NHL11: Each Team's Most Underrated Player in the Game

Jordan MatthewsAnalyst IIIAugust 3, 2011

NHL11: Each Team's Most Underrated Player in the Game

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    Every year EA releases a new edition of their NHL video game franchise, and every year as I’m scanning through the rosters I’m left wondering what EA Sports was thinking when they ranked some players.

    Whether it being underrating player or overrating players, EA always manages to mess up here and there.

    So for the first time, we’re going to take a look at each teams most underrated player by EA. Keep in mind, the rankings taken are from the beginning of the season. EA frequently updates the NHL roster and player rankings, making their original, flubbed rankings easy to fix.

    Also, there are a few rookies included in this list, which make for understandable mistakes, so for any rookie slide, an established player will be included in the interest of fairness.

    So with that in mind, let’s take a look at each team’s most underrated NHL11 player.

Anaheim Ducks: Lubomir Visnovsky

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    NHL11 ranking: 83

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 85

    Visnovsky’s name is one that wasn’t very popular until six months ago. Sure, some die-hard hockey fanatics knew of him, but to the casual fan he was (And to some still is) relatively unknown.

    This can probably be attributed to the fact that the defensive spotlight is already filled with the exiting Nicklas Lidstrom and upcoming star defenders Shea Weber and Drew Doughty.

    Regardless, Visnovsky may have deserved a little more attention than he received, considering he was the highest scoring defensemen in the NHL last season.

    And regardless of your defensive talent, when you’re a defensemen that scores 68 points in a season, 83 is far too low of a ranking.

Boston Bruins: Patrice Bergeron

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    NHL11 ranking: 82

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 85

    Admittedly, Bergeron is a guy I didn’t know too much about until the playoffs, but as I kept watching, I began to like what I saw.

    I’ll admit right now that I’m a huge fan of defensive forwards and Bergeron is one of the better defensive forwards in the NHL. Quite a few fans were hoping Bergeron would be nominated for the Selke Trophy, but he ended up being pushed out by the usual suspects of Datsyuk, Kesler, and Toews.

    While Bergeron’s offensive play may not be All-Star caliber, when you combine his season total of 57 points with his strong defensive performances, he is certainly deserving of a ranking higher than that of 82.

Buffalo Sabres: Christian Ehrhoff

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    NHL11 ranking: 83

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 86

    As the first traded player on this list Christian Ehrhoff sets the bar high. Ehrhoff played last year with Stanley Cup runner-ups, the Vancouver Canucks.

    During the playoffs, Ehrhoff was somewhat overshadowed by teammate Kevin Bieksa (And rightfully so), but his playoff and regular season performances were nothing to be disappointed with.

    Ehrhoff registered 50 points during the regular season, but many will claim this is because he played on the number one offensive team in the league.

    It’s a fair argument and while Ehrhoff may not hit 50 points again next season, he’s still better than the ranking EA gave him, and if there were any doubts about his defensive performance, he’ll have the man I consider to be the best goaltender in the world there to back him up.

Calgary Flames: Alex Tanguay

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    NHL11 ranking: 82

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 84

    Talk about having a hard time finding an underrated player. No offense Flames fans but it’s hard enough finding a good player. Sure, Iginla’s there, but when he’s got a 92 ranking it’s hard to say he’s underrated.

    Regardless, an 82 is a low overall ranking for Tanguay, who managed to register 69 points and maintain an even plus minus despite playing for a non-playoff team.

    You can’t exactly pin is low score on age either, because Tanguay could easily have another 2-3 years of great hockey in him.

Carolina Hurricanes: Joni Pitkanen

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    NHL11 ranking: 81

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 85

    Pitkanen might be one of the most underrated players on EA’s NHL11. Registering 35 points as a defenseman for a non-playoff team is nothing to be ashamed of.

    Carolina apparently thought Pitkanen was better than an 81 considering they awarded his performances with a 4.5 million dollar contract.

    While I don’t necessarily agree with the price, there’s no doubting that Pitkanen is definitely better than an 81 ranking, and Carolina has a good future ahead with Joni Pitkanen as a part of their blue line.

Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford

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    NHL11 Ranking: 76

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 84

    May I laugh now? Granted, Crawford is the first rookie pick of this list, but this is just funny.

    The year of Crawford and Turco was like Déjà vu of last year’s Niemi and Huet, except this year Stan Bowman didn’t have to beat his head against his desk every time he sent out Turco’s check, like he did with Huet.

    Crawford wasn’t a Vezina finalist, and he probably didn’t even crack the Top 10 goaltenders last year, but to call him a 76 is laughable, and he’ll undoubtedly get the start next year in Chicago no matter what his ranking is in NHL12.

    For the non-rookie pick, I’ve gotta go with Patrick Sharp. No reason that a guy who scores 34 goals and totals 71 points should be ranked as an 83 overall. Give him an 86 at the least.

    Sure, he has good teammates, but it still takes talent to bury the puck in the net.

Colorado Avalanche: Matt Duchene

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    NHL11 Ranking: 83

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 86

    Back to back 83s. Surprisingly several Avs made this list, but the sad for Colorado is all the others were traded elsewhere.

    Picking between Duchene and Stastny was tough but I decided to go with Duchene, who was a lower rating.

    Duchene was nominated for the Calder Trophy in the 09-10 season as the rookie of the year, finishing behind Buffalo’s Tyler Myers and Detroit’s Jimmy Howard. In the 2010-2011 season, Duchene put up 67 points.

    Sure, it’s not great, but for a subpar Avs team focusing on improving, those numbers indicate that Duchene has a bright future as long as he stays away from the Vodka.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Rick Nash

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    NHL11 Ranking: 89

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 91

    Ranked as an overall 89, Rick Nash is the highest ranked underrated player on the list.

    You’re probably trying to figure out how and why an 89 could be underrated unless your name is Crosby, Datsyuk, Ovechkin, or Stamkos. (Who I’ll talk about later)

    It’s pretty simple really, Rick Nash has never, and I mean never played for a good team. Columbus has made the playoffs once since Nash has been there, and they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings.

    Nash is a player who I think could potentially be one of the best in the league if he wants to be. Why do I think he’s underrated? Watch him a little bit now that he has a decent linemate on his team in Jeff Carter and you’ll quickly understand.

Dallas Stars: Loui Eriksson

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    NHL11 ranking: 83

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 85

    Dallas was another team that left me struggling to find an underrated player due to the fact that the only star player they had left.

    Nonetheless, Loui Eriksson is certainly underrated in his own respect. Eriksson posted 73 points in 79 games and was plus 10. Not bad for being a team that didn’t (Even though they were very close) make the playoffs.

    Didn’t happen to see Jack Campbell’s ranking. Wouldn’t use him anyway because he hasn’t played yet, but one can assume that when he’s NHL ready, Dallas will have an absolute beast in net.

Detroit Red Wings: Niklas Kronwall

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    NHL11 ranking: 82

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 86

    You could go on all day with flubbed EA talent rankings for the Red Wings.

    Brian Rafalski is disqualified due to retirement, but 84 was a tad too low for him. It gets worse though, with Nicklas Lidstrom being ranked 87, (I don’t care how old he is) Darren Helm ranked 78, Johan Franzen being ranked 83, and Teemu Pulkkinen being ranked 63 with a minimal trade interest.

    Those who don’t know of Pulkkinen should check out this article.

    You could even say that Pavel Datsyuk is a tad bit low at 92, but now we’re nit-picking.

    That said, the most underrated Red Wing by EA undoubtedly goes to Niklas Kronwall.

    Brian Rafalski’s retirement was irrelevant to Kronwall’s placement on the Wings, because despite the fact that most people haven’t realized it, Kronwall was already the number two defensemen for the Wings, and will soon be the number one.

    Kronwall is a defensively responsible player and logged 37 points last season, doubling his career record for goals in a season.

    Aside from his skill play, Kronwall is one of, if not the best, open-ice hitters in the NHL. Just Youtube his name and you’ll quickly find a few dozen videos of Kronwall hammering opposing players.

Edmonton Oilers: Devan Dubnyk

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    NHL11 ranking: 79

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 82

    Devan Dubnyk is a guy I see in the long-term future of the Oilers.

    First off, I think he’ll be the starting goaltender over Nikolai Khabibulin this season. The Bulin Wall has found himself in bit of trouble with the law lately.

    When you combine that with Khabi’s age and Dubnyk’s improving performances, all signs point toward Devan Dubnyk getting more net time.

    Statistically, Dubnyk hasn’t been stellar, but a .916 save percentage is nothing to be ashamed of when you play for the worst team in the league. It’s certainly not worthy of being ranked 79 overall.

Florida Panthers: Tomas Fleischmann

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    NHL11 ranking: 81

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 84

    Here’s the second Colorado player to make the list. Tomas Fleischmann was having a good season until a blood disorder derailed it.

    Sure, he wasn’t a star player, but 31 points in 45 games is nothing to complain about and is certainly worthy of more than an 81 overall ranking.

    Recent word on Fleischmann is that his blood-disorder should be treatable with medication, so he should be suiting up with the Panthers sometime this season, and hopefully EA will find him worthy of a higher ranking in NHL12.

Los Angeles Kings: Jack Johnson

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    NHL11 Ranking: 81

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 85

    This 81 might be worse than Fleischmann at 81. Before looking at EA’s rosters, the only name that stuck in my head as underrated was Drew Doughty, but after seeing Jack Johnson’s ranking I had to change my mind.

    His plus minus was awful, mind you, but personally, I’ve never really thought that plus minus was a valid player statistic anyways. If it were, Mike Green would be a great defensive player, and sorry Caps fans, but that’s just not the case.

    Nonetheless, Johnson put up 42 points in the 2010-2011 NHL season, which is just two points less than Zdeno Chara and six points less than Shea Weber. While Johnson is certainly no Chara or Weber, that’s good company to be with statistically.

    I say we do this, take Johnson’s point total of 42, double it, and make that his new EA ranking. Maybe even a little higher, because 81 is absolutely ridiculous for this King.

Minnesota Wild: Josh Harding

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    NHL11 Ranking: 80

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 82

    The only team I found a harder time finding an underrated player for was the Senators. Seriously, I go down the list and see Martin Havlat at 84 and Brent Burns at 83. Then I remember both were traded to the Sharks.

    Regardless, Josh Harding deserves a better ranking that he received from EA. While his stats weren’t spectacular this season, they were worth more than an 80.

    There’s not much else to say about this, because like I said, it was a struggle to try to find somebody on Minnesota to talk about.

Montreal Canadiens: P.K. Subban

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    NHL11 ranking: 78

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 84

    Easy pick in P.K. Subban. A 78 for this defenseman? Come on. Subban’s a great up-and-comer for the Canadiens. The only issue with Subban is that a lot of players in the NHL don’t like his attitude, some of those players being on his own team.

    Still, a 78 for a defenseman who put up 38 points in the 2010-2011 NHL season is too low of a ranking. Sure, he’s a rookie, but give me a break EA, you should’ve seen Subban coming.

    As for the Canadiens’ non-rookie pick, it’s gotta be P.K. Subban’s “BFF” Carey Price. 83? 83? Are you kidding me? An 83 for Carey Price? I realize that Jaroslav Halak stole the show in the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, but an 83? That’s not even right. How about an 88 at the least?

    By the way, for those who look at my profile picture and think I’m a Canadiens fan, that’s false, it’s just that P.K. Subban and Carey Price chest-bumping on ice is nothing short of awesome.

Nashville Predators: Shea Weber

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    NHL11 Ranking: 84

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 91

    Weber might be the most underrated player on NHL11. If EA doesn’t rectify this piss poor ranking in NHL12 than something is seriously wrong.

    Weber was nominated for the Norris Trophy in the 2010-2011 NHL season, as the league’s best defenseman.

    Sure, he lost to Nicklas Lidstrom, but then again we’re talking about Nicklas Lidstrom. You know, that guy who is one Norris away from having tying Bobby Orr?

    I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, Shea Weber is the NHL’s best defender under the age of 30. 48 points isn’t even close to the highest scoring defenseman in the league, but Weber’s strong defensive play made up for that.  And keep in mind, 48 points for a non-offensive team like the Nashville Predators is pretty stellar.

    The scary thing here is that Shea Weber is currently without a team. While other teams can’t offer him a contract due to his arbitration hearing with Nashville, Weber could still end up with a new team by the 2012-2013 NHL season if talking goes quiet or if he signs a one year deal with Nashville until he becomes unrestricted.

    Honorable mention goes to Pekka Rinne. 83 for the Vezina nominated goalie is ridiculous. More like 87.

New Jersey Devils: Andy Greene

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    NHL11 Ranking: 79

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 82

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Jekyll and Hyde season like the Devils put on in 2010-2011. They went from being projected to finish the season with 46 points after the first half to being the best team of the second half.

    The sad thing is that despite their second-half success, the Devils still failed to make the playoffs, which points to how bad they were in the first half.

    Andy Green wasn’t by any means a stellar defenseman in the 2010-2011 season. Despite that fact, he still put up 23 points, which makes him deserving of more than a 79 as his player ranking.

New York Islanders: John Tavares

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    NHL11 Ranking: 83

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 86

    I’m going to preface this article right now by saying that the only reason John Tavares made this list is because I was unable to find Michael Grabner. Couldn’t find him on the Isles’ roster nor could I find him on the Canucks roster.

    Sorry Isles fans, but rejoice in the fact that you have two underrated EA players.

    Tavares is a very good hockey player though. He was the first overall pick in the 2009 NHL entry draft, and he posted 67 points in the 2010-2011 NHL season, which isn’t bad considering all the on-ice mediocrity and off-ice turmoil that the Islanders have endured.

New York Rangers: Ryan Callahan

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    NHL11 Ranking: 81

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 85

    Yes, the man who was just re-signed by the Rangers is also their most underrated player on NHL11.

    Ryan Callahan may be even more underrated than fellow 81s Tomas Fleischmann and Jack Johnson. Callahan registered 48 points in 60 games for the Rangers in the 2010-2011 regular season.

    Assuming he plays a full season next year, the Rangers addition of Brad Richards could bring an extra boost to Callahan’s point totals.

Ottawa Senators: Erik Karlsson

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    NHL11 Ranking: 79

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 84

    45 points. 75 games. 79 overall ranking. One of these numbers is wrong, and real statistics don’t lie, so you only get one guess.

    Ottawa was the hardest team to find a underrated player for, but when I found Erik Karlsson, he stuck out like a sore thumb. His plus minus sucked for sure, but like I said, I don’t put much stock in plus minus, especially when you play for a team like the Senators.

    So, plus minus aside, a 45 point season for a defenseman on a team like the Senators is worth more than 79 overall. Can’t blame EA for missing that one though. I didn’t even know who Karlsson was until recently.

Philadelphia Flyers: Claude Giroux

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    NHL11 Ranking: 82

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 87

    If you talk to Flyers fans about Giroux, you’ll most likely hear at least one of them call him the second coming of Peter Forsberg.

    So what, he’s gonna break his foot every April and sit out most of the playoffs? Sorry Avs fans, but it’s true.

    But nonetheless, Giroux is a very talented, very EA underrated player. He nearly registered a point-per-game season with 76 points in 82 games. 82, like his ranking. His very, very bad ranking.

    Granted, I for one don’t expect the Flyers to be as good next year after losing Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, and Ville Leino.

    That said, I do expect them to be better in the future than they were in the past, when Giroux, van Riemsdyk, Schenn, and Couturier make up the Flyers’ offensive core.

    Giroux will prove that he’s worth more than the low ranking EA gave him.

Phoenix Coyotes: Keith Yandle

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    NHL11 Ranking: 80

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 84

    Another low ranking in Keith Yandle. True, I do call him “Mike Green West” as I’m not a fan of Yandle’s defensive abilities, but Yandle is still a good defenseman regardless.

    59 points for a defenseman is just too good to be ranked 80 overall.

    However, at the same time, I think that EA is going to see these high-scoring, low-ranked defenseman, and they’re going to end up overrating them as a knee-jerk reaction to their recent success.

    Yandle will be staying with the Phoenix organization for another five years now, but the question is, will the Phoenix organization be staying in Phoenix for another five years?

Pittsburgh Penguins: Kris Letang

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    NHL11 Ranking: 82

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 85

    Letang was ranked low on NHL11, but not as low as everybody might think. Letang is underrated, but overrated at the same time.

    That might not be possible, but if it is, Letang personifies it. Sure, he had 50 points during the season, but fans should take notice of Letang’s point totals with Sidney Crosby compared to his totals without Crosby.

    So, I’ll stick with what I said. Underrated, but overrated at the same time. Letang is definitely worth more than an 82 EA ranking either way.

San Jose Sharks: Logan Couture

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    NHL11 Ranking: 79

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 84

    Easy rookie pick is Logan Couture. 56 points in 79 games is great for a rookie, but it’s better for a rookie only ranked 79 overall by EA Sports.

    Couture was a runner up for the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2011, much like Matt Duchene and Michael Grabner (who didn’t make the list only because he was unfound).

    Couture also looked great in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, registering 14 points in 18 games.

    EA can escape the shame of Couture’s 79 ranking because Couture was a rookie, but they can’t get away with ranking Brent Burns at 83. Burns posted 46 points in the 2010-2011 season and looked great defensively in the mean time. 83 is too low for Burns, he should be 85 at the least.

St. Louis Blues: Chris Stewart

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    NHL11 Ranking: 83

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 86

    Here’s former Av number 3. Chris Stewart’s 2010-2011 NHL season was halted by a broken hand, and from then on, he was traded to the Blues.

    With that in mind, Stewart posted 53 points in 62 games. Not superstar numbers by any means, but still good regardless, and still worthy of a ranking higher than 83.

    What’s more telling is that Stewart had a better point per game average and plus minus with his new team than he did with his old one.

    Whether it shows improvement or maybe just playing with a better team, Stewart’s ranking should go up due to these numbers.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Martin St. Louis

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    NHL11 Ranking: 87

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 91

    Surprised it’s not Stamkos are you? Three reasons, Stamkos is still young, St. Louis is credited by some to be the reason for Stamkos’ success, and St. Louis is a terrific on-ice leader and specializes in gentlemanly play.

    St. Louis finished the season with 99 points. Compare that to, say, Jarome Iginla. Iginla is ranked 5 points higher than St. Louis with a 92 ranking, but only posted 86 points during the season.

    Maybe Stamkos makes St. Louis better, maybe St. Louis makes Stamkos better. It’s irrelevant because they’re both dominant, and St. Louis has the better argument because he’s done it without Stamkos.

    With that in mind, an 87 is far too low for this NHL superstar.

Toronto Maple Leafs: John Michael Liles

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    NHL11 Ranking: 81

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 85

    And here we have the fourth and final former member of the Colorado Avalanche. Liles was traded in the offseason to Toronto.

    As a defenseman, he registered 46 points in 76 games, which isn’t bad when playing for one of the worst teams in the league.

    Sure, his plus minus wasn’t great, but not many Avs players did have a good plus minus. Whether Toronto will be a playoff team next season remains to be seen, but John Michael Liles will certainly help in every opportunity they get.

Vancouver Canucks: Roberto Luongo

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    I joke. I joke. You didn't really think I was serious right? No. Without a doubt the most underrated Vancouver Canuck by EASports is Ryan Kesler.

    NHL11 Ranking: 85

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 90

    Ryan Kesler isn’t the most underrated player on NHL11, as that title belongs to Shea Weber, but he very well might be the most underrated player in the NHL.

    It’s understandable when you play on a team with the Sedin Twins and Roberto Luongo. (Who ironically may be the most overrated player in the NHL)

    Still, with Pavel Datsyuk sidelined for a good portion of the season, Ryan Kesler became the undisputed best two-way player in the league, winning the Selke Trophy in 2011. Whether he'll stay that way remains to be seen, as Datsyuk was still very close despite playing less than 60 games, but when you're talking the 1A and 1B of defensive play, it's not really a big deal is it?

    And his defensive performances didn’t cost him offensively either, as Kesler finished the year with 73 points.

    I said awhile ago that if I had to pick one player in the whole NHL to build a team around, considering cap hit, leadership, on ice talent, and other factors, Jonathan Toews would be my first choice, and Ryan Kesler would be a very close second.

Washington Capitals: Brooks Laich

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    NHL11 Ranking: 82

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 84

    Needle in a haystack. After their performance this year, the Caps have many more overrated players than underrated.

    Undoubtedly, Alex Ovechkin had an off-year, but his statistics didn’t live up to his 94 ranking on NHL 11. Nicklas Backstrom didn’t either, and Mike Green has always been overrated.

    Regardless, Ovechkin and Backstrom are both expected to bounce back, and Brooks Laich is an adequate pick for most underrated Capital on NHL11.

    Laich registered 48 points last season to spite his 82 ranking. I guess what confuses me is how EA will justify (hopefully) raising his ranking for NHL12.

    After all, how can you justify raising a guy’s ranking after a 48 point season when you set it at 82 after a 59 point season. Luckily, EA isn’t under much of a microscope when it comes to these kinds of things.

Winnipeg Jets: Dustin Byfuglien

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    NHL11 Ranking: 84

    NHL12 Should-be ranking: 86

    Tough choice. Byfuglien at 84,  Bogosian at 82, and Evander Kane at 80. All of them were deserving of a higher ranking than they received.

    My first instinct was to go with Kane just because he knocked out Matt Cooke, but logic prevailed and Dustin Byfuglien won the vote.

    Sure, Byfuglien wasn’t great defensively, but his offensive production was insane. Combine that with the fact that he can play defense AND offense and that makes him a very valuable player. Far more valuable than his 84 ranking given to him by EA.

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    Jordan Matthews is an avid hockey fan born and raised in the Great Lakes State. If you would like to continue reading Jordan's coverage on the NHL, you can become a fan of his on his Bleacher Report profile, or follow him on Twitter by clicking the link below.