There are over 600 players in the National Hockey League and selecting the cream of the crop is an extremely arduous task to do.
Ranking the top 100 players in the NHL requires the ability to differentiate between two players who have recorded similar stats and pretty much have the same skill set.
All of these guys are elite hockey players and the difference between each and every one of them is infinitesimal, especially when looking at the bottom three-fourths of the list.
In order to be able to rank these guys, one has to look at recent success, consistency, playoff performance, age, potential and health. Those are the criteria of this list.
And without further ado, here are the top 100 players in the NHL right now.
In his rookie season, the No. 1 overall pick scored 18 goals and 52 points in 62 games.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins looks like the real deal and he's going to be a part of a bright future in Edmonton with teammates like Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall.
He has nowhere to go but up and he'll be moving up this list very quickly in the next few years.
It's easy for Jamie Benn to go unnoticed playing out west in Dallas, but the winger has scored over 20 goals in each of his first three NHL seasons and his point totals have been increasing every year, too.
This year in 71 regular-season games, Benn scored 26 goals, 63 points and was a plus-15 on the ice.
Back in 2007 during his third NHL season, Patrice Bergeron scored 70 points but was a minus-28. Five years and a championship ring later, Bergeron scored 22 goals and 64 points and was a plus-36.
The center has improved defensively and has bounced back scoring-wise. Finally, the championship run he experienced last season will be extremely valuable for him from here on out.
P.A. Parenteau is an under-the-radar guy who's been improving every season. The young right winger scored 18 goals and dished out 49 assists in a career year.
Let's not forget that he did this on an atrocious New York Islander team that failed to make the playoffs again and finished in the cellar of the NHL.
After recording 80 points back in 2008, Jason Pominville's numbers dipped just a little bit for the next few seasons, bottoming out at 52 points last year.
This season was a bounce-back year for Pominville, who has turned into the main offensive weapon on the Buffalo Sabres these days. He recorded 30 goals and 73 points, but failed to take his team to the playoffs.
If he wants to move up this list, he needs to be more consistent on the score sheet and lead his team to some late April hockey next year.
Brooks Orpik is never going to win a scoring title, but he's a stingy defenseman who makes the opponent's job 10 times harder on offense.
He's a feared hitter and he's not afraid to block shots.
He had 259 hits and 139 blocked shots this season for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He also has a Stanley Cup ring under his belt and is an experienced veteran and leader in the locker room.
Not only has Matt Carle improved his offensive output from the blue line in the last few years, he's also blocking more shots and showing that he can be a dynamic two-way defenseman.
Carle had 34 assists and 12 points on the power play this season. His ability to carry the puck fluidly through the neutral zone is an asset that makes the Philadelphia Flyers offense click as a whole.
Finally, Carle has turned into an ironman as he has missed just two games in the last three seasons.
Mike Ribeiro has always been a solid player throughout his 12-year NHL career, but he's never really wowed anyone. He's always been a steady guy.
He's only scored over 80 points once in his career and that was in 2007-08.
This season, on a line with Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder, Ribeiro recorded 45 assists and 63 points.
He's a grizzled veteran, but some more playoff success would have propelled him in this list.
After a disappointing first season in an Ottawa Senators uniform, many believed that Sergei Gonchar's career was done.
However, at the age of 38, the former Stanley Cup winner returned to usual form, recording 37 points, 14 of which were on the power play.
Gonchar's high IQ, masterful puck-handling skills and veteran leadership were a major reason for the Senators' 2011-12 success.
Is this man ever going to slow down?
He'll be turning 42 in July, but he looks 32 on the ice. Teemu Selanne scored 26 goals and 66 points this season with the Anaheim Ducks, leading the team in points.
This wasn't an ordinary offensive team, either. It's a team that had Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan, but Selanne was able to outscore all of them.
That being said, Selanne's age is a big reason why he falls so low in the rankings. With his numbers declining this year, we may have seen the last of Teemu.
It's hard to believe that Daniel Alfredsson will be turning 40 at the end of this year.
The reason why it's difficult to grasp that concept is because he's been playing at such a high level.
Sure, he's not scoring 40 goals anymore, but he had a huge bounce-back season after scoring just 31 points in 54 games last year. Alfredsson's 59 points and plus-16 rating came as a surprise to many, but it really only exemplified the greatness that the greatest Senator ever personifies.
Dan Hamhuis is a skilled defenseman who just knows how to do everything the right way. He provides a jolt to the power play, moves the puck well and plays solid team defense.
His contributions don't always show up on the stat sheet, but every Vancouver Canuck fan knows the importance of Hamhuis to the team's blue line.
He's not even the most popular Girardi in New York. That said, Dan is used to playing under the radar.
Girardi came to the New York Rangers undrafted back in 2006-07 and is now a major piece of the Rangers young and exuberant defensive core.
Girardi has only missed two games in the last five years, which is impressive considering all the shots he blocks and all the checks he dishes.
This season, Girardi had 211 hits and he got in the way of 185 shots.
Along with Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh, Michael Del Zotto is another major component of the New York Rangers defense. If Del Zotto continues at this rate, the Rangers D isn't going to be allowing many pucks in their own net for years to come.
In his third year, Del Zotto came back strong from an injury-riddled sophomore season. He scored 10 goals and 41 points. Over a third of those 41 points came on the power play.
He facilitates the power play for the Rangers and he has also developed into a stout defensive player.
There was once a time when Ryan Miller could've been considered the best goalie in the NHL.
He's still an excellent netminder, but his numbers have declined in the last two seasons. His goals against average has hovered above 2.50 in the last two seasons.
He got hot toward the end of this season and helped his Buffalo Sabres make a legitimate push for the playoffs, but they fell short. Miller doesn't have much help in Buffalo, but he allowed five goals on three separate occasions this year.
With the difference between being a playoff team and a lottery team just three points this year, there's no doubt that more consistent play by Miller would've turned the Sabres into a playoff team.
Coming into the league, Keith Yandle had the opportunity to play alongside a seasoned veteran in Ed Jovanovski.
Seems like he learned a lot from Jovo Cop.
Yandle is slowly turning into an elite offensive-defenseman. His numbers have dipped this season just a bit after he scored 59 points last year, 26 of which came on the power play.
That being said, Yandle was able to lead his team, the Phoenix Coyotes, to their first Pacific Division title and he still had a solid year on the score sheet with 11 goals and 43 points.
Luke Schenn is a bruiser.
And that's an understatement.
The 229-lb defenseman has 521 hits in the last two seasons. He makes his opponents feel uncomfortable at all times because of his domineering presence.
He's also not afraid to block shots, standing in front of 115 rockets this year.
It's also impressive that he had a minus-six on an extremely atrocious Toronto Maple Leafs team. One would expect a defenseman on that team to have a much lower plus-minus rating.
Mike Richards didn't have the best start in his Los Angeles career. He only had 18 goals and 44 points in his first season with the Kings.
However, we'll give him a mulligan on the fact that absolutely nobody else scored for the Kings this year. Richards could definitely be higher on this ranking and he has the potential to be.
He's a two-time 30-goal scorer and had recorded over 60 points for four consecutive seasons coming into this year.
After scoring 32 goals in 2010-11, Thomas Vanek's numbers slid downwards just a tad this year. He had 26 goals and 61 points, but he failed to take his Buffalo Sabres into the playoffs.
Vanek has failed to hit his 40-goal potential in his last few seasons. He hit the 40-goal mark twice early in his career but has struggled to maintain that pace.
That being said, he's still an elite player and has the potential to return to his old ways.
With Mike Green pulling off a disappearing act for the Washington Capitals in the last two seasons, Dennis Wideman has really stepped it up on the blue line for the team.
In his first full season with the Caps, Wideman scored 11 goals and recorded 45 points, helping his team into the playoffs.
Offense isn't the only game Wideman plays. He gets in front of shots as he blocked a total of 132 lasers this season.
Jack Johnson seems to be happy in his new home in Columbus.
After being traded by the Los Angeles Kings, the defenseman had 14 points in 21 games on the worst team in the NHL. That's a good sign for a team that would love some defensive help in their rebuilding process.
Matt Duchene's value to the Colorado Avalanche was exemplified this year when he was lost to injury. After putting up 24 points in 39 games before getting hurt, the Avalanche sank and Duchene wasn't the same player after his return to the lineup.
That being said, he's an extremely talented, young player who will blossom to be one of the NHL's best in the near future.
After winning a Stanley Cup at the ripe age of 19, it can be awfully easy to get spoiled and slack off.
That's not what Tyler Seguin does, though. After a dismal rookie campaign where he just scored 22 points in 74 games, Seguin exploded for 29 goals and 67 points in his sophomore season.
He's slowly becoming the focal point of the offense and he has a bright future in the Black and Gold.
Cory Schneider is one of two backup goalies in this list.
Schneider started 28 games this season and had 20 wins, three shutouts, a 1.96 GAA and a .937 save percentage. He is now starting playoff games for the Vancouver Canucks because of Roberto Luongo's struggles between the pipes.
His excellence spelling Luongo this season will earn him a starting job elsewhere soon. Heck, it may even get him the starting nod with the Canucks with the way Luongo has been playing in the playoffs lately.
Opposing teams hate him.
The Philadelphia Flyers love him.
Scott Hartnell makes playing hockey feel like hell for his opponents. He irritates and agitates, but he's not a goon.
He scored 37 goals and recorded 67 points this season. His physicality was exemplified by his 136 PIMs and 188 hits.
Milan Lucic fits the mold of a Boston Bruin. He hits, fights and scores.
His ability to score was exemplified by his 26-goal, 61-point season. He also added 135 PIM and had over 200 hits. He agitates, but like Scott Hartnell, he's not a useless goon.
There's plenty of value in his game play, as demonstrated by his Stanley Cup ring, and for that reason, he's a huge fan favorite in the Hub.
The St. Louis Blues looked stupid when they traded former No. 1 overall pick Erik Johnson to the Colorado Avalanche.
However, Kevin Shattenkirk, one of the pieces they received in that trade, is making them look like the winner of that deal.
Shattenkirk has emerged as one of the league's top defenders playing for one of the most stingy defensive teams we've seen in recent years.
Not only is he a stalwart defender, but he also facilitates the job for everyone else on offense and on the power play. Shattenkirk had nine goals and 43 points this season and 18 of those points came on the power play.
Kari Lehtonen is getting better every year as the starting netminder for the Dallas Stars.
This season happened to be his best in the cage as he won 32 games and set career highs in save percentage (.922) and GAA (2.33).
He almost led an injury-riddled Stars team to the playoffs on his back. However, his collapse in the last four games, which were all losses, and his lack of playoff experience show question marks regarding Lehtonen's ability to be a successful clutch goalie.
That being said, he's in his prime and he has the potential to thrive on the biggest stage in the future.
Taylor Hall improved on his rookie season in 2011-12, scoring 27 goals and 53 points, upping his scoring total by 11 points. He did all of that in 61 games.
Despite being an unbelievable young talent with a sparkling future ahead of him, Hall has missed parts of two seasons for the Edmonton Oilers in his first two years in the NHL. He could've definitely been ranked higher if he managed to stay healthy.
That being said, if he continues his injury-prone ways, Hall could become more of a headache, than a solution to the Oilers' problems.
Patrick Marleau is Mr. Reliable. He's played in at least 74 games in all 14 seasons of his illustrious NHL career with the San Jose Sharks.
During those 14 years, he's scored at least 30 goals on six separate occasions. Those 30-goal seasons didn't come early in his career, either. He's currently on a stretch where he's hit the 30-goal mark in his last four seasons.
After scoring 84 points two years ago, Marleau's numbers are declining. He only scored 64 points this year, but that's still something to be happy about if you're a Sharks fan considering the number of miles Marleau has on his tires.
Have we seen Nicklas Lidstrom play in his last NHL game?
Perhaps, but he's certainly shown in recent years that he's simply too good to quit playing. He'll turn 42 later this month but you wouldn't know it if you looked at the way he plays the game.
Lidstrom has made the Detroit Red Wings power play click for years. He also brings defensive presence and leadership to one of the most successful teams of our generation. In fact, he is one of the crucial reasons why the Wings have been so darn good in the last 15 years or so.
For the first time since the 2003-04 season, Lidstrom failed to hit the 40-point mark this season, but he also missed 12 games, which prevented him from reaching that goal. Lidstrom scored 11 goals and recorded 34 points along with a plus-21 rating, but he's only two seasons removed from putting up 62 points and 39 power-play points.
His name has been etched on the Stanley Cup four times and he's made a solid case to have the NHL rename the Norris Trophy to the Lidstrom Trophy, winning the honor seven times.
Kevin Bieksa was finally able to stay healthy for a full season this year and he did not disappoint. He scored eight goals and recorded 44 points from the blue line and also brought a great physical presence to the Vancouver Canucks, dishing out 159 checks.
Bieksa has shown that if he can stay healthy, he can consistently score 40 points and be a major cog on the Canucks power play.
After a 41-goal season in 2010-11, Ryan Kesler's numbers declined immensely this season. He only scored 22 goals this season and recorded 49 points.
That being said, there's nothing that doesn't let us believe that Kesler can bounce back next year and become the super star player Canucks fans expected him to become. He's surrounded by elite teammates and he has the skill set to become one of the best players in the league.
With Nicklas Lidstrom in the twilight of his career, the Detroit Red Wings have been happy to see Niklas Kronwall emerge as their top defenseman of the future.
Kronwall brings offense from the blue line much like Lidstrom does, scoring 15 goals and recording 36 points in this year's campaign. He's an important part of Detroit's power play, too, recording 14 power-play points on the season.
He also brings edge to his game. He's not afraid to push bodies around or get in the way of shots. In fact, he blocked 177 shots this season.
It's difficult to get noticed when you play for a team that's perennially horrible. However, Matt Moulson has caught the eye of many hockey fans because of his incredible play on Long Island.
He's netted at least 30 goals in his first three full seasons and he scored a career high of 36 in 2011-12.
The New York Islanders have to be happy with Moulson's development and they hope he's part of their bright future.
The Edmonton Oilers have stacked up on forwards with their first-round picks in recent years. Their first-round selection from 2008 has emerged as their best player and could be their leader moving forward.
Jordan Eberle had a break out year in his second season in the NHL, scoring 34 goals and recording 76 points for one of the worst teams in the NHL. This guy is only going to get better in the future along with teammates Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Patrik Elias is one of the classiest guys in the NHL, and the league is already filled with class acts. Elias has stayed with the New Jersey Devils ever since he was drafted by them in the second round way back in 1994.
What's most impressive about Elias is that he consistently produces. Even though he's getting older, his numbers are improving. He scored 26 goals and recorded 78 points this season, his highest totals since 2009, and he led the New Jersey Devils back into the playoffs.
Unfortunately for Nicklas Backstrom, he wasn't able to stay healthy this season. That being said, he recorded 44 points in 42 games. That's better than a point per game pace.
It seemed like he was returning to his 2009-10 form when he recorded 101 points in a full season.
However, inconsistencies last season and injuries this season have knocked him out of the top 50. That being said, if Backstrom continues what he started this season, he'll easily move up the ranks again.
What was most impressive about P.K. Subban's 2011-12 season, weren't his seven goals and 36 points, or the physicality he exemplified with his 119 PIMs and 105 hits.
It was the fact that he had a plus-nine rating on one of the worst teams in the NHL. Generally players on poor teams tend to be deep in the minuses, but not Subban.
This demonstrates his elite defensive ability and the jolt he provides for the Montreal Canadiens offense.
The KHL defect, Alexander Radulov, has shown that he can hang with the big boys of the NHL thus far in his return.
Radulov recorded seven points in nine games and has been an instrumental component in the Nashville Predators playoff run. It'll be interesting to see if Radulov can keep this up and move up the ranks in this list.
After a turtle-paced start to his NHL career, Bobby Ryan is finally playing like a No. 2 overall pick for the Anaheim Ducks.
He has scored at least 30 goals in each of his last four seasons and is becoming an integral piece of the Ducks future.
Some may argue that Patrick Sharp should be higher on this list, but one must take into account that his numbers shot up once Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane developed into elite players.
He is benefitting from playing for a highly explosive offensive team, but at least he's taking advantage of his opportunity.
Sharp has scored at least 33 goals in each of his last two seasons and has gained confidence in his offensive abilities because of teammates like Toews and Kane.
Jordan Staal has turned into one of the best all-around players in the league. His problem in the last few years has been staying healthy.
That being said, he's an unbelievably capable defensive forward who kills penalties and bolsters the power play.
He also showed that he doesn't necessarily have to have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby by his side to be a great center, when he led the team for the second half of last season, when both Malkin and Crosby were injured. Without Malkin and Crosby, Staal was able to lead the Penguins to the second-highest point total in franchise history at the time.
Staal scored 25 goals and 50 points this season and showed once again why he's the best third-line center in the league. Now, if he can only stay healthy for a full year.
Dan Boyle has always been one of the best offensive defensemen in the game. He's consistently produced on the power play, scoring three goals and dishing out 14 assists on the man advantage this season.
He had 48 points on the year, but that's not where Boyle's contributions end. He also plays solid defense and isn't afraid to block shots. He had 137 blocks this past season.
Martin Brodeur may be aging, but his goaltending abilities are still sharp.
He may not be starting over 70 games like he used to, but Brodeur is showing that he can be effective despite the fact that he'll be turning 40 next month.
This season, Brodeur won 31 games, had three shutouts and had a save percentage of .908. It seemed like after last year's dismal season that Brodeur's career was close to ending, but like any other great legend, he extended it with a strong bounce-back year.
Phil Kessel got off to a dazzling start this season leading some to think that he can be a Hart Trophy candidate. However, his production tailed off in the second half of the season, as did his team's performance.
Kessel has failed to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs to the playoffs despite his improving scoring output in the last few seasons. Until he does, it'll be hard to consider him a top 50 player in the league.
That said, Kessel has the potential to get his team over the hump.
Brent Seabrook is a jack of all trades. He can hit, block shots, play defense, score goals and help run a power play.
He scored nine goals and recorded 34 points this season and had a plus-21 rating in a season where the Chicago Blackhawks had difficulties keeping the puck out of their own net.
Dion Phaneuf is one of the league's most feared hitters. His 214 hits exemplify that claim.
When he's not smashing opponents into the boards, Phaneuf is being a catalyst on the Toronto Maple Leafs' power play. He scored seven power-play goals this season and recorded 22 power-play points.
Overall on the season, he had 44 points. He could improve on his plus-minus rating. He was a minus-10 on the Leafs this year, but what can you do when you play for an atrocious team?
Last season, Ryan Getzlaf recorded a total of 76 points in just 67 games as the Anaheim Ducks made a postseason appearance.
This year, his numbers dipped a bit. He scored fewer points than he did last season, but he also played in more games. That being said, he was playing on a team that pretty much just had one solid scoring line.
Getzlaf still has the potential to repeat his performance from last year. He's a skilled playmaker and a facilitator who certainly makes Bobby Ryan and Corey Perry better.
Rounding out the first half of the league's top 100 players is Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter.
Suter is part of a stingy Nashville defense that relies more on their blue line to win games. Suter is not only a hallmark defender who makes a living blocking shots, but he can rip a few pucks into the back of the net, too.
Suter had 39 assists, 46 points and a plus-15 rating. Over half of his points came on the power play, which demonstrates Suter's importance on special teams.
In his first full 82-game season for the Vancouver Canucks, Alexander Edler recorded career highs in goals, assists, points, hits, blocked shots and power-play points.
There's no doubt that he has emerged as the Canucks No. 1 defender. His 49 points this season led all Vancouver defenseman and was tied for sixth most in the league.
Now, he must continue to play this way if he wants to become an elite defenseman in the NHL.
Jason Spezza scored 34 goals and 84 points this season. So why is he ranked this low?
Because he could easily regress next season. Spezza hasn't been consistent enough with his health throughout the last few years of his career and that hurts his value. Sure he scored 84 points this season, but injuries limited him to 57 points last year and the year before.
That being said, when healthy, Spezza is a remarkable offensive player and was a huge reason why the Ottawa Senators stunned the hockey world and made the playoffs this year.
If healthy, Chris Pronger can be a top 20 player in the NHL.
However, he has failed to remain on the ice in the last two years. This year was pretty much a lost cause as he only played in 11 games and last year he missed almost half of the season.
In his last full season, Pronger scored 10 goals and recorded 55 points, leading the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final. Not only does Pronger contribute offensively from the blue line, he's a heavy hitter, a leader and a fearless shot-blocker.
The Calgary Flames may have missed the playoffs this year, but don't blame Miikka Kiprusoff for that.
Kipper has won at least 35 games in each of his last seven seasons. This season, he had a remarkable save percentage of .921, his highest since the 2005-06 season. He also recorded four shutouts and had a 2.35 GAA.
This is all with a leaky Calgary defense, too.
Here's another guy you can't blame for the Calgary Flames' woes.
Jarome Iginla's numbers may be declining because of his age, but he's still producing at a high rate. Last season he had 43 goals and 86 points and this year he scored 32 goals. With those 32 goals, Iginla now has scored at least 30 goals in a season for 11 consecutive seasons.
That said, his declining point totals show that this run should be ending soon. He's no longer scoring over 90 points like he once used to. Either way, he's a class act and a legitimate contributor at the age of 34.
Mike Smith never had a chance to be a full-time starting goalie until this season when he signed with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Perhaps the consistent amount of playing time has done him well. Smith put up stellar numbers this year in his first season as a full-time starter. He recorded eight shutouts, 38 wins, a .930 save percentage and a 2.21 GAA.
He also led the Coyotes to their first Pacific Division title.
Smith has the potential of becoming an elite goaltender in the NHL if he continues playing like this in the next few years.
It's hard to believe that Drew Doughty has only been in the league for four years.
He looks like he's a 10-year veteran.
Doughty has been a huge part of the Los Angeles Kings turnaround in the last few seasons. The Kings don't allow plenty of goals and Doughty is a big reason for that.
Doughty also produces offensively from the blue line. He scored 10 goals and 36 points this year for the Kings. In the past, he has shown that he has 60-point potential. His numbers may have declined in the last two years, but the Kings as a whole haven't been scoring much either and that's not a habit that a defenseman is supposed to reverse.
Forget his minus-27 rating. He's playing for the New York Islanders.
Despite playing for a terrible team, Mark Streit has made the most of it, recording 47 points and 23 power-play points. He moves the puck well up and down the ice and is easily one of the best offensive defenseman in the league.
It'll be interesting to see how much better he would be if he played with a better supporting cast on defense.
One intriguing stat is that he was able to have an even plus-minus rating last season on an equally atrocious Islander team.
After playing in just 13 games last season, Zach Parise came back strong in 2011-12, scoring 31 goals and 69 points and leading his New Jersey Devils to the playoffs after a dismal 2011 season.
Despite Parise's solid offensive output this year, it's clear that he could do better. He has the potential to hit 90 points and be one of the best players in the league perennially, especially with a guy like Ilya Kovalchuk playing alongside him.
Perhaps it was the off-time from last year's injury that set him back. It'll be interesting to see how he does next year now that he has a normal offseason to deal with this summer.
We mentioned how important Brent Seabrook was to the Chicago defense. Duncan Keith may be even more vital.
The Chicago Blackhawks have a leaky goaltending situation and it's important for them to have guys like Keith who will mitigate the damage other teams will impose on the Hawks. He was a plus-15 this season on a team that allowed 238 goals.
Keith's abilities are not limited to great defense. Two years ago, he recorded 69 points and although his numbers have declined, he's still putting up at least 40 points per year.
It's hard to believe that one of the best defenseman in the league is just 22 years old. That is the case with Alex Pietrangelo, who is slowly mastering the difficult position at a young age. It takes years for some players to learn how to play defense properly.
Pietrangelo is showing exactly why he was a No. 4 overall pick back in 2008. He was part of a stalwart St. Louis Blues defense this season that seemingly allowed goals once in a blue moon.
Pietrangelo was also a big-time provider on an offense that didn't have many stars. He scored 12 goals and 51 points and 24 of those points came on the power play.
James Neal has to thank Evgeni Malkin for getting him this high on the list. Neal recorded his first 40-goal season this year and there's no doubt that playing with No. 71 had a lot to do with it.
Neal has been a great fit in Pittsburgh. Having the opportunity to play with two of the best players in the game is a luxury that Neal will take advantage of for years to come.
Loui Eriksson might be the most underrated player in the league. He flies under the radar playing in Dallas and doesn't really rely on his teammates to succeed unlike his former teammate James Neal who is lighting it up in Pittsburgh now with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.
Eriksson is producing at a frantic rate without any of that. For the third consecutive season, Eriksson recorded at least 70 points in a season. Just imagine what he would be able to do if he was surrounded by better. (Nothing against Mike Ribeiro, but Crosby is just at another level.)
When Marc-Andre Fleury loses a little bit of his confidence, he'll allow some silly goals.
But when he's on his game, he'll be the best goaltender since Patrick Roy. Fleury's emotional roller coaster hurts him, but when he's on his ups the Penguins become impossible to score against.
Fleury had another solid year in the cage, recording 42 wins, three shutouts, a 2.36 GAA and a .913 save percentage.
He's also an extremely clutch goaltender having won two Game 7s during the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup run.
Joe Thornton might go down as the greatest player to have never won a Stanley Cup in this generation. All he does is make everybody around him 10 times better. He hasn't had a 30-goal season in the post-lockout era, but he's had at least 49 assists every season since 2001-02.
Thornton's playmaking abilities make him the best teammate in the league. Put a guy with marginal scoring abilities alongside Thornton and he'll be a 30-goal scorer. That's just what Thornton does.
Unfortunately for him, age is catching up and his numbers are declining at a slow rate.
If Roberto Luongo wins Game 7 last year in the Stanley Cup Final, he's a top 15 player in the NHL. That loss pretty much exemplified his main Achilles' heel throughout his career.
His inability to do well in clutch moments has cost him big time.
That being said, there's no doubt that Luongo is one of the best goalies in the league. He had five shutouts this season and had a .919 save percentage. He gives the Canucks a chance to win any game but he just needs to sharpen his skills when it matters most.
Eric Staal regressed this season. His minus-20 season was the worst of his career.
That being said, he's a dynamic player with a Stanley Cup ring and he still recorded 70 points in what was considered a down year for the center.
It's important to note that Staal doesn't have much to work with in Carolina and the fact that he produces without competent teammates is a testament to his great skill and talent.
The ultimate undrafted underdog will be turning 37 next season, but he's only one season removed from a 31-goal, 99-point season. Martin St. Louis' numbers dipped mightily this season but he still had 25 goals and 74 points; a stat line many NHLers would kill to have.
St. Louis is rejuvenated by his linemate Steven Stamkos and if his team had just a bit of goaltending and defense, there is no doubt that the Tampa Bay Lightning would be in the mix of things in the playoffs again.
St. Louis also has a ring and a plethora of playoff experience to go along with his off-ice leadership and work ethic.
Is Jimmy Howard about to become the next great goalie to wear a Detroit Red Wings uniform?
He'll need a Stanley Cup ring to put his name with guys like Mike Vernon, Dominek Hasek and Chris Osgood, but his numbers show that he's well on his way.
Howard had a 2.12 GAA this season along with a sky high save percentage of .920 to go along with his six shutouts.
Brad Richards was the most highly sought-after free agent this past summer. After signing with the New York Rangers, Richards scored 25 goals along with 66 points, nothing close to what he can potentially do.
That being said, let's give him a break. His team did finish No. 1 overall in the Eastern Conference and it does take time to adjust to New York. Just as long as he wasn't a complete bust in his first season in a Rangers uniform, he'll be fine.
There isn't much pressure on him with the team doing well and multiple stars on his team. Now that Richards is comfortable in the Big Apple, expect to build on his numbers from this season.
Patrick Kane might actually be one of the more overrated players in the league. He did have that glorious Game 6 overtime goal to clinch the Stanley Cup for the Chicago Blackhawks, but he's never had a 90-point season yet.
He's also scored 30 goals just once in his career.
That being said, just because he's overrated it doesn't mean he's a bum. He's still a big-time contributor for the Blackhawks. He scored 23 goals and 66 points this season for the Hawks.
But once again, although that's a solid stat line, he could definitely do better.
On a team known for its anemic offense, Anze Kopitar was a major bright spot. He scored 25 goals and 76 points for the Los Angeles Kings and has shown to be a consistent contributor in southern California throughout his prolific career.
He has scored at least 60 points in each of his first six seasons in the NHL and has a bright future with the club.
Henrik Zetterberg has been a model of consistency for the Detroit Red Wings. This season might have been his worst season in the post-lockout era and he still scored 22 goals and 69 points.
Zetterberg has scored at least 20 goals in all but one season throughout his illustrious NHL career and although he's not putting up 90 points anymore like he did back in 2008, he still generates offense for the Red Wings at a high rate.
One thing is for sure, you always know what you're getting with Henrik.
Jonathan Toews was hurt this season and only played in 59 games but he scored 57 points. Like his teammate, Patrick Kane, Toews might be a bit overrated, though. He has never had an 80-point season but his leadership on and off the ice are intangibles that the center has.
He is a Stanley Cup champion and let's not forget that he's only 23 years old. He will get better as his career goes along. He was already showing signs of improvement this season before he got hurt.
After finally winning a Stanley Cup on his third try, Marian Hossa has continued to be an offensive threat on the ice.
Hossa's 77 points this season were the most since his 2006-07 campaign in Atlanta. He's only 33 years of age and there's no doubt that after what he did this year, he still has plenty left in the tank.
Dustin Byfuglien might be the most versatile player in the league. He was once a forward before converting to defense.
Byfuglien also seems to like playing with the Winnipeg Jets. In 66 games this season, Byfuglien scored 12 goals and 53 points from the blue line.
He's a big, physical body that is known for shutting down opposing player. His Stanley Cup experience doesn't hurt either.
Throw the stat book away when you want to compare Rick Nash to the rest of the NHL's best.
He's never scored 80 points in a season but he has a legitimate excuse. You see, it's kind of hard succeeding in the game of hockey when you're the only competent player on the ice. Nash has never had a decent center to work with and he's played on possibly the worst franchise in the NHL for his whole career.
Year after year, the Columbus Blue Jackets stink up the NHL and it must be extremely hard for Nash to keep his focus in a losing culture.
There's no doubt that if Nash had some better teammates, his scoring totals would skyrocket. Just being a part of a winning culture may be enough to make Nash better because he won't be having to go to work every day knowing that his team is going to lose.
Want to know why the Florida Panthers were able to turn it around so quickly this season?
Let's start with Brian Campbell.
He literally made everybody around him better, dishing out 49 assists for the team, 30 of which came on the power play.
Campbell is veteran in the league having spent many years in Buffalo, before finally winning a Stanley Cup in Chicago two seasons ago.
Don't just look at his prowess on the power play. Campbell is a stout defender and he's a major reason why Florida was able to win the Southeast Division this year. Also, one can look at the way Chicago's goals allowed total ballooned this year compared to their championship run and blame it on Campbell's departure.
Erik Karlsson made a strong case to win the Norris Trophy this season. He scored 19 goals and recording 78 points, which was tops among defensemen.
He was a big part of the Ottawa Senators' success this season. Not many people expected them to make the playoffs, but they were able to snag the No. 8 seed.
Karlsson had a plus-16 rating, a huge swing from his atrocious minus-30 rating last season.
Despite his improvements, Karlsson needs to be consistent in his game play in the coming years if he wants to be a top 10 player in this league. He definitely showed this year that he has what it takes to be an elite defenseman.
Now he just needs to keep doing it.
Brian Elliott came out of nowhere this season.
Last season he split time between the Ottawa Senators and Colorado Avalanche and had a GAA that hovered well above 3.00. His save percentage was below .900, too.
This year, it looks like he's going to win the Vezina Trophy. In 36 starts, Elliott won 23 games and had a tiny GAA of 1.56, nine shutouts and a save percentage of .940.
Folks, he shut out his opponents in 25 percent of his starts. That's absolutely phenomenal.
That being said, it would be nice to see if Elliott can continue this remarkable run into next season. Only then will he be considered among the top goalies in the league. But this is definitely a great way to get noticed.
If you're a New York Islanders supporter, there hasn't been much to smile about in the last several years.
The one aspect of the team that you are probably jumping up with joy for is John Tavares.
The former No. 1 overall pick has built on his numbers every year and is ready to break out into one of the league's best players. This season, he recorded career highs in goals, assists, points, plus-minus, shots on goal and game-winning goals.
He's getting some help now from teammates Mark Streit and Matt Moulson. Tavares has sky high potential with this young team and Islander fans hope that he explodes sooner rather than later so that they can keep their team in Long Island.
What Brian Elliott did in 36 starts was pretty insane this season. However, Pekka Rinne put up a similar performance and an even better case for the Vezina Trophy in twice as many starts.
That's right. Rinne had 72 starts this year and he won a league-leading 43 games, five shutouts, a .923 save percentage and a GAA of 2.39. He faced over 2,100 shots and he's a major part of the reason why the Nashville Predators have become one of the best teams in the NHL.
Rinne has all the tools to take the Predators to glory and it won't be a surprise if he does accomplish his wild goals.
Playing in New York could be very hard. The fans can get on your back if you struggle and some players just can't recover.
Marian Gaborik, though, has delivered each and every time. He scored 40 goals or more for the second time in his Rangers career and more importantly, he bounced back after an injury-riddled 2010-11.
Gaborik's offensive prowess led the New York Rangers to an Atlantic Division title and the best record in the Eastern Conference.
He's been comfortable in the Big Apple from the start and that's great news for the Rangers.
Claude Giroux has made plenty of strides ever since he entered the league in 2007-08. This season he made a decent bid for the Art Ross Trophy with 93 points. He has turned into a playmaker as he recorded 65 assists this season.
He makes everyone else around him better, especially on the power play, where he recorded 38 points.
Giroux's point totals have been rising every year. It'll be interesting to see where he goes from here next season. Does he break 100 and become a top 10 player in the league, or will he tail off and settle with being on the brink of eliteness?
For Tim Thomas, him winning the Stanley Cup last year was probably the most unlikely dream to have been realized in human history.
Thomas was a ninth-round draft pick in 1994 who toiled his life away in the minor leagues before getting his chance with the Boston Bruins.
He seized his opportunities and has immediately become one of the best goaltenders in the league. He shines when the times are most dire as exemplified by his performance in the Stanley Cup Final last year.
Thomas has 24 shutouts in the last four seasons, including nine last year. His numbers declined just a tad bit this year, but he was still able to win 35 games, have a .920 save percentage and a GAA of 2.36.
Alex Ovechkin has the potential to be a top three player.
After scoring 65 goals and 112 points back in 2007-08, Ovechkin's numbers have declined every single year. This year, he only scored 38 goals and 65 points.
His team barely even made the playoffs in one of the weakest divisions in the league.
That being said, there's no doubt that Ovechkin's offensive prowess will wake up from his dormant stage sooner rather than later. Perhaps he needs a healthy Nicklas Backstrom by his side or even a center that facilitates.
Whatever the case, Ovechkin is falling in the ranks fast.
Unlike his teammate, Brian Elliott, Jaroslav Halak has been successful between the pipes for several seasons now.
Everyone remembers the run he had with the Montreal Canadiens back in 2010 when he was the foundation of two upsets against the high-powered Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Halak was then traded away to the St. Louis Blues as the Habs opted to keep Carey Price instead. Now, the Habs are a lottery team while the Blues are one of the best teams in the NHL. Halak is a major reason why the Blues have been so dominant.
The team just doesn't allow pucks to go in their net. Halak's goaltending prowess this season was highlighted by a 1.97 GAA, a .926 save percentage and six shutouts. He's shown that he can play well in the playoffs.
Everything tells us that Halak is only getting better from here on out and the Canadiens are kicking themselves in the forehead for keeping Price instead of Halak.
Corey Perry is just one year removed from scoring 50 goals with the Anaheim Ducks. He recorded 98 points last season with the team but regressed just a little bit this season.
That being said, Perry still scored 37 points for a team that just didn't have enough fire power to make the playoffs.
Perry also has a physical side to him. He's not afraid to drop the gloves as evidenced by the 127 PIMs he logged this season.
In a few seasons, we might be calling Kris Letang the best defenseman in the league.
He's done everything to be a part of that debate this season. He could've been a Norris Trophy candidate had he stayed healthy.
Letang may be the most important player on the Pittsburgh Penguins. He carries the puck like a Hall of Famer from one end of the ice to the other. He's a distributor and a facilitator and makes everyone's job simpler because of his fluid skating and puck-handling.
Letang scored 10 goals and 42 points in just 51 games this season for the Penguins.
His defensive awareness and IQ has also improved the more he has played in the league. It was once his biggest deficiency but it's safe to say that Letang has mastered every facet of the game.
After a dismal start to his New Jersey Devils career, Ilya Kovalchuk showed just what he's capable of doing when he's on his game.
Kovalchuk scored 37 goals and recorded 83 points as he led the New Jersey Devils back to the playoffs. It's important to note that the Devils played in possibly one of the most difficult divisions. They had to go up against the Philadelphia Flyers, the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins a total of 18 times.
This means Kovalchuk's Devils were going up against tougher opponents but this didn't faze him from dominating.
Henrik Lundqvist has slowly emerged as one of the most consistent goaltenders in the game. The New York Rangers can always rely on this guy to have a superb season. He's not going to let them down.
After posting 11 shutouts last season, Lundqvist had eight more clean sheets this season and he set career highs in wins, GAA and save percentage.
Now if only he can win the big one.
Folks, the only reason why the Los Angeles Kings made the playoffs this season was because of Jonathan Quick. He single-handedly led this team to the playoffs.
Quick recorded 10 shutouts, a 1.95 GAA and .929 save percentage this season with the Kings. He's improved every season and has slowly emerged as the best goaltender in the league.
What sets him apart from Pekka Rinne, Brian Elliott, Jaroslav Halak, Tim Thomas and Henrik Lundqvist is that he's been able to succeed without much help in front of them. In terms of best goalie, Quick is the guy. He has little-to-no scoring help and his defense has been leaky on numerous occasions throughout the season.
Rinne, Thomas and Lundqvist all have Stanley Cup-caliber teams and Elliott and Halak need more pelts on the wall. Plus, they have a strong defense in front of them, too.
Some people want to put Pavel Datsyuk with the Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin crowd.
That's just absurd.
Pavel Datsyuk might be the smartest player in the league, but he's not the best. Far from it.
In fact, ever since putting up consecutive 97-point seasons, Datsyuk has failed to crack the 80-point mark.
Now, he has been hurt, but he's been scoring just under a point per game in the last three seasons, which is stellar but not enough to call him the best player in the league.
Datsyuk's talent is heavily focused on his high hockey IQ. He just makes smart plays and he's a dazzling stick-handler. He's approaching the end of his prime, but there's no doubt that he's going to be a dominant player for years to come if he stays healthy.
Shea Weber not only has one of the heaviest shots in the league, but he's a big body that'll bring pain to his opponents.
Weber had 177 hits this past season and he also blocked 140 shots. He's just an elite defender and probably the biggest part of Nashville's success over the last few years.
He also provides offense for the Predators, who don't really have a scoring threat. This past season, he scored 19 goals, 49 points and had a plus-21 rating.
After scoring 41 goals and 104 points last season, Daniel Sedin's output dipped this season but he still scored 30 goals and 67 points.
The chemistry he has with his brother on the ice makes him an extremely dangerous player despite the drop in his numbers this season.
It's also a mistake to look at what Daniel does on his own. The Sedin Twins must be looked at collectively. They're generally on the ice together and have been on the same team ever since they were drafted.
So when looked at together, Daniel and his brother Henrik become an unstoppable dynamic duo that can't be stopped and hasn't been contained for years now.
As mentioned with Daniel, it's wrong to simply look at one Sedin twin and judge them based off that. One must look at the chemistry he has with his brother and evaluate them based on what they do together because of the fact that they're generally always on the ice together anyway. You're never going to be stopping just one of the Sedin Twins.
Henrik, this season, experienced a decline in his numbers but still managed to score 81 points. Unlike his brother, he hasn't missed any time to injury and has played in every game since the lockout ended.
Henrik also seems like the more offensively gifted player, since he has outscored his brother in each of the last three seasons.
Zdeno Chara is the biggest player in the league and might be the toughest to play against. His size and strength expose other players' weaknesses.
Defensively, he's the best in the game. There just isn't much one can do against that man. He's a smart player and is aware of everything that happens on the ice. His plus-66 rating over the past two seasons exemplifies that notion.
Offensively, Chara has the hardest shot in the league. He shows it every year during the All-Star break. This season, he scored 12 goals and added 40 assists to another stellar season.
Obviously everyone remembers his contributions to the Boston Bruins leadership-wise during last year's Stanley Cup run. He has a plethora of experience under his belt and he's a guy that his teammates look up to, both literally and figuratively.
With Nicklas Lidstrom's career coming close to an end, Chara now carries the torch as the league's top defender.
The gap between the top three players in the league and rest is pretty wide.
Steven Stamkos is going to make Tampa Bay Lightning fans smile for years to come.
He had his first career 60-goal season this year. Please keep in mind that he played for a non-playoff team without much help surrounding him offensively.
Also keep in mind that he's only 22 years old and already has two 50-goal seasons.
It would be interesting to see what Stamkos could do with some younger help on his wings.
After being plagued with injuries in his last two seasons, Evgeni Malkin bounced back strong and he did it without his teammate Sidney Crosby for much of the year.
Malkin recorded 50 goals and 109 points and should be able to win the Hart Trophy. The 109 points he recorded were the most in the league. He beat out Stamkos by 12 points and he also played in seven fewer games.
Malkin also had an impact on his teammates. He was on a line with James Neal and he turned him into a 40-goal scorer, too.
Malkin's ability to make the players around him better, along with his Stanley Cup experience and Conn Smythe Trophy, is pretty much what separates him from Steven Stamkos, who will be battling against him for the Hart Trophy this summer.
This really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.
Sidney Crosby is the best player in the NHL.
He's better than Steven Stamkos because...well, just look at the stats.
And he's better than his teammate, Evgeni Malkin, because it seems like that without Crosby's presence, the Penguins won't be able to make a run for the Stanley Cup. And while Malkin has shown signs of being disengaged and lazy on the ice, Crosby never stops skating. He's 100 percent effort, 100 percent of the time and there's no one else in the league that does that.
He also has the Midas touch. Whoever he plays with turns into a scoring threat. Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz have turned into big-time scorers playing alongside Sid in the last few years.
The biggest problem with Crosby has been his concussion problems, but what's most amazing is how seamlessly he has bounced back from his injury.
Crosby scored 37 points in just 22 games in his return. That's an unbelievable rate that no one else can match.
In fact, at that rate, Crosby would score 138 points if he played a full season. And who's to say that Crosby can't continue that pace throughout a full season?
He's no longer a kid anymore. He's in his prime and he's reaching his potential.
Well, the NHL hopes he's reached his potential because it's scary to think that someone can actually play better than this.