A great playmaker can make a 20-goal scorer out of a replacement-level player, can help a legitimate 20-goal scorer put up 35 or more and propel a top sniper to the Maurice Richard trophy. Among today's leading playmakers, who rank as the ten best?
Assisting us in our ranking of the league's best playmaker is a new statistic called setups (or sometimes simply passes), which are awarded every time a player's pass results in a shot. Since this isn't officially recorded by the NHL, it uses an estimate that's based on primary assists and shooting percentages. This data is from Rob Vollman's Hockey Abstract, which uses data from Behind the Net.
Using this new statistic eliminates the advantage certain players may normally enjoy by playing with incredible goal-scorers, as is the case with Nicklas Backstrom in Washington or Martin St. Louis in Tampa Bay.
The players with the most setups are the ones most consistently getting the puck on someone's stick when they're in a position to score. The league's best playmakers are those determined to have created the most goal-scoring opportunities over the past three seasons, both in absolute terms and on a per-game basis.
The field is so competitive (beyond the top few) that many great playmakers just barely missed the cut. Strong cases could be made for the inclusion of several great playmakers like John Tavares, Pavel Datsyuk, Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards and Jason Spezza, just to name a few. For what it's worth, this list includes only those who have even the slightest edge over these tremendous passers.
All advanced statistics are via writer's own original research unless otherwise noted.