Where is the love?
There are so many great players in the NHL that a few tend to get left behind in the minds of the masses.
This is a tribute to the top 25 players who don't get enough credit for what they do.
For the record, salary is irrelevant in this discussion. This is all about what a guy brings to a team every night. For example, Kimmo Timonen's $6.33 million salary didn't keep him off this list.
This season, Taylor Pyatt is probably best known as the guy Deryk Engelland knocked out. Before this, he was best known as the original Alex Burrows for playing with the Sedins.
What he's not as well known for is his scoring touch and all-around solid play.
Pyatt is on pace for the second 20-goal season of his career and this time it would be without playing on a line with the Sedin twins. He's second on the scoring-by-committee Coyotes with 12 goals.
He's also second in plus/minus on the team, with a plus-13 that's very impressive, especially considering the Coyotes team goal differential is only plus-two.
Pyatt plays a tough defensive game and chips in offensively too. He's a big part of the Coyotes team and most teams in the league would be happy to have him come playoffs.
Maybe Justin Williams is underrated because he's had so many injuries the past few seasons, or maybe it's because he tends to play with good centers (Eric Staal, Anze Kopitar), but whatever the reason is, Williams deserves more respect.
This year, Williams leads the Kings with 18 goals and is tied with Kopitar for a team-best plus-16 rating. He's also second on the team in points.
He's got great speed, slick moves and is a key part of the LA Kings.
Before this year, Tyler Kennedy has always played with Jordan Staal and Matt Cooke on perhaps the best third line in the league.
This year, with Staal out for a few months, Kennedy became a key part of the "Buzz Line" for the Pens, teaming up with Mark Letestu and Chris Conner.
The Buzz Line drives other teams crazy with their speed and cycling abilities, and it frequently scores some goals too.
Kennedy is on pace this year for a career best 38 points and has remained defensively responsible.
He's one of those players that does something each shift that generates momentum for his team, whether it's pinning the other team in its own end, blocking a shot or stealing the puck on a ferocious back-check.
It's hard to believe that the Flyers' No. 5 is only 25 years old. It feels like he's been quietly going about his business for a very long time.
Coburn isn't flashy or offensive. He's just a very reliable, second-pairing defenseman who doesn't get beaten very often and who can be physically punishing.
This season, Coburn finds himself on pace for a career best plus-25 ranking, to go along with 157 hits and 130 blocked shots.
Jarret Stoll is one of the best faceoff men in the league at 58.6-percent efficiency this season. He's responsible defensively, a very good passer and has a cannon of a shot.
Stoll often plays the point on the power play because of those skills and does so very well.
He's sixth in scoring on the Kings this year, and is an important part of their team if they're going to be successful the rest of this season.
The 35-year-old defender from Finland is still one of the best two-way defensemen in the league.
His points have been on a bit of a decline since posting back-to-back 50 point seasons for Nashville, but his all-around game is very good.
Usually playing on the Flyers' second pairing with Braydon Coburn, Timonen is responsible for shutting down the second wave of attack on Eastern Conference powerhouses such as Pittsburgh and Washington.
Timonen was a key part of the Flyers reaching the Stanley Cup finals last season, but not a part you heard much about.
Watch for him to be quietly great again this season.
Almost everyone in the league is shocked by the success of the Dallas Stars this season.
A team most people expected to miss the playoffs is leading the ultra-competitive Pacific Division, and most people are talking about Brad Richards as the main reason why.
While Richards is a key part of it, the Dallas defensive core, led by Trevor Daley, has been phenomenal.
Daley is on pace for a career-best 30 points this season, and his skating and passing ability allow Dallas to play the fast-paced transition game that they've been so successful with.
Dallas obviously knew Daley is important, and recently rewarded him with a six-year, $19.8 million contract extension.
When the Flames brought in Tim Jackman as a free agent last summer, they thought they were getting a middleweight fighter who would bring a little bit of energy to the team.
Did they ever underestimate!
Jackman has been great for the Flames this season, especially lately. He has 11 points in his last 13 games, and has been arguably the best player on the team in that stretch.
He's done all of this while only being given 8:40 of ice time per game!
Lost amongst 2009 entry draft stars John Tavares, Victor Hedman, and Matt Duchene has been the emergence of Evander Kane.
Kane is the prototypical power forward. He hits, he fights, he scores and, despite being just 19, he's quickly becoming a leader of the Atlanta Thrashers.
Funnily enough, being part of the Atlanta Thrashers is probably why he hasn't gotten much attention yet.
Kane wasn't given much hope at the start of his first training camp, but made the jump to the NHL as an 18 year old and hasn't looked back.
His defensively-responsible style led to a plus-two rating on a bad Thrashers team last season and he keeps getting better.
If this were last year, Lydman's former defense partner from Buffalo, Henrik Tallinder would be in this spot. Throughout their time in Sabres blue, most people thought Tallinder was the better defender.
The tables have turned as Tallinder, who went to New Jersey as a free agent, is a minus-18 on a Devils team that is dead last in the league.
Lydman, on the other hand, is an astounding plus-24 (good for second in the league) on a defensively weak Ducks team, and has them currently fifth in the Western Conference.
Lyman is also on pace for a career season offensively, and is playing over four more minutes per game than last season.
If the Ducks didn't have Lydman this year, it's quite possible that they would be well out of playoff contention already.
Get your head up Voracek!
Often thought of as the young guy who would replace Nick Lidstrom when he retires, Kronwall, at 30, isn't that young anymore. He's blossomed into a great NHL defenseman, and if Lidstrom ever does retire, Kronwall will capably move to the top pairing.
Kronwall's ability to deliver monstrous hits adds an element Detroit doesn't have much of, but his hits can change the momentum of a game or even a playoff series.
He's also a good quarterback on the second power-play unit, and he is second on the team in blocked shots.
If Detroit is going to have a chance at another Stanley Cup this season, Kronwall will be instrumental in shutting down premier second liners like Ryan Kesler, Patrick Marleau, Jeff Carter, or Evgeni Malkin.
Manny Malhotra wasn't the most publicized free agent signing last summer, but he just might end up being the most important.
Malhotra is one of the league's best defensive forwards, and he is incredible on faceoffs. He scores occasionally, but that's not why he's on the ice.
If the Vancouver Canucks do win the Stanley Cup this season, you can bet that Malhotra will be a key, although mainly unmentioned, part of it.
To demonstrate just how much the rest of his team values him, look at Malhotra wearing an "A" in his first season in Vancouver on a team with no shortage of candidates.
Mark Giordano has evolved into the heart and soul of the Calgary Flames defensive core.
Throughout this season and last season, Giordano has been one of the few Flames who brings it every night and pumps energy into the rest of the lineup.
"Gio" is second in the league in blocked shots and leads the Flames defensemen in points.
If Jarome Iginla does get traded, then expect Giordano to be wearing the "C" for the Flames next season.
As desperate as the Chicago Blackhawks were to shed salary cap space last summer after winning the Cup, every day it's looking more and more like the Atlanta Thrashers robbed them blind in the Andrew Ladd trade.
The 'Hawks dealt Ladd to the Thrashers for Ivan Vishnevskiy and a second round pick in the 2011 entry draft, and Ladd has been phenomenal since then.
He's been so good that, on November 18, the Thrashers named him captain. After winning two Stanley Cups by age 25, the Thrashers couldn't have made a better choice.
Ladd is on pace to smash his career bests in goals and points, and he can hit, fight, and all-around dominate.
Tomas Plekanec does everything he can for the Montreal Canadiens.
He plays penalty kill, powerplay and a lot of even strength, usually against the opponent's top line.
He leads the Habs in goals, assists, points (obviously), faceoffs won, takeaways, and ice time among forwards and is second in plus/minus, shots taken, and blocked shots among forwards.
Montreal's Mr. Everything was rewarded with a six-year, $30 million extension last summer, and has a good chance of being nominated as a Selke Trophy finalist this season.
It's hard to find a more complete player in the league than Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg.
Since the lockout, he's been a double-digit plus player every season, and his lowest points-per-game in a season is 0.95.
He's dominant both offensively and defensively and somehow elevates to an even more ridiculous level come playoffs, as evidenced by his Conn Smythe Trophy in 2008 and 1.06 playoff points-per-game since the lockout.
So why is Zetterberg never mentioned among the best players in the NHL?
I'm not sure, but if he keeps going the way he has so far this season, maybe he will be.
Some people think Nicklas Backstrom is a goalie for the Minnesota Wild, and he is, but I'm talking about the Washington Capitals center of the same name.
Many people think Washington's Backstrom is just Alex Ovechkin's sidekick, but he's significantly more than that.
Backstrom is another player who should be involved in the best-player-in-the-league conversation, especially after putting up 33 goals and 101 points last season.
The sensational Swede is just 23 years old and already has over 300 career points. He's also very good defensively, both at even strength and on the penalty kill, and he is well over 50 percent on faceoffs.
Backstrom routinely makes great plays breaking out to set up Alex Ovechkin's highlight reel goals.
If that's not enough to convince you, consider this: even in this supposedly brutal season in Washington (and without Ovie scoring), Backstrom is still fifth in the league in assists.
Back in October 2009, Rory Boylen of The Hockey News called Brent Seabrook the most underrated player in the NHL.
Since then, as we all know, the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup and Canada won Olympic Gold, and Seabrook was a key contributor on both teams.
Because of that, his reputation has risen a bit, but still not as much as it should have, probably because he was paired with Norris Trophy-winner Duncan Keith throughout the victories.
Seabrook is the more defensive of the two, and quietly goes about shutting down the top players on other teams. Sometimes, actually, it's not that quiet when he's running guys over.
This season, Seabrook has added more offense to his game and only has two points less than Duncan Keith. He's on pace to smash his career highs in assists and points.
Seabrook's contract is up at the end of the season, and you can be sure that he'll be getting a healthy raise.
The Chicago Blackhawks very likely wouldn't have won the Stanley Cup last season if it wasn't for the amazing work Dave Bolland did in shutting down the opposition's star players.
In the second round against Vancouver, he held the Sedin twins to a combined 10 points in six games. Then in the conference finals, he held Joe Thornton to one assist in four games.
Finally, in the Cup finals, Bolland held Flyers captain Mike Richards to just two points in six games, and caused Richards to take several retaliatory penalties out of frustration.
This season, Bolland has had a good first half with 23 points so far. He's also a plus-seven despite playing against opposing top lines every game.
The first full-time captain in Wild history has developed into one of the better all-around players in the NHL.
Koivu has the Wild just three points out of a playoff spot, even though they're not a very good team.
He's also on pace for his second straight 70-point season, which is impressive considering he doesn't get a whole lot of help on the Wild. The Wild's other star, Martin Havlat, usually plays on a different line, leaving Koivu to fend for himself.
If Koivu ever gets some good wingers, he'll easily top 80 points and could even top 90.
The Bruins 22-year-old rookie has been absolutely fantastic, but is getting no love in the Calder Trophy discussion. He didn't even get picked in the top 12 rookies for the All-Star game, but should be chosen as the replacement for Jordan Eberle who announced he'll miss the game due to injury.
Marchand has 12 goals and 12 assists in 45 games this season, and he is seventh in the league with a plus-21 ranking, despite being given under 13 minutes of ice time per game.
He already takes a regular shift on the penalty kill and leads the team in takeaways.
Add to that the fact that he's spent most of the season playing with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton, not exactly offensive dynamos, and he doesn't get power play time, and his performance is even better.
Now Marchand has gotten moved up to playing with Patrice Bergeron, so expect him to become a key part of the Calder Trophy discussion by the end of the season.
Dustin Byfuglien's breakout season has gotten a huge amount of attention, partly because he was a key part of the Cup-winning Blackhawks team last season.
Tobias Enstrom's, for some reason, has not, probably because he's not very flashy.
Enstrom is just plain efficient both offensively and defensively, and his defensive prowess has been a big part of Dustin Byfuglien being able to play his somewhat adventurous game.
Enstrom did get chosen as an All-Star this season, which is a testament to just how good he's been because unknown players don't tend to get picked very often. Unfortunately, he'll miss the game with a broken finger.
Right now, Enstrom is one point back of Nicklas Lidstrom for the league lead in defenseman scoring, and finds himself in the top 30 scorers overall.
If Enstrom can get healthy and keep up this pace, he'll certainly deserve and might even get a Norris Trophy nomination at the end of the season.
Most of Canada was in shock when Patrice Bergeron was named to the 2010 Canadian Olympic team, but he earned his spot and has been one of the best two-way players in the league since then.
No one should really be surprised that Bergeron has turned into such a good player.
He was named MVP of the 2005 World Junior Championship after winning gold on probably the best World Junior team ever, playing with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Jeff Carter, Dion Phaneuf, Shea Weber, Mike Richards, Corey Perry, Brent Seabrook and Andrew Ladd.
Bergeron then had back-to-back 70 point seasons before this brutal cheap shot that caused him to miss the rest of the 2007-08 season with a concussion.
In 2008-09, Bergeron really didn't look like the same player, but in 2009-10 he was good enough to make the Canadian Olympic team.
This season, Bergeron has 39 points in 49 games, and is seventh in the league with a phenomenal plus-21. He's also top 20 in the league in faceoffs and is playing some of the best hockey of his career.
When most people think of Nashville, they think of Shea Weber, and rightly so.
But Nashville has another young defenseman who is very quietly becoming one of the best in the league. So quietly, in fact, that the league hasn't noticed yet.
Suter is putting up the best points-per-game of his career with 22 points in 38 games. He's also a plus-17 despite always matching up against the opposition's best players. Weber is only plus six.
Here's a strange stat that partially captures how good Suter is: if you add points to plus/minus, Suter is tied with near-certain Norris finalist Nicklas Lidstrom.
Suter was also a key player on silver medal-winning Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics, posting four points in six games and playing on the top defensive pairings.
On a non-hockey note, Suter's playing in the right city as he loves country music.
And the most underrated player in the game today is...Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes!
If you don't know much about Yandle, that's not surprising. He toils in the anonymity that is Jobing.com Arena, home of the Coyotes.
Yandle may well be this season's Drew Doughty: the player who comes out of nowhere to be a Norris Trophy finalist.
He leads the Coyotes in scoring with 40 points in 49 games and is in the top 10 in the league in assists. He's also on pace for 66 points for the season.
Yandle has the Coyotes in sixth place in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, despite a team goal differential of just plus-two.
The fact that the NHL didn't originally pick Yandle for the All-Star game this year was an embarrassment on their behalf.
At only 24 years old, Yandle should be playing many more All-Star games before he's done.