Every NHL Team's Best Player to Come out of the American Hockey League

Alison MyersCorrespondent IDecember 19, 2011

Every NHL Team's Best Player to Come out of the American Hockey League

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    The American Hockey League (AHL) is the top hockey league in the United States behind the NHL. It exists to prepare players for entry into the NHL, and over the years, many AHL alumni have gone on to successful NHL careers.

    In fact, on opening night of the 2011-12 NHL season, over 600 former AHL players were on big-league rosters. These players accounted for around 83 percent of the league's players.

    While minor-league success doesn't always translate to strong performances in the NHL, the 30 players in this slideshow are in the group who may not be where they are today if they had not played in the AHL.

    In order to put this list together, I used some criteria that narrowed down the pool I had to work with, as there is simply no time to go through statistics for 600 players.

    First, every player considered had to spend time in the AHL before advancing to the NHL. This meant if a player was already in the NHL full-time but got sent down during the lockout in 2004-05, they weren't eligible for the list (this is why you will not see Eric Staal as the selected Hurricanes player).

    Second, the players had to come through their current team's farm system. Players were not eligible for inclusion if they played in the AHL for a team that is not or was not affiliated with their current organization.

    Third, I decided that each player had to play a quarter of a season in the AHL, which would be 19 games according to the AHL's current 76-game schedule. I realize some gifted players need less time in the AHL, but in general, a quarter of a season is when you can get a good read on players.

    Check out who made the cut, and let me know if you think I got someone wrong.

Anaheim Ducks: Corey Perry, Right Wing

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    Perry played 19 games with the Portland Pirates when they were affiliated with Anaheim during the 2005-06 season. That year, he tore up the Pirates score sheet with 34 points in 19 games. He received a call-up to the Ducks, where he had 25 points in 56 games.

    He won the Stanley Cup in 2006-07 after posting 44 points and a plus-12 in the regular season, then went on to have 15 points and a plus-five in the playoffs.

    After the victory, Perry continued to improve each year, but he really put himself on the map last season. He captured the Rocket Richard Trophy with 50 goals and had 98 points to also take home the Hart Trophy. He also had eight points in six playoff games as the Ducks lost to the Nashville Predators in the first round.

    He currently has 26 points in 31 games and is third in the NHL with seven power-play goals.

    In addition to his banner season in 2010-11 and Stanley Cup, he won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics, posting four goals and five points in seven games.

    He is also a two-time NHL All-Star, having represented the Ducks at the 2008 and 2011 events.

     

    Honorable Mentions: Matt Beleskey, Bobby Ryan

Boston Bruins: Tim Thomas, Goaltender

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    Thomas played 104 games for the Providence Bruins, Boston's AHL affiliate, from 2002 through 2006. He finished his AHL career with a record of 53-39-11 and 11 shutouts with a .923 save percentage and 2.32 GAA.

    He has posted three 30-win seasons in Boston, including a career-high 36 wins in 2009, when he won his first Vezina Trophy. That year, he went 36-11-7 with five shutouts while posting a .933 save percentage and 2.10 GAA.

    In 2011, he took home his second Vezina after finishing the season with a record of 35-11-9 with nine shutouts as well as a .938 save percentage and 2.00 GAA. His GAA set an NHL single-season record.

    Thomas continued to up his game in the playoffs, as he went 16-9 with four shutouts, as well as a .940 save percentage and a 1.98 GAA, as Boston won their first Stanley Cup since 1972. He also won the Conn Smythe Trophy, making him the first American-born goaltender to take home the award.

    Thomas represented Team USA at the 2010 Olympics and won a silver medal. He was named to the 2008, 2009 and 2011 NHL All-Star Games.

    He is currently third in the NHL with 15 wins and is also second with a .943 save percentage and third with a 1.83 GAA. He is first in the league with four shutouts.

     

    Honorable Mentions: Patrice Bergeron, Johnny Boychuk, David Krejci, Brad Marchand

Buffalo Sabres: Ryan Miller, Goaltender

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    Miller started his professional career as a member of the Rochester Americans when they were initally affiliated with the Sabres. He played in 172 games from 2002 through 2006, winning 41 games in the 2005-06 campaign. That season, he had eight shutouts to go with a .922 save percentage and 2.45 GAA as the Amerks won the AHL's North Division.

    Miller finished his AHL career with a mark of 92-61-16 with 15 shutouts, as well as a .914 save percentage and 2.37 GAA.

    With Buffalo, he has won at least 30 games every year, including two 40-win seasons in 2006-07 and 2009-10. He took home the Vezina in 2010 after going 41-18-8 with five shutouts and a .929 save percentage and 2.22 GAA.

    At the 2010 Olympics, Miller had a 5-0-1 record and put up a 1.35 GAA and .946 save percentage as Team USA won the silver. He was named tournament MVP for his efforts.

    He represented the Sabres at the 2007 NHL All-Star Game en route to posting a record of 40-16-6 with a 2.73 GAA and .911 save percentage.

    Despite dealing with a concussion earlier this year, Miller still has a winning record of 8-6-2 in 17 games. He also has a .902 save percentage and 3.12 GAA, so hopefully he can bring those numbers down as Buffalo continues to look for a playoff seed.

Calgary Flames: Mark Giordano, Defenseman

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    Giordano played for two different AHL teams in their respective affiliations with Calgary. He started out with the now-defunct Lowell Lock Monsters during the 2004-05 season and finished with 16 points and a plus-13 rating in 66 games.

    He then moved on to the also-defunct Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights and played 78 games from 2005-07. In that time, he had 58 points during the 2005-06 season, finishing with 60 points and a plus-three once his career there was done.

    He had a career season with Calgary last year, as he had 43 points. His career high in plus/minus rating came during the 2009-10 season, where he had a plus-10 rating.

    Giordano has not played since November 29 and had eight points before going down. He was also second with 22:10 of ice time per game and 53 blocked shots. He was also third with 3:34 of ice time on the power play and fifth with 2:19 of penalty-kill minutes, as well as seventh with 34 hits.

    He signed a five-year contract extension with the Flames in October of 2010 and was once named one of the most underrated players by The Hockey News.

     

    Honorable Mention: David Moss

Carolina Hurricanes: Cam Ward, Goaltender

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    Ward began his professional career with the Lowell Lock Monsters during the 2004-05 season and had a record of 27-17-3 for a .937 save percentage and a 1.99 GAA.

    He came to the Hurricanes the next year and had some struggles in the regular season. Although he had a 14-8-2 record, he had a save percentage of .882 and a GAA of 3.68.

    But in the postseason, Ward did something special to help the Hurricanes win their first Stanley Cup. He went 15-8 in the playoffs with two shutouts to go with a .920 save percentage and a 2.14 GAA, which helped him take home the Conn Smythe.

    Ward has four 30-win seasons in his time in Carolina, including a career-high 39 wins in 2008-09, a season which also saw him post a .916 save percentage and a 2.44 GAA.

    He represented the Hurricanes at last year's NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh on his way to a record of 37-26-10 with four shutouts as well as a .923 save percentage and 2.56 GAA.

    Although he is currently trying to find his form, as he is 10-13-4 with a .899 save percentage and 3.30 GAA, he has still accomplished a lot and is one of the best goaltenders in the Canes' short history.

     

    Honorable Mentions: Patrick Dwyer, Chad LaRose, Jamie McBain, Brandon Sutter 

Chicago Blackhawks: Duncan Keith, Defenseman

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    Keith played with the Norfolk Admirals from 2003-2005, where he had 51 points in 154 games. Norfolk was affiliated with Chicago from 2000 through 2007.

    After coming to Chicago, he improved every year from 2006 through 2010. In 2009-10, he had a career-high 69 points, which helped him win his first Norris Trophy.

    In 2008-09, he posted a career high in the plus/minus category with a plus-33.

    Keith was also an integral part of the Hawks ending a 49-year Stanley Cup drought. In the 2010 playoffs, he had 17 points and a plus-two in 22 postseason game. He won a gold medal with Team Canada in the Olympics that same year, posting six assists in seven games.

    He is a two-time NHL All-Star, having represented Chicago at the 2008 and 2011 festivities. Last season, he had 45 points, including three power-play goals.

    He currently has 20 points and a plus-six through 29 games and is first on the team with 26:04 of ice time. He is also third with 48 blocked shots and 2:17 of ice time on the penalty kill, as well as fourth with 3:29 of ice time on the power play.

     

    Honorable Mention: Corey Crawford

Colorado Avalanche: David Jones, Right Wing

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    Jones has been with the Avalanche organization his entire career to date. He played 45 games for the Lake Erie Monsters in his 2007-08 rookie year, where he had 30 points and 12 power-play goals.

    Since making the NHL, he has improved his statistics every year despite dealing with injuries. Last season, he had 45 points and tied with Matt Duchene for the team goal-scoring lead with 27 tallies. It was the closest to a full season he played (77 games) since he turned pro.

    This year, he has missed just two games and is tied for fifth on Colorado in scoring with 14 points. He also has two power-play goals and is ninth with 2:24 of ice time on the man advantage. He averages around 15 minutes a game.

     

    Honorable Mention: T.J. Galiardi

Columbus Blue Jackets: Marc Methot, Defenseman

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    Methot played 195 games for the Syracuse Crunch from 2005 through 2008, posting 42 points and a plus-26 rating.

    Last season, he posted the second-highest points tally of his career, as he had 15 assists through 74 games. He also had a plus-two rating and was first on the Blue Jackets with 2:56 of ice time on the penalty kill. He ranked second with 176 hits and third with 98 blocked shots, as well as fourth with 19:53 of ice time per game.

    Methot currently has five points in 26 games and is third with 2:19 of ice time on the penalty kill and 49 hits. He also ranks fourth with 27 blocked shots and 19:52 of ice time.

     

    Honorable Mentions: Derick Brassard, Grant Clitsome

Dallas Stars: Loui Eriksson, Left Wing

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    Eriksson played 95 games for the now-defunct Iowa Stars from 2005 to 2008. He highlighted his AHL career with 60 points in 78 games during the 2005-06 season.

    He has improved every year with the Stars from 2007 to 2011. In 2008-09, he had 36 goals and 63 points, while last year he was second on the team with 73 points and third with 27 goals. He also ranked first with 10 power-play goals and six game-winning goals.

    Eriksson also got a decent amount of ice time last year, as he was fifth with 20:34 of average ice time per game and 3:23 of power-play minutes.

    So far this year, he is second on Dallas with 25 points and is leading with 11 goals. He is seventh with 19:01 of ice time per game, eighth with 1:54 of penalty-kill ice time and ninth with 2:26 of ice time on the power play.

    Eriksson represented Sweden at the 2010 Olympics, where he had four points in four games as Sweden failed to medal. He was also a 2011 NHL All-Star.

     

    Honorable Mention: Trevor Daley

Detroit Red Wings: Valtteri Filppula, Center

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    Detroit has a lot of strong home-grown players, so this was not an easy decision to be sure.

    But ultimately, I went with Valtteri Filppula, an overlooked center who has been valuable during his career with the Red Wings.

    Filppula started his career with the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he had a pair of 70-point seasons, including 71 points in 74 games during the 2005-06 season.

    He has four straight 30-point seasons in Detroit, including posting 40 points in 2008 and 2009. When Detroit went to back-to-back Stanley Cup Finals in 2008 and 2009, he had 11 points and a plus-seven in 2008 and improved on that total to 16 points in 2009.

    This was despite the fact that the Wings lost in seven games to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Last season, he had 39 points in 71 games as well as four power-play goals and five game-winning goals. He was also seventh with a 51.5 percent faceoff win percentage.

    This year, Filppula is having a breakout season, as he is currently third on the Wings with 25 points and second with 10 goals. He is also fourth with a 52.4 percent faceoff win percentage and eighth with 2:41 of power-play ice time. He plays 16:35 per game, good for ninth on the team.

    Filppula also won a bronze medal with Finland at the 2010 Olympics, where he posted three goals in six games.

     

    Honorable Mentions: Justin Abdelkader, Jonathan Ericsson, Jimmy Howard, Niklas Kronwall, Jiri Hudler

Edmonton Oilers: Jordan Eberle, Right Wing

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    With players such as Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins coming straight to Edmonton out of junior hockey, it can be easy to overlook a home-grown player such as Jordan Eberle.

    Eberle just made the cut for this list, as he played 20 games with the Springfield Falcons from 2009 to 2010, posting 23 points in that time.

    Last season, he led the Oilers in scoring with 43 points despite just playing 69 games.

    So far this year, he is tied with Nugent-Hopkins for the team scoring lead with 33 points. He also has 12 goals, which is tied for second with Ryan Smyth. His tallies include four power-play goals and three game-winning goals.

    He is also second on Edmonton with 3:35 of power-play ice time.

Florida Panthers: Jason Garrison, Defenseman

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    The Florida Panthers are Eastern Conference playoff contenders for the first time in several years, and AHL graduate Jason Garrison is one of the reasons why.

    Garrison played 113 games for the Rochester Americans from 2008 through 2010, when the team was affiliated with the Panthers, and had 54 points.

    Last year was his first full NHL season, and he finished with 18 points and three game-winning goals in 73 games. He was first on the Panthers with 136 hits and 22:17 of ice time, and second with 3:08 of ice time on the penalty kill and 127 blocked shots. He was also eighth with 3:08 of power-play ice time.

    Currently, he has 15 points and 10 goals, as well as a plus-nine rating, through 33 games. He is fourth on the Panthers in goals and third among defensemen in scoring. In addition, he is ninth in the NHL with six power-play goals.

    He is first with 52 blocked shots and second with 24:32 of ice time per game and 2:55 of ice time on the penalty kill. He is also tied for third with 42 hits and ranks seventh with 2:40 of power play ice time.

     

    Honorable Mentions: Matt Bradley, Keaton Ellerby, Shawn Matthias

Los Angeles Kings: Jonathan Quick, Goaltender

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    Quick played 33 games for the Manchester Monarchs from 2007 through 2009, where he went 17-13-2 with three shutouts as well as a .921 save percentage and 2.50 GAA.

    He has posted back-to-back 30-win seasons in Los Angeles in 2010 (39 wins) and 2011. Last season, he had a record of 35-22-3 with six shutouts to go with a .918 save percentage and 2.24 GAA.

    Quick got off to a strong start in 2011-12 with three straight shutouts in October, making him the first Kings goalie to accomplish the feat.

    He is 12-10-4 through 26 starts this season and is first in the NHL with four shutouts. He is also 10th with a .927 save percentage and has a 2.20 GAA.

     

    Honorable Mention: Dustin Brown

Minnesota Wild: Cal Clutterbuck, Right Wing

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    Clutterbuck played 75 games with the Houston Aeros in the 2007-08 season, where he had 24 points and a plus-one rating.

    He improved with Minnesota every year from 2009 through 2011. In 2010-11, he set career highs in goals (19) and points (34) while adding four power-play goals and three game-winning goals. He was second on the Wild in goal scoring.

    Clutterbuck also brings a physical edge to his game. Last season, he was first on the Wild and the entire league with 336 hits.

    He currently has 15 points in 29 games and is first in the NHL with four shorthanded goals. He also has two power-play goals and two game-winning goals. He ranks fifth on Minnesota in points and is tied for second with nine goals.

    He is also seventh with 2:40 of power-play ice time and is first on the team and second in the league with 116 hits.

     

    Honorable Mentions: Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Josh Harding, Jared Spurgeon

Montreal Canadiens: Tomas Plekanec, Center

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    Plekanec was an over a point-per-game player with the Hamilton Bulldogs, as he had 176 points in 156 AHL games from 2003 through 2006.

    Upon joining Montreal, he improved each year from 2006 through 2008. After a disappointing 2008-09 season that saw him post just 39 points, he rebounded in 2009-10 to have a career-high 70 points.

    Last season he led the Habs with 57 points and also had a plus-eight rating to go with three power-play goals and four game-winning goals. He was also second on the team with 22 goals. Overall, he has three 50-point seasons and five 20-goal seasons during his NHL career.

    In addition, in 2010-11, he was second on the team with a 50 percent faceoff win rate and was sixth with 20:14 of ice time per game. He was fourth with 2:49 logged on the penalty kill and fifth with 2:55 of ice time on the power play.

    Currently, he is Montreal's leading scorer with 25 points and is fifth with six goals. He is third with 21:08 of ice time per game and 2:56 played on the penalty kill, as well as second with 4:01 of power-play minutes. Plekanec is also sixth in faceoff-win percentage (49.5 percent) and ninth in blocked shots (20).

    He represented the Czech Republic at the 2010 Olympics, posting three points in five games.

     

    Honorable Mentions: David Desharnais, Andrei Kostitsyn, P.K. Subban

Nashville Predators: Shea Weber, Defenseman

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    Weber, the captain of the Predators, played 46 games with the Milwaukee Admirals during the 2005-06 season, posting 27 points and a plus-one rating.

    He has four 40-point seasons with Nashville and had his best year in 2008-09, when he had 23 goals and 53 points.

    Last season, he led Preds defensemen in scoring with 48 points and added six power-play goals, one shorthanded goal and three game-winning goals. He was fourth on the team in goals (16) and had five points in 12 playoff games as Nashville advanced to the second round for the first time in team history.

    In addition, he was first on the team with 211 hits and 25:19 of ice time, as well as 3:38 of ice time on the power play. He was fifth with 2:06 of ice time on the penalty kill.

    So far this year, he has 24 points and a plus-15 rating through 32 games. He is tied for the team scoring lead and is 10th in the NHL with five power-play goals. Weber is also second with 26:12 of ice time per game and third in penalty-kill ice time (2:31), as well as hits (53) and blocked shots (44).

    Weber also won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics, where he had six points in seven games. He went to the 2009 and 2011 NHL All-Star Games and was a Norris Trophy finalist last season.

     

    Honorable Mentions: Pekka Rinne, Ryan Suter

New Jersey Devils: Martin Brodeur, Goaltender

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    Brodeur may be in the twilight of his career, but it seemed unacceptable to put anyone else in this spot.

    Brodeur started his career with the Devils as a member of the now-defunct Utica Devils in the 1992-93 season. In 32 games, he went 14-13-5 with a 4.03 GAA.

    He has been in New Jersey since the 1993-94 season and made an impact right away, winning the Calder Trophy after going 27-11-8 with three shutouts, a .915 save percentage and a 2.40 GAA.

    Since that time, he has posted 13 30-win seasons and eight 40-win campaigns, including a career-high 48 games in 2007. He posted a personal best .927 save percentage and 1.88 GAA in 1996-97, a season where he also won 37 games and had 10 shutouts.

    He has three Stanley Cups (1995, 2000 and 2003), four Vezina Trophies (2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008) and is a 10-time NHL All-Star (1996-2001, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2008). He holds over 30 Devils franchise records, including the most all-time wins in the regular season and playoffs, and is second in games played (1,150 to date).

    In addition, Brodeur has two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada (2002 and 2010). At the 2002 Olympics, he went 4-0-1 and posted a 1.80 GAA.

    He currently has an 8-8 record with a .886 save percentage and a 3.08 GAA, as a struggling Devils squad and injury problems have slowed him down over the last two seasons. However, he is by far one of the best players, if not the best, to come out of a Devils minor-league team.

New York Islanders: Frans Nielsen, Center

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    Nielsen played 102 games for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers from 2006 through 2008, posting 82 points and a plus-13 rating.

    He has three 30-point seasons as a member of the Islanders, and last season, he had a career year with 13 goals and 44 points. He finished fifth on the team in scoring and led the NHL with seven shorthanded goals. 

    Nielsen also ranked second with 2:59 of penalty kill ice time and was sixth in faceoff win percentage (46.2 percent), seventh in power-play ice time (2:30) and eighth in blocked shots (63).

    Currently, he has 13 points in 30 games and is fifth on the Islanders in scoring. He is seventh with 22 blocked shots and ninth with a 44 percent faceoff win percentage.

     

    Honorable Mentions: Travis Hamonic, Andrew MacDonald, Kyle Okposo

New York Rangers: Ryan Callahan, Right Wing

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    Callahan, who is in his first year as the Rangers captain, played 71 games with the Hartford Wolfpack (now the Connecticut Whale) from 2006 to 2008 and had 70 points.

    He has three 30-point seasons with the Rangers and passed the 40-point mark in 2009 and 2011. Last season, he set career highs in goals (23) and points (48). He was tied for second in scoring and was also second in goals.

    In addition, he ranked second with 224 hits and sixth with 77 blocked shots. He was third in power-play minutes (3:23) and penalty-kill ice time (2:13). He was also fourth with an average of 19:54 played per game.

    He is currently third on the Rangers with 23 points and second with 12 goals. He is 10th in the NHL with five power-play goals. He is fourth with 21:20 of ice time and 2:02 of ice time on the penalty kill. He is first with 98 hits and second with a 70 percent faceoff win percentage while ranking fifth with 33 blocked shots. 

    Callahan won a silver medal with Team USA at the 2010 Olympics, finishing the tournament with one assist in six games.

     

    Honorable Mentions: Brandon Dubinsky, Dan Girardi, Michael Sauer

Ottawa Senators: Jason Spezza, Center

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    Spezza played 43 games with the Binghamton Senators in 2003-04 and tore up the score sheet with 54 points. He remained there during the 2004-05 lockout and posted an incredible 117-point campaign.

    He joined Ottawa after the lockout, where he had 70 points a season through 2009. His career best was 92 points in 2008, and he posted 34 goals in 2007 and 2008.

    During the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs, which saw Ottawa make its first trip to the finals, he set a franchise record with 23 points in 22 playoff games as the Senators lost the Cup to the Anaheim Ducks in five games.

    Last year, he had 57 points, matching his total from 2009-10 despite playing only 60 games due to injuries. He was also still Ottawa's leading scorer and finished second with a 56.3 percent faceoff win percentage. He was also third with 3:36 played on the power play, fifth with 20:11 of ice time per game and seventh with 1:49 in penalty-kill minutes. 

    Currently, Spezza leads the Senators with 36 points (fourth in the NHL) and is second on the team with 12 goals. He is also third in power-play ice time (3:44) and faceoff wins (55.1 percent) while ranking fifth with 19:36 of ice time. Meanwhile, his 24 assists are fourth in the league.

    He represented Ottawa at the 2008 NHL All-Star Game.

     

    Honorable Mentions: Bobby Butler, Erik Condra, Nick Foligno, Colin Greening, Zack Smith

Philadelphia Flyers: Claude Giroux, Right Wing

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    Giroux played 33 games with the Philadelphia Phantoms during the 2008-09 season and had 34 points to average around a point per game.

    Since coming to the Flyers, he improved every year from 2009 through 2011. Last season, he set career highs in goals (25) and points (76). That was enough to lead the team in scoring and rank third in goals. He was also fifth with a 50 percent faceoff win percentage and 117 hits.

    In addition, he started to see some decent minutes, as he was sixth with 19:23 of ice time per game. He was also third with 3:04 of power-play ice time and eighth with 2:06 logged on the penalty kill.

    He has done solid in the posteason, putting up 21 points in 23 playoff games as the Flyers went to the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals. Last year, he had 12 points in 11 games as Philly lost to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. 

    Giroux is currently out of the Flyers lineup with a concussion. However, he is still ninth in the NHL with 16 goals and first with 39 points, and is also second with five game-winning goals. 

    Before getting hurt, he was first with 4:06 of ice time on the power play and fifth with 21:28 of average ice time per game, and he also played 2:50 on the penalty kill (sixth). He was also second with a 51.5 percent faceoff win percentage, ninth with 19 blocked shots and 10th with 22 hits.

    He represented the Flyers at the 2011 NHL All-Star Game.

    Giroux was having a season for the ages before getting hurt, so hopefully, he can come back soon and pick up where he left off.

Phoenix Coyotes: Keith Yandle, Defenseman

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    Yandle played 99 games with the San Antonio Rampage from 2006 through 2008, where he had 48 points during his AHL stint.

    He has eclipsed the 30-point mark three times while with Phoenix and posted 40-point seasons in 2010 and 2011. He had a career-high 59 points in 2010-11 and was second on the team and first among Coyotes defensemen in scoring. He added a plus-12 rating and three power-play goals as well.

    In addition, he was fourth with 103 blocked shots and first in both average ice time (24:22) and power-play minutes (4:05).

    So far in 2011-12, he is fourth on the Coyotes and leads Phoenix defensemen with 20 points through 32 games, and he also has two game-winning goals. He is first with 22:23 of ice time and 4:09 logged on the power play, and his 34 blocked shots are good for sixth place on the team.

    Yandle was named to the 2011 NHL All-Star Game as a replacement for the injured Tobias Enstrom. On the first day of 2011 free agency, he signed a five-year contract.

     

    Honorable Mentions: Mikkel Boedker, David Schlemko

Pittsburgh Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury, Goaltender

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    Fleury played 66 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins during the 2004-05 season and through November 2005, where he had a 36-21-4 record with five shutouts to go with a .920 save percentage and 2.04 GAA.

    He has hit the 30-win mark four times with Pittsburgh and had a 40-win season in 2006-07. That year, he also had five shutouts accompanied by a .906 save percentage and a 2.83 GAA.

    He set career bests in save percentage in 2007-08 (.921) and GAA in 2010-11 (2.32).

    Last season, he went to his first NHL All-Star Game en route to a 36-20-5 record with three shutouts, and he posted a .918 save percentage and a 2.32 GAA. His performance also earned him the Penguins MVP Award.

    During the 2008 Stanley Cup Playoffs, which saw the Penguins go to the finals for the first time since 1992, he went 14-6 with three shutouts and finished with a .933 save percentage and a 1.97 GAA. The next year, he helped Pittsburgh to their third championship with a 16-8 record, as well as a .908 save percentage and 2.61 GAA.

    He is currently second in the NHL with 16 wins and also has a .914 save percentage and a 2.30 GAA. He is sixth in the league with two shutouts as well.

    Fleury won a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2010 Olympics, but he did not play in the tournament.

San Jose Sharks: Logan Couture, Center

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    Couture played 42 games with the Worcester Sharks during the 2009-10 season and had 53 points in that time, making his time in the AHL brief. He is one of the least experienced players to be included in this slideshow.

    Last season, he had 56 points and a plus-18 rating, as well as 10 power-play goals and eight game-winning goals. He finished sixth on San Jose in scoring and second with 32 goals. He was also second in power-play and game-winning goals. His goals total is a Sharks franchise record for most goals scored by a team rookie in a season.

    He ranked seventh in both power-play ice time (2:11) and faceoff win percentage (53.4 percent) and was eighth with 66 blocked shots. His performance earned him a finalist nod for the Calder Trophy.

    This season to date, he is tied for third on San Jose with 23 points and is tied for second with 12 goals. Couture is also sixth in power-play minutes (2:29) and faceoff win percentage (51.6 percent), while sitting in eighth in average ice time (18:15) and blocked shots (21).

     

    Honorable Mentions: Ryane Clowe, Jason Demers

St. Louis Blues: David Backes, Right Wing

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    Backes, the current St. Louis captain, played 43 games for the Peoria Rivermen from 2005 through 2007 and had 23 points.

    He has three straight 40-point seasons with the Blues and hit the 50-point mark twice, posting 54 points in 2009 and 62 points in 2011. He had 31 goals both seasons, and his 62-point campaign was a career high.

    Last season, he was first with 213 hits and sixth in average ice time (19:42) and penalty-kill minutes (1:45). He finished seventh with 40 blocked shots and a 44.5 percent faceoff win percentage, and was also ninth with 2:41 of power-play ice time.

    Through 32 games this year, he has 10 goals (second on the Blues) and 21 points (third). He also has two power-play goals and three game-winning goals.

    He is currently first on the team with 94 hits and fourth with 19:31 of ice time. He is tied for fifth with 19 blocked shots and is seventh with 1:35 of ice time on the penalty kill. In addition, he is eighth in both faceoff win percentage (44.8 percent) and power-play ice time (2:15).

    Backes went to his first NHL All-Star Game last year and also won a silver medal with Team USA at the 2010 Olympics. In Vancouver, he had five points in six games.

    He signed a five-year contract extension in November 2010.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Dana Tyrell, Center

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    Tampa Bay does not have a lot of successful home-grown players on their roster, so Tyrell was the only player who qualified to make this list.

    Last year, his first full NHL season, he had 15 points and one game-winning goal in 78 games. He ranked eighth with a 45.4 percent faceoff win percentage and was ninth with 1:41 of penalty-kill ice time. He only played in seven playoff games due to an injury and went scoreless.

    He is again not getting a lot of games in, as he has just five points in 12 games. He is eighth with 1:43 played when the Lightning are shorthanded.

Toronto Maple Leafs: James Reimer, Goaltender

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    Reimer played 41 games with the Toronto Marlies from 2009 through 2010, where he had a record of 23-13-3 with four shutouts and put up a .922 save percentage and a 2.42 GAA.

    He made his NHL debut last season and earned himself a permanent spot on the Leafs, finishing 20-10-5 with three shutouts in 37 games. He also had a .921 save percentage and a 2.60 GAA, and he signed a three-year contract extension in June as an additional reward.

    Reimer missed all of November this season due to a concussion, but he has a winning record despite the injury. He is currently 5-3-2 with a 2.97 GAA and a .892 save percentage, as well as one shutout.

     

    Honorable Mention: Tyler Bozak

Vancouver Canucks: Ryan Kesler, Center

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    Kesler played 111 games for the Manitoba Moose from 2003 through 2005, where he had 68 points.

    He has posted 50 points three times during his time with Vancouver, and in 2009-10, he had a career-high 75 points. He had 41 goals last season to hit a career best in that category, and had 73 points overall.

    Kesler also added 15 power-play goals, three shorthanded goals and seven game-winning goals, as well as a plus-24 rating. His performance earned him the first Selke Trophy of his career.

    In addition, he was fifth in penalty-kill ice time (2:33), average ice time (20:29) and hits (124). He finished fourth with a 57.4 percent faceoff win percentage and sixth with 80 blocked shots, and his 3:37 of power-play ice time was second best.

    As the Canucks went to the Stanley Cup Finals, he had 19 points in 25 games.

    Kesler, a current alternate captain, missed five games at the start of the season to recover from hip surgery. However, he has come back strong, as he is third on the Canucks with 23 points. He ranks fourth with a 55.4 percent faceoff win percentage and 26 blocked shots. He is fifth with 19:53 of ice time and 2:15 played on the penalty kill. His 3:58 logged on the power play is third, while he is sixth with 38 hits.

    He won a silver medal with Team USA at the 2010 Olympics, where he had two goals in six games, and was a 2011 NHL All-Star.

    Kesler was awarded the Canucks 2009 MVP award after posting 26 goals and 59 points.

Washington Capitals: John Carlson, Defenseman

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    Carlson is a fast-rising star of the Capitals defensive corps. He started his professional career by playing 48 games with the Hershey Bears in 2009-10, where he had 39 points and a plus-37 rating.

    Last season, he led Caps defensemen with 37 points and a plus-21. He was first on the team with 160 blocked shots and third with 22:38 of ice time. In addition, he finished sixth with 2:19 of ice time on the penalty kill and ninth with 2:12 played on the power play.

    Carlson has continued to succeed this year, as he has five goals and 20 points in 31 games. He is tied for third on the team in scoring and is also tied for the scoring lead among defensemen.

    He is again first with 50 blocked shots and second in both overall ice time (22:48) and penalty-kill minutes (2:35). His 1:57 of ice time on the power play is eighth.

    With Mike Green out of the lineup due to a groin injury, Carlson has had to step up and take on a big role, and he is doing a fine job even as the Caps have not shown significant improvement after a coaching change.

     

    Honorable Mentions: Mike Green, Brooks Laich

Winnipeg Jets: Bryan Little, Center

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    The Jets' current AHL affiliate is the St. John's IceCaps, a first-year team in the AHL. Since an IceCaps player has yet to make his way to a permanent spot on the Jets roster, I used the Chicago Wolves, the Atlanta Thrashers' last AHL affiliate, for my selection.

    Representing the Wolves/Thrashers/Jets here is center Bryan Little.

    Little played 34 games for the Wolves in the 2007-08 season, where he had 25 points and a plus-one rating. He moved on to the Thrashers and had three 30-point seasons and two 40-point campaigns. He had his best season in 2008-09, posting 31 goals and 51 points.

    Last season, he was fourth on Atlanta with 18 goals and 48 points. He was fifth with 2:28 of ice time on the power play and sixth with a 46.3 percent faceoff win percentage. His 18:27 of average ice time per game was seventh, while his 1:42 played on the penalty kill was ninth.

    Currently, he has 11 goals and 20 points through 32 games with Winnipeg. He is fourth on the team in scoring and second in goals.

    In addition, he is fourth in faceoff wins (52.5 percent win percentage), overall ice time (20:04) and power play minutes (2:53). He ranks 10th with 2:10 played on the penalty kill.

     

    Honorable Mention: Ondrej Pavelec