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The Most Untouchable Player on Every NHL Team's Roster

Steve MacfarlaneFeatured ColumnistMarch 25, 2016

The Most Untouchable Player on Every NHL Team's Roster

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Who would you choose to build your NHL franchise around? The most untouchable player on every NHL team's roster might give you a good starting point.

    These 30 players are considered the guys their respective organizations can't live without. They'd be on many general managers' wishlists on the trade market but are the least likely to be dangled.

    It becomes more and more difficult in the salary-cap era to balance a budget—whether it's imposed by an owner or the league—so teams are forced to deal core players more often these days. But some are immune to that sort of speculation.

    Sidney Crosby is an obvious name among them, but others may not be first in mind. This isn't a list of MVPs, with age and salary factoring into the considerations, as well as straight statistics.

    Click ahead to see every team's most untouchable player. Feel free to add yours in the comments section.

Anaheim Ducks: G John Gibson

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    What he's done: John Gibson has played in 33 games this season, putting together a 17-11-3 record with a .917 save percentage and 2.13 goals-against average.

    Why he's untouchable: The 22-year-old Anaheim Ducks goaltender has made the idea of dealing impending restricted free agent Frederik Andersen away in the offseason much more palatable. Gibson is the Ducks' future in goal but also gives the team a chance to win it all this season.

    Other candidates: C Ryan Getzlaf; RW Corey Perry.

Arizona Coyotes: C Max Domi

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    Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: As a rookie, Max Domi has energized the Arizona Coyotes. He has 18 goals and 47 points in 73 NHL games to lead all Coyotes forwards.

    Why he's untouchable: The Coyotes have never had a player as electrifying as Domi on the roster, and his presence may be the key to creating a successful team on and off the ice in the desert. The 12th overall pick in the 2013 draft is speedy and slick but has a real competitive edge in his blood—perhaps courtesy of his feisty former NHL enforcer dad, Tie Domi. The team needs more young and skilled forwards like Domi to become a playoff contender.

    Other candidates: D Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

Boston Bruins: C Patrice Bergeron

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    James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: Patrice Bergeron is potentially on his way to another Selke Trophy win and has 28 goals and 62 points in 73 games this term—looking to crack 70 points for just the third time in his career.

    Why he's untouchable: Bergeron is a unique blend of defensive responsibility and top-end offensive talent. If he wins the Selke again, it would be the third straight season. His ability to shut down the best the opposition has to offer has helped the Bruins rebound from a down year and compete for the Atlantic Division title.

    Other candidates: G Tuukka Rask; C David Krejci.

Buffalo Sabres: C Jack Eichel

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    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: Rookie Jack Eichel has 22 goals and 49 points in 73 games, challenging veteran Ryan O'Reilly for the team lead in scoring.

    Why he's untouchable: The second overall pick in last year's draft is a special player who has progressed throughout his rookie season and often displays his strength and skill as a rare power forward who can play the center position. Along with Sam Reinhart and O'Reilly, Eichel will be the foundation of all-important strength down the middle for a team that should be much more competitive within a couple of years.

    Other candidates: C Ryan O'Reilly; C Sam Reinhart.

Calgary Flames: D Mark Giordano

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    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: Mark Giordano has hit the 50-point mark for the first time in his career with 19 goals and 31 assists in 74 games this term.

    Why he's untouchable: The Calgary Flames captain is a late bloomer who continues to get better as the years fly by. The 32-year-old has helped turn the team into a threat on any given night after years of disappointment. He's one of the league's most impressive leaders by example through his work ethic and effort.

    Other candidates: LW Johnny Gaudreau; D TJ Brodie.

Carolina Hurricanes: D Justin Faulk

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    Karl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

    What he's done: Justin Faulk has 15 goals and 34 points in 56 games. If not for his injury problems, he would've been on pace for his first 50-point season.

    Why he's untouchable: The Carolina Hurricanes have a solid young core of defensive prospects, but not one is on the same level as the 23-year-old Faulk—who has become an elite point-producing blueliner capable of driving offense from the back end. Those skills come in especially handy on the power play, which is an important aspect of any team's success.

    Other candidates: C Elias Lindholm.

Chicago Blackhawks: RW Patrick Kane

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: All Patrick Kane has done this year is go practically wire to wire as the NHL's scoring leader. He's got 39 goals and 92 points in 74 games, including a league-leading 32 power-play points.

    Why he's untouchable: Many look to Jonathan Toews as the teams' most pivotal piece because of his defensive abilities, but Kane has the puck on his stick so often when he's on the ice that he should be considered a top defender as well. Special teams are so critical in today's NHL, and Kane's talents are a big reason the Chicago Blackhawks are competitive every season, even in the face of major roster shakeups.

    Other candidates: C Jonathan Toews; D Duncan Keith.

Colorado Avalanche: D Tyson Barrie

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: Tyson Barrie has 13 goals and 47 points in 70 games this season after setting a career high of 53 last year.

    Why he's untouchable: Sportsnet reported there was some interest in the Colorado Avalanche star from other NHL teams in the fall, but the team held onto the 24-year-old despite the fact he's heading into restricted free agency and will cash in on a much larger contract after his past couple of seasons. The Avalanche kept him around because of his impressive offensive ability—something the team lacked on the blue line before Barrie's emergence. He has defensive shortcomings but can work on improving those over time. You can't teach offensive skill in the same way.

    Other candidates: C Nathan MacKinnon; LW Gabriel Landeskog.

Columbus Blue Jackets: D Seth Jones

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    Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: Since joining the Columbus Blue Jackets midseason, defenseman Seth Jones has earned two goals and 17 points in 33 games—an uptick in production from his 11 points in 40 games with the Nashville Predators.

    Why he's untouchable: You don't trade one of the top young centers in the league, Ryan Johansen, for an elite blueliner and then deal him away anytime soon. The Blue Jackets had a need for an elite two-way defenseman, and Jones fills that role perfectly. The 21-year-old is going to anchor the Jackets blue line for a decade if all goes well.

    Other candidates: LW Brandon Saad.

Dallas Stars: LW Jamie Benn

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: Jamie Benn is the defending Art Ross Trophy winner and sits second in the scoring race with 36 goals and 82 points in 75 games. He's on pace for a new career high of 40 goals and 90 points for the Dallas Stars.

    Why he's untouchable: The winger does it all. He can use his speed on the rush, dish the puck off to a teammate or snipe a corner against an almost helpless NHL goaltender on any given play. He can drop the gloves if needed and has become a soft-spoken but strong leader in the dressing room. Although the Stars have some solid candidates behind him, Benn is the most well-rounded player of the bunch and just seems to get better every season. The 26-year-old would likely be many a general manager's choice of player to build a franchise around.

    Other candidates: D John Klingberg; C Tyler Seguin.

Detroit Red Wings: G Petr Mrazek

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: As the starting goaltender for the Detroit Red Wings, Petr Mrazek has a 27-15-6 record with a .922 save percentage and 2.26 goals-against average.

    Why he's untouchable: Mrazek has proved to be a solid No. 1 goaltender and has made the higher-priced Jimmy Howard expendable by taken over as the starter this season following an impressive spring. When you find a young goaltender such as the 24-year-old Czech, you do whatever you can to keep him for as many years as possible. The pending restricted free agent is due a raise from his rookie deal but should be able to come to terms on a bridge deal that gives him a chance to prove he can continue to grow as a starter.

    Other candidates: C Dylan Larkin; C Pavel Datsyuk.

Edmonton Oilers: C Connor McDavid

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    Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: In his rookie season, Connor McDavid has the fourth-best point-per-game average in the NHL, and if not for a nasty shoulder injury that kept him out of action for two months, he'd be among the league's top scorers. He has 14 goals and 43 points in 40 games for the Edmonton Oilers.

    Why he's untouchable: Last year's first overall pick in the draft has made a massive impact already and has lived up to the hype that followed him into the NHL as the next generational player. He isn't yet in the Sidney Crosby category, but that doesn't seem to be far off. For a guy of his size (6'1"), his ability to go from motionless to full speed is almost unbelievable—as are the moves he pulls off at such high velocity. He's a human highlight reel who could help turn the Oilers fortunes around—finally.

    Other candidates: C Leon Draisaitl.

Florida Panthers: C Aleksander Barkov

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    Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    What he's done: In his third NHL season, the Florida Panthers' Aleksander Barkov has 23 goals and 36 points in 58 games.

    Why he's untouchable: At just 20 years of age, Barkov is mature beyond his years on and off the ice. He is a strong two-way player already but consistently ramping up his offensive numbers as he grows more comfortable in the NHL. He is a large (6'3") center capable of becoming a Selke Trophy candidate in the mold of Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar and Patrice Bergeron.

    Other candidates: LW Jonathan Huberdeau; D Aaron Ekblad.

Los Angeles Kings: D Drew Doughty

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    Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: Drew Doughty has already surpassed last year's totals and has 14 goals and 48 points in 74 games. He's two goals shy of the career high he set in 2010.

    Why he's untouchable: Doughty has it all. Speed, vision, high-end puck-handling skills and confidence. The 26-year-old isn't the flashiest player with the Los Angeles Kings, but in any other system, he might be the perennial scoring leader from the blue line. He's a calming presence and is having his best season since being nominated as a Norris finalist back in 2010. The team's defensive depth is questionable, but his minute-munching makes up for that.

    Other candidates: C Anze Kopitar; G Jonathan Quick.

Minnesota Wild: D Ryan Suter

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    Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: Ryan Suter set a new franchise record for the Minnesota Wild this year, breaking the record for points by a defenseman in a single season. He has eight goals and 48 points in 75 games—career highs for him on all counts.

    Why he's untouchable: Logging nearly 29 minutes per game on average, Suter is second in the league behind only Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (29:07) in the category. Thirty-minute blueliners who produce strong offensive numbers in addition to solid defending are a rare breed. And Suter has been doing it for a long time. The Wild can't part ways with the 31-year-old as long as they have a hope of making the playoffs.

    Other candidates: G Devan Dubnyk; LW Zach Parise.

Montreal Canadiens: G Carey Price

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    What he's done: For the most part this season, Carey Price has been on the shelf. Injuries to his knees have limited the defending Hart Trophy champion to 12 starts. But what a great dozen games they were. Price was 10-2 in those contests with a 2.06 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.

    Why he's untouchable: Just look at how the Montreal Canadiens' season fell apart without Price and you have all the evidence you need for this one. The Habs had more struggles than just goaltending during their decline, but the confidence seemed to plummet without their all-star netminder between the pipes. He's the biggest reason why the Canadiens have had so much success in the regular season and playoffs the past few years.

    Other candidates: C Alex Galchenyuk; LW Max Pacioretty.

Nashville Predators: D Roman Josi

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    What he's done: With 12 goals and 53 points in 74 games, defenseman Roman Josi is battling forward Filip Forsberg for the team scoring title and is tied for 14th in assists regardless of position.

    Why he's untouchable: The Nashville Predators traded Seth Jones to bring in center Ryan Johansen in January, and that makes the 25-year-old Josi even more important as a top-pairing defenseman with a long-term future with the Preds. His growth into one of the top two-way defenders in the league is what allowed the Predators to go out and acquire someone they believe is going to be one of the best centers in the NHL in Johansen.

    Other candidates:LW Filip Forsberg; D Shea Weber.

New Jersey Devils: G Cory Schneider

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    Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: In 55 starts this season, New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider has a 26-23-6 record with a .923 save percentage and 2.17 goals-against average. It's his second straight season with at least 26 victories.

    Why he's untouchable: The Devils became sellers at the trade deadline, but the decision wasn't easy thanks to the stellar play of Schneider in his third season with the team. The team has a popgun offense and a no-name defense, which puts a ton of pressure on the goaltender's shoulders. The 30-year-old Schneider always seems to be up to the task and ranks top six in both GAA and save percentage this season.

    Other candidates: C Adam Henrique.

New York Islanders: C John Tavares

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: New York Islanders captain John Tavares has 27 goals and 57 points in 69 games this season, pacing the Isles offensively.

    Why he's untouchable: Tavares is one of the most talented players in the NHL and, although he has had a less dynamic statistical season in Brooklyn, is also one of its biggest bargains at a $5.5 million for two more seasons. The 25-year-old will be a key part of any playoff runs the Isles make in the near future, and the team relies too greatly on his leadership on the ice to part ways with him.

    Other candidates: C Brock Nelson; C Ryan Strome.

New York Rangers: G Henrik Lundqvist

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    Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: Henrik Lundqvist hasn't had his best season, with a 33-19-6 record in 59 appearances and a 2.40 goals-against average. His save percentage of .922 remains a touch above his career average (0.921), however.

    Why he's untouchable: The 34-year-old goaltender is the reason why the New York Rangers continue to be big buyers at the trade deadline every season. They did it again this year by picking up Eric Staal. Lundqvist's time as a top goaltender in the league is dwindling, and the team is going to load up for a playoff run as long as he is still performing at a high level.

    Other candidates: D Ryan McDonagh; C Derek Stepan.

Ottawa Senators: D Erik Karlsson

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    Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: Erik Karlsson has continued to produce at a point-per-game pace this season, accumulating 13 goals and 75 points in 75 contests.

    Why he's untouchable: Karlsson remains by far the most impressive member of the Ottawa Senators lineup and the team's leading scorer. In fact, the defenseman is among the league's top four scorers regardless of position. He's a front-runner for this year's Norris Trophy, which would be his third and second in a row. The last person to win it in back-to-back seasons was Nicklas Lidstrom, another Swede.

    Other candidates: RW Mark Stone.

Philadelphia Flyers: D Shayne Gostisbehere

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    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: Rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere has given hope to the Philadelphia Flyers fanbase that they have finally found a replacement for the impressive offensive numbers once put up by Chris Pronger. The sample size is relatively small, but Gostisbehere has 16 goals and 40 points in just 55 games.

    Why he's untouchable: Developing a top defenseman gives the Flyers the opportunity to spend big money somewhere else in the next year or so before having to sign what will be a restricted free agent in two years' time. He's small at 5'11" and 180 pounds, but he is extremely skilled offensively and is a steal of a third-round pick (at the 2012 draft). The 22-year-old is a game-breaker, and five of his goals this year have been game-winners.

    Other candidates: C Claude Giroux; C Sean Couturier; LW Jakub Voracek.

Pittsburgh Penguins: C Sidney Crosby

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    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: Sidney Crosby has this season shown his skills are not in decline despite his slow start. His hot second half has him back in the group of top scorers with 31 goals and 76 points in 72 games.

    Why he's untouchable: Crosby's hot streak has correlated with Pittsburgh Penguins victories and propelled the team into the a fight with the New York Islanders for the last seed in the Metropolitan Division standings. He has helped the team overcome injuries to Evgeni Malkin and slumps from sniper Phil Kessel. He's still one of the most impressive players in the league and about as unlikely to be traded as anyone in the NHL.

    Other candidates:C Evgeni Malkin.

San Jose Sharks: C Joe Pavelski

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    James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: Joe Pavelski has 35 goals and 70 points in 74 games for the San Jose Sharks this season, raking ninth in points and fourth in goals—hitting the 70-point mark for the third straight season.

    Why he's untouchable: Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are passe in San Jose, where Pavelski is captain and the unquestioned on-ice leader. He averages almost 20 minutes per game and will be key to bringing the team into the next phase of its development with a handful of young prospects becoming big parts of the lineup this season.

    Other candidates: C Logan Couture; D Brent Burns.

St. Louis Blues: RW Vladimir Tarasenko

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: Vladimir Tarasenko has hit the 30-goal mark for a second straight season and could reach 40 for the first time in his NHL career with a strong finish. He has 63 points in 72 games so far.

    Why he's untouchable: At 24, Tarasenko is one of the best players in the league. He is capable of flashy highlight-reel goals but is also a responsible and gritty player who uses his stocky and strong frame to muck it up in front of the net when necessary despite his elite skill set. He is going to be a part of the St. Louis Blues core for a long time thanks to an eight-year, $60 million deal that kicked in this season.

    Other candidates: D Alex Pietrangelo; G Jake Allen.

Tampa Bay Lightning: RW Nikita Kucherov

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    Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: Nikita Kucherov has been the Tampa Bay Lightning's leading scorer for most of this season, putting together 28 goals and 60 points in 71 games. He has proved to be the most dynamic of the Triplets line.

    Why he's untouchable: If the Lightning lose captain Steven Stamkos—which is a distinct possibility once Stamkos hits unrestricted free agency on July 1—then the Triplets lineis going to be the driving force behind the Bolts offense. And Kucherov appears to be the leader of that line alongside Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson. He's not a big player (6'0") but has sneaky skills and an ability to find open ice very quickly.

    Other candidates: D Victor Hedman.

Toronto Maple Leafs: LW James van Riemsdyk

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    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: Before being shut down for the remainder of the season thanks to a foot injury, James van Riemsdyk was one of the Toronto Maple Leafs' only effective forwards. He racked up 14 goals and 29 points in 40 games and did so without the luxury of sniper Phil Kessel by his side.

    Why he's untouchable: Power forwards such as Van Riemsdyk don't come along every day. The 6'3" winger has scored at least 20 goals in every full season he has managed. His only trouble seems to be staying healthy. At 26, Van Riemsdyk is worth keeping around for the rebuilding Leafs franchise. He still has room to grow as a player and provides some veteran leadership at a relatively young age for a team with a lack of experience and talent.

    Other candidates: C Nazem Kadri.

Vancouver Canucks: C Bo Horvat

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    James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: Center Bo Horvat doesn't have great statistics this season as a sophomore, sitting on a dozen goals and 32 points through 73 games. He has a minus-34 rating that ranks among the worst in the league, but that is as a result of the top competition the opposition has to deploy.

    Why he's untouchable: While the 35-year-old Sedin twins are aging and the Vancouver Canucks are desperately trying to rebuild on the fly before Daniel and Henrik's production diminishes any further, Horvat has taken on a much bigger role than expected in his second year thanks to Brandon Sutter's injury woes. And while the learning curve has been steep, the trial by fire will pay off in the long run—especially if Sutter returns healthy next year and allows Horvat to resume a third-center role to hone his skills against lesser competition.

    Other candidates: C Henrik Sedin; LW Daniel Sedin.

Washington Capitals: LW Alexander Ovechkin

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    What he's done: On his way to what looks like a fourth consecutive Maurice Richard Trophy as the league's top goal scorer, Alex Ovechkin has 43 goals and is on pace for his seventh 50-goal campaign with the Washington Capitals. He's got 64 points in total this season.

    Why he's untouchable: Obvious goal attributes aside, Ovechkin is a fast and physical forward who has proved he can play a responsible game as well as continue with his flashy skill in the offensive zone. His enthusiasm for the game is unmatched in the league and makes him a natural leader if not the most vocal in the dressing room. The Caps have built up a nice Stanley Cup contender around him, but Ovechkin is still the key piece.

    Other candidates: C Evgeny Kuznetsov; C Nicklas Backstrom; G Braden Holtby.

Winnipeg Jets: D Dustin Byfuglien

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    Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

    What he's done: Dustin Byfuglien has 17 goals and 45 points in 73 games for the Winnipeg Jets this season, along with 194 hits. He ranks 13th in points among defensemen but fifth in goals at the position. He has established himself as one of the league's most feared physical blueliners, as well as a dynamic offensive threat.

    Why he's untouchable: The Jets recently gave the 30-year-old a fat extension worth $7.6 million a season for the next five years. And it came with a no-movement clause. The team made a choice between gritty scoring forward Andrew Ladd—their captain—and Byfuglien and chose the burly blueliner for good reason. You don't find many big-bodied and physical defenders who can also produce so much offensively while on the ice for 25 minutes a game.

    Other candidates: C Mark Scheifele; LW Blake Wheeler.

     

    All stats via NHL.com unless otherwise noted. Salary numbers are via GeneralFanager.

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