Another Ottawa Senator on the list is Greening. He still has some offensive upside, and the former Calder Cup winner, with the AHL's Binghamton Senators last season, has impressed with the big club this season.

19: Jim Slater

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    76 162 72 23 17

    The fans in Winnipeg have enjoyed watching Slater play this year. He is a consistent two-way player and still has room to improve his overall game.

18: Darroll Powe

34 of 51
    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    80 148 88 21 11

    Powe made the move from Philadelphia to Minnesota in the offseason. He has been one of the better penalty killers in the NHL in the past few years and continued that this season.

17: Shane Doan

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    77 204 27 47 30

    Doan continues his blue-collar play while leading his Coyotes to another unlikely season. This guy is a tremendous captain and has lead this team through successful times of late, despite constant speculation regarding the team's future in Phoenix.

16: Derek Dorsett

36 of 51
    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    75 192 40 34 12

    Dorsett is also a good fighter in the NHL. He is a valuable workman-type player; it is too bad we will not get to see him in the playoffs. A player like this thrives in the postseason.

15: Brandon Dubinsky

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    75 205 36 36 21

    He has bought into Tortorella's message of blue-collar, hard-working hockey. He has not contributed to the level he was expected to this season offensively, but the Rangers are very happy with his two-way play.

14: Matt Hendricks

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    76 212 48 24 18

    Hendricks is a Don Cherry type of player. He plays his heart out, fights, scores; everything you could ask for. He is a poor man's Scott Hartnell, and any team in the league would be better with him on their fourth line.

13: Maxim Lapierre

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    80 242 23 17 8

    "Happy Lappy," as I like to call him, is, simply put, a major pest in the NHL. He is one of the most hated players in the league. However, his value to the Canucks is undeniable. He makes it his duty to knock the other team off their game by taunting them in any way possible.

12: Martin Hanzal

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    62 234 31 41 21

    Hanzal was expected to develop into a better offensive player. However, he appears to be settling into his role as a blue-collar player for the Coyotes. He is also an effective face-off man.

11: Tanner Glass

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    78 246 51 9 20

    Tanner has been a welcome signing for the Jets this offseason. His blue-collar play will help the Jets to take the next step and make the playoffs next season.

10: Chris Neil

42 of 51
    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    71 265 20 21 20

    Chris Neil is one of the ultimate tough guys and blue-collar players in the NHL today. He can beat you with his fists or he can help on the score board. Teams always know when he is on the ice, and he makes more room for the likes of Alfredsson and Spezza.

9: Gabriel Landeskog

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    80 212 58 56 33

    No one expected him to make such an impact in his rookie season. He has brought flashes of Peter Forsberg into the hearts and minds of Avalanche fans. He will only get better in the years to come and should form a great one-two punch with Peter Stastny.

8: Dustin Brown

44 of 51
    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    80 289 31 36 53

    There were rumors around the trade deadline, as reported by TSN.ca, that the Kings were thinking of moving their heart-and-soul captain. They would be crazy to do so, as he is a player every team in the league would be lucky to have. He is a blue-collar presence that can also contribute on the scoreboard.

7: Steve Ott

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    73 278 26 25 25

    Ott has matured into a solid two-way player that is also one of the better players in the league on draws. He will remain a part of the Stars moving forward as a valuable piece of their future.

6: David Backes

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    79 220 66 47 21

    Backes is a player that Head Coach Ken Hitchcock surely loves to have on his side. He is the total package and will continue to lead the potent Blues side for years to come.

5: Cal Clutterbuck

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    72 278 30 25 19

    He is annually one of the leaders in hits in the NHL, and his moustache is second to none in the NHL today.

4: Troy Brouwer

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    80 240 59 38 20

    Brouwer moved to the Capitals from the Blackhawks in the offseason and has been a great addition. It is clear that Washington is doing their best to supplement their stars for a run at the Stanley Cup.

3: Brian Boyle

49 of 51
    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    80 234 83 25 15

    Here is another Ranger on the list, and a big one at 6'7" as well. He is a very valuable presence on the penalty kill, with his big body to block shots and long reach to chip pucks out of the zone.

2: Matt Martin

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    78 365 41 36 19

    Matt Martin is a solid piece for the Islanders to hold onto as their rebuild ramps up to competing for the playoffs in the next couple of seasons. He is far and away the leader in hits this year in the NHL and is still young enough to round out his game even more. Look for him to be an even bigger contributor to the Islanders next season.

1: Ryan Callahan

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    GP Hits BKS TKA GVA
    74 267 88 51 16

    He truly leads by example for New York, and this year his teammates are following. He does it all for the Rangers, and he is proving to be one of the best, if not the best, captain in the league this year. If the Rangers are in fact to win the Stanley Cup this season, Callahan will definitely be a candidate for the Conn Smythe trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.

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