Most hockey fans can name the top scorer, defenseman, and goaltender on any NHL team. It's considered common knowledge. But what about the unsung heroes of the NHL? Where is their spotlight? Below I present to you my top 10 best players in the NHL you've never heard of.
10. Ben Guite - Colorado Avalanche, F
This former career AHL journeyman finally earned his way into the NHL with Colorado. He can play any forward position and is a good faceoff man. Last season for the Avs, he managed 11 goals and 22 points with very limited ice time, while his 115 hits ranked him third on the team. Guite also ranked first among all Avs forwards with 66 blocked shots.
9. Evgeny Artyukhin - Tampa Bay Lightning, F
This hulking Russian winger stands at 6'5" and weighs 255 pounds. He skates very well and very fast and hits everything that moves. Few players have been able to stand up to this guy and he returns to Tampa this season after playing the last two seasons in Russia. He has intriguing offensive potential and may see ice time alongside top prospect Steven Stamkos this season.
8. Steve Montador - Anaheim Ducks, D
After playing the last three seasons with the Panthers, Montador certainly isn't a household name. His signing with Anaheim this past July also went under the radar. Last season he put up eight goals and 23 points while splitting time as a right winger and a defenseman. It's always nice for a team to have a defenseman who chip in among the forward ranks if necessary.
7. Mark Giordano - Calgary Flames, D
Giordano would probably be a well-known name in the league, but last season he bolted to Russia, as he was unhappy with Calgary's contract offers. After re-signing this summer, Giordano figures to be a top-four defenseman. At age 25, he still has a lot of intriguing offensive upside left. He's rather solid in all aspects of the game, except that he could be more physical. I imagine by this time next season he should be better known throughout the league.
6. Jan Hejda - Columbus Blue Jackets, D
Few teams in the league are harder to name players from than Columbus, and Jan Hejda is a name that goes unnoticed even by many Blue Jackets fans. Hejda provides steady, but unspectacular play and has the size (6'3" and 209 lbs) that most NHL clubs crave. Hejda lead his team in hits with 148 and finished third in blocked shots with 90. Columbus management certainly recognized his importance, re-signing him to a three year deal this past April.
5. Greg Zanon - Nashville Predators, D
Zanon is cannon. No, that doesn't make sense, but it sure sounds nice! Zanon has quickly become the Predators most unsung hero. His hits total (160) ranked him second among Nashville players last season. Few players in the league block as many shots as he does. Zanon blocked 176 shots, good enough for seventh in the entire NHL, and by far the most of any Nashville player. He's exactly the type of lunch pail type player every team needs for success.
4. Shaone Morrisonn - Washington Capitals, D
This 6'4" and 210 pound defenseman has quietly earned himself a name, but most people just don't know how to pronounce it! Shaone, whose first name is pronounced "Shawn" (its Gaelic), is a tough stay-at-home defenseman with the ability to chip in offensively from time to time. He played the entire first round series against Philadelphia last April with a broken jaw and separated shoulder. He finished in the top five in both total ice time and blocked shots among Capitals players, and in the top 10 in hits. Morrisonn has yet to reach his full potential, which is scary considering how good he already is.
3. Torrey Mitchell - San Jose Sharks, F
For a player just out of college year earlier, Mitchell sure did rise fast among the ranks in San Jose this past season. Playing in all 82 regular season games and all 13 playoff games for the Sharks, Mitchell showed quickly that he is an NHL caliber player who can be trusted in vital situations in the ice. Mitchell is a solid penalty killer with great faceoff skills who can chip in offensively, as his 10 goals and 20 points can account. He's a smart enough player that one day many envision him as the Sharks' second line center. Unfortunately for Mitchell he'll miss the first two months of the season after suffering a leg injury at the beginning of camp in September.
2. David Booth - Florida Panthers, LW
Booth is a player that came out of nowhere to score 22 goals for a weak Panthers team last season. Bursting onto the scene, Booth showed a willingness to drive hard to the net and quickly became a Florida Panthers fan favorite. He's a defensively responsible player in the mold of a power forward, he's quick, he's aggressive, and he plays with loads of energy. The Detroit native finished among the top five Panthers forwards in ice time, quite an achievement for a player in his first full season. Booth is a bright spot on a team that has had too many dark days, and one day may lead the team in scoring.
1. Zbynek Michalek - Phoenix Coyotes, D
The older brother of San Jose's Milan Michalek, Zbynek hasn't enjoyed the media attention his brother receives but is every bit as good as his younger brother for his position. Zbynek is one of Coach Gretzky's favorite players; he plays in all game situations and is one of the team's top shot blockers. The 25-year-old defenseman still has untapped offensive potential, but with the great youth movement going through Phoenix that could change quickly.
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