Ranking the 10 Most Consistent Veterans in the NHL

Allan Mitchell@@Lowetide_Featured ColumnistDecember 15, 2015

Ranking the 10 Most Consistent Veterans in the NHL

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    NHL teams have relatively few real difference-makers, and those men are vital to team fortunes each season. A major investment has to deliver consistent performance and allow the team to outscore the opposition. 

    Some of the most valuable players in the NHL are consistent veterans. An NHL coach can write their name in the lineup every night, content in the knowledge they will deliver quality and reliable play in each game. 

    Here are the most consistent players in the game today, based on six or more years at their established level of reliability. Only players who have maintained the highest level through their careers are ranked.

10. Erik Karlsson, D, Ottawa Senators

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    What Is His Role?

    Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators is the NHL's best offensive defenseman.

    What Makes Him Special?

    Karlsson is a phenomenal offensive player, with creativity, passing and anticipation being his most outstanding skills. His ability to change gears and set the tempo of a game are without equal among defenders in today's NHL.

    How Long Has He Been This Player?

    He arrived in the NHL at 19, and it took a little time for him to emerge as a game-breaker. Beginning in his second NHL season, he has been an offensive difference-maker, meaning he has been at a high level of performance for six seasons.

9. Anze Kopitar, C, Los Angeles Kings

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    What Is His Role?

    Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings is their top center and plays in the major parts of the game.

    What Makes Him Special?

    Kopitar is a big player (6'3'', 224 lbs), and he is also fast—a very unique skill set. Add those things to substantial offensive acumen, and Kopitar is a elite player in all areas.

    How Long Has He Been This Player?

    He arrived offensively ready, but it took a little while to establish himself in the other areas of the game. Kopitar has been one of the most complete centers in the game since 2009-10, meaning he has seven seasons of established elite-level play.

8. Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Andrew Nelles/Associated Press

    What Is His Role?

    Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks takes on the best opposition every night and outscores them, along with linemate Marian Hossa. Since 2012, the duo have been dominant in possession.

    What Makes Him Special?

    Toews might be the most complete center in the NHL. He is exceptional in that he can impact any portion of the game and usually does, every night.

    How Long Has He Been This Player?

    Toews sawed off the opposition as a rookie in 2007-08 and by the following season was approaching dominant status. It is reasonable to suggest Toews has been in a class of his own as a two-way center for eight seasons.

7. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Washington Capitals

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    What Is His Role?

    Nicklas Backstrom is a quality playmaking center for the Washington Capitals.

    What Makes Him Special?

    Backstrom is quick and creative. He is also able to thread the needle with a pass. He can double as both the playmaker and responsible forward on a line, giving his coach a unique and valuable combination.

    How Long Has He Been This Player?

    He arrived at 20 for the 2007-08 season and has been playing at a high level ever since. This is his ninth year in the NHL.

6. Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Paul Beaty/Associated Press

    What Is His Role?

    Patrick Kane's role for the Chicago Blackhawks is to deliver offense, and he is very good at it.

    What Makes Him Special?

    Kane has ridiculous top speed and can make plays while going all out. He is a fantastic passer with a great shot and a quick release. Opposing defensemen often have him covered pretty well and he still finds a way to score on them because of his elusiveness.

    How Long Has He Been This Player?

    Kane arrived ready and had a fabulous rookie season. Since then, he has been an explosive and dangerous scorer, and this season appears to be on another level. He has been a quality offensive player for all nine seasons of his NHL career.

5. Duncan Keith, D, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    What Is His Role?

    Duncan Keith is a complete defenseman for the Chicago Blackhawks. He plays a lot in all three disciplines.

    What Makes Him Special?

    Keith is a quality defender, but he's a difference-maker at the offensive end of the ice. He has a terrific shot, calm feet in the offensive zone, is an excellent passer and makes timely trips into the scoring zone when opportunities arise.

    How Long Has He Been This Player?

    Like most defensemen, it took some time for Keith to put together all aspects of his game at the NHL level. He was quality at both ends by 2007-08, meaning he is in season No. 9 at this level.

4. Henrik Sedin, C, Vancouver Canucks

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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    What Is His Role?

    Henrik Sedin is a brilliant offensive center and plays the role very well for the Vancouver Canucks.

    What Makes Him Special?

    Sedin has a lot of layers to his game, including the ability to cycle the puck down low with his brother Daniel Sedin. He can also win physical battles and is an expert playmaker.

    How Long Has He Been This Player?

    Henrik Sedin emerged as a bona fide offensive player in 2005-06 and has been delivering ever since. His reliable play has been part of Canucks hockey for 11 years. 

    Note: Henrik's brother Daniel would have made the list, but he has missed enough games over the last seven years to to excluded from the ranking.

3. Henrik Lundqvist, G, New York Rangers

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    What Is His Role?

    Henrik Lundqvist is the starting goaltender for the New York Rangers. The King routinely plays over 50 games a season, although he was under that number in two of the last three seasons.

    What Makes Him Special?

    Lundqvist is consistently excellent at a position with wild ups and downs. The best example of how reliable Lundqvist is: He had an .888 save percentage in December 2014, his third month under .900 since the fall of 2010.

    How Long Has He Been This Player?

    Lundqvist arrived in the NHL at 23 and quickly emerged as one of the NHL's best. This is season No. 11 for his excellent career in New York.

2. Alexander Ovechkin, LW, Washington Capitals

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    What Is His Role?

    Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is the greatest goal-scorer of his generation.

    What Makes Him Special?

    Aside from his amazing goal totals, Ovechkin's shot totals are his calling card. He has exceeded 350 shots in a season eight times, an astonishing total in the modern era.

    How Long Has He Been This Player?

    Ovechkin is that rare player who arrives in the NHL as an impact player. His 11 NHL seasons have been marked by consistent goal-scoring, the most difficult thing to do in the game.

1. Marian Hossa, RW, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    What Is His Role?

    Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks brings the complete game every night. He is deployed in all three aspects of the game—even strength, power play, penalty kill—and he is effective in all of them.

    What Makes Him Special?

    Hossa is a rare player, in that he can post offense—it is impossible to identify a poor season—while also being a brilliant possession player. Since 2010, at even strength, Hossa's teams are at 55 percent in possession.

    How Long Has He Been This Player?

    He blossomed as an NHL player at age 21, in 1999-00. The following year, he received his first votes for the Frank J Selke Trophy, emblematic of the best defensive forward in the game. It is not a stretch to say he has been a reliable two-way forward with substantial offense so far this century.

    Note: All advanced statistics via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.

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