Ranking the Top NHL Superstars Right Now
What makes a superstar?
Here's how Merriam-Webster.com defines the word: "A star (as in sports or the movies) who is considered extremely talented, has great public appeal, and can usually command a high salary."
This NHL season has given us an interesting mix of old and new faces among the league's top players. It will take some time to see whether the upstarts are on a hot streak or if they're here to stay.
From the ranks of the established players, here's a look at how the Hart Trophy finalists from the last three years are faring in the 2013-14 NHL season.
9. Steven Stamkos
2011-12 Hart Trophy Runner-Up
2013-14 Stats: 14-9-23, tied for 22nd in NHL
If Steven Stamkos hadn't broken his leg in a game against Boston November 11, he'd be near the top of this list instead of sitting at the bottom.
At just 23 years old, Stamkos has quickly become one of the most effective and consistent goal scorers in the NHL. In just five NHL seasons, he has already picked up two Rocket Richard Trophies and was hanging with the goal-scoring leaders when he suffered his injury this season.
Stamkos' rehab is still in its early stages, but he seems to be making impressive progress. If he can get back to playing hockey by the Olympic break, he could move up the list with a strong finish to the season.
8. John Tavares
2012-13 Hart Trophy - Third Place
2013-14 Stats: 11-18-29, fifth in NHL
The lockout season was a coming-out party for John Tavares.
The first overall pick from 2009 spent his first three years with the New York Islanders developing his craft in relative anonymity. In 2012-13, Tavares paced his team to its first playoff appearance in six years—and gave the top-seed Pittsburgh Penguins a good scare before falling in six games.
This year, the Islanders' fortunes have ebbed and flowed. They're currently mired in a four-game losing streak and have dropped to the bottom of the Metropolitan Division, but Tavares has continued his strong play. At better than a point a game, he's putting up the best numbers of his career but will need his team to have success if he hopes to continue his evolution as a leader and a star.
7. Henrik Lundqvist
2011-12 Hart Trophy - Third Place
2013-14 Stats: 8-10-2, 2.48 GAA (22nd in NHL), .918 save percentage (18th in NHL)
Two seasons ago, Henrik Lundqvist carried the New York Rangers on his back. He not only won the Vezina Trophy as the league's best goaltender, he finished third in Hart Trophy voting as the NHL's overall MVP.
Since then, the Rangers have endured their share of struggles, hitting rock bottom during a long road trip early this season. They've now worked their way back into the playoff picture and are getting solid goaltending from Lundqvist and backup Cam Talbot.
As the Rangers adjust to their new system under coach Alain Vigneault, Lundqvist doesn't always get the protection that he previously enjoyed. He was solid in his last outing, a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers, but was pulled in the previous game after defensive breakdowns led to him surrendering four goals to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
6. Daniel Sedin
2010-11 Hart Trophy Runner-Up
2013-14 Stats: 9-15-24, tied for 15th in NHL
It hasn't been an easy season for Daniel Sedin and the Vancouver Canucks. After a good start under new coach John Tortorella, the entire team went through an offensive slump in early November when the wonder twins hit a dry patch.
Vancouver went 1-3-2 when Daniel went pointless for six games between November 7-19, but he appears to be regaining his usual form. He has seven points in Vancouver's last four games and, with the help of his brother Henrik, is working to get the Canucks back into the playoff picture in the Western Conference.
5. Martin St. Louis
2010-11 Hart Trophy - Third Place
2013-14 Stats: 10-14-24, tied for 15th in NHL
Though he's not often mentioned in the same breath as the NHL's top stars, Martin St. Louis has been one of the league's best offensive players for more than a decade. In 2003-04, he won the Hart and Art Ross Trophies and his Tampa Bay Lightning captured the Stanley Cup. Last season, St. Louis won the league scoring title for a second time.
Originally undrafted, St. Louis played in his 1000th NHL game November 25. He celebrated with a three-point night to help his team snap a four-game losing skid. Though teammate Steven Stamkos is currently sidelined with a broken leg, St. Louis has continued to produce at a point-a-game pace. That contribution will be sorely needed to help keep the Lightning in the playoff hunt until Stamkos returns to action.
4. Corey Perry
2010-11 Hart Trophy Winner
2013-14 Stats: 13-13-26, tied for 10th in NHL
With an incredible goal-scoring surge late in the 2010-11 season, Corey Perry finished the year with 50 goals, capturing the Hart and Rocket Richard Trophies.
This season, he's producing as a playmaker as well as a scorer, pacing his Anaheim Ducks to one of the best starts in the league.
The Ducks have cooled off slightly of late, and Perry was a minus-three in his team's collapse against the Dallas Stars Tuesday. Perry's traditionally a streaky player—it shouldn't be long before he's back on track once again with his team following suit.
3. Evgeni Malkin
2011-12 Hart Trophy Winner
2013-14 Stats: 6-24-30, tied for second in NHL
Evgeni Malkin is in a scoring slump to start the 2013-14 season—which is why he's "only" in second place in the NHL scoring race.
Malkin has been reliably contributing assists for his Pittsburgh Penguins but has been in a scoring slump, scoring just one goal in 18 games before breaking out with two goals and a shootout-winner against the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night.
When they're on their games, Malkin and teammate Sidney Crosby are the two top centers the league. Each has won a Hart Trophy to reward his skill and effort.
The Penguins have been dangerous in the early going this season, and Malkin looks like he's just hitting his stride.
2. Alex Ovechkin
2012-13 Hart Trophy Winner
2013-14 Stats: 20-8-28, tied for sixth in NHL
As Alex Ovechkin chases the milestone of 50 goals in 50 games across two seasons, he reminds us that he is the best pure scorer in the game today.
After a bumpy start to the new season, it didn't take long for Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals to find the groove that made them the league's hottest team in the late going last year. Washington's strong finish helped Ovechkin earn the third Hart trophy of his career in 2012-13.
With Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby both back in superstar form this season, the battle is on once again for the title of hockey's top player.
1. Sidney Crosby
2012-13 Hart Trophy Runner-Up
2013-14 Stats: 13-20-33, first in NHL
After finally recovering last season from his concussion issues, Sidney Crosby was on track to win the scoring race and the Hart Trophy. Then, a puck to the mouth broke his jaw and knocked him out of the last 12 games of the regular season.
Crosby returned to be an effective contributor for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs and has been the best player in the league so far in the 2013-14 season.
He can be thrown off his game when he loses his temper, but he was in full control against the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night. Crosby took control to rally his team from a 4-1 deficit while tallying two assists and a shootout beauty.
If he can stay healthy, Crosby should be competing for the league's top honours at the end of the season.
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