In the NHL, there is an emphasis on the team element of the game. However, that does not mean one player cannot completely change a game from start to finish.
The post-lockout NHL has made speed and skill players all the more valuable by creating open space all over the ice.
These 15 players impact the game more than any others in the league.
Jonathan Toews may not boast the elite production of some of the players on this list, but he is able to change the game every time he steps onto the ice.
Toews is both a great leader and an outstanding defensive presence for the Chicago Blackhawks. He can neutralize the elite weapons in his own end, while providing occasionally explosive offensive play.
Henrik Lundqvist is so sturdy between the pipes that it is easy to neglect him on a list like this.
However, despite the fact that he is not always making the flashiest saves, there is very little doubt that he changes the course of every New York Rangers game.
He is always the best player on the ice for the Blueshirts.
After trading away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, the Flyers thrust Claude Giroux firmly into the spotlight. So far, No. 28 has not disappointed.
Giroux is the life of the Flyers, particularly on offense. The power play and the in-zone cycling run through him. Giroux is quickly becoming one of the top offensive threats in the NHL.
Zdeno Chara completely shakes up an opponent's offensive game plan. His 6'9" frame is a blockade for any playmaker hoping to put one by Tim Thomas.
Just take a look at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Chara completely cancelled out Vancouver's Sedin twins with his physical play and intimidation.
The Sedin twins have an incredible connection. Teams always seem to have trouble containing their incredible cycling and puck movement in the offensive zone.
One of the Sedins always seems to be in the running for the MVP at the end of the season, so it should come as no surprise to find them on this list.
The Nashville Predators are a defense-oriented team that has trouble putting pucks in the net. That makes Shea Weber infinitely more valuable.
Without Weber, the Predators would not be able to suffocate opposing offenses the way they do. It often goes unnoticed, but Shea Weber is a huge difference-maker.
The Buffalo Sabres have stormed out of the gate during the 2011-2012 NHL season after spending tons of money this offseason to bring in some big-time free agents.
Make no mistake about it, though—Ryan Miller is the impact player on this team. He carried the Sabres to the playoffs a season ago and nearly sparked an upset of the Philadelphia Flyers. Miller is one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, and the Sabres will only go as far as he can take them.
With Sidney Crosby sidelined, Evgeni Malkin has been given a chance to prove his worth on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Once he fully returns to form from his knee injury, I really expect Malkin to shine this season in Crosby's absence.
It's tough to put together this list without including the 2011 Hart Trophy winner.
Corey Perry's leap from 76 points in 2009-10 to 98 in '10-11 speaks volumes for his development into one of the league's finest players.
Steven Stamkos has an insane shot. Defenses have to be aware of where he is on the ice at all times. That is the definition of a game-changer.
Stamkos has two consecutive 90-point seasons at the ripe age of 21.
Pavel Datsyuk just makes the Red Wings offense click. His absence from the lineup last season killed Detroit offensively.
His vision, hands and passing make him a lethal weapon in the opponent's zone.
Sidney Crosby is stealing headlines for every step of his rehab process. There is a reason for the insane amount of attention he receives: He is really good.
Crosby was dominant before his concussion last season and figures to return to form at some point this year. His all-around outstanding play makes him one of the biggest game-changers in the NHL.
It is amazing what Chris Pronger can still do at his age. The 37-year-old defenseman still exhibits dominant play in front of his own net as well as some useful offensive skills.
Pronger's presence, both on the blue line and in front of his goaltender, can alter the way the offense operates on any given night. His health is the most important aspect of the Flyers being able to have a successful season.
Tim Thomas is often unpredictable between the pipes. His reactionary style is impossible to teach but insanely effective for the Bruins goaltender.
The 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs were a prime example of what makes Thomas so incredibly dangerous.
His focus and anticipation are off the charts, and he is easily the most valuable player on the Bruins roster. He is the heartbeat of the team.
In the blink of an eye, Alex Ovechkin could have blown by the defense, roofed a wrist shot, undressed the goaltender or all of the above.
Ovechkin is tons of fun to watch and has the ability to captivate any crowd. He is an entertainer, but more importantly, he is an incredibly talented hockey player.