Whether you have been a fan of the NHL for a long time or are just starting to get into hockey, you notice almost right away that you can never hear enough about a select group of players. Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews and others are always in the spotlight, and rightfully so. They are some of the biggest stars in hockey and have numerous accomplishments to their names.
But what about the hundreds of other players that make up NHL rosters?
While a star player is crucial to any successful team, he cannot do it on his own. He needs third- and fourth-line guys, or a goalie that can backstop the squad to as many wins as possible. These players don't often, if ever, get to see their names in lights on NHL.com, but they do their jobs, and they do them well.
In this slideshow, we honor those players.
Here are 25 underappreciated players who don't get near the recognition they deserve. This list is in no particular order.
This season, Visnovsky will begin his second full year with Anaheim. He was traded to the Ducks in the 2009-10 season from the Edmonton Oilers and made an instant impact, scoring 13 points in 16 games after the trade.
In 2010-11, Visnovsky tallied 68 points and a plus-18 rating to lead both Anaheim defensemen and NHL defensemen in scoring, all without much fanfare. He was also ninth in the NHL with 50 assists and had three points in six playoff games. In a March game, he scored the first hat trick by a Ducks defenseman in team history.
Visnovsky was third on the Ducks with 116 blocked shots and first in both ice time per game (24:17) and power play ice time (4:08). In the playoffs, he was again a key part of the power play, with 4:28 of ice time, and was fifth with 21:21 of average ice time.
When doing research for an article several months back, I came across Andrej Sekera's name on the Buffalo Sabres roster. Prior to that day, I had never heard of the guy. I remembered that moment when compiling this list and decided to include him here.
Sekera will play his fourth season in Buffalo with 2011-12. He had a career season last year, with 29 points and a plus-11 rating and was third among Sabres defensemen in scoring. He was also the second blueliner in team history to post five straight multi-point games.
He finished sixth with 85 blocked shots and third with 21:05 of ice time per game, the latter of which was another career high. On the penalty kill, he was ninth with 1:49 of ice time.
Sekera had an injury during the postseason, so he was limited to just two games. However, he still had one goal and averaged about 16 minutes a game.
He was rewarded for his performance with a four-year contract to stay on the Sabres.
Despite playing on a Calgary Flames team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2008-09, Rene Bourque has stood out in a good way.
He has posted three straight seasons of at least 40 points, and in 2010-11, he was fourth on the Flames with 50 points in 80 games. His six power-play goals were second on the team, while his six game-winning goals were tied for first. This was the second time he posted 50 points even though the Flames missed the playoffs.
Bourque was also eighth with 17:45 of ice time and sixth with three minutes of time on the power play.
If you still haven't learned who Tim Brent is, then I have to wonder what cave you've been hiding in. Sorry, but it's true.
Brent played in his first full NHL campaign last year with the Toronto Maple Leafs and turned 27 during the season. He had 20 points in 79 games to go with one shorthanded goal and one game-winning goal.
It wasn't Brent's points totals that drew some, but still too little, press. He was sixth on the Leafs with 58 blocked shots and cemented his reputation as an NHL-er when he blocked several Carolina Hurricanes shots on a five-on-three Canes man advantage. In a later game, he topped himself by blocking two shots from Boston Bruins capitan Zdeno Chara, who has one of the most lethal shots in the game.
In addition, Brent was seventh on the Leafs with 104 hits and sixth with a 52 percent faceoff win percentage. He also was fifth with 1:58 of ice time on the penalty kill.
He signed a two-year deal with the Hurricanes in the offseason.
Harrison had brief stints in the NHL prior to the 2010-11 season, when he finally stuck with the Hurricanes for a full season. Another sort of late bloomer, Harrison is looking to his second full year with the team at the age of 28.
Last year, he had 10 points in 72 games and was tied for second on Carolina with a plus-five rating. He averaged about 15 minutes of ice time a game and showed a physical edge, finishing seventh with 111 hits and sixth with 100 blocked shots. He also was sixth with 2:05 of ice time on the penalty kill.
Harrison will be with the Canes for two more years.
After struggling with injuries in 2009 and 2010, Jones played 77 games for the Avalanche last season. He finished fifth in scoring with 45 points and was second with six power-play goals. He even led the team with four game-winning goals.
He averaged about 18 minutes of ice time per game and was eighth with 2:23 played on the power play. His 47.6 percent faceoff win percentage was sixth on Colorado, while his 93 hits were seventh.
If Jones can stay healthy this year, there is definitely room for continued improvement, and maybe more recognition.
Despite playing on a Columbus Blue Jackets team that lacked star power before this offseason's acquisitions of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski, Umberger has improved his points totals for the last two years.
In 2010-11, he was second on the team with 57 points and first with eight power-play goals and three shorthanded goals. His three game-winning goals were ranked second.
Besides tallying 114 hits, Umberger ranks in the top five on the Jackets in faceoff wins (50.4 percent) and power play ice time (3:17 per game). He is sixth with 19:12 of ice time per game and 70 blocked shots, and seventh with 1:58 of penalty kill minutes.
He also holds a Blue Jackets franchise record with 245 consecutive games played.
Lehtonen has put up solid numbers on a Stars team that has not been to the playoffs since 2008.
This year, he played in his first full season with Dallas after being traded by the former Atlanta Thrashers in 2010. He posted his second 30-win season and his first since the 2006-07 campaign, posting a record of 34-24-11 with three shutouts. He also had a .914 save percentage and 2.55 GAA and was fourth in the league with 69 games played.
In addition, he set a club record with six assists, tying the record for most helpers by a goaltender in a single season.
It can be tough to choose an underappreciated player on a team that gets a lot of press from the NHL, but I decided that Eaves is one of those players we don't hear enough about.
Last year, Eaves posted his second straight 20-point season, hitting the mark on the dot in 63 games. He also scored his first career hat trick and had four assists in 11 playoff games.
Besides posting 106 hits, he was fourth with 2:41 of ice time on the penalty kill. In the playoffs, he was eighth with nine blocked shots and ninth with 17 hits.
Weiss has posted five 40-point seasons on a Panthers team that has done....well...nothing for the last 10 years. Last year, he led the team with 49 points and also had three power-play goals, two shorthanded goals and one game-winning goals.
He was third with a 53.9 percent faceoff win percentage and blocked 44 shots. He was in the top five in all ice time categories with 20:05 played per game (third), 3:30 on the power play (team leader) and 1:40 on the penalty kill (1:40).
Weiss is the longest tenured Panther in team history, and he deserves a lot more recognition for sticking with the team through many bad seasons. Hopefully, he will experience more success now that general manager Dale Tallon has loaded the team with some high-profile players.
Williams, a 2006 Stanley Cup winner with the Hurricanes, has been with the Kings since 2008-09. He has improved his totals over the last two seasons, peaking at 57 points last year. He was tied for second on the team in scoring after playing 73 games, the closest he's gotten to a full season since 2005-06.
In addition, he was fourth on the Kings with five power-play goals and tied for third with three game-winning goals. He scored four points in the playoffs to tie for second.
During the regular season, he was tied for sixth with a 50 percent faceoff win percentage and was eighth with 2:38 of ice time on the power play. He also ranked in the top 10 in playoff ice time (16:44 per game, ninth) and playoff minutes on the man advantage (2:47, sixth).
Williams signed a four-year contract extension with Los Angeles in February of this past season.
Backstrom has spent the last five seasons with the Minnesota Wild, where he has posted at least 20 wins every year, as well as two 30-win seasons (in 2008 and 2009).
This year, he finished with a record of 22-23-5 with a .916 save percentage and 2.66 GAA to go with three shutouts. Although his record isn't as impressive as that of other goalies, you have to wonder how much worse the Wild would have done if he weren't in goal.
He has three franchise records, setting the mark in career wins (141), single season wins (37 in 2008-09) and single season shutouts (eight, also set in 2008-09).
Zanon, who is going into his third season with Minnesota, is the definition of players that don't get enough press. Sure, he won't bring you 60 points a year (he only had seven points in 2010-11), but it's the key parts of his job that he does best.
Last season, he was second in the NHL and first on the Wild with 212 blocked shots. He also ranked second on the team with 169 hits.
Zanon gets big minutes for the still rebuilding Minnesota team. In 2010-11, he was third with 21:32 of ice time per game and first with 3:02 played while the Wild were on the penalty kill.
When you're on a team whose forward corps includes Patrik Elias, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise, it's easy to fall into the background.
But now is the time to appreciate what Travis Zajac does for the team.
Last season, his fifth with the Devils, he had his fourth 40-point season with 44 points and was third on the team in scoring. He was fourth with a 55.3 percent faceoff win percentage. He was in the top 10 of all ice time categories, with 19:46 played per game (sixth), 2:34 on the power play (fifth) and 2:05 on the penalty kill (seventh).
Zajac has only missed two regular season games in his career and has also posted more than 60 points twice.
Parenteau has a problem similar to that of Travis Zajac (see previous slide) in that his talent and contributions to the Islanders get overlooked because he is part of a group of forwards that receive more recognition. John Tavares, Michael Grabner and Kyle Okposo are the talk of the Islanders these days.
But Parenteau made an impact in his first full season with the team in 2010-11. He was second on the team with 53 points and was tied for first with nine-power play goals. He had two game-winning goals, which was tied for third.
In addition to tying for fourth with 118 hits, he was second with 3:29 of ice time on the power play.
It's going to be hard for Parenteau to get attention on this Islanders team, but if he can keep up his production, more people will begin to notice.
Fedotenko has played the part of unsung hero in the past. As a Stanley Cup winner with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004, Fedotenko scored two goals in Game 7 of the Finals against the Flames to bring the Bolts their first Cup in team history.
He was signed by the Rangers just before the 2010-11 season started and finished with 25 points to go with a plus-nine and one shorthanded goal. Although his production dropped slightly from 2009-10, he still has at least 30 points in seven of his last eight seasons.
Fedotenko showed a physical edge by ranking fifth on the team with 150 hits. In the playoffs, he was second with 23 hits while logging 20:55 of ice time per game (eighth).
Carle has improved his points totals every year for the last three years, but he often did got the recognition he deserved on a Flyers defense that includes Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen.
Last season, he had 40 points to lead Philadelphia defensemen in scoring and was also tied for first on the team with a plus-30 rating. He was third with 21:59 of ice time per game and second with 157 blocked shots.
In the playoffs, he was fourth with 23:24 of ice time and first with 30 blocked shots. He will be an unrestricted free agent after this year, but if he can keep up his production, the Flyers will find it hard to let him get away.
Vrbata posted his second 40-point season in 2010-11, as he was fourth on the Coyotes with 48 points. He was also second with 10 power-play goals and tied for fourth with two game-winning goals.
As you noticed, he was a significant part of the Coyotes' power play. In addition to his double digit power-play goals, he was ranked fourth with 3:13 of ice time on the power play.
In Phoenix's brief postseason run, Vrbata tied for first with five points in four games. He was also third with 19:55 of ice time and fourth with 4:23 logged on the power play. On the penalty kill, he was eighth with 1:02 of ice time.
In his fifth season with San Jose last year, Vlasic finished third among Sharks defensemen in scoring with 18 points. His plus-14 rating was ranked third on the team, and he also tallied two game-winning goals.
He led San Jose in both blocked shots (147) and penalty kill minutes (2:16 per game). He was second in ice time per game with a 20:51 average.
In the playoffs, Vlasic had three assists in 18 games and was again first with three minutes of ice time on the penalty kill. He was in the top five in other key statistical categories such as blocked shots (43), plus/minus rating (plus-four) and average ice time per game (21:45).
A 2007 Stanley Cup winner with the Anaheim Ducks, Andy McDonald's contributions often go unrecognized, mainly because he is on the St. Louis Blues, who don't get enough attention as it is.
McDonald has been with the Blues for the last four seasons after being traded by the Ducks in 2007-08. He has three straight 40-point seasons, including 50-point campaigns the last two years. He was fourth on the team this past year with 50 points and tied for second with a plus-18 rating.
In addition, he was tied for third with five power-play goals and tied for second with three game-winning goals. He also contributed a shorthanded goal.
McDonald finished 2010-11 second on the Blues in faceoff win percentage (59.3 percent) and power play ice time (3:20). He was also third with 20:02 of ice time per game.
Pietrangelo may not have gotten attention in his first full NHL season last year, but that could change this year if he keeps up the same high level of play.
Last season, he led St. Louis defensemen in scoring with 43 points and was tied for second with a plus-18 rating. He was also tied for fifth with four power-play goals and added a game winner.
Pietrangelo was first in blocked shots (121) and ice time per game (22 minutes). He ranked fourth in power play ice time (three minutes per game) and penalty kill minutes (1:58 per game).
Thompson had a breakout season in 2010-11, posting 25 points in 79 games with Tampa Bay. He added one shorthanded goal and two game-winning goals to his totals, and also finished second with a 54.2 percent faceoff win percentage.
He ranked third among NHL forward with 81 blocked shots, which was also good for eighth on the Bolts. He was sixth with 115 hits and averaged about 15 minutes of ice time per game, with 2:43 logged on the penalty kill (fifth).
Thompson put up four points and a plus-three in 18 playoff games while leading the team with 4:01 of ice time on the penalty kill. He again averaged around 15 minutes a game and was fifth with 22 blocked shots and sixth with 31 hits.
John Carlson is the stud defenseman on the Capitals heading into the 2011-12 season, so Karl Alzner, who is poised for a breakout year, often gets overlooked.
In his first full season in Washington last year, Alzner had 12 points and a plus-14 rating. His plus/minus was fifth on the Capitals. He was third with 132 blocked shots and tied for seventh with 98 hits. He picked up some solid minutes, ranking seventh with 20 minutes of ice time per game and ninth with 2:07 logged on the penalty kill.
He tallied one assists in nine playoff games while tying for second with 20 blocked shots and tying for eighth with nine hits. He got increased ice time in the offseason, ranking fifth with 22:44 played per game and sixth with 2:37 on the penalty kill.
Prior to this season, Ward spent three seasons with the Nashville Predators. In 2010-11, he had 29 points to go with five power-play goals (third on the Preds) and four game-winning goals (second on the team). He also ranked eighth with a 48.8 percent faceoff win percentage and 1:52 of penalty kill ice time, and seventh with 57 blocked shots.
But it was in the postseason where Ward stepped up his game. He led Nashville with seven goals and was ninth in the NHL in goals scored. He was also second on the team with 13 points.
In 12 playoff games, he logged 20:25 of ice time (fifth on Nashville) and finished seventh with 2:58 of power play ice time and a 39.5 percent faceoff win percentage. He was tied for sixth with 22 hits and eighth with 1:58 of penalty kill ice time.
Ward will play with the Washington Capitals this year, where he is on the first year of a four-year contract. If he continues his postseason play in the regular season, that, combined with being in a bigger market, will get him more publicity.
Ladd, who previously won two Stanley Cups with the Hurricanes (2006) and the Chicago Blackhawks (2010), has always been solid, but never got as much attention as his more star-studded counterparts. However, this could be changing soon.
Last season, while the Jets were still the Thrashers, he led the team with 59 points, nine power-play goals and two shorthanded goals. He was also tied for second with two game-winning goals.
He was in the top five in special teams ice time, with 3:02 on the power play (third) and 1:53 on the penalty kill (1:53). He was sixth with 20:04 of ice time per game and was ninth with 68 hits and 45 blocked shots.
Now that the NHL spotlight will be on Winnipeg and Ladd is the team's captain, he is sure to get the press he's been waiting for.