NHL's All-Underrated Team: One Guy from Each Team Who Doesn't Get Enough Credit
With the NHL taking a backseat to most every other sport in most, if not all U.S. cities, tons of NHL studs are left underrated and underappreciated on both the local and national scale.
Now, like the overrated crew, underrated players can come from anywhere and make any amount of money. Likewise, calling a player underrated does not make him an All-Star or a stud in the making. Rather, it means that a particular player does not receive the credit he deserves based on his contributions.
So have at it and be sure to check out the NHL's all-overrated team as well for some interesting conversation and debate.
Edmonton Oilers: Andrew Cogliano
With the plethora of young offensive prospects on the Edmonton Oilers' roster Andrew Cogliano gets lost in the shuffle.
Cogliano has loads of skill but tends to suffer from the quality of his linemates and the consistency of his ice time. He could potentially thrive as a top-six forward with the right guys alongside him.
The kid has all of the ability with none of the hype.
Colorado Avalanche: John-Michael Liles
Once considered a tremendous asset on the power play and a valuable defenseman on Colorado's roster, John-Michael Liles fell out of favor with the fanbase for a while after injuries and other factors caused a dip in his production.
Well, Liles was back this past season, collecting over 40 points and quarterbacking the power play as well as any defenseman in the NHL.
Despite getting little credit, Liles is an above-average puck-moving defenseman with tons of value for this team.
Florida Panthers: Tomas Vokoun
Remember how dominant Tomas Vokoun was in Nashville? Well, believe it or not, Vokoun is not too far removed from his prime despite his age. The problem is Vokoun plays in Florida and gets little attention because of it.
Tomas Vokoun is still one of the 10 best goaltenders in the NHL and the veteran will find a more suitable home this offseason when he hits free agency.
New York Islanders: Kyle Okposo
The New York Islanders have a bright future with their slew of talented young players. Among them, John Tavares and Michael Grabner are by far the most notable. However, Kyle Okposo is just as big a part of the future in New York as the other two.
Okposo missed a solid chunk of the season with a shoulder injury but a year ago the kid had over 50 points. In addition, he is more of a leader than either of the other two more highly regarded youngsters.
Ottawa Senators: Chris Phillips
Playing on a horrible team this past season in Ottawa, Chris Phillips' numbers weren't quite what we're accustomed to seeing from the veteran defenseman.
His game is not a flashy one which causes Chris Phillips to fly under the radar. He is reliable on the back end for the Senators and a great leader to have in the locker room.
Atlanta Thrashers: Andrew Ladd
Andrew Ladd was given an opportunity to step out of the shadow of the many talented players on the Chicago Blackhawks' roster, and he ran with it.
Unfortunately, Ladd is still drastically underrated because he plays in Atlanta.
Ladd is both a well-rounded forward and a tremendous leader. He may be one of the 10 best captains in the entire NHL, and he is still just 25 years old.
In addition, the former top-five overall pick had the highest point total of his career with 59 points in 2010-2011.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Jan Hejda
Jan Hejda is not nearly a household name for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but he may be the most reliable and steady defender on the roster.
Hejda won't pile up points and lay flashy bone-jarring body checks, but he is steady on the back end for a team that lacks consistent blue line play.
It's time the so-called "Black Hole of Prague" gets a bit more credit.
New Jersey Devils: Travis Zajac
Travis Zajac is easily one of the most underrated centers in the league.
His defensive abilities combined with his clear chemistry with Zach Parise makes him one of the most valuable players on the New Jersey Devils roster.
A truly special two-way center is emerging before our very eyes and the league better take notice.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Nikolai Kulemin
Brian Burke is building the Toronto Maple Leafs into a winner. Among the young pieces that he has in place, Nikolai Kulemin is the most underappreciated of the bunch.
The former second-round pick came into his own this season and surpassed 50 points for the first time in his young career. In addition, the 6'1'' winger had over 100 hits and a positive plus/minus rating.
There is a tremendous blend of talent brewing in Toronto.
Minnesota Wild: Mikko Koivu
A name that rarely gets brought up in the discussion of best defensive forwards in the NHL is Mikko Koivu. It's too bad too because Koivu has one of the most refined defensive games, physically and instinctually, in the NHL.
His offensive prowess may not be jaw dropping, but the offense he does provide, in addition to the two-way play he gives the Wild, make him without a doubt Minnesota's best player. Not to mention, Koivu is the quintessential leader that hockey team needs.
St. Louis Blues: Chris Stewart
The trade the St. Louis Blues executed to bring in Chris Stewart was a brilliant one.
Stewart is one of the few true power forwards left in the NHL. He has a phenomenal skill set with a terrific blend of size and speed.
The 228-pound winger has over 50 points in each of the last two seasons and is still just 23 years of age. Chris Stewart hasn't even scratched the surface of what he'll accomplish in the NHL.
Carolina Hurricanes: Cam Ward
It sounds strange to call one of the league's best goaltenders underrated, but Cam Ward simply does not get the credit he deserves.
After his Stanley Cup–winning season, the buzz surrounding the young goaltender seemed to wear off. However, Ward has continued to compile impressive statistics and provide a solid every night presence between the pipes.
Ward started 74 games this season and is among the most reliable starting goaltenders in the National Hockey League.
New York Rangers: Chris Drury
Plenty of New York Rangers are overpaid, so ignore Chris Drury's mildly outrageous contract for a moment.
Drury is not often given the credit he deserves. Players who can play on both ends of the ice and lead a team as effectively as Drury are rare in this day and age.
Drury is one of the strongest penalty killers in the league and the Rangers would be wise to make an effort to bring him back if the price is right.
Calgary Flames: Cory Sarich
With all of the attention being paid to Jay Bouwmeester and Robyn Reghr, Cory Sarich tends to fly under the radar in Calgary.
Sarich has been a plus player for the last four seasons despite playing on a very average Calgary team. He is an effective towering presence on the blue line who dished out 175 hits this season.
He may not get the recognition he deserves from the fans or media, but I can assure you opposing forwards take notice of this imposing d-man.
Dallas Stars: Loui Eriksson
Clearly Loui Eriksson benefits from the presence of Brad Richards, but his scoring touch around the net is becoming more refined with each and every shift he takes.
Eriksson received his first All-Star appearance this season and now has three straight seasons of over 60 points and over 70 in the last two seasons.
We'll see how Eriksson fares if Brad Richards isn't playing in Dallas next season.
Buffalo Sabres: Nathan Gerbe
During the 2011 NHL postseason Nathan Gerbe really shined and started to receive some recognition. However, the league better take complete notice of Gerbe before he takes the league by storm.
Gerbe constantly plays hungry and has tons of speed. Despite his lack of size, Gerbe is not afraid to go into the corner with anyone and he has a surprising goal scorer's touch.
The former Boston College standout is no stranger to being written off and it appears he may have been underestimated for the last time.
Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price
The fact that many consider Carey Price overrated is precisely what makes him one of the most underrated netminders in the league.
Price has a perfect blend of reactionary techniques and stunning fundamentals. He controls his rebounds as well as any goaltender in the league, absorbing the puck as well as anybody.
He has had his shortcomings in the postseason, but Price is still young and developing the mental aspect of his game.
I have little doubt that Price will become one of the league's best goalies given that he is on the brink of that distinction already.
Chicago Blackhawks: Brent Seabrook
Generally considered a solid No. 2 defenseman, Brent Seabrook has been stuck in the shadow of superstar Duncan Keith for the duration of his career.
Playing as a pair with Duncan Keith, Seabrook has had the responsibility of shutting down the opposition's best players, while Keith has piled up points and glory. That's not to say that Keith is not elite on the defensive end, but Seabrook has clearly been the more defensive of the two.
Well, this season Seabrook maintained his high level of shutdown defense and, in the meantime, put up more points than Duncan Keith.
Los Angeles Kings: Jon Quick
The L.A. Kings are a defensively sound team with a solid system in place.
However, none of that undermines what Jon Quick does for this team. He has a very solid career GAA of 2.44 and had six shutouts a year ago.
Without Anze Kopitar in the lineup, Quick did his damnedest to carry the Kings to victory. His game is still developing and the league has not seen the best from the American-born goaltender.
Phoenix Coyotes: Keith Yandle
It should come as no surprise to anyone that a star player is being ignored out in the desert.
Keith Yandle is quickly emerging as one of the NHL's best defensemen. The Coyote's franchise player is just 24 years old and has already managed two straight 40-point seasons, including this past season in which he collected 48 assists.
The 2011 NHL All-Star Game was the first of many for Keith Yandle.
Nashville Predators: Ryan Suter
The most formidable defensive pairing in the NHL is that of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, and it has as much to do with the latter as it does the former.
The 26-year-old American defenseman had a career best plus-20 this season and also had his fourth straight 30-point season.
The Nashville Predators are the most wildly underrated organization in the entire league. The tremendous coaching and system that they play combined with the strength of that top pairing and their goaltender Pekka Rinne, Nashville is going to contend in the Western Conference for quite a few years.
Anaheim Ducks: Toni Lydman
It's no secret that the Anaheim Ducks are a defensively challenged team. That makes it all the more impressive that Toni Lydman was able to achieve a plus/minus rating of plus-32 this season. In addition, Lydman was mildly productive offensively.
Lydman held down the fort for the Ducks all season long and deserves a ton of credit for their success this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Ryan Malone
This season may not have been the most productive one for Ryan Malone, but his leadership and energy on the ice has been huge for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He has racked up penalty minutes, but his role is clearly defined with the Lightning. His true value lies in the intangible factors that do not show up on the stat sheet.
Boston Bruins: Patrice Bergeron
Zdeno Chara may have the "C" on his chest in his Boston, but Patrice Bergeron is the true heart and soul for the Bruins.
Bergeron once again surpassed 60 points this season and his play in the defensive zone was off the charts. He is the best all-around player that the Bruins have. Whether he is forechecking, back-checking or putting the puck in the net, the alternate captain of the Bruins is deserving of more credit.
Detroit Red Wings: Niklas Kronwall
Niklas Kronwall has been being groomed to step into the top defensive pairing for the Detroit Red Wings.
If you ask me, Kronwall is more than ready to do so.
Now 30 years old, Kronwall has been delivering crushing hits and shutting down second line players for years. Soon, the Swedish defender will have the chance to step into the great Nicklas Lidstrom's shoes.
San Jose Sharks: Antti Niemi
After hoisting the Stanley Cup, Antti Niemi was instantly accused of being along for the ride. However, the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs have shown that the Finnish netminder is becoming a dependable option between the pipes.
Niemi makes big saves in big moments, and if he continues to do so, he will raise his second Stanley Cup in as many seasons.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury
Like Carey Price, Marc-Andre Fleury is considered by most to be overrated. What can he expect after being drafted first overall?
However, Fleury has proven that he is as valuable to the Pittsburgh Penguins as anyone outside of Sidney Crosby. When seemingly every Penguin went down with injury, Fleury was the only one left and he carried Pittsburgh to a fourth-place finish.
He still has mental lapses to overcome, but Fleury's play in big moments speaks for itself.
Philadelphia Flyers: Braydon Coburn
Braydon Coburn showed his true value this season when Chris Pronger went down with injury.
At just 25 years of age, Braydon Coburn is as reliable as they come. He's not going to put up tons of points or deliver any massive hits, but Coburn simply provides steady play on the back end and rarely gets beat by opposing forwards.
Washington Capitals: Semyon Varlamov
After Michael Neuvirth's sensational performance in the first round of the playoffs, Seymon Varlamov has become a forgotten man.
Goaltenders tend to take a long time to develop, though, and Varlamov is further along in his development than Neuvirth. He had a solid season with a .924 save percentage.
Varlamov belongs in the good graces of the Capitals fanbase.
Vancouver Canucks: Roberto Luongo
That's right folks. The most heavily criticized goaltender in all of hockey is the clear-cut most underappreciated player on the Vancouver Canucks.
How a goaltender with his credentials, talent and accolades gets criticized as much as Luongo does is beyond me.
He has had his gaffes in the postseason but Luongo is now carrying the Canucks with stellar play between the pipes, and let's not forget that the man won a gold medal at the Olympics for Team Canada.
Luongo takes most of the heat when the Canucks fail, so his critics better be ready to shower him with praise when he helps the Canucks take home hockey's ultimate prize.
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