As we get closer to the beginning of the 2010-11 NHL season, the barstool discussions over who is the best player in the game will begin again.
Is it Crosby? Ovechkin? Someone else???
And which team has more talent? Do the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks have the most elite talent? What about the Capitals? Red Wings? Penguins? Devils?
With all of these fun questions in mind, I embarked on the daunting task of ranking the top 100 (one hundred) players in the NHL heading into the coming season.
There were a number of factors that played into how I ranked players for the list. Obviously, points scored (and in how many games) is a factor, as is a player's plus-minus. From there, I looked at the larger impact on the game that a player had: performance on special teams, game-winning goals, and whether or not the player's a winner.
I also used a unique statistic developed by Tom Awad at Puck Prospectus known as the “Goals Versus Threshold” (GVT) stat. Awad developed a formula to factor every aspect of on-ice performance into one stat including offense, defense, goaltending and shootout performance.
For these rankings I only evaluated skaters. To me (and, hopefully, all rational hockey fans), comparing the relative value of a goalie to skaters is nearly impossible to do. Awad's GVT does this, but for the purposes of this slideshow I only considered forwards and defensemen.
I have no doubt that there will be fans angered that I left someone off the list, or that someone is ranked lower than they should be. But that's the point of this slideshow: let's talk about these players and argue about who's better. This list is simply my Top 100, and I have no doubt that there will be disagreements with how I value players.
I look forward to the discussion generated from this piece.
With that as a brief introduction, I give you The Top 100 Players in the NHL Today!
In no specific order, here are a few names that barely missed the cut to make the Top 100 this year:
- Sergei Gonchar
- David Backes
- Mikael Samuelsson
- Tomas Kaberle
- Niclas Bergfors
- Tomas Holmstrom
- Ian White
- Matt Carle
- Keith Yandle
- Andrei Markov
- Teemu Selanne
- Saku Koivu
- Martin Erat
- Marc-Andre Bergeron
- Mike Ribiero
- Martin Havlat
- Dan Hamhuis
- Dustin Byfuglien
Taylor Hall, F
No. 1 overall pick - 2010 NHL Draft
Hall jumps to the head of the list of prospects that will get their chance at the NHL level this year, and he could see plenty of minutes in Edmonton. Being the top overall pick, he'll be able to look back at recent top picks that have been successful, like John Tavarez, Steven Stamkos and Patrick Kane, and hope for an equally special future.
Tyler Seguin, F
No. 2 overall pick - 2010 NHL Draft
Seguin slides in front of Taylor Hall because there are better pieces to surround Seguin in Boston, and there won't be as much pressure on him to perform. Because of that, there's a better chance for him to put up solid numbers in his rookie campaign.
Tyler Bozak, F
2009-10 Stats: 37 GP, 27 pts (8 G, 19 A), -5
Bozak is one of the young centerpieces of the Leafs future, and will be skating with a few new weapons around him this year. With the additions of Colby Armstrong and Kris Versteeg, Bozak will have more playmakers on the ice than just Phil Kessel this year.
PK Subban, D
2009-10 Stats: 2 games, 2 goals
Subban jumped into the mix last year for the stretch run with the Habs and was very impressive at times at the end of the regular season and into the playoffs.
Montreal expects him to be a star on their blue line, and he'll get his chance to back up the hype this year. Before his promotion, Subban scored 53 points in 77 games for Hamilton of the AHL, and could be that productive in the NHL soon.
Danny Briere, F
2009-10 Stats: 75 GP, 53 Pts (26 G, 27 A), -2
Briere is a wild card for Flyers fans. He puts up 53 disappointing points, 17 of which are with a man advantage, during the regular season, and then flips the switch and plays like a god in the postseason.
His GVT of 9.2 wasn't in the top 100 last year, and he only scored one game-winning goal in the regular season.
If Briere could give the Flyers 75 games at the level he showed in the 2010 playoffs, when he scored 30 points and had four game-winners in 23 games, Philadelphia would have a killer offense. If he doesn't, and has another sub-60 point regular season, the fans in Philadelphia might be asking why it was Simon Gagne and not Briere that was dealt this summer.
Marc Staal, D
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 27 Pts (8 G, 19 A), +11
Marc is the first Staal to make the list, and he's going to make a pretty penny in the coming seasons with the Rangers. His GVT of 10.4 ranked 80th in the league last year, and he scored a couple game-winning goals.
The Rangers hope Marc is worthy of their long-term monetary considerations, and can be the building block of their blue line in the future. So far, he has been.
Mark Streit, D
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 49 Pts (11 G, 38 A), E
Streit was a solid scoring defenseman on a pretty bad Islanders team last year, posting an impressive 10.7 GVT that ranked 74th in the NHL. He contributed 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) on the power play and added two game-winning goals.
With a growing number of youngsters with the Islanders, Streit will continue to be the elder statesman. But if he keeps producing at the rate he did last year, Streit will keep the management happy.
Ryan Smyth, F
2009-10 Stats: 67 GP, 53 Pts (22 G, 31 A), +8
Smyth has slowly faded out of the brightest spotlights in LA, as kids like Kopitar, Brown and Doughty have come along and elevated the Kings into the playoffs again. But that doesn't mean Smyth isn't producing any more.
His 9.1 GVT just missed the top 100 last year, and he scored 24 points (11 G, 13 A) on the power play. Smyth also had three game-winning goals last year. As the Kings look to lock up Doughty this season, Smyth's name might pop up in trade rumors, though.
Andrew Ladd, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 38 Pts (17 G, 21 A), +2
While Dustin Byfuglien might have been the bigger name headed to Atlanta from Chicago this summer, Ladd will probably prove to be the better player the Thrashers acquired from the champions. At only 24, Ladd is a young, developing power forward who skates well and has a good, hard shot.
Oh, and he has two championship rings already.
A lot depends on what the Thrashers do with their lines, but if Ladd skates opposite Nik Antropov or Evander Kane he could see his point total jump into the 50s this year.
Guillaume Latendresse, F
2009-10 Stats: 78 GP, 40 Pts (27 G, 13 A), -3
After being labeled a bust in Montreal, Latendresse was dealt to Minnesota early last season and appeared to find his groove late in the season.
On a bad Wild roster, Latendresse appeared to show a glimpse of the power forward that had Habs fans excited a couple years ago. He scored four game-winning goals, and posted a solid 7.9 GVT.
If some of the young pieces in Minnesota can stay healthy, and Latendresse keeps up the confident play he showed last year, he could be a 35-goal scorer this year for the Wild.
Niklas Hjalmarsson, D
2009-10 Stats: 77 GP, 17 Pts (2 G, 15 A), +9
Entering last year, Hjalmarsson was a relative unknown outside of Chicago with fewer than 50 NHL games on his resume. This summer, he had shown enough for San Jose GM Doug Wilson to extend an offer sheet that would have not only cost him $15M over four years, but a first round draft pick to the rival Blackhawks.
Wilson, formerly an elite defenseman in Chicago himself, knew what he was doing.
Scotty Bowman has compared Hjalmarsson to a young Nikky Lidstrom, and the Hawks are confident he'll continue to develop into an top-tier penalty killer. He's a willing shot blocker and gets the puck out of the zone quickly. He's a great young fit in the Hawks deep defense group.
James Neal, F
2009-10 Stats: 78 GP, 55 Pts (27 G, 28 A), -5
Neal just received a nice extension in Dallas, and is one of the young players around which the Stars hope to begin a short rebuilding process.
He scored four game-winning goals last year, and had 10 points (two goals, eight assists) on a poor Dallas power play. As he matures, and the Stars put more young talent around him like Loui Eriksson, he'll see his point continue to climb with his paychecks.
Nathan Horton, F
2009-10 Stats: 65 GP, 57 Pts (20 G, 37 A), -1
The move from Florida to Boston might not treat Horton's wardrobe very well in December, but in April he could be pleasantly surprised by his production totals.
Last year, despite playing on a bad Panthers team and missing 17 games, Horton scored four game-winning goals and 11 points (seven goals, four assists) on the power play. As Boston looks to step up their offense with a new group of younger forwards, Horton could see his production go up to around 75 points if he can stay healthy.
Kimmo Timonen, D
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 39 Pts (six goals, 33 assists), -2
Timonen isn't as... social... as Chris Pronger, so he doesn't get the same amount of attention on Philadelphia's blue line. But that doesn't change his impact on the ice for the Flyers.
Last year, Timonen's 10.4 GVT ranked 79th in the league and he scored 19 points (one goal, 18 assists) on the power play. With Pronger, Timonen carried a heavy workload in the postseason last year while the two skated against opponents' top lines as well as on both special teams.
At 35, it isn't clear how much longer Timonen and Pronger can continue to pull long nights at the office. But as long as he's performing at the level he showed last year, the Flyers will have a solid defense.
Jamie Langenbrunner, F
2009-10 Stats: 81 GP, 61 Pts (19 G, 42 A), +6
The captain of the Devils will have to deal with a lot of questions regarding Ilya Kovalchuk this season, and he'll undoubtedly handle them with ease. Langenbrunner is just one of many respected veteran captains on this list that are still producing at a high level.
Last year, Langenbrunner's GVT of 11.3 ranked 65th in the league, and he scored four game-winning goals. His role could change this year, but his production should be consistent around the 60-point mark.
Simon Gagne, F
2009-10 Stats: 58 GP, 40 Pts (17 G, 23 A), -1
Of all the faces and names that left the two rosters that battled for the Stanley Cup, perhaps the most impactful is Gagne. He was dealt to the Lightning in a cost-cutting move, and will join an exciting group of forwards in Tampa.
He scored four game-winning goals in his limited action last year, and was one of the better Flyers in the postseason last year. For what he gave up, Steve Yzerman may have made a great deal to bolster Tampa's offense.
Wayne Simmonds, F
2009-10 Stats: 78 GP, 40 Pts (16 G, 24 A), +22
Simmonds is loved by management in LA, and for good reason. He doesn't make a lot of big mistakes with the puck, which is what a 21-year-old on a talented young roster needs to do to stick around in the NHL.
His 116 PIM led the team by a wide margin, but his plus-minus did as well. He averaged just 14:29 per night for the Kings, but could see his playing time increase this year. Even without a power play point, his 9.1 GVT was very respectable.
Johan Franzen, F
2009-10 Stats: 27 GP, 21 Pts (10 G, 11 A), +1
Franzen is a force when he's on the ice, but he missed a big part of last year because of injuries.
As the playoffs progressed, Franzen looked better every game; he accounted for a team-high 18 points in the postseason. If he can get his legs under him in the coming season, Wings fans should expect him to get back to being the player that posted over 50 points in 2008-09.
Dave Bolland, F
2009-10 Stats: 39 GP, 16 Pts (6 G, 10 A), +5
What Bolland did during the regular season last year should be thrown out, especially after his postseason performances. He was matched up against every team's top offensive line, and successfully shut down the Sedins and Joe Thornton before making life miserable for Mike Richards.
Bolland has the ability to score, and showed it at times in the postseason. He had two short-handed goals in the playoffs, and scored as many points in the postseason as he did in his abbreviated regular campaign.
Bolland figures to be checking line center for the Hawks next year, but don't sleep on his abilities with the puck.
Mike Fisher, F
2009-10 Stats: 79 GP, 53 Pts (25 G, 23 A), +1
He's a solid player who could draw some interest at the trade deadline this year. His 11.5 GVT ranked surprisingly high (58th) last year, and his six game-winning goals is also an impressive number.
However, the most impressive part of Fisher's game is that he turned a country singer into Princess Leia—Carrie Underwood became Carrie Fisher.
TJ Oshie, F
2009-10 Stats: 76 GP, 48 Pts (18 G, 30 A), -1
On a fairly bad St. Louis team, Oshie showed flashes of brilliance last year. He scored three game-winning goals for the Blues last year, and his 9.8 GVT ranked 86th in the league. His biggest struggles appeared to be in back-to-back games, so having a full NHL season under his belt could make a big impact.
It doesn't help young players in St. Louis to be in the Central Division, either, where the Blackhawks, Red Wings and Predators all have exceptional defensive groups.
Wojtek Wolski, F
2009-10 Stats: 80 GP, 65 Pts (23 G, 42 A), +21
Wolski was having a strong season when he was dealt to Phoenix by the Avalanche. Then he blew up.
At only 24, he could become the face of the Coyotes franchise as Shane Doan skates into the sunset of his career. Wolski combined to score five game-winning goals last year between his two stops, but will be at the heart of the Coyotes forwards this season.
Nik Antropov, F
2009-10 Stats: 76 GP, 67 Pts (24 G, 43 A), +13
On a team that unloads every good player they get their hands on, it's a miracle that Antropov is still in Atlanta. It's also miraculous that his plus-minus had a pulse, considering their record.
But Antropov has seen a steady increase in his production for three straight years, and appears to be in line for perhaps a 75-80 point season with the Blackhawks castaways playing with him. His 11.4 GVT ranked 61st in the league last year, and he added four game-winners.
If he's on a line with Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane or Dustin Byfuglien for a full season, Antropov could have a stellar season in front of him.
John Tavares, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 54 Pts (24 G, 30 A), -15
If not for Tyler Myers and the Islanders being so bad, Tavares may have received even more attention for a rookie campaign that compares favorably to Patrick Kane and Steven Stamkos.
Despite being a teenager, Tavares had 25 points (11 G, 14 A) on the power play. With time, and if the Islanders can surround him with more young talent, Tavares could be another solid No. 1 overall draft pick.
Loui Eriksson, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 71 Pts (29 G, 42 A), -4
There is a changing of the guard taking place in Dallas, and Eriksson could be at the heart of a new group of forwards to take the Stars forward. His 13.0 GVT ranked 43rd overall last year, and he scored six game-winning goals.
If he can avoid developing the same bad habits as Brad Richards (read: not playing defense), Eriksson could be a 35 goal-85 point player soon. With Mike Modano out of town, he'll certainly get more chances.
Jason Spezza, F
2009-10 Stats: 60 GP, 57 Pts (23 G, 34 A), -1
Spezza was another player who was popular in the summer trade rumors, and with good reason. Despite being limited to 60 games, he still ranked 67th in the NHL with an 11.2 GVT, and had five game-winning goals. He also added 24 points (11 G, 13 A) on the power play.
If Ottawa truly wants to deal him, Spezza could bring a solid return on the trade market. However, with an aging roster it may not be in their best interests to deal a player that could score over 30 goals this season.
Milan Hejduk, F
2009-10 Stats: 56 GP, 44 Pts (23 G, 21 A), +6
One of very few players on the Avs roster over 30, Hejduk was very productive despite missing 26 games last year. His 9.5 GVT still ranked 90th in the league, and he pitched in four game-winning goals in the limited action.
Of his 44 points, 17 came on the power play (eight goals, nine assists). With all the young talent in Denver, if Hejduk can stay healthy he could challenge for 30 goals and 70 points.
Brian Campbell, D
2009-10 Stats: 68 GP, 38 Pts (7 G, 31 A), +18
Campbell was actually having one of the better seasons of his career when he was lost for the final 12 games of the season to an Alex Ovechkin check from behind. His 11.4 GVT ranked 63rd in the NHL, and he was playing good defense on top of his usually exceptional puck moving and skating.
While the Blackhawks lost some of their forward depth this summer, they'll have six of their top seven defensemen back from last year. With Campbell next to Niklas Hjalmarsson, the Hawks might have one of the best 3-4 combos on the blue line in the league again this year.
The only draw back with Campbell is his enormous cap number, which might make him trade bait in the near future considering the organizational depth Chicago has coming up on defense.
Jason Pominville, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 62 Pts (24 G, 38 A), +13
Pominville gets lost behind the flash of Ryan Miller and the shadow of Tyler Myers, but he's quietly one fo the two top scoring options for the Sabres (with Derek Roy).
Last season, Pominville had two game-winning goals and 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) on the power play while posting a strong 13.4 GVT, good for 40th overall.
Patrice Bergeron, F
2009-10 Stats: 73 GP, 52 Pts (19 G, 33 A), +6
Bergeron is an exceptional defensive forward who brought a lot more than 53 points to the ice for the Bruins last year. He's a force on the PK, and still added four game-winning goals last year. You might say he's the antithesis of Brad Richards.
With Tyler Seguin likely being added to the mix in Boston this year, Bergeron could see better scoring chances next year.
Dustin Penner, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 63 Pts (32 G, 31 A), +6
Penner stood alone on the scoring sheet for a bad Oilers team last year, but that should change with Taylor Hall coming to town this year.
And yet, while he was clearly the only real scoring option on the ice most nights for Edmonton, Penner still posted strong numbers. His 13.0 GVT ranked 44th overall last year, and he posted 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in limited power play opportunities.
Furthermore, on the worst team in the league, how can we hold only one game-winning goal against him when, well, the Oilers just didn't give him many opportunities to win games?
Between Penner and Hall, 2010-11 should have a few more bright spots in the coming years.
Derek Roy, F
2009-10 Stats: 80 GP, 69 Pts (26 G, 43 A), +6
Roy (NOT pronounced "wah") was solid across the board for the Sabres last year.
He posted a 14.3 GVT, which ranked 34th in the NHL, and scored six game-winning goals. He contributed 25 points (10 G, 15 A) on the power play as well.
As the Sabres look to improve on their performance from last year, Roy will be look at in the middle of the action.
Dan Boyle, D
2009-10 Stats: 76 GP, 58 Pts (15 G, 43 A), +6
With Rob Blake skating into retirement, Boyle becomes the old man on the blue line in San Jose. When the Sharks rolled the dice and gave Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson an offer sheet, they indicated that there was room for improvement among their defensemen. Hjalmarsson stayed put, and the Sharks still need to bolster their defense.
For Boyle, the expectations may be that he picks up where Blake left off, but he isn't getting younger. While his 12.7 GVT ranked 48th last year, and he added 29 power play points (six goals, 23 assists), Boyle may be asked to do more than he's able to accomplish this season for the Sharks.
Matt Duchene, F
2009-10 Stats: 81 GP, 55 Pts (24 G, 31 A), +1
Duchene, at only 19, could become the face of the Avalanche just as Joe Sakic was for years. As a rookie (and teenager), Duchene scored two game-winning goals, posted a 7.8 GVT, ad had 21 points (10 G, 11 A) on the power play. These are all good numbers at any age, but especially for a would-be college freshman.
If Pete Mueller locks in with Colorado, the Avs could have a talented group of young forwards similar to where Chicago was a couple years ago. The centerpiece of their talent moving forward, though, is Duchene.
Jack Johnson, D
2009-10 Stats: 80 GP, 36 Pts (8 G, 28 A), -15
Once his coach got done trashing the University of Michgan, Johnson was able to move forward with his development on the blue line for the Kings, where he and Drew Doughty could be a couple of long-term stars for the Kings.
The only trick for Johnson, though, is staying in the picture for the Kings while they try to lock up Doughty with a big money contract. It's hard to imagine LA moving a 23-year-old defenseman as capable as Johnson, but two years ago nobody thought Dion Phanuef would ever wear anything but a Calgary sweater.
Ryan Suter, D
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 37 Pts (4 G, 33 A), +4
Suter's confidence increased after a solid performance representing the US in the Olympics, and the Predators will expect even more from him this year with Dan Hamhuis being dealt.
His role in Nashville wasn't nearly what was expected from him in Vancouver with the Olympic team, and the move of Hamhuis could indicate that the Preds are ready for him to take a more primary role on the blue line next year. I don't think 50 points is out of the question for Suter in 2010-11.
Patrik Elias, F
2009-10 Stats: 58 GP, 48 Pts (19 G, 29 A), +18
The lost story in the Kovalchuk debacle in New Jersey has been Elias' name surfacing in trade rumors, as the Devils will reportedly look to dump salary to accommodate both Kovalchuk and, in theory, a long-term deal for Zach Parise.
And while Elias may be getting older, and he missed significant time last year, he is still an effective player. His 11.7 GVT ranked 57th last year, and he won four games for the Devils despite missing 24 contests.
The question marks surrounding Elias entering this season, though, center on what his role will be, and whether or not that role is in New Jersey.
Troy Brouwer, F
2009-10 Stats: 78 GP, 40 Pts (22 G, 18 A), +9
Pop quiz: In the 2009-10 regular season, who led the Chicago Blackhawks in game-winning goals?
Was it Patrick Kane? Patrick Sharp? Marian Hossa? Jonathan Toews?
No. It was Brouwer, with seven winners.
Brouwer exploded on the stat sheet for the Hawks last year, ranking second among their forwards in hits and establishing career highs in almost every category, including his 22 goals.
With the departures up front for the defending champions, Brouwer will be asked to play a more prominent role and may find himself as the power forward-of-choice skating with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. If that's the case, he'll establish a whole new set of career highs in the coming season.
Jussi Jokinen, F
2009-10 Stats: 81 GP, 65 Pts (30 G, 35 A), +3
Jokinen skates in the shadow of Eric Staal, but he is a legitimate scoring threat. His 14.3 GVT ranked 33rd in the NHL last year, and he added six game-winning goals and 24 points (10 G, 14 A) on the power play.
Carolina is trying to redefine itself around Jokinen and Staal, and appear to have found two solid forward to centerpiece their rebuilding.
Alexandre Burrows, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 67 Pts (35 G, 32 A), +34
On face value, Burrows' production from last year deserves a higher ranking than 60th overall. His 18.1 GVT ranked 17th last year, and he added three game-winning goals for the division champion Canucks.
But there are a few considerations behind placing him here.
First, Burrows production was the best of his career last year and he was definitely the prime beneficiary of Daniel Sedin missing action last year. He had six points on the power play last year, while entering last season he had only two in 288 career games.
Secondly, and most importantly, Burrows had surgery this summer on a torn labrum, and the Canucks reportedly have no timetable for a return. If his rehab is anything close to Marian Hossa's last year, it could be Thanksgiving or later for Burrows to return to the ice.
Because he'll miss part of the 2010-11 season, and because his role figures to change this year, Burrows' production figures to take a big step back this year.
Marc Savard, F
2009-10 Stats: 41 GP, 33 Pts (10 G, 23 A), +2
After missing most of last year after a nasty injury, Savard was the most popular trade rumor-driving name of the summer. From Toronto to LA, Savard has been rumored to be headed anywhere but back to Boston for most of the summer, but remains a Bruin today.
In his limited action last year, Savard still put up impressive numbers. His 7.0 GVT is a strong number for 41 games, and his 17 power play points (six goals, 11 assists) is very good for half a season.
How, and where, Tyler Seguin breaks into the Boston rotation will play a role in how Savard's numbers look next year... and where he is producing.
Patric Hornqvist, F
2009-10 Stats: 80 GP, 51 Pts (30 G, 21 A), +18
The question that will haunt Preds fans (and some Blackhawks fans) is what if Hornqvist was healthy in the 2010 playoffs? Nashville gave Chicago all they could handle in the first round of their eventual championship run, and they did it without their best scorer.
Hornqvist signed a three-year extension to keep him in Nashville, where the young pieces around him should continue to mature. His 11.9 GVT ranked 55th overall last year, and he added eight game-winning goals.
Indeed, Hornqvist is one of the reasons hockey fans in Nashville can be excited for the coming season.
Shane Doan, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 55 Pts (18 G, 37 A), +3
Doan is one of the most respected players in the game, and is loved as the long-time captain of the Coyotes. He plays a strong two-way game, and could see his numbers increase with a better, younger team around him this year.
His point total isn't as impressive as some on the list, and his 6.4 GVT didn't crack the top 100. But what he brings to the ice in leadership every night is worthy of being ranked among hockey's elite. If you watch Doan play for three or four nights, you'll see that he deserves to be ranked beyond the face value of his statistics.
Chris Stewart, F
2009-10 Stats: 77 GP, 64 Pts (28 G, 36 A), +4
Stewart may pass Paul Stastny to lead the team in scoring this year, and is one of the young players that have hockey fans in Denver excited about the future.
His 12.0 GVT ranked 54th last year, and he added five game-winning goals. As he matures with Matt Duchene, Stastny and the other Avs, Stewart could become a 90-point player in the future.
Tyler Myers, D
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 48 Pts (11 G, 37 A), +13
The 2010 Calder Trophy winner from Buffalo is a tall defenseman that reminds many of Zdeno Chara. He had a similar season to Chara last year as well: Myers had more points (48) than Chara, but they each had 16 points on the power play and Chara's GVT was nearly identical to Myers (both rounded to 14.6, witch Chara ranking one place higher than Myers).
In an Eastern Conference loaded with scorers, the trick for Myers in 2010-11 will be to build on his strong rookie season and get better in front of Ryan Miller. If he can do that, the Sabres will be dangerous.
Zdeno Chara, D
2009-10 Stats: 80 GP, 44 Pts (7 G, 37 A), +19
Chara is one of the more consistent defensemen in the game, something every captain should hope to be. What is perhaps the most impressive about Chara is his 14.6 GVT ranked 29th in the league last year, and his plus-19 rating is exceptional considering 16 of his 44 points came with a man advantage.
But at 33, Chara is starting to be eclipsed by some younger defensemen around the league. He ended his reign as the Norris Trophy winner when Chicago's Duncan Keith won the award this spring, and he was unfortunately part of an epic implosion in Boston this spring.
Dion Phaneuf, D
2009-10 Stats: 81 GP, 32 Pts (12 G, 20 A), +1
Last year wasn't the best for Phaneuf. First he was passed over for the Canadian Olympic roster, then he was traded out of Calgary where, for most of the last four years, he was as untouchable as any player in the game.
But a change of scenery might be just what the doctor ordered for Phaneuf, who is still only 25 and has been a finalist for the Norris Trophy almost every year he's been in the league.
He showed a spark in Toronto last year that the Flames hadn't seen before the deal, and he'll be the captain for the Leafs this coming season. With a young, improved roster including Kris Versteeg and Phil Kessel with him, Phaneuf could rebound and have another great season this year.
Brad Richards, F
2009-10 Stats: 80 GP, 91 Pts (24 G, 67 A), -12
Richards was exceptional with the man advantage, scoring 40 points (13 G, 27 A) on the power play last year. His 14.6 GVT ranked 31st in the league last year, and his 91 points were among the league's top 10.
There's always a but...
The only issue with Richards is that he is so one-dimensional. Almost half his points came on the power play, and his plus-minus reflects the worst number of any player that scored at least 71 points last year; in fact, it's double the Evgeni's Malkin's minus-six, the second-worst mark above 71 points.
With Mike Modano in Detroit, Richards will be asked to carry more of the load on and off the ice for the Stars.
Mike Cammalleri, F
2009-10 Stats: 65 GP, 50 Pts (26 G, 24 A), +7
On a team that struggled to put the puck in the net last year, Cammalleri was one of the few that was effective in a Habs sweater last year. Despite missing 17 games, he still scored four game-winners and added 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) on the power play.
If Montreal can get a couple other players to jump past the 50-point mark next year, Cammalleri would benefit and could be a 30-35 goal scorer.
Jeff Carter, F
2009-10 Stats: 74 GP, 61 Pts (33 G, 28 A), +2
Carter played through a couple nagging injuries down the stretch and into the playoffs, but ultimately helped lead the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals.
One-third of his 33 goals came with a man advantage, as Carter scored 22 points (11 G, 11 A) on the power play last year. He also had six game-winning goals for Philly last year, and his 13.3 GVT ranked 42nd overall last year.
In the wake of Simon Gagne's departure, there will be even more expected from Carter this season.
Mikko Koivu, F
2009-10 Stats: 80 GP, 71 Pts (22 G, 49 A), -2
The Wild captain signed a long-term extension earlier this summer, keeping him in Minnesota as the foundation for a building project. The deal that brought Guillaume Latendresse to the Wild last year worked out incredibly well, and he could help Koivu's numbers to improve next year.
Koivu's 15.3 GVT ranked 23rd in the NHL last year, but he added only two game-winning goals. With improved talent around him, including Latendresse and Cam Barker and a healthy (hopefully) Martin Havlat, Koivu could be poised to break 80 points next year.
Paul Stastny, F
2009-10 Stats: 81 GP, 79 Pts (20 G, 59 A), +2
Stastny was the old man on the Avs roster during last year's playoff run, with kids like Matt Duchene, Chris Stewart and Peter Mueller all coming into their own down the stretch. After the trade that brought Mueller in from Phoenix, the Avs were able to put together a strong run to get into the playoffs, despite most of their best players being under 25.
Mueller still needs a new deal, but if/when he re-signs in Denver the young forwards for the Avalanche will be a headache for opponents. Stastny's 11.2 GVT ranked 68th last year, but will improve with the young pieces around him gaining more experience.
Jordan Staal, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 49 Pts (21 G, 28 A), +19
The intrigue heading into the coming season in Pittsburgh is whether or not Staal will stay the third-best center on the roster, or if the Pens bump Evgeni Malkin to wing next to Staal to boost the offense.
Jordan, one of the many Staals to make the list, posted strong numbers despite drawing the top lines of the Pens opponents every night. His 12.4 GVT ranked 49th in the league last year, and his plus-minus was driven by strong even-strength play; he had only five points (one goal, four assists) while on the power play last year.
If he skates with Malkin next year, 60+ points is not out of the question.
Joe Thornton, F
2009-10 Stats: 79 GP, 89 Pts (20 G, 69 A), +17
Thornton will carry the burden of playoff failure at the top of his legacy over all the elite scoring numbers he puts up simply because he hasn't been able to get over the hump yet. After a devastating four-game elimination at the hands of the Blackhawks to end last season, he will be a mission to change that this year.
With only two game-winning goals, Thornton was far from San Jose's most clutch player last year; Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski all had more winners last year. And while Thornton added 29 points (four goals, 25 assists) on the power play, his 16.7 GVT was good enough to rank 21st in the NHL last year.
However, despite all his lofty numbers, he isn't even one of the three best players on his own roster.
Joe Pavelski, F
2009-10 Stats: 67 GP, 51 Pts (25 G, 26 A), +1
Early in the 2010 playoffs, Pavelski emerged from the huge shadow of the Marleau-Thornton-Heatley line as a legitimate offensive threat, leading the Sharks to the Conference Finals while, for the most part, teams shut out "Big Joe" Thornton.
Indeed, Pavelski was better in the clutch all season than Thornton, scoring more than twice as many game-winning goals (five) as Thornton (two) while serving as the rock on the Sharks' checking line.
Brent Seabrook, D
2009-10 Stats: 78 GP, 30 pts (4 G, 26 A), +20
One might argue that Seabrook is the Scottie Pippen on the Blackhawks' blue line, pairing with Duncan Keith to be arguably the best duo in the NHL. But his skills are perfectly complimentary to those of Keith.
Seabrook dealt with two separate concussion issues during the season last year, the second of which came after a hit from former-Blackhawk James Wisniewski in Anaheim. The weird part of the story that followed the hit, and Wisniewski's suspension, is that Seabrook was a groomsman in Wiz's wedding this summer!
Just 10 months from restricted free agency, Seabrook getting paid will undoubtedly be priority No. 1 for Stan Bowman. Seabrook pitched in two game-winning goals last year, but led the team in hits and is one of the primary penalty killers on the roster. His GVT of 11.1 ranked 69th last year, which is impressive for a player that doesn't put up overwhelming offensive numbers.
Corey Perry, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 76 Pts (27 G, 49 A), E
Perry, with Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf, is part of a young core that Anaheim hopes will stay healthy in 2010-11 and take them deep into the playoffs.
Last year, Perry's GVT of 10.9 ranked 72nd overall, and he scored just two game-winning goals but added 23 points (six goals, 17 assists) on the power play.
His play will be central to any success in Anaheim this year.
Phil Kessel, F
2009-10 Stats: 70 GP, 55 Pts (30 G, 25 A), -8
While Boston fans will enjoy Tyler Seguin and other future stars selected with picks acquired in the trade that sent Kessel to Toronto, Brian Burke knew that he needed a centerpiece to build around. At only 22, Kessel is at least a full decade from being "washed up" by any definition, he simply needs playmakers around him to be more successful.
He should have that year.
Kessel was almost the entire offense in Toronto last year, but the full-time additions of Kris Versteeg, Tyler Bozak and perhaps some of the game's better prospects (Kadri?) will give the Leafs a blossoming group of forwards. The addition of Dion Phaneuf on the blue line also gives the Leafs great talent there as well.
It will be interesting to see how Toronto puts together their lines in 2010-11, but if Kessel and Versteeg are on the ice together it will be a lot of fun for Leafs fans to watch this year. Kessel scored five game-winning goals last year, and his GVT of 10.7 ranked just 75th last year, but the improved roster around him should see those numbers increase this season.
Vincent Lecavalier, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 70 Pts (24 G, 46 A), -16
Vinny was the headliner in Tampa for so long, having two other Lightning players ranked higher than him feels odd. It also feels like he should be at least 45 years old because he's been playing so long.
Lecavalier didn't have his best season last year, and his cap number might lead new-Tampa GM Steve Yzerman to consider moving his captain at some point in the next year so he can afford to extend Steven Stamkos. But Lecavalier was still a productive player last year.
He scored three game-winning goals and added 25 points (five goals, 20 assists) on the power play last year. However, what is shocking is that Vinny's GVT was not in the Top 100 for skaters last year (9.2). His plus-minus is poor enough that it could certainly be an indication that he needs to play defense more in the coming season.
Rick Nash, F
2009-10 Stats: 76 GP, 67 Pts (33 G, 34 A), -2
Nash was a one-man show for a lot of last season a struggling Columbus team. He posted a 13.7 GVT, which ranked 36th overall last year, including six game-winning goals and 22 points (10 G, 12 A) on the power play.
Considering his size and physical play, the young captain of the Jackets should improve this season if Nikita Filatov joins him in Ohio.
Dustin Brown, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 56 Pts (24 G, 32 A), -6
On a loaded, young roster in LA, Brown is the captain of a team that could be one or two years away from taking a trip very similar to what fans saw from the Chicago Blackhawks last season.
Brown is a respected captain who is working through the growing pains of being part of one of the game's youngest rosters. If the Kings can find a wing to skate next to him, he could be a 70-point player this year.
Kris Versteeg, F
2009-10 Stats: 79 GP, 44 Pts (20 G, 24 A), +8
Posting Versteeg this high will probably surprise a lot of people, but his development in Chicago was evident as he assumed different roles in the late stages of the regular season and into the playoffs. He handled faceoffs at times, killed penalties, and made a number of highlight-reel moves to score at critical times as he helped the Hawks win the Stanley Cup.
But now he's in Toronto, one of the many departures from the Hawks roster this summer.
Leafs fans will be thrilled to see Versteeg's abilities with Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and the other talented young forwards Toronto has coming. Now that he isn't fighting names like Toews, Kane, Sharp and Hossa for playing time, Versteeg could be a 70-75 point player in the not-too-distant future.
Jarome Iginla, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 69 Pts (32 G, 37 A), -2
Unfortunately, Iginla continues to prop up a Flames organization that makes a number of questionable moves every year. However, with his age increasing and his production sliding the opposite direction, it looks like Iginla's best days might be in the rear view mirror.
Iginla's GVT (11.3) ranked only 66th overall in the league last year, but he did contribute five game-winning goals and 22 points (10 G, 11 A) on the power play last year.
Henrik Zetterberg, F
2009-10 Stats: 74 GP, 70 Pts (23 G, 47 A), +12
Zetterberg missed some time last year because of injury, making him one of the many forwards that missed time for the Wings. He still posted almost a point per game, including six game-winners, and added 22 points (three goals, 19 assists) on the power play.
Like so many great Red Wings of the past decade, Zetterberg plays a strong two-way game that is reflected in a 13.3 GVT, which ranked 41st overall last year.
Daniel Alfredsson, F
2009-10 Stats: 70 GP, 71 Pts (20 G, 51 A), +8
Alfredsson is one of the most respected and loved players in the league, and his production measures up with the level of respect he has earned with the fans in Ottawa.
His 14.8 GVT ranked 28th in the NHL last year, including five game-winning goals and 31 points (four goals, 27 assists) on the power play.
The best of Alfie's career is behind him, but he's still an effective player.
Shea Weber, D
2009-10 Stats: 78 GP, 43 Pts (16 G, 27 A), E
Weber is one of the less-heralded defensemen in the game who is quietly developing into a force. His 11.4 GVT ranked just 64th last year, but he added three game-winning goals from the blue line and 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) on the power play last year.
There will be some changes for the Preds this year, with Dan Hamhuis moving in a deal that brought Ryan Parent back from Philadelphia. Weber is another name in a long line of strong defensemen in the Central Division.
Brian Rafalski, D
2009-10 Stats: 78 GP, 42 pts (8 G, 34 A), +23
Rafalski continues to be one of the best defensemen in the game, as is evident by his plus-minus being so close to his point total for the season. He added 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) on the power play, and his 12.7 GVT ranked 45th in the NHL last year.
Rafalski combines with Nicklas Lidstrom to lead one of the best penalty killing units in the game, and it was the Wings defense that got them through some rough stretches with a lot of injuries last year.
Bobby Ryan, F
2009-10 Stats: 81 GP, 64 Pts (35 G, 29 A), +9
Ryan is a wild card in Anaheim because he has a great scoring touch, but doesn't have a long-term contract in place. At just 23, he might be an option for an offer sheet next summer if the Ducks don't trade him or lock him up first.
On a talented roster, his 12.7 GVT ranked 46th overall last year while he added 21 points (11 G, 10 A) on the power play. Three of his 35 goals won a game last year as well.
Tomas Plekanec, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 70 Pts (25 G, 45 A), +5
Plekanec had to wait until the end of the season to received a nice extension from the Habs, but he's not locked in for Montreal for the next few years.
He's a solid shooter who didn't have much scoring around him last year, but could see a drastic improvement next year. He scored five game-winning goals, and added 24 points (three goals, 21 assists) on the power play. His 13.4 GVT ranked 37th in the NHL last year.
Mike Richards, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 62 Pts (31 G, 31 A), -2
Richards is the captain in Philadelphia for a reason, playing a strong two-way game with a stat line that reflects his balanced game. He had 31 points on the power play last year (13 G, 18 A) and three game-winning goals.
Because of injuries and inconsistent play in the beginning of the season, Richards GVT was only 12.4, good for just 50th overall last season. He was a strong contributor for Canada in the Olympics and is a respected captain, though, and could have a strong bounce-back season this year.
Eric Staal, F
2009-10 Stats: 70 GP, 70 Pts (29 G, 41 A), +4
Eric is the highest rated Staal on the list. Which says alot.
For Eric, the issue is staying on the ice. He averaged one point per game last year on a team that wasn't very good, and somehow maintained a positive plus-minus in the process. His 13.4 GVT ranked 39th overall last year.
He scored five game-winning goals last year, and added 23 points (13 G, 10 A) on the power play.
Patrick Sharp, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 66 Pts (25 G, 41 A), +24
The recently-married Sharp had his best season in the NHL last year, and could improve last season's totals by centering a line with either Marian Hossa or Patrick Kane for a full season next year.
He regularly plays the point for the Hawks power play, on which he scored 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) last year, which plays a role in his frequent appearances in trade rumors. Considering his $3.9M cap number, Sharp is perhaps one of the most popular names in any trade scenario in the league.
But his value to the Blackhawks is unquestioned, and he was given assurance this summer that he will be in Chicago for at least the coming season. His GVT of 12.4 ranked 32nd in the NHL last year.
Travis Zajac, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 67 Pts (25 G, 42 A), +22
Zajac and Patrick Sharp are two of the most under rated centers in the NHL, winning over 50 percent of their faceoffs while putting up solid points and an exceptional plus-minus. Zajac added four game-winning goals and 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) on the power play. His 15.0 GVT ranked 27th in the NHL last year as well.
Dany Heatley, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 82 Pts (39 G, 43 A), +14
Heatley was picked up by the Sharks to bolster their offense and he did exactly that, joining Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton on a line that was taken as a unit onto the Canadian Olympic roster.
Heatley's nine game-winning goals is the highest total on the list, and his 16.7 GVT ranked 20th overall in the NHL last year.
Martin St. Louis, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 94 Pts (29 G, 65 A), -8
St. Louis has experienced a career renaissance with Mr. Stamkos in Tampa, and had a fantastic scoring season last year with seven game-winning goals. His 16.4 GVT ranked 22nd overall in the NHL, and his 30 assists on the power play is a huge number.
After the Lightning acquired Simon Gagne this summer, though, there will undoubtedly be continued whispers about the availability of St. Louis; Stamkos needs a new contract after the 2010-11 season, and clearly the 15-year age difference will play a role in new GM Steve Yzerman's decision.
Ryan Getzlaf, F
2009-10 Stats: 66 GP, 69 Pts (19 G, 50 A), +4
Getzlaf was on a tear last year before hurting his ankle just prior to the Olympics. He still represented Canada in Vancouver, but he wasn't as effective after the break.
Despite missing time last year, Getzlaf posted five game-winning goals and his 13.4 GVT ranked 38th in the NHL last year. If the Ducks can somehow keep Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan with Getzlaf, they'll have a loaded offense for years. But with the current cap structure, they have their work cut out for them.
Marian Gaborik, F
2009-10 Stats: 76 GP, 86 Pts (42 G, 44 A), +15
Gaborik is smooth on the ice and finds ways to get the puck to the net. His 20.4 GVT ranked 11th overall last year, and he added four game-winning goals to the mix last year.
He'll need some help in New York this year, though, with the powerful Devils across the river. If he can stay healthy, he could be headed for a 100-point season for the Rangers.
Mike Green, D
2009-10 Stats: 75 GP, 76 Pts (19 G, 57 A), +39
Green is the top scoring defenseman in the NHL (again), but the questions remain about his defense. He posted four game-winning goals, 35 points (10 G, 25 A) on the power play, and the sixth-ranked GVT (22.0) in the NHL last year, all numbers that look more like a forward than a guy who's playing the blue line.
With mounting cap concerns in Washington, the perennial Norris Trophy Finalist might find himself in as many trade rumors as he does Geico commercials.
Chris Pronger, D
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 55 Pts (10 G, 45 A), +22
He raised eyebrows after games as quickly as he does blood pressure on the ice, but there is no denying Pronger's effectiveness. His 18.5 GVT ranked 16th in the NHL last year, and he added almost half his points (26 - five goals, 21 assists) on the power play.
After an epic series against the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals this spring, Pronger had some work done on his legs. As the league continues to "investigate" his contract extension in Philly, Pronger will undoubtedly continue to be a force for the Flyers.
Daniel Sedin, F
2009-10 Stats: 63 GP, 85 Pts (29 G, 56 A), +36
Imagine if Daniel had been healthy all year? He posted 85 points in only 63 games, had a ridiculous +36 rating, and still managed to get into the top ten in the league with a 21.2 GVT. He also pitched in eight game-winning goals, leading the Canucks and the highest total in the top 20 on this list.
Nicklas Lidstrom, D
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 49 Pts (9 G, 40 A), +22
Sure, call him "Old Man." So what if he's twice as old as Drew Doughty?
Lidstom is one of only three defenseman to make my top 20, and he still deserves top billing. While the Red Wings were dealing with a handful of crucial injuries up front last year, it was the stellar play on their blue line that carried them through and into the playoffs again.
Lidstrom is an unquestioned first-ballot Hall of Famer, and continues to show kids how the game is played. As long as he's working the blue line with Rafalski and Company, the Red Wings will be a tough match for everyone. He was still good enough to post a 15.0 GVT last year, good for 26th in the NHL last year.
Ryan Kesler, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 75 Pts (25 G, 50 A), +1
Kesler has been overshadowed by Roberto Luongo and the Sedin brothers in Vancouver for long enough. Quietly, he has developed into one of the best defensive forwards in the game, and his scoring has kept up with the defensive production.
He had as many game-winning goals as Henrik Sedin did last year (five), and added 26 points (12 G, 14 A) on the power play. His strong defensive play contributed to a 15.3 GVT, which ranked 24th in the NHL last year.
Marian Hossa, F
2009-10 Stats: 57 GP, 51 Pts (24 G, 27 A), +24
Hossa signed a large (and questionable) contract with the Blackhawks before last season, and then sat out until Thanksgiving because of summer shoulder surgery. When he was on the ice, though, he was dominant.
He tied with Patrick Sharp for the team high in plus-minus, and considering his +24 was in 57 games it's almost Washington-Capitals-silly. Also amazing to consider is the amount of production Hossa contributed with only seven points (two goals, five assists) coming on the power play.
His GVT of 15.0 ranked 25th in the NHL last year, and he played a strong two-way game in the postseason. This time, however, he wasn't a bridesmaid... after losing with two different teams the two previous seasons in the Stanley Cup Finals, Hossa finally raised the Cup.
Evgeni Malkin, F
2009-10 Stats: 67 GP, 77 Pts (28 G, 49 A), -6
Malkin has been a hot-button name this summer for a number of reasons. There were the token trade rumors involving the former Conn Smythe Award winner. There has also been a good deal of discussion surrounding a potential position change for Malkin, moving him to a wing position next to Jordan Staal this year.
No matter what happens, Malkin is a force up front for the Pens. He had more game-winning goals last year (seven) than Sidney Crosby (six) in 14 fewer games, and managed to post 28 points (13 G, 15 A) on the power play.
Unfortunately for Malkin, the knock on him is his defense. His plus-minus is the lowest in the top 20 players on this list, and his GVT of 13.7 ranked just 35th in the NHL last year.
Alexander Semin, F
2009-10 Stats: 73 GP, 84 Pts (40 G, 44 A), +36
It must be nice to coach a team that has a 26-year-old that scored 84 points as the fourth or fifth-best player in many people's minds? Semin is ofter overlooked because of the numbers put up by Mike Green, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Ovechkin, but he is certainly no slouch.
In fact, Semin had more game-winners last year (five) than Backstom (four), and ranked seventh in the NHL with a 22.0 GVT. With Semin ranking seventh, the Caps had three of the top ten GVTs in the league last year.
However, with Backstrom getting extended and Ovechkin making a king's ransom of his own, there is some question regarding how long Semin will stay in Washington. He could be a very valuable commodity on the trade market this season.
Ilya Kovalchuk, F
2009-10 Stats: 76 GP, 85 Pts (41 G, 44 A), +10
The * next to Kovalchuk's team is because there is still some paperwork that needs to take place for him to formally become a member of the New Jersey Devils (again). Whether or not they want him to play until he's 44 is another issue all together.
Kovalchuk is one of the better scorers in the game; since the lockout, only Alexander Ovechkin has been better. The knock on Kovalchuk, however, has been his defense... or lack thereof. While he has no problem putting the puck in the net, his GVT of 12.0 ranked 52nd in the NHL this year.
If/When he signs in Jersey, though, he'll join an offense that's loaded with young snipers that could make a lot of noise in the East.
Patrick Kane, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 88 Pts (30 G, 58 A), +16
If the axiom that "big time players make big time plays in big time games" was ever true, it was when Kane scored the Stanley Cup-clinching goal in Philadelphia... and he was the only person in the arena that knew it happened.
Kane has certainly backed up the hype that made him the only first overall selection in the history of the Chicago Blackhawks, winning the Calder Trophy, leading the team in scoring in his second season on a playoff team and now winning the Cup in just his third year.
His 88 point are the most by a Blackhawks player since Jeremy Roenick in the mid-90s, and his 19.1 GVT ranked 13th in the NHL. He had six game-winning goals in the regular season, and 29 points (9 G, 20 A) on the power play for a strong, young Chicago offense.
Patrick Marleau, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 83 Pts (44 G, 39 A), +21
Of all the bright stars on the Sharks roster, Marleau is the best. He posted six game-winners last year and added 25 points (12 G, 13 A) on the power play. His GVT ranked 12th (19.8).
The Sharks needed to handle Marleau's contract this summer, and made quick work to make sure they had their best playmaker locked up. It will be interesting to see if San Jose breaks up the Marleau-Thornton-Heatley line in 2010-11, forcing opponents to matchup with three elite scorers.
It will also be interesting to see if the Sharks can get over the hump and win the Western Conference.
Anze Kopitar, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 81 Pts (34 G, 47 A), +6
Kopitar is a big, strong power forward that was as good as anyone in the game with a man advantage last year: he scored 14 goals and added 24 assists on the PP. He also had a solid 19.0 GVT, which ranked 14th in the NHL last year.
With Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Wayne Simmonds up front, none of whom are 26 years old yet, the Kings have a lot of firepower up front on this list. Add veteran Ryan Smyth and young defensemen Jack Johnson and Drew Doughty to the roster, and they could be dangerous in the West for years.
Drew Doughty, D
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 59 Pts (16 G, 43 A), +20
Doughty jumped in international regard when Mike Babcock paired him with Duncan Keith on Canada's gold medal-winning team in the Olympics. Even with other stars like Pronger and Keith's partner in Chicago, Seabrook, available, Babcock put the baby-faced Doughty on his shut down line and it worked.
Considering Doughty had more game-winning goals from the blue line (five) than Kopitar did as a forward (two), his production was not only elite but also timely. His GVT ranked 15th overall in the NHL last year, and he was a Norris Trophy finalist.
He also added 31 points (9 G, 22 A) on the power play, where he figures to be a force for years to come.
Zach Parise, F
2009-10 Stats: 81 GP, 82 Pts (38 G, 44 A), +24
It will be interesting to watch the dynamics up front in New Jersey this year, as Parise and Zajac welcome Kovalchuk into the mix. What's scary for the Eastern Conference is that Kovalchuk is the oldest of the three, and he's only 27 years old!
Parise scored five game-winners last year and added 26 points (9 G, 17 A) on the power play. His GVT ranked eighth last year, and he figures to only get better with time.
Pavel Datsyuk, F
2009-10 Stats: 80 GP, 70 Pts (27 G, 43 A), +17
Considered the best defensive forward in the game for the last decade, Datsyuk's plus-minus is especially impressive considering the injuries the Red Wings dealt with last season. Surprisingly, though, he ranked just 18th in GVT last season.
At 32, he continues to lead the Red Wings into the postseason year after year.
Duncan Keith, D
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 69 Pts (14 G, 55 A), +21
Winner of the Norris Trophy, an Olympic gold medal, and the Stanley Cup, Keith surprisingly had the fifth-ranked GVT in the game last year. He was also second among defenseman in scoring, behind only Mike Green.
The Blackhawks locked up Keith with a long-term extension during the season last year that will keep him in Chicago for the rest of his career. As long as he's skating with Brent Seabrook, the Blackhawks blue line will continue to be elite.
However, what Keith may be remembered for most at the end of his career was donating seven teeth to the game in the Western Conference Finals when he took a slap shot to the mouth. Not only did he leave the ice to get his face put back together, but he came back and finished the game, and then skated through the Cup Finals without a grill.
Keith is the highest rated defenseman on the list.
Nicklas Backstrom, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 101 Pts (33 G, 68 A), +37
What a luxury for the coaches in Washington! Their "second fiddle" player cracks 100 points as a 22-year-old and has the fourth-best GVT in the game, scoring more frequently than he shaves each week.
Backstrom had a great season on the power play last year, scoring 11 goals and adding 26 assists as one of the key players on the highest scoring offense in the NHL. He also added four game-winning goals last year.
Henrik Sedin, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 112 Pts (29 G, 83 A), +35
Henrik was elevated his game and led the NHL with 112 points last year, and trailed only Crosby and Ovechkin in GVT.
He scored five game-winners last year, and was excellent at even strength; only 27 of his 112 points (24 pct) were scored on the power play.
With an improved group of defensemen in Vancouver, Henrik and the rest of the Canucks could challenge for the best record in the league this season. And, with Dustin Byfuglien no longer in Chicago, there won't be as many nightmares for Roberto Luongo in the second round of the playoffs this time.
Steven Stamkos, F
2009-10 Stats: 82 GP, 95 Pts (51 G, 44 A), -2
Stamkos is the latest elite scorer to jump to the forefront in the NHL, and has the size to be a nightmare for opposing goalies for a long time. He broke the 50-goal plateau last year before he could legally celebrate the accomplishment with a cold libation or two, but was only the ninth-ranked GVT.
Maybe the most overwhelming number from Stamkos last year was his production on the power play: 41 points (24 G, 17 A)!
With Steve Yzerman now the GM in Tampa, Stamkos has the ideal role model for a long, legendary career. It's scary to consider how good he will be when he finishes puberty!
Jonathan Toews, F
2009-10 Stats: 76 GP, 68 Pts (25 G, 43 A), +22
No, Toews didn't crack 90 or 100 points last year. He had nice numbers, reaching 25 goals and boasting a solid plus-minus. He also ranked only 19th in GVT last year.
But this position in the rankings is about one overwhelming criteria: winning.
Toews is the youngest Canadian to ever win a World Juniors, World Championship and Olympic Gold. He's also the youngest member of the IIHF Triple Gold Club, winning the Worlds, Olympics and Stanley Cup. Both groups are the most exclusive in the game, and Toews, at only 22, is a member of both.
He's also (still) the youngest captain in the NHL, the youngest in the history of the Blackhawks, and was, when named, the third-youngest in the history of the league behind only Lecavalier and Sidney Crosby.
Based on his performance in the 2010 postseason, for which he won the Conn Smythe, it's safe to assume his points will come eventually. But the leadership, and winning, that he brings to the ice has never been seen before.
Alexander Ovechkin, F
2009-10 Stats: 72 GP, 109 Pts (50 G, 59 A), +45
Ovechkin scored seven game-winning goals and added 35 points (12 G, 23 A) on the power play this year while leading the Caps to the best record in the NHL. He also had the best GVT in the NHL last year (30.1).
There is no question that Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby will be 1A and 1B until they're both retired, similar to the argument between another Penguin great, Mario Lemieux, and Wayne Gretzky 20 years ago.
The greatest concern for the Capitals (and the NHL) will continue to be Ovechkin's approach to the game. He plays at break-neck speed all the time, and missed a number of games last season after injuring other players. He's a big, young, physical force on the ice, but plays hard enough every night that he risks the rest of the season, and his career.
Sidney Crosby, F
2009-10 Stats: 81 GP, 109 Pts (51 G, 58 A), +15
Crosby scored six game-winning goals in the NHL last season, but will be remembered most for his winner in the gold medal game in the Vancouver Olympics. He had 34 pts on the power play (13 G, 21 A) and his GVT of 29.4 ranked second to Ovechkin.
In this year's Winter Classic, there should be plenty of discussion about the two rivals. While Crosby's plus-minus was a staggering 30 lower than Ovechkin, and the Caps forward had the game's best GVT last year, the numbers between the two are nearly identical. Well, in every category but one: rings.
The Stanley Cup is the greatest tie-breaker there could be. If/When Ovechkin wins one, the discussion will re-open, but until then Crosby will stay atop the ranks.