NHL: Top 10 Player Rankings at the All-Star Break vs. Preseason

Matt HunterCorrespondent IJanuary 29, 2011

NHL: Top 10 Player Rankings at the All-Star Break vs. Preseason

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    The NHL season has reached the All-Star break with plenty of surprises and headlines from around the league.

    There have been quite a few players who in the beginning of the season were not thought of to be top NHL players.

    Throughout the first half of the season they have proved everyone wrong and shown they can play with the best and be the best as well.

    It is no surprise that Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby are still the top players in the league and will continue to be for some time to come.

    With the All-Star break and some down time in the NHL this weekend it is a good chance to look back at the first half and see who the top 10 players are at the break, as well as seeing who was in their spot before the season started.

    Who is No. 1 at the break?

    Who rose the highest from preseason rankings and who fell the farthest?

    Let's take a look and see who the NHL's top 10 players are at the All-Star break.

No. 10: Henrik Zetterberg, Center, Detroit Red Wings

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    Zetterberg starts our list off after having a solid first half with the Detroit Red Wings.

    Zetterberg was ranked No. 29 by Yahoo! Sports at the beginning of the season.

    He has found the net 16 times and has 37 assists.

    He is a solid forward with great hands and speed.

    He controls the puck well and is strong on the puck as well.

    The one stat that is a bit low for a player on such a good team this year is his plus/minus rating, which is only at a plus-six at the break.

    Coming in at No. 10 in the preseason ranking was Roberto Luongo who currently sits at No. 41 on the Yahoo! Sports ranking.

    Zetterberg will have a very solid second half to the NHL season, especially when it gets closer to playoff time, and teams are trying to jump up spots and hold onto to theirs.

    He should finish with at least 35 goals, and look for him to top out with no less than 100 points when the season is over.

No. 9 Ryan Kesler, Center, Vancouver Canucks

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    Kesler was one of the dark horses coming into this NHL season ranked No. 51 by Yahoo!

    Ryan Kesler put up some big numbers this first half with 27 goals and 20 assists. He also has 19 power-play points and an impressive plus-18 plus/minus rating.

    Last year Kesler finished the season with 25 goals and 75 points with a plus/minus of only plus-one.

    He is well on his way to breaking all those numbers this year and has already surpassed his goal mark.

    Kesler sits at the No. 9 spot which was held by teammate Daniel Sedin who has worked his way up the ranking list.

    Kesler may be overshadowed by the Sedin twins, but he by no means should be overlooked.

    Kesler should finish the season with at least 45 goals and 35 assists leaving him with 80 points on the season.

    With his work on the power play his plus/minus should go up as well. Look for a plus/minus of plus-28 when the season finishes up in April.

    Kesler should stay in the top 10 rankings if he can keep up his style of play and continue to put points on the score sheet.

    Look for him to climb up a few spots by the end of the 2010-2011 NHL season

No. 8 Martin St. Louis, Right Wing, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    The little engine that could.

    St. Louis may be small in stature, but do not let his size full you. He is an All-Star and a goal scorer with speed and quickness to elude other players.

    St. Louis was ranked No. 22 coming into this season but has blown that ranking away and has streaked to No. 8 at the All-Star break.

    St. Louis has put the puck in the net 20 times this year and has 40 helpers.

    A key stat for him is that he has 25 power-play points but only two power-play goals.

    The Tampa Bay Lightning power play is geared for the Steven Stamkos one-timer from the circle.

    This is why St. Louis has so few power-play goals but a ton of assists coming on the advantage.

    The Tampa Bay Lightning are a top team in the Eastern Conference this year, and you can look at St. Louis for the reason why.

    Martin St. Louis is sitting in the No. 8 spot, which was held by Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils who has dropped all the way down to No. 684 at the break because of a season-ending injury.

    St. Louis should finish close to 40 goals and 90 points.

    With the strength of the Tampa Bay power play St. Louis should rack 40 points just off the power play, and look for the majority of those to come as assists with him playing on the same power-play line as Steven Stamkos.

No. 7 Brad Richards, Center, Dallas Stars

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    Richards is a surprise on the top 10 at the break, putting up stunning numbers on a Dallas Stars team that has surprised many with the way they have played in the first half of this season.

    Richards rose from a preseason ranking of No. 58 all the way to the No. 7 spot by putting up huge numbers.

    He has scored 20 goals while assisting on 37 others giving him 57 points for the first half.

    He is not a very physical player picking up only 14 hits, but he does not need to rely on physical play.

    He uses his speed and hands to play the game, and those two have led him into the top 10 in the NHL.

    Brad Richards took the No. 7 spot away from Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin who has had a down first half.

    Malkin sits in the No. 55 spot and also finds himself on the sideline with a lower body injury.

    Brad Richards is the top player on the Dallas Stars, and Dallas is going to rely on him and others to make a push in the second half to get ready for a playoff run.

    I see Richards finishing with 37 goals and 52 assists finishing with a 89 points on the season.

    He may fall out of the top 10 by the end of the season but not very far, probably staying within the top 12.

No. 6 Corey Perry, Right Wing, Anaheim Ducks

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    Like Brad Richards, Corey Perry was a dark horse coming into the 2010-2011 NHL season, ranked No. 43 at the beginning of the season.

    He has not put up as many points as players ranked below him, but he plays an all-around game, which brings him up the six spot.

    Perry has netted 25 goals and 26 assists leaving him with 51 total points.

    He is only at a plus-one plus/minus rating, which means he is out on the ice for way too many opponent goals.

    He plays a gritty game that some may call a bit chippy, and he has racked up 82 penalty minutes, which ranks him as the top penalty taker on the this list.

    Anaheim is sitting in the fifth spot in the Western Conference with 60 points.

    Perry needs to pick up his point totals if he wants to help Anaheim move up anymore in the second part of the season.

    Perry sits in the sixth spot taking it over from Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller who has dropped out of the top 100 sitting at No. 138 on the Yahoo! Sports rankings.

    Look for Perry to pick it up just a little bit and finish this season with 35 goals and 40 assists.

    He will finish with no less than 130 penalty minutes, which will easily leave him as the top penalty taker on this list.

    Perry however will not finish this season in the top 10 with a slower second half than others will have; he will drop in to the top 15 by year's end.

No. 5 Alex Ovechkin, Left Wing, Washington Capitals

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    Ovechkin is a terror on the ice. He plays harder than anybody in the league, and when you watch him you just wait for a huge hit to occur.

    That is what Ovechkin seems to be about—hitting—picking up 154 total hits this year so far and leading that category by 77 over No. 2 hit taker Ryan Kesler on the list.

    Ovechkin is having a down year in comparison to previous years scoring only 19 goals but having 32 assists.

    Teams have started to shadow Ovechkin on the power play and in the offensive zone. This has led him to look for the pass first before shooting.

    He however has shot the puck 234 times, which means he has only scored on eight percent of the shots he has taken this year.

    Ovechkin was ranked as the No. 1 player in the NHL going into the season but has dropped down to the fifth spot.

    Vancouver Canucks' Henrik Sedin was in the No. 5 spot at the beginning of the year, but a slow first half has dropped him down to the 11th spot.

    Ovechkin needs to find ways to score when the Washington Capitals come back from the break.

    I cannot see him having a slow second half. He will find the back of the net and perform to what people expect of him.

    Alex Ovechkin will finish this year with 40 goals and 50 assists leaving him with only 90 points.

    There are two stats however that will increase: hits and shots.

    He will finish with at least 240 hits and 360 shots on goal—two stats that will look good if he can make something out of either of them.

    Ovechkin will get back up to the top three in the NHL by the end of the year, and come the start of next year will be ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the NHL.

No. 4 Sidney Crosby, Center, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Crosby has not been seen on the ice since the first game after the Winter Classic where he was hit in the head in that game, as well as the next game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Crosby was leading the league in goals and points before the injury, and his absence has also affected his ranking at the break.

    Crosby at the midway mark has 32 goals and 34 assists totalling 66 points.

    He has a staggering plus/minus with plus-20.

    With the physical style that coach Dan Bylsma wants from him team, Crosby has picked up his physical play from previous year and has 31 hits.

    Crosby has been a key staple on the Pittsburgh Penguins power play and has racked up 10 power-play goals and 19 power-play points.

    Crosby was ranked No. 2 coming into the season, and his injury has caused him to drop only two spots down to No. 4.

    The fourth spot at the beginning of the year was Nicholas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals. Backstrom has had a below-par year so far with only 12 goals and has dropped down to the 20th spot in the Yahoo! ranking.

    Crosby will come back from the break healthy and ready to go. They are trailing instate rival Philadelphia currently and will face a tough road to catch them and take the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

    Crosby will have a good second half finishing the season with 50 goals and 60 assists tallying an impressive 110 points.

    His plus/minus will only go up as well look for him to close the 2010-2011 season as a plus-32.

    Crosby, like Ovechkin, will finish in the top three players in the NHL by season's end. He and Ovechkin will start as No. 1 and No. 2 by the beginning of next year.

No. 3 Daniel Sedin, Left Wing, Vancouver Canucks

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    Daniel Sedin has some bragging rights on brother Henrik coming in as the No. 3 player NHL player at the All-Star break.

    The Vancouver Canucks are a perennial contender with strong goaltending from Roberto Luongo and scoring from the Sedin brothers and Ryan Kesler (No. 9 on the list).

    Daniel Sedin goes into the break with 64 points tallying 27 goals and 37 assists.

    He too has a staggering plus/minus rating of plus-21.

    His work on the power play is impeccable netting 11 power-play goals and helping on 15 others.

    Daniel has put the puck on the net 158 times. This gives him an amazing 17 percent shot to goal percentage.

    Sedin came into this season ranked in the top 10 already, sitting in the No. 9 spot. He took over this spot from young Tampa Bay Lightning phenom Steven Stamkos.

    Daniel is set to have a career season, but can he keep up his high level of play and continue to put up those numbers?

    I see Daniel having a good second half but to not do as well as he has been doing.

    He will finish with 42 goals and 54 assists giving him a season-ending 96 points.

    His plus/minus will not falter either—he will finish at a plus-31, putting him up there with other league leaders in that category.

    He will drop out of the top five as well but remain in the top 10 players and still be the top-ranked Sedin in the league.

No. 2 Steve Stamkos, Center, Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Steven Stamkos is anything but average. He is one of the most exciting players to watch in the NHL, and he can easily be put on the level of Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.

    Stamkos is tearing the league up and is a scoring machine.

    He has scored 38 goals and has also assisted on 29 others with a total of 67 points at the halfway mark.

    His 21 percent shot to goal percentage is also very good having 181 shots on goal.

    Stamkos is the go-to shot on the Tampa Bay power play with a one-time shot that could be compared to Washing Capital shooter Alex Ovechkin.

    He has scored 15 times on the power play and has 27 total power-play points.

    Stamkos started the season as the third-ranked player. He took over the No. 2 spot from Pittsburgh Penguin Sidney Crosby.

    Stamkos is on pace to win the scoring and point race but has to watch out for Crosby who will be pushing him the rest of the way.

    Stamkos will finish this year with 54 goals and 48 assists, leaving him with 102 points.

    He will finish this year as the No. 2 or No. 1-ranked player in the league depending on whether the current No. 1 can play as strong as he has so far.

    Stamkos will be a top three player for years to come, and if Tampa Bay can keep him along with Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier, Stamkos can thrive and put up big numbers for years to come.

No. 1 Tim Thomas, Goaltender, Boston Bruins

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    The rankings' only goaltender and he is the No. 1 player come this All-Star break.

    Tim Thomas has been said to be too old and on his way down as an NHL goalie. He has proved all those naysayers wrong this year.

    Thomas has put up 24 wins and only five losses.

    He has given up only 65 goals in 35 games, giving him a staggering 1.81 goals against average.

    An NHL goalie is asked to have at least a .900 save percentage. Thomas has gone up and over that mark and has posted a .945 save percentage.

    Along with his goals against and save percentage, Thomas has posted seven shutouts.

    Thomas has led Boston to the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference.

    Thomas took the No. 1 spot away from Alex Ovechkin who we found in the No. 5 spot on the list.

    Tim Thomas' stats depend on his team around him. If Boston can continue to play strong and well, Thomas will stay within the top five in the league.

    Look for Tim Thomas to finish with 40 wins and goals against average raising a bit to a 1.93.

    His save percentage will also drop a bit, down to a .928 by season's end.

    He will finish this year with 10 shutouts and help Boston secure the No. 3 spot in the East.

    Tim Thomas will not finish as the No. 1 player in the NHL this year—that spot will be taken over by the Tampa Bay Lightning' Steven Stamkos. He will however finish no lower than No. 5.


    Look for all of these players in the second half of the NHL, but remember a few of these came from nowhere into the top 10 and before you know it any of those players could be on the outside looking in.

    The second half of the NHL season will not disappoint with an exciting scoring and Vezina race. By the end of this season a new top 10 list will be needed because it is guaranteed to change by then.