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7 Best Locker Room Leaders in the NHL

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2013

7 Best Locker Room Leaders in the NHL

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    It can't always be the captain.

    Sometimes other voices have to emerge from the locker room to make a statement. For the New York Rangers, Ryan Callahan sets a great example as the team captain, but Brad Richards is a former Stanley Cup winner whose voice resonates with his teammates.

    Hockey's an emotional game and there are times when a voice needs to emerge so "the boys" pick up their play and find a way to steal a game when it appears lost.

    Here's a look at seven other non-captains (besides Richards) who can lead their teammates through their actions and words.

1. Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild

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    Non-stop energy.

    That's what you see from Zach Parise every time he steps on the ice.

    The Minnesota Wild picked up a player who had scored 30 goals or more in his last five healthy regular seasons when they made him the prized signing of the summer.

    But more than the numbers, they were getting a player who could pick up his team with his energy level.

    He did this with the New Jersey Devils and with the U.S. Olympic hockey team in 2010.

    That gives Parise a major presence in the locker room. Parise is not the captain of the Wild. That honor belongs to Mikko Koivu.

    However, when Parise speaks up before a big game or before the start of overtime, his voice will be heard. He has presence and his teammates will be smart to follow his lead.

2. Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Marian Hossa has played with five NHL teams throughout his career.

    It may seem as though he is something of a paid assassin because he has worn the uniforms of the Ottawa Senators, Atlanta Thrashers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.

    How much of a leader could Hossa be since he has been so well-traveled?

    He may have worn a lot of uniforms, but he has been highly respected in all of his venues. His teammates look to him for production at key moments.

    When he was injured in last year's playoffs after taking an illegal head shot from Phoenix forward Raffi Torres, his teammates were inspired when he showed up in the locker room.

    "He's our teammate and me ... I'm close with him," forward Michael Frolik told Blackhawks.com. "He's from Slovakia, so we are close friends. When it happened, we said in the room, 'We have to play for him,' and you don't want to see things like that. It maybe gets us closer and ... for sure, we're trying to win for him."

    Hossa's stature in the game gives him a huge presence in the locker room.

3. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

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    Dustin Brown is the captain of the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings, and he is a strong leader.

    However, when the Kings are in need of a rally, a big game or a come-from-behind effort, they follow the lead of Anze Kopitar.

    Kopitar has been playing with the Kings since he was a 19-year-old rookie in 2006-07. He has scored 20 or more goals in each of his seasons.

    During the Stanley Cup run, Kopitar had 20 points and finished plus-16.

    When the Kings need a big play or a turnaround, they merely have to look to Kopitar in the locker room and he gets the job done.

4. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

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    When the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 1970 and 1972, Bobby Orr scored the Cup-winning goal on both occasions.

    When the Bruins won their first Stanley Cup in 39 years in 2011, Patrice Bergeron scored the winning goal and the back-breaking goal (video above) that defeated the Vancouver Canucks in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals.

    It's fitting that Bergeron would elevate himself with such a huge game.

    He does everything for the Bruins. He is one of the best face-off men in the league, he plays on the power play, kills penalties and is perhaps head coach Claude Julien's most dependable player.

    He has come back from a devastating concussion and is one of the hardest working players in the game.

    Few players in the league are as respected as Bergeron.

5. Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks

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    Teemu Selanne began his career in record-setting fashion as a 22-year-old rookie in 1992-93.

    Playing for the Winnipeg Jets with an obvious enthusiasm for the game and a rocket for a shot, the Finnish Flash began his career by scoring 76 goals in his rookie season.

    He has been piling up goals ever since.

    Selanne is the oldest player in the league at 42, and the reason he's still playing is that he loves the game. That carries weight in the Anaheim locker room and gives him the ability to get his teammates' attention.

    "What makes Teemu really stand out is his ability to come to the rink every day and enjoy his time," teammate Ryan Getzlaf told the Los Angeles Daily News. "Teemu has taught everybody that the game is fun and you have to enjoy it every day."

6. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Steven Stamkos has eclipsed the 50 goal mark twice in his four-year career.

    That alone would give him credibility in the Tampa Bay locker room. However, Stamkos' devotion to conditioning and his refusal to cut corners gives him a presence that is separate from his ability to put the puck in the net.

    Here's everything you need to know about Stamkos: In the second period of the seventh game of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins, Stamkos took the brunt of a slap shot in the shield of his face mask. The blow left Stamkos a bloody mess and he immediately sprinted to the locker room for repairs.

    With his nose rearranged, Stamkos made it back to the ice before the end of the period and played the remainder of the game.

    He wasn't coming out for anything. While the Lightning ultimately lost that game, there is no doubting Stamkos' presence and leadership in the Tampa Bay dressing room.

7. Manny Malhotra, Vancouver Canucks

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    Manny Malhotra is the player head coach Alain Vigneault wants to take nearly every key faceoff for the Vancouver Canucks.

    He is considered one of the best face-off men in the league, and the stats bear him out. He finished fourth in the league in faceoffs last year, winning 58.5 percent of his draws.

    Malhotra made a dramatic comeback in the 2011 playoffs after suffering a serious eye injury in March 2011. Malhotra was struck in the eye with a puck, and the Canucks quickly announced that he was done for the year, including the playoffs.

    However, Malhotra made a shockingly fast recovery and played for the Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals. Even though he was playing with basically one good eye, he came back to help his teammates.

    That confirmed how important the strong defensive forward is to the team and gave him even stronger status in the locker room.

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