Senators vs. Maple Leafs Preview: The 10 Best NHL'ers Playing in Ontario
The Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators are set to ignite the battle of Ontario again this week at the Air Canada Center in downtown Toronto. This game will mark the third of five meetings between the teams this season with each having one home win going in to this game.
Both teams are in a dead heat in the Eastern Conference standings, sitting fifth and sixth with 28 points in 23 games played. The Leafs have two more wins than the Senators with 14, but they have also lost two more with nine losses to the Senators seven.
Injuries have hit both teams pretty hard throughout the schedule so far, with Ottawa hurt most by injuries to Jason Spezza, Erik Karlsson, and Craig Anderson for extended periods of time. Joffrey Lupul, Matt Frattin, and James Reimer have all missed time for Toronto.
There will be talent on display in abundance on Wednesday night, and Injured players included, these two Ontario based teams can boast some of the most electrifying players in the NHL today.
Here are the 10 best NHL'ers playing in Ontario right now.
(Note: players who are currently injured have been included in this article)
10. Daniel Alfredsson
At 40-years old, the Swede is still doing it on most nights for the battered Senators and his play, while not what it once was, is still as dangerous as anyone in the line up.
He has played 22 games this season and has 11 points, playing on the team's first line and first power play unit.
9. Joffrey Lupul
Lupul has been out for most of this season with a broken arm, caused by an errant Dion Phaneuf shot earlier this year. Lupul was an all star last season, and his skill and leadership will be a huge factor for the Leafs once he returns to the line up later this month.
Lupul can score and has very good chemistry with the Leafs' top player Phil Kessel. His size and speed make a lot of room for the rest of his teammates on the ice. Lupul is a big game player, whom the Leafs will need as the games get more important.
8. Kyle Turris
Kyle Turris is Ottawa's new young gun and he has been thrust to the forefront early due to the injury to Jason Spezza. Turris has carried the first line, top power play load all season long for the contending club.
He has 13 points in 23 games so far this season, and his speed and smarts get him where he needs to go out there night after night. Turris also has a deceptively deadly shot release and will have to produce for the rest of the year for the Senators to make the playoffs.
7. James Van Riemsdyk
Big forward James van Riemsdyk has felt right at home in the blue and white so far this season, as his team leading, 12 goals seems to suggest. He has been fairly consistent and shown flashes of brilliance at times with his triple threat of size, speed, and skill.
JVR has filled in nicely for Joffrey Lupul on the top unit, and has found some chemistry with Phil Kessel as well. This guy has added to the big time skill quotient of the players now playing in Ontario. Luke Schenn would never have made this list.
6. Nazem Kadri
Nazem Kadri has been the human highlight reel this year and the Leafs' most consistently dangerous player. Kadri leads the team in points with 23, and many have been in the upper echelon of "holy cow" plays in the entire league so far.
Kadri has incredible offensive vision and instincts, and his hands make him capable of creating something out of nothing on any defensive player in the league. He has also shown a gritty side with a couple of crushing hits so far this year. No Kadri shift should be missed if you want to see pure, all out skill.
5. Dion Phaneuf
Say what you want about favorite Leafs Nation whipping boy, but captain Dion Phaneuf has played a very key role in the early season success thus far. Phaneuf struggled in big minutes to start the season, but has bounced back with some really solid play of late.
His offensive numbers and play have picked up since coach Randy Carlyle pulled back his minutes in mid-February, and Phaneuf has 10 points to show for his efforts.
Love him or hate him, he is the second best defenseman in the battle of Ontario right now.
4. Craig Anderson
Craig Anderson was the undisputed front runner fro the Vezina trophy before he went down with injury last month. His play had the Senators right on top of the Eastern Conference standings, and they have fallen a bit of late without him.
Anderson is second only to Corey Crawford with 1.49 goals against average and is leading the league in save percentage with a stellar .952. The Senators tandem of Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner have done admirably in his absence, but Anderson is the best goalie on either team.
3. Phil Kessel
It hasn't been the smoothest of starts for Phil Kessel so far this season but the Leafs' top winger and most talented player is still getting the job done. He has shown an improved all around game under Randy Carlyle and it seems only a matter of time before his scoring picks up its pace again.
While Kessel only has five goals is 23 games this season, he has added a play making element and has 12 assists. His 17 points has him third on the Leafs in scoring and he continues to be one of their most dangerous players.
2. Jason Spezza
It hurt Sens fans to see the number two player on this list go down with an injury, and it doesn't get any easier from here. Spezza is the best forward playing in Ontario even though he has not played much and will continue to be out of the line up for most of the rest of the season.
Spezza has grown in to a true two way center, the style of which the Leafs have so longed for in recent years. He can carry the puck and score in droves, and he also has the big body presence to handle things when the space gets tight out there.
Spezza is the second best player in this battle, and it is a shame he is out of action right now.
1. Erik Karlsson
I think it is safe to say that Erik Karlsson has become the undisputed best player in the current edition of the battle of Ontario.
The young Swedish defenseman was ripping it up before his unfortunate Achilles injury, leading the team and all league defenseman in almost every offensive category there is. He is the engine that drives Ottawa and he plays in every situation there is out on the ice.
His first step and ability to get to top speed in a second makes him the most dangerous defenseman in the league and a virtual fourth forward for the Sens to utilize to drive the attack. He is also a savvy and excellent defender and takes top spot on this list by far.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report NHL Toronto Maple Leafs and a featured columnist with Bleacher Report UFC.
Follow him on Twitter at wakafightermma.
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