NHL players reach an unusually admirable status when they set their compete levels apart from those of their peers. Appropriately, they achieve that by performing to unusually admirable effects, the definition of which can vary from player to player and team to team.
A young, celestial talent may play beyond his years or a shorter, less physically gifted player beyond his size. A presupposed grinder may start producing steady flurries of top-six scoring.
An aging veteran may make his skills stave off the suffocation of Father Time. A player may positively jut out despite being marooned on an unspectacular team.
All of them, though, fall into the melting pot of being difficult to beat and generally making their team as tough to beat as any individual can. They all fit into that description as a result of stoking a constant competitive flame.
Speaking of difficulty, the competitive description applies to too vast a multitude of NHLers to acknowledge all at once. But here are 20 who have stood out in the early going of 2012-13 as well as in prior seasons by filling their holes in size, skill or support, or taking bonus strides to amplify their elite status.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistical information for this slideshow was found via NHL.com