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Ranking the 50 Best Players in the NHL Today

Dave LozoNHL National Lead WriterNovember 26, 2013

Ranking the 50 Best Players in the NHL Today

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    Who is the best forward in the NHL? Defenseman? Goaltender? Is Zach Parise better than Erik Karlsson? Would you rather have Phil Kessel or Tuukka Rask? Is Sidney Crosby better than…OK, fine, Sidney Crosby is better than everyone.

    What follows is a list of the top 50 players in the NHL one quarter of the way through the 2013-14 season. It does not weigh the player's contract, age or team. 

    So please sit back and enjoy one man's arbitrary decisions, ranked from 50 to one, on the best of the best in the NHL.

     

    All statistics courtesy of NHL.com and Hockey-Reference.com.

50. Cory Schneider, G, New Jersey Devils

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    Why He's Here

    He's locked in a time share with Martin Brodeur, but Schneider has proven he's capable of handling No. 1 duties after his legendary teammate retires. Since 2010-11, Schneider is No. 1 in save percentage (.931) among goalies to play at least 90 games. He's played far fewer games than his peers over that time, but he's still among the best at his position.

     

    Credentials

    As a Vancouver Canuck, he spent most of his time backing up Roberto Luongo, so he lacks awards and accomplishments. But despite his body of work, he's under consideration to be the starting goaltender for Team USA at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

     

    Best Asset

    It has to be his patience and mental toughness. A goaltender of his caliber playing second fiddle to Luongo and Brodeur could get others frustrated, but Schneider has excelled in Vancouver and New Jersey.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He lacks big-game experience and success. In 10 playoff games, he has a .922 save percentage but just one victory.

     

    One Odd End

    Have you seen Schneider do his impressions of Harry Caray and Christopher Walken? It's no wonder the Canucks traded him instead of Luongo.

49. Kyle Turris, C, Ottawa Senators

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    Why He's Here

    When Turris was acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes in December 2011, he gave the Senators a No. 2 center they were sorely lacking. This season, he's played more like a No. 1 center as captain Jason Spezza has been inconsistent. The 24-year-old has 20 points in 24 games and has played well at both ends of the ice.

     

    Credentials

    He is just beginning to blossom, but he was a force in last year's playoffs with six goals and nine points in 10 games. He was a member of the 2008 Canadian squad that won gold at the World Junior Championships.

     

    Best Asset

    There's not much Turris can't do, but his playmaking ability stands above his shot ever so slightly. 

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He's yet to play a full 82-game season in the NHL. He played in all 48 games last season, but never more than 65 in a nonlockout-shortened season.

     

    One Odd End

    He's a New England Patriots fan despite not being from the Boston area. He grew up in British Columbia and went to college at Wisconsin. There's just no excuse.

48. Ryan O'Reilly, C, Colorado Avalanche

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    Why He's Here

    A lot of the focus on the Avs' success this season is on the goaltending and coach Patrick Roy, but O'Reilly's emergence as an elite two-way player has been crucial. He has always been excellent defensively, but his nine goals in 22 games have him on pace for a career-high 34 goals.

     

    Credentials

    He was a member of the 2008 Canadian squad that won gold at the World Junior Championships.

     

    Best Asset

    He's the classic "high-effort" player coaches love, and that effort is translating into his best season at age 22.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    Despite being listed at 6'0" and 200 pounds, he's not a very physical player. 

     

    One Odd End

    In March, he voluntarily signed a two-year offer sheet with the Calgary Flames that the Avalanche matched immediately. That revealed poor decision-making skills that must be troubling for fans.

47. Kari Lehtonen, G, Dallas Stars

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    Why He's Here

    After five years of toiling with the Atlanta Thrashers, Lehtonen has transformed himself into a viable Vezina Trophy nominee this season. He's among the league leaders in save percentage and goals-against average and gives the Stars a chance to win every night in the highly competitive Western Conference.

     

    Credentials

    He is sixth in the NHL in save percentage (.919) among goaltenders to appear in at least 150 games since 2010-11. 

     

    Best Asset

    At 6'4" and 217 pounds, he covers a lot of space. He also has become more technically sound, making it difficult to beat him without a rebound or screen.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He has dealt with back and groin injuries throughout his career. At age 30, those issues probably aren't going away.

     

    One Odd End

    Lehtonen abandoned what was easily the greatest mask in goaltending history this season. Last season, it was a tribute to the movie Tombstone with Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer. Now it's just the Stars' new colors. Tragic.

46. Patrick Marleau, LW, San Jose Sharks

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    Why He's Here

    At 34, Marleau is still going strong. He has 11 goals and 23 points in 23 games this season and has scored at least 30 goals in six of the past seven full seasons. He is also durable, as he hasn't missed a game due to injury since 2009.

     

    Credentials

    He has yet to taste the Stanley Cup Final, but in 140 career playoff games, Marleau has 57 goals and 96 points. Just like nearly every elite Canadian, he won gold with the Olympic team at the 2010 Winter Games in Canada.

     

    Best Asset

    Although he is at the back end of his career, he remain a better skater than players who are 10 years younger.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He tends to be a streaky scorer in the postseason. He had zero points in five games in 2012. In 2011, he had zero points in the first six games of the Sharks' second-round series with with the Detroit Red Wings before scoring the series-winning goal in Game 7.

     

    One Odd End

    He runs a side business where he acts as a psychic, and we all know psychics are frauds.

45. Eric Staal, C, Carolina Hurricanes

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    Why He's Here

    He's the prototypical center—he's huge (6'4", 205 pounds), can score and create offense. He is off to a slow start this season, but has finished every full season since 2005-06 with between 70 and 100 points. 

     

    Credentials

    Staal won a Stanley Cup in 2006 and Olympic gold in 2010. He has reached the playoffs only twice in his career, but has compiled 43 points in 43 games. 

     

    Best Asset

    It's his giant frame that holds a talented, complete scoring package. It makes him extremely difficult to defend.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    Staal suffered a pretty bad knee injury at the world championships during the offseason. At 29, it could be the type of injury that changes him for the rest of his career.

     

    One Odd End

    No one gives Staal enough criticism for not switching to defenseman, something the Hurricanes have lacked for nearly two seasons.

44. Claude Giroux, C, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Why He's Here

    Even with a brutal start to the 2013-14 season, Giroux has been consistently among the best in the league since 2010-11. He has three goals and 16 points in 23 games, and while he is no longer (and never should have been) in the discussion of best player in the league, he's a point-per-game threat with the Flyers.

     

    Credentials

    The 25-year-old is a two-time All-Star and was a member of the team that reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2010. He wasn't on Team Canada in 2010 (like almost everyone on this list), but he could find himself in Sochi in 2014.

     

    Best Asset

    He has some of the best hands in the league, which aid him in goal-scoring and playmaking.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    It hasn't been an issue during his career yet, but at 5'11" and 178 pounds, durability could become an issue as he gets older.

     

    One Odd End

    Being someone who enjoys golf is a flaw on its own, but making a lucrative living with your hands and then destroying one on a golf course is unforgivable. 

43. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Phoenix Coyotes

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    Why He's Here

    The 22-year-old has emerged as the top defenseman on the Phoenix Coyotes this season. He is eighth in the NHL among blueliners with 17 points in 24 games and is eighth in ice time per game (25:53). He's done it all while consistently facing the top competition on opposing teams.

     

    Credentials

    In his brief career, the sixth pick in the 2009 draft began to prove himself during the 2012 playoffs, when the Coyotes reached the Western Conference Finals. He averaged 25:46 per night over 16 games as a 20-year-old.

     

    Best Asset

    It's a rarity in young defensemen, but he has the uncanny ability to remain calm in any situation. His other top assets (skating ability, vision, hands) all benefit from his poise.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    It's hard to find one, but he's logging a lot of minutes for someone who is only 6'0" and 190 pounds. It could lead to durability issues down the road.

     

    One Odd End

    Ekman-Larsson is an underwear model in Sweden. Sure he's handsome, young and wealthy, but he could work on his abs and pecs

42. Gabriel Landeskog, LW, Colorado Avalanche

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    Why He's Here

    At 21, Landeskog is already the captain of the Avalanche. He has rewarded the team's faith this offseason with 16 points in 21 games in just his third full season. Despite his youth, he is far ahead of his peers when it comes to playing two-way hockey.

     

    Credentials

    Landeskog won the Calder Trophy in 2012, one year after he was taken second overall in the 2011 draft.

     

    Best Asset

    His size makes him tough to stop. He's 6"1", 204 pounds and still growing.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    For a star scorer, he spends far too much time in the penalty box. In 139 career games, he has 92 PIMs. He has 19 PIMs in 21 games this season.

     

    One Odd End

    Based on the criticism the Avs received this summer after naming Landeskog captain, his biggest flaw is not being Canadian. Sure, he could be a great leader, but he's European. 

41. Ryan Kesler, C, Vancouver Canucks

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    Why He's Here

    A hip injury suffered during the 2011 postseason lingered with Kesler over the next two seasons, but he looks back to his terrific two-way self this season after additional shoulder and foot injuries. He has 10 goals and 17 points in 26 games this season, putting him on his best goal-scoring pace since he scored 41 in 2010-11.

     

    Credentials

    Kesler came within one win of a Stanley Cup in 2011, when that hip injury sapped his skating ability against the Cup-winning Bruins. He won the Selke Trophy in 2011.

     

    Best Asset

    His toughness makes him a beast to deal with in all three zones.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    Obviously, it's his injury history. But if he stays healthy, he's one of the best overall forwards in the NHL.

     

    One Odd End

    Not only has his long list of ailments hurt him as a player, but he's not video bombing interviews at the same rate since the injuries.

40. Rick Nash, LW/RW, New York Rangers

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    Why He's Here

    He has been money in the bank for 30 goals throughout his career, although that number may be impossible to hit this season after he missed 17 games with a concussion. Despite the injury, he's on the short list of forwards most GMs would do anything to acquire.

     

    Credentials

    He spent almost his entire career in Columbus, so his playoff experience is lacking. But he was very good in helping Canada to gold at the 2010 Olympics.

     

    Best Asset

    He is one of the rare players to have elite speed in a massive frame (6'4", 213 pounds).

     

    Biggest Quibble

    His lack of big-game experience makes him tough to rely upon. He had just one goal in 12 postseason games in 2013.

     

    One Odd End

    This is going to be a common theme on this list, but Nash is not much of an actor.

39. Bobby Ryan, RW, Ottawa Senators

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    Why He's Here

    After a disappointing 2013 season and a trade to Ottawa, Ryan is looking like his old self again with the Senators. He has 11 goals and 22 points in 24 games and has done more than his share to replace Daniel Alfredsson. 

     

    Credentials

    From 2008-12, Ryan totaled 131 goals in four seasons. He was a member of the silver-winning U.S. Olympic team in 2010.

     

    Best Asset

    His strength and size (6'2", 200 pounds) are what set him apart.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    His attitude is a question, as he spoke openly about wanting to be traded out of Anaheim a year before a deal was actually made.

     

    One Odd End

    This isn't a flaw or a snarky joke: Ryan spent part of his life in hiding and it's an interesting story.

38. Logan Couture, C, San Jose Sharks

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    Why He's Here

    At 24, Couture has improved every season and is having his best year in 2013-14. He has eight goals and 23 points in 23 games on the heels of posting 11 points in 11 postseason games last year.

     

    Credentials

    He was a finalist for the Calder Trophy in 2011 and made his first All-Star team in 2012. 

     

    Best Asset

    His intelligence allows him to excel to find open pockets of space around the net.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He's not very fast, but he is able to find open areas by using his intelligence and solid positioning.

     

    One Odd End

    Couture is not good with Twitter.

37. Jeff Carter, RW, Los Angeles Kings

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    Why He's Here

    He's one of the game's most underrated and best goal scorers. Since 2007-08, Carter is averaging 37 goals per 82 games played. He has five goals in 15 games this season, as he missed 10 games with a foot injury before returning Monday night.

     

    Credentials

    He lost in the Stanley Cup Final in 2010 as a Flyer but won two years later with the Kings. He had eight goals in 20 games during the 2012 postseason. 

     

    Best Asset

    He has the type of shot that can beat a goalie from anywhere. He can score off the rush and from the slot, and he has good enough hands to redirect a puck with the best of them.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    It's unfair to call him one-dimensional, but passing is not his forte. 

     

    One Odd End

    He's really blonde, which makes you think of Jared Leto in the movie Fight Club, and no one wants to think of that.

36. Shea Weber, D, Nashville Predators

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    Why He's Here

    He's one of the better two-way defensemen in the NHL, although his game has fallen off that elite level since teammate Ryan Suter departed via free agency two summers ago. He remains the Predators' anchor on defense and is still a threat to score. He has seven goals this season.

     

    Credentials

    He was a member of the 2010 Canadian Olympic team that won gold in Vancouver and is a three-time All-Star. 

     

    Best Asset

    He has an absolute bomb from the blue line that gives goaltenders second thoughts on getting in front of it. His shot was clocked at 106 mph at the 2012 All-Star Game, second-fastest among contestants. 

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He hasn't looked the same without Suter riding shotgun, but he is making the adjustment with rookie Seth Jones (for the most part) this season.

     

    One Odd End

    Instead of practicing on the ice, he works on his shot from the upper deck

35. David Backes, C, St. Louis Blues

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    Why He's Here

    Backes has always been an above-average scorer who plays a physical brand of hockey, but he has taken his offensive game to another level this season. He has 22 points in 23 games this season after finishing with 28 points in 48 games last season.

     

    Credentials

    He was a silver-medalist in Vancouver and went to the All-Star Game in 2011. He was a finalist for the Selke Trophy in 2012.

     

    Best Asset

    Despite his offensive outburst to start the year, it's the way he uses his 6'3", 225-pound body to his advantage. He can deliver a hit and clear room around the net to create goals.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    That scoring outburst could be temporary, and his bruising style could lead to injuries down the road.

     

    One Odd End

    After going out of his way to beat up Canadians on the way to the 2010 Olympics, he has yet to do anything similar this season.

34. Jamie Benn, C, Dallas Stars

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    Why He's Here

    The 24-year-old has taken his game to another level since Tyler Seguin arrived in Dallas. He has 24 points in 22 games and is making a case for a spot on Team Canada in Sochi.

     

    Credentials

    He was an All-Star in 2012 and while he lacks many other individual credentials, his career is on the rise.

     

    Best Asset

    At 6'2", 205 pounds, he is a load to handle and also possesses the ability to play all three forward positions.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He has a tendency to sink into scoring droughts, but those days could be over with Seguin on his line.

     

    One Odd End

    As a young player, he needs to learn to keep his head out of the way of Shane Doan's elbow.

33. Carey Price, G, Montreal Canadiens

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    Why He's Here

    After a down 2013 that included a lower-body injury, Price is enjoying the best season of his young career. He has a 9-8-2 record, but his .935/2.05 peripherals show how terrific he has been.

     

    Credentials

    He is a two-time All-Star and the likely favorite to start in net for Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics. 

     

    Best Asset

    He is extremely sound technically, which makes his 6'3", 209-pound frame that much tougher to penetrate.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He is prone to a few off-games in a row at times and tends to let the attention in Montreal get to him.

     

    One Odd End

    He is quite the boring fighter. What is this, exactly?

32. P.K. Subban, D, Montreal Canadiens

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    Why He's Here

    Outside of Erik Karlsson in Ottawa, there is no better offensive defenseman in the NHL than Subban. He found his stride last season with 37 points in 48 games and has proven this year that it wasn't a fluke with three goals and 20 points in 24 games.

     

    Credentials

    He won the Norris Trophy last season.

     

    Best Asset

    His speed and skating are excellent, preventing him from becoming a liability through the neutral zone the way slower defensemen tend to be.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    For whatever reason, coach Michel Therrien isn't apt to trust him at all times late in games and Subban is rarely used on the penalty kill.

     

    One Odd End

    He took a shorter, less-expensive contract two years ago, which means his next one will be more expensive thanks to his Norris Trophy last year and outstanding play this year. No, sorry, that's the Canadiens' flaw, not Subban's.

31. Corey Perry, RW, Anaheim Ducks

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    Why He's Here

    He's off to a great start in 2013-14 with 13 goals and 12 assists in 25 games. Five of his goals are game-winners. He's showing the form that helped him score 50 goals in 2010-11. 

     

    Credentials

    He was part of the Ducks' Stanley Cup-winning team in 2007 and won the Hart Trophy in 2011. He was part of Canada's gold-medal team at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

     

    Best Asset

    He has a great shot and the ability to beat defenders one-on-one.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    While he can be an agitator on the ice, he can occasionally cross the line and leave his team short-handed.

     

    One Odd End

    This is a common theme on this list, but hockey players are not meant to act.

30. Tyler Seguin, C, Dallas Stars

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    Why He's Here

    It seemed to get lost in the toughness shuffle in Boston, but Seguin possesses every tool an elite scorer can own. Seguin has 12 goals and 23 points in 22 games and is on his way to having a career year at age 21. 

     

    Credentials

    He was part of Boston's Stanley Cup-winning team in 2010 and got back to the Final again last year with the Bruins. 

     

    Best Asset

    He's an excellent skater with equally terrific hands.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He will never win a Selke Trophy, but he was able to learn the defensive side of the game from the likes of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci in Boston. He has the ability to become an above-average defender.

     

    One Odd End

    After claiming his Twitter was "hacked" following one of his many insensitive tweets, he had to delete his account. There's a very good chance he does not know what "hacked" means.

29. Drew Doughty, D, Los Angeles Kings

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    Why He's Here

    He's not a point-per-game threat at the blue line, but Doughty is great at both ends of the ice. He's playing nearly 26 minutes per game against top competition and has four goals and 12 points in 25 games.

     

    Credentials

    He won the Stanley Cup in 2012 with the Kings and gold with Team Canada in 2010 at the Winter Olympics. 

     

    Best Asset

    He has a really easy skating stride that allows him to log the minutes he does. It allows him to join the offense without getting caught defensively. 

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He had 16 goals in 59 points in his second season, but his offensive numbers haven't come close to that since. 

     

    One Odd End

    He's way too comfortable talking about his bodily functions on Twitter.

28. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Washington Capitals

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    Why He's Here

    He gets lost in the shuffle somewhat playing alongside Alex Ovechkin, but Backstrom is a gifted talent in his own right. He has five goals and 19 assists in 24 games this season.

     

    Credentials

    In 437 career games, Backstrom has 439 points. He has yet to advance past the second round of the postseason in six seasons with the Capitals.

     

    Best Asset

    Despite a 33-goal season in 2009-10, Backstrom is more of an artful playmaker with 325 career assists.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    Like any passer, he doesn't shoot enough. But unlike other pass-first players, he has a better shot than most.

     

    One Odd End

    I don't know why anyone lets hockey players talk in commercials.

27. Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles Kings

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    Why He's Here

    Even with his serious groin injury this season and back surgery during the 2012 offseason, he's still the best American goaltender in the NHL. His 2.35/.905 split in 16 games isn't impressive, but it's important to not disregard his excellence over a small sample size.

     

    Credentials

    He won the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy in 2012 and should be in net for Team USA in Sochi as long as he's healthy. He was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy in 2012 as well.

     

    Best Asset

    It's his quickness and lateral movement, which is why a groin injury can be so detrimental to his game.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    Since winning the Cup, he has a regular-season save percentage of .903 in his past 53 games. 

     

    One Odd End

    If you're going to try to beat Quick, do it from far away. It works. A lot.

26. Taylor Hall, LW, Edmonton Oilers

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    Why He's Here

    Despite a knee injury, the 22-year-old has put up 17 points in 18 games this season. There are still some rough edges around his game, but he's been outstanding offensively in his young career and he is showing signs that he could still improve.

     

    Credentials

    In 189 career games, Hall has 71 goals and 162 points. He has yet to taste the postseason with the Oilers.

     

    Best Asset

    He has every tool a player could want on the offensive side of the game, but it's his speed that is slightly above his shooting and playmaking skills.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He tends to want to do everything on his own at times and his physical style could result in more injuries than you'd like a player of skill to incur.

     

    One Odd End

    Teammates like to skate on his head. It ends poorly.

25. Zach Parise, LW, Minnesota Wild

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    Why He's Here

    The four-time 30-goal scorer looks like he's well on his way to a fifth 30-goal season this year with 11 goals in 25 games. He is an excellent two-way player and a strong penalty killer. His tenacity on the forecheck is unrivaled. He is a big reason the Wild have become a playoff team since he arrived in Minnesota along with Ryan Suter in summer 2012.

     

    Credentials

    He reached the Stanley Cup Final in his final season with the New Jersey Devils in 2012. In 66 career playoff games, he has 22 goals and 22 assists.

     

    Best Asset

    It's his tenacity and speed. He has a great shot and terrific hands, but a lot of his goals are the result of that tenacity.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    At 5'11", 197 pounds, he is undersized. It doesn't prevent him from going to high-traffic areas, but it does hurt him in physical battles in front of the net.

     

    One Odd End

    I wouldn't trust him if I needed the help of a police detective.

24. Zdeno Chara, D, Boston Bruins

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    Why He's Here

    Once considered the best defenseman in the NHL, Chara is still among the best, but his game has dipped the past couple years. He's still tough in his own end, but he has lost a step and it has hurt his offensive production (five goals and four assists in 25 games this season). Despite all that, he can still shut down the best of the best.

     

    Credentials

    He was a Norris Trophy finalist in 2011 and 2012 after winning it in 2009. He is a six-time All-Star who won the Cup in 2011 and reached the Final in 2013.

     

    Best Asset

    It's his massive size (6'9", 255 pounds) that indirectly leads to his immense reach and wingspan. It makes it difficult to skate through or around him.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    At 36, his speed is on the decline. He's never been a rocket through the neutral zone, but his ability to chase down an opponent isn't what it once was.

     

    One Odd End

    He let someone take a picture of him on an amusement park ride and a bike.

23. Henrik Zetterberg, C, Detroit Red Wings

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    Why He's Here

    He's a quiet star who does everything well. At age 33, he's off to one of his best starts in recent years with 28 points in 25 games. He can score, create and play tough at each end of the ice.

     

    Credentials

    He won the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy with the Red Wings in 2009 and gold with Team Sweden at the 2006 Olympics. He has 700 points in 739 career games.

     

    Best Asset

    He's an extremely bright player who sees the game well, which allows him to create offense and find openings around the net.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He has been pretty durable in his career, but his advanced age and smallish stature (5'11", 197 pounds) could cause him trouble as the season grinds forward.

     

    One Odd End

    Based on his wedding photos, Zetterberg owns a time machine but is only using it to hold his nuptials in weird, old-timey settings.

22. Duncan Keith, D, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Why He's Here

    The 30-year-old has been the anchor defensively on Chicago's Stanley Cup winners in 2010 and 2013 and he's doing more of the same this year. He has 19 points in 25 games while playing a team-high 24:06 per game against the opposition's best forwards.

     

    Credentials

    Along with winning the Cup in 2010, Keith also captured the Norris Trophy that year. He was a key contributor on Team Canada's gold-medal-winning club at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

     

    Best Asset

    His skating ability is second-to-none and it allows him to log the heavy minutes he does.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    All that playing time and two deep playoff runs in recent years could begin to exact a toll on Keith's body.

     

    One Odd End

    He probably can't eat corn on the cob, as he lost seven teeth in the Cup-clinching game in 2010.

21. Joe Thornton, C, San Jose Sharks

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    Why He's Here

    The Sharks' captain is in the top 15 in points and ranks second to Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins in assists with 21. The Sharks have been consistently among the best teams in the NHL since Thornton arrived in San Jose for the 2005-06 season.

     

    Credentials

    Thornton won the Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy in 2006 and has 1,141 points in 1,147 career games. He has been named to the All-Star Game on six occasions. He ranks 30th in NHL history with 808 career assists.

     

    Best Asset

    It's clearly his passing ability. His ability to get the puck to open shooters and create offense is matched by few.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He passes first, almost to a fault. Coach Todd McLellan has said at various times that he wishes Thornton would shoot more.

     

    One Odd End

    He has never scored four goals in an NHL game.

20. Alex Pietrangelo, D, St. Louis Blues

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    Mark Buckner/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    In his fourth full season, Pietrangelo is making a push for his first Norris Trophy. Whether you look at his underlying numbers or overlying numbers, he's arrived this season. He has four goals and 18 points in 23 games and is ninth in the league in ice time at 25:38 per game. He faces elite competition on nearly every shift and remains a positive Corsi and Fenwick player.

     

    Credentials

    His biggest accomplishment came in 2009 when he won gold with Team Canada at the 2009 World Junior Championships.

     

    Best Asset

    He is not only a tremendous two-way defenseman, but his size (6'1", 203 pounds) allows him to be physical as well. 

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He could improve with decision-making in his own end, but that's a real picking of nits.

     

    One Odd End

    I can't find anything about Pietrangelo to use as a joke. No awkward local commercials, no slip and falls on a breakaway. Feel free to add suggestions in the comments.

19a. Henrik Sedin, C; 19b. Daniel Sedin, RW, Vancouver Canucks

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    Ben Nelms/Getty Images

    Why They're Here

    It's impossible to separate the two (literally, they've signed matching contracts and have been linemates for a decade), so no point in breaking them up on this list either. Henrik has 25 points in 25 games this season; Daniel has 21 points in 25 games. They're showing no signs of drop-off at age 33.

     

    Credentials

    Both came within a victory of a Stanley Cup in 2011, losing to the Bruins in seven games. Henrik won the Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy in 2011; Daniel Sedin won the Art Ross Trophy the following year. Henrik has 816 points in 964 career games; Daniel has 778 points in 930 career games.

     

    Best Asset

    They have an uncanny ability to find the other on the ice without looking to see where the other is first. It's the benefit of years of being teammates and even more years of being twins.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    They haven't been able to win the big game. In the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, they combined for two goals and three assists in seven games.

     

    One Odd End

    They've never appeared in a Doublemint Gum commercial. 

18. Matt Duchene, C, Colorado Avalanche

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    Last season appeared to be Duchene's coming-out party, and this season confirmed it. After 17 goals and 43 points in 47 games last season, he had 12 goals and 20 points in 19 games before an oblique injury sent him to the sideline. Duchene is one of the biggest reasons for the Avalanche's hot start to 2013-14.

     

    Credentials

    His only playoff trip was in 2010 as a 19-year-old rookie, so he lacks accolades at the NHL level. But he was taken third overall in 2009 and is beginning to live up to that potential.

     

    Best Asset

    He is among the elite skaters in the league, and the rest of his assets—hands, shot, ability to create offense of others—are enhanced by that speed.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    It's something he has improved upon, but he has a tendency to try to beat everyone on his own. But as the Avs have gotten better, he has become more trusting in his teammates.

     

    One Odd End

    When he knows he's offsides, he goes ahead and scores a breakaway goal that counts anyway.

17. Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Bill Smith/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    He has been nearly a point-per-game player his entire career and he's continuing on that path this season. He has 13 goals and 12 assists in 24 games, a result of his being one of the best in the game in terms of scoring balance. He's just as likely to whip a wrist shot past a goalie as he is to make a great cross-ice pass for a goal.

     

    Credentials

    He won the Cup with Chicago in 2010 and 2013 and took home the Conn Smythe Trophy last year. In 23 playoff games last year, he had nine goals and 10 assists. He was also a member of the U.S. team that earned silver at the 2010 Olympics.

     

    Best Asset

    He can shoot and skate, but his passing ability sets him apart. 

     

    Biggest Quibble

    People love to knock his maturity level, but he could use some more polish in his own zone. He's come a long way in that regard the past few years, but he could come a little further.

     

    One Odd End

    But seriously the dude loved to party.

16. Marian Hossa, RW, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Bill Smith/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    He's one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL and, even at age 34, is getting it done at both ends of the rink. He has 10 goals and 17 points in 20 games this season and his skating ability and intelligence allow him to always be on the right side of the puck.

     

    Credentials

    He won two Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks in 2010 and 2013 and made two other trips to the Final with the Penguins in 2008 and Red Wings in 2009, falling short both times. Hossa is a five-time All-Star with 444 career goals.

     

    Best Asset

    His intelligence is what keeps him playing at a high level in his mid-30s. 

     

    Biggest Quibble

    With advanced age comes nagging injuries, something he has had to deal with in recent years. 

     

    One Odd End

    He may be suffering some sort of lower-body numbness that prevents him from feeling a hanger dangling from his pants.

15. John Tavares, C, New York Islanders

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    Last season was Tavares' breakout year. He had 28 goals in 48 games as he guided the New York Islanders to their first postseason berth since 2007. He has kept his foot on the gas this season, despite his team's foundering, posting 10 goals and 27 points in 24 games.

     

    Credentials

    Playing for a historically bad team, Tavares hasn't earned too many individual awards. During his junior days, Tavares was named MVP of the 2009 World Junior Championships as Canada claimed gold.

     

    Best Asset

    He's a lesser version of Sidney Crosby, which is meant to be a compliment. Tavares has tremendous lower-body strength, which allows him to control the puck along the boards.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    His ineptitude defensively is exaggerated, but it is his soft spot.

     

    One Odd End

    See the jersey in the above photo? He has to wear that in real NHL games.

14. Martin St. Louis, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    Even at age 38, St. Louis is still a dominant forward. He had 60 points in 48 games last season and has 24 points in 24 games this season. It's a small sample size, but he has eight points in seven games since Steven Stamkos suffered his broken leg.

     

    Credentials

    He is a six-time All-Star who won the Art Ross Trophy in 2004 and 2013. He had 24 points in 23 games to help the Lightning win the Stanley Cup in 2004. 

     

    Best Asset

    It's his massive, cartoonlike legs that help him generate speed and quickness. 

     

    Biggest Quibble

    It has to be his age. He's not showing any signs of wear and tear, but at 38, it's a cause for concern in the near future.

     

    One Odd End

    While his legs are gigantic, it really is only a matter of time before they explode during the course of a game. 

13. Henrik Lundqvist, G, New York Rangers

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    Scott Levy/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    He was arguably the best goaltender in the league the previous four seasons and, after a slow start to 2013-14, looks more like his old self. His save percentage was at .921, which was 13th among regular starters, before he was pulled against the Lightning on Monday night.

     

    Credentials

    He is a four-time Vezina finalist and won the trophy for the first time in 2012. In 2006, Lundqvist backstopped Sweden to Olympic gold in Turin.

     

    Best Asset

    He's nearly impossible to beat along the ice due to his quickness and leg strength, which allow him to sit deeper in the net than most goaltenders.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    Those aforementioned four best seasons all occurred with John Tortorella as his coach. With Alain Vigneault as his new coach, Lundqvist has looked slightly more human.

     

    One Odd End

    His penchant for tight-fitting, European-style suits could affect circulation and blood flow on game nights.

12. Erik Karlsson, D, Ottawa Senators

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    Andre Ringuette/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    He's the best offensive defenseman in the NHL, and has come back strong from an Achilles injury last season. With 24 points in 24 games, Karlsson is once again leading all defensemen in scoring. He catches flak for his defensive weaknesses, but he is still one of the best overall blueliners in the league.

     

    Credentials

    He won the Norris Trophy two years ago on the strength of 78 points in 81 games. The next-closest defenseman in scoring that season was Dustin Byfuglien of the Winnipeg Jets with 53 points in 66 games. Karlsson has been named to the All-Star Game twice.

     

    Best Asset

    It's easily his speed, which is why his ability to return effectively from a sliced Achilles tendon has been so impressive.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He has never been a featured penalty killer with the Senators. This season, five defensemen on the Sens have averaged more short-handed ice time per game than Karlsson.

     

    One Odd End

    With some of the sickest flow in the league, it could only be a matter of time before he gives up hockey to become a full-time hair model.

11. Phil Kessel, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    He's just about a lock for 30 goals every season and he's well on his way to that number again this time around. He has scored at least 30 in his past four full seasons and had 20 in 48 games last season. He is on pace to eclipse 40 goals for the first time in his career this season.

     

    Credentials

    He hasn't gone through many playoff battles; he has 13 goals in 22 career postseason games. He had four goals in seven games last season, when the Leafs had their epic collapse against the Bruins in Game 7 of their first-round series.

     

    Best Asset

    He has tremendous skating ability, whether he is flying down the wing on the rush or just exploding from a stand-still position.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He was a train wreck defensively who needed a map to find his own zone, but he is no longer a disaster defensively as he was in his younger years. Still, that's where his weakness lies.

     

    One Odd End

    Based on his Blue Steel gaze in his Team USA mug shot, he might be too sexy for this sport.

10. Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anaheim Ducks

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    Len Redkoles/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    At 28, he appears to be getting better. In his third and fourth seasons, he had 82 and 91 points, respectively. After seeing his numbers decline, he has become a force again with 49 points in 44 games last season and 27 points (13 goals) in 23 games this season. He is a playmaker in a power forward's body.

     

    Credentials

    He won the Stanley Cup in 2007 and was an All-Star in 2008 and 2009. He was a member of Canada's gold-medal winning team at the 2010 Olympics.

     

    Best Asset

    His playmaking ability is among the best in the game. Since 2008-09, he is fifth in the NHL in assists with 266.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    As is the case with most pass-first players, he eschews opportunities to shoot sometimes. But that's a real quibble this season.

     

    One Odd End

    It has to be the premature baldness. As this author will tell you, it is no laughing matter. 

9. Anze Kopitar, C, Los Angeles Kings

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    The 26-year-old has become one of the most consistent offensive threats over the past four seasons. He has 23 points in 25 games this season and hasn't had fewer than 76 points in a season since 2009-10 (he had 42 points in 47 games last season). 

     

    Credentials

    He had 20 points (eight goals) in 20 games as the Kings rolled to a Stanley Cup title in 2012. He has yet to rack up any NHL individual trophies, but he has been to a pair of All-Star games.

     

    Best Asset

    He is one of the few players to have miles of skill inside a huge frame. At 6'3", 225 pounds, he can score finesse goals and drive to the net as well.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He averaged about 3.0 shots per game between 2008-09 and 2011-12, but that number declined to 2.1 last season and is slightly up to 2.7 this season. His picked up the pace this season, but he could put more shots on net.

     

    One Odd End

    He is Slovenian. There is nothing wrong with Slovenia or the people of Slovenia, but the national team has almost no chance of winning a medal at Sochi. Slovenia is ranked 18th in the world by the IIHF. 

8. Pavel Datsyuk, C, Detroit Red Wings

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    Dave Reginek/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    Even at age 35, Datsyuk is showing no signs of slowing. He has 12 goals and 23 points in 24 games. That puts him on a pace for 40 goals, which would be a career best. He takes care of both ends of the ice and is one of the all-time best at the shootout.

     

    Credentials

    Not only does he have all the tools offensively, he's a three-time Selke Trophy winner. He won the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2002 and 2008.

     

    Best Asset

    No one in the NHL has better hands. Datsyuk can stick-handle in a phone booth and is just as likely to use his hands to fake a goalie out of the net or strip the puck from an opposing player.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He played in 47 of 48 games last season, but he missed extended time in 2011-12 and 2010-11 with injuries. Time could be beginning to wreak havoc on Datsyuk's body.

     

    One Odd End

    With the Olympics this year in his home country, which has abhorrent anti-gay laws, Datsyuk chose to endorse those laws over the summer.

7. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    Despite his "struggles" to start this season, he still has accumulated 27 points in 25 games. He is 12th all time and third among active players in points per game with 1.216. He can score goals just as well as he can create them.

     

    Credentials

    He was the Conn Smythe winner when the Penguins won the Cup in 2009. He has won the Art Ross Trophy twice and has 97 points in 83 career postseason games.

     

    Best Asset

    His skill is elite, but the fact that it comes in a 6'3", 200-pound package is what makes him nearly impossible to defend.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He has shown the propensity for taking retaliation penalties, especially in the playoffs.

     

    One Odd End

    Have you seen his cooking show? Yes, he once did a cooking show.

6. Tuukka Rask, G, Boston Bruins

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    Steve Babineau/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    Through 158 career games, Rask has a 2.09/.929 split. As great as those numbers are, he's been even better the past two seasons since taking over as the Bruins' No. 1 goaltender. He is 12-5-3 this season with a 1.69/.943 stat line, this after coming within two wins of the Stanley Cup last year.

     

    Credentials

    His trophy case may be light, but he likely has the inside track toward being named Finland's starting goaltender at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

     

    Best Asset

    He is extremely quick and flexible, which allows to cover the limited mistakes he or his teammates make in front of him.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    Even with a run to the Cup Final last year, Rask is somewhat lacking in experience. His only other postseason trip was 2010, when the Bruins blew a 3-0 second-round series to the Flyers in the second round.

     

    One Odd End

    When it comes to displaying anger by breaking his stick, his balance could be better

5. Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Scott Audette/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    Since 2009-10, Stamkos leads the NHL with 199 goals in 311 games. He had 14 goals in 17 games this season before a broken tibia put him on the shelf for at least three months.

     

    Credentials

    Still only 23, he has won the Rocket Richard Trophy twice and is a two-time All-Star. In his one trip to the postseason in 2011, he had six goals and seven assists in 18 games.

     

    Best Asset

    While he has added more weapons to his game, his ability to one-time a puck is unmatched. He scored many of his goals from the "Stamkos Spot" early in his career, but he can now score from anywhere.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    Like any young player, there's room for improvement in the defensive side of his game.

     

    One Odd End

    Maybe the trick to stopping Stamkos is to give him a penalty shot.

4. Alex Ovechkin, LW/RW, Washington Capitals

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    There is no one better at scoring goals today than Ovechkin. He leads the league this year with 20 in 22 games and has 44 goals in his past 47 games dating to last year. Since entering the league in 2005-06, Ovechkin leads everyone in goals and it's not even close.  

     

    Credentials

    He has won the Hart Trophy three times, the Art Ross Trophy once and is a five-time All-Star. He has led the NHL in goals three times.

     

    Best Asset

    It's his shot and everything about it; the power, the quickness of the release, the accuracy. He's the deadliest shooter in the NHL.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    He has made strides defensively throughout his career, but it remains the biggest hole in his game. He has a tendency to glide through the neutral zone when he should be backchecking, but it's nowhere near the problem it was in his younger days.

     

    One Odd End

    Ovechkin has a lower-back tattoo, which means if you saw him from behind, you could confuse him with 90 percent of women at a Jersey Shore bar.

3. Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    He is elite in every category. He has evolved into a point-per-game player over the past two seasons and is among the best in the NHL defensively among forwards. He's been a winner at every level of hockey and is still just 25 years old.

     

    Credentials

    He's captained the Chicago Blackhawks to two Stanley Cups (2010, 2013) and was the Conn Smythe winner in 2010. He won his first Selke Trophy last season and is one of only six players to win the Stanley Cup and Olympic gold in the same year.

     

    Best Asset

    His leadership ability is what sets him apart. Yes, it's a very nebulous quality that can't be backed with statistics, but his success from junior to the NHL is an indication of his strong character.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    While he won the Conn Smythe in 2010, he disappeared during the playoffs last year. He had one goal in his first 20 games before scoring in Games 4 and 6 to propel the Blackhawks to a championship.

     

    One Odd End

    This is an issue for a lot of hockey players, but Toews is especially bad at acting.

2. Ryan Suter, D, Minnesota Wild

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    The 28-year-old has taken the mantle of "NHL's best defenseman" from Zdeno Chara since arriving in Minnesota as a high-priced free agent two summers ago. He plays 29:55 per game, most in the league and about two minutes more than second-place Erik Karlsson. Suter has zero goals this season, but he's still 11th in scoring among defensemen with 15 points, despite drawing the toughest matchups every night. He's the biggest reason the Wild were a playoff team last year and are near the top of the West this year.

     

    Credentials

    He was a finalist for the Norris Trophy last season, a deserving nod after spending seven years in Nashville partnered with Shea Weber on the blue line. Suter was also a silver medalist on the 2010 U.S. Olympic squad.

     

    Best Asset

    He's a complete player, but his fitness level that allows him to play 30 minutes a night makes him special.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    Despite his impressive body of work, he's yet to advance beyond the second round of the postseason. 

     

    One Odd End

    By playing 30 minutes per game, he makes everyone else look lazy by comparison.

1. Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Why He's Here

    Not only is he by far the best player in the NHL today, he's in the conversation for best player in the history of the game. He's fourth in NHL history in points per game at 1.41, behind only Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Mike Bossy. He makes everyone around him better and does not need star wingers to excel.

     

    Credentials

    Along with his gaudy point totals, he's won Olympic gold, a Stanley Cup, a Hart Trophy and an Art Ross Trophy. He's been to the All-Star Game four times and won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2010 as the NHL's goal leader.

     

    Best Asset

    He has it all, but it's his intelligence and anticipation that set him apart. He's always one step ahead of everyone.

     

    Biggest Quibble

    Sadly, the game's biggest star missed 101 games in the 2011 and 2012 seasons with concussion issues. Another severe blow to the head could be devastating to his career and future.

     

    One Odd End

    Despite all he has accomplished, he is 26 years old and continues to struggle growing facial hair. It's a reminder that no one is perfect.

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