NHL Power Rankings: 25 of the Most Underrated Players in the NHL

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IAugust 25, 2011

NHL Power Rankings: 25 of the Most Underrated Players in the NHL

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    Today's NHL is full of many talented athletes and superstars. Even the casual NHL fan knows the names, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Henrik Lundqvist, Nicklas Lidstrom, Shea Weber, Tim Thomas, etc.

    These players are superstars in their own right and are household names. However, there are also heart and soul players whose names are not as easily recognized. These players are simply underrated.

    By underrated, these players are individuals that have not earned the recognition they deserve despite performing and at a higher level.

    These are the unsung heroes, the role players and the players who simple don't get the recognition they deserve.

    This slideshow will take a look at 25 of the most underrated players in the NHL today. 

Honorable Mention

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    Ryan Clowe- San Jose Sharks

    Douglas Murray- San Jose Sharks

    *Mikko Koivu- Minnesota Wild

    These players have come up in the comments as players who should have made the list. Mikko Koivu is a player who I feel isn't that underrated anymore. He talent and worth has been appreciated considering he was the first permanent captain of the Wild, he has been selected to many national teams, and other accolades during his career.

    The pair of Sharks also are honorable mentions on this list for their superb two way play and scoring in their own right.

25. Ryan McDonagh

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    Ryan McDonagh was once a top defensive prospect for the Montreal Canadiens. He was then shipped away in a lopsided trade to the Rangers in which the Canadiens acquired Scott Gomez.

    McDonagh then assimilated into the AHL as a member of the Hartford Wolfpack before making the jump to the big club last season.

    In 40 games with the Rangers, McDonagh was a plus-16 with one goal and nine assists for 10 points. McDonagh also took only 14 penalty minutes which attests to his discipline and defensive prowess. 

    McDonagh was also a part of a defensive pairing with Michael Sauer that kept Alex Ovechkin scoreless against the Rangers.

    McDonagh is defenseman with a lot of potential and has big expectations for the 2011-12 season.

24. John Madden

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    John Madden is one of the most underrated two-way forwards in NHL history. It is a mystery to many that he is still without a job for the upcoming season.

    He is a superb penalty killer, fore checker and forward who is known for his knack to score clutch shorthanded goals.

    At age 38, Madden may be slowing down, but he still could play a role on a team that is looking to bulk up defensively.

23. Brandon Prust

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    Brandon Prust was thought of as a throw in player when the Calgary Flames shipped him and Ollie Jokinen to the New York Rangers two years ago.

    Brandon Prust has been nothing short of exciting for the Blueshirts since coming to Broadway. Prust has been a solid third-line player and special team asset for John Tortorella.

    Prust can take the body and has been known to score a short-handed goal every now and then. Prust had a career year for the Rangers last year as he tallied 13 goals and 26 assists for 39 points.

    This may seem minimal, but Prust's overall game makes him one of the underrated special team specialists in the game today.

22. Manny Malholtra

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    Manny Malholtra was once unfairly characterized by then Rangers' coach John Muckler.

    Rangers head coach John Muckler publicly declared that Malholtra would be nothing more than a career third-liner.

    Muckler was sorta right but also wrong at the same time. Manny Malholtra is one of the top faceoff takers in the NHL today. He is a heart-and-soul guy that has grit and jam to his game.

    Even though Malholtra is known for his defensive prowess, he is capable of scoring a goal or two. If you're down a goal in the third period and you need to win a big faceoff, Manny Malholtra is your man.

21. Tyler Kennedy

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    Tyler Kennedy was forced to take a larger role for the Penguins this following season. With major injuries to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, Kennedy, Mark Letestu and Chris Conner became a line known to Pens fans as the Buzz Line.

    This high-energy line took the speed and checking abilities of each player and could wreak havoc on opponents.

    When you take into consideration Kennedy's forechecking and shot-blocking ability, he is a highly-underrated player for the Penguins.

20. Kimmo Timonen

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    Kimmo Timmonen is a veteran of the NHL and has proved that he can still hang around with the big boys.

    He may be 36 years old, but Timmonen is still a force to be reckoned with on the Flyers blue line. For starters, Timmonen is a gamer. He appeared in all 82 contests last season for the Flyers. He also was a plus-11 and had six goals and 31 assists for 37 points.

    Timmonen is a real diamond in the rough for a Flyers franchise that went under a massive rebuild last season.

19. Braydon Coburn

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    Braydon Coburn is a defenseman that played beyond his years for the Flyers last season.

    It's hard to believe that the Coburn is only 25 years old. There is a confidence and swagger that surround Coburn that makes it seem like he has been in the league for years. 

    Coburn is a hard-nosed defenseman and sticks to his game. Coburn throws his body around when he delivers his bone-crushing hits.

    He is a solid second pair defenseman who could play in the top pairing one day. 

18. Jarret Stoll

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    Jarret Stoll was the fifth best faceoff take in the NHL last season. His success rate of 58.5 percent was rather impressive.

    Stoll is a good two-way forward who is competent in his own zone. Stoll is also a capable offensive producer. He scored 20 goals and assisted on 23 others for 43 points.

    Stoll also was a clutch performer for the Kings as he finished the season with five game-winning goal. No matter how you look at it, Stoll is a great third liner any team could use in the clutch.

17. Dave Bolland

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    Dave Bolland was key for the Blackhawks during their Stanley Cup run. He was defensively sound and held Flyers captain Mike Richards two a mere two points during the six-game series.

    Bolland is also a capable offensive producer. He scored 15 goals and 22 assists for 37 points last season. He finished the year with a plus-11. These numbers are not too shabby for an "average"center.

    Bolland is another cog in the  machine that is the Chicago Blackhawks.

16. Brandon Dubinsky

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    Brandon Dubinsky is a versatile forward for the New York Rangers. He can play both the center and left-wing position with ease and skill.

    Last year for the Rangers, Dubinsky scored 24 goals and assisted on 30 others for 54 points. Dubinsky has made some average improvements over the past few seasons and has become a vital part of the Rangers' franchise.

    Dubinsky is starting to finally emerge into a solid second-line player in the NHL. 

15. Clarke MacArthur

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    Clarke MacArthur had a breakout season for the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2010-11. He scored 21 goals and assisted on 41 others for 62 points.

    MacArthur is only 26 and is coming into his prime as a player. If he can continue to score 55-65 points per year for the Leafs, he can play a big role as the Leafs look to be a playoff contender once again.

    It would be interesting to see what kind of number MacArthur would put up if paired up with former teammate and newest Leaf Tim Connolly.

14. Andrew Ladd

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    Andrew Ladd is a building block for the newly relocated Winnipeg Jets.

    Ladd is a two-time Stanley Cup winner despite being only 25 years old. Ladd is a player with a great offensive upside.

    Last season, Ladd had a breakout season with 29 goals and 30 assists for 59 points. Ladd's worth has even been noted in many early fantasy hockey drafts. 

    Ladd is a player who if paired with the right type of player this season, could score upwards of 65-70 points.

13. Toni Lydman

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    Toni Lydman is a very underrated defenseman. For starters, Lydman was second in the league for plus/minus with a plus-32 rating.

    Lydman also put up some average numbers with three goals and 22 assists for 25 points.

    Lydman is a great defenseman for the Ducks and hopes to put up similar numbers this season.

12. David Backes

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    David Backes is a player who has a lot of fire power. He scored 31 goals and 31 assists for 62 points last year. Backes is another player who has steadily grown throughout his career.

    He was a member of Team USA at the 2010 Olympics and won a silver medal.

    Backes is currently an alternate captain for the St.Louis Blues. He is a player who has yet to have that breakout 70 point season.

    At 6"3 and 225lbs, Backes is a power forward who uses his body to help score goals. Backes is a guy with his size could easily put up 70 points.

    I have liked what I have seen from Backes thus far but I would love to see what he could do on a Stanley Cup contending team.

11. Niklas Kronwall

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    Niklas Kronwall has been a protege of Nicklas Lidstrom for quite some time now. Kronwall has been the forgotten Niklas on the Red Wings. 

    He is an Olympic gold medalist, a Stanley Cup champion and has learned from one of the best defenseman this game has ever seen.

    Kronwall may get his shot to shine on the top pairing once Lidstrom hangs them up for good.

    Kronwall is a solid two-way defenseman who has grown leaps and bounds since entering the league.

    Great things still await for this talented defenseman.

10. Frans Nielsen

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    Frans Nielsen is a very underrated player and a shinning star on an Islander team that is often buried by the media.

    Nielsen has been described as a solid two-way player who is defensively sound. Nielsen was also a plus-13 on an Islander team that surrendered a lot of goals last season.

    Last season for the Isles, Nielsen scored 13 goals and assisted on 31 others for 44 assists.

    Nielsen is one of those good two-way players who could be dealt if the Isles look to make some moves at next year's trade deadline.

9. Justin Williams

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    When you think of the Los Angeles Kings, players like Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Mike Richards come to mind automatically. They are the big names of the L.A. Kings.

    Justin Williams is just as in important to Kings as those players are. This unsung hero scored 22 goals and assisted on 35 others for 57 points.

    Williams also is a good defensive player and is well disciplined. He was a plus-11 and only accumulated 59 penalty minutes in 73 games.

    Justin Williams is definitely a player to watch out for in 2011-12.

8. Evander Kane

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    The Thrashers are now the Winnipeg Jets, and Evander Kane is a big reason why fans should have high hopes for their new franchise.

    Kane is a good defensive-minded player who can kill penalties if needed.

    Kane has the skills and build of a great future power forward. Kane is a feisty player who throws big checks, scores goals and will fight you if he deems it necessary

    Kane is slowly but surely becoming one of the leaders of the Winnipeg Jets.

7. Tobias Enstrom

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    Tobias Enstrom is another player that the Winnipeg Jets can be proud of. Enstrom scored 10 goals and assisted on 41 others for 51 points last season.

    He also averaged 50 points the year before. He is very gifted offensively in addition to being a solid defenseman. 

    He is a sizable defenseman that benefits from being paired with Dustin Byfuglien. If Enstrom can improve his plus/minus numbers next season, there is no reason why Enstrom can't contend for the Norris Trophy.

6. Brad Marchand

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    It's hard to believe that Brad Marchand was a rookie last year. He only played in 20 contests the previous year so he was a rookie for all intents and purposes.

    He played like a season pro even during the pressure filled Stanley Cup Finals.

    In the regular season Marchand scored 21 goals and 20 assists for 41 points. During the playoffs, Marchand scored 11 goals and assisted on eight others for 19 points in 25 games.

    Marchand is currently an RFA, and I am surprised Boston didn't re-sign him immediately. Marchand is a clutch player that can flourish if he is given proper linemates and ice time. 

5. Patrice Bergeron

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    Patrice Bergeron was a playoff hero for the Boston Bruins. He scored six goals and 14 assists for 20 points.

    In the regular season, Begeron scored 22 goals and assisted on 35 others for 57 points. Bergeron is also a great two-way forward and faceoff man.

    Coming into this season Bergeron will be looked at in a different light. If he can have a breakout season, the entire NHL will be put on notice.

4. Ryan Callahan

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    Ryan Callahan is a player who does it all. He throws hits, blocks shots, scores goals, kills penalties, so on and so forth.

    He is a player that is the heart and soul of the New York Rangers in more ways than one.

    He has represented the Rangers and his country in great fashion. As a member of the Rangers, he has won the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award.

    This award goes to the Ranger who goes above and beyond the call of duty. This is in honor of Steven McDonald, a NYPD detective who was shot on July 12, 1986. The shooting left him quadriplegic. He is the most seriously injured New York City Police officer to survive his injury.

    Internationally, Callahan won a silver medal with Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. Callahan scored 23 goals and 25 assists for 48 points in 60 games last season.

    He missed significant time when he broke his wrist blocking a shot against Pittsburgh and the remainder of the season and playoffs when stepping in front of a Zdeno Chara slapper. 

    Callahan has a legitimate shot of hitting at least 60 points in 2011-12. His overall game makes him one of the premier scoring grinders in the NHL today.

3. Ryan Suter

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    Ryan Suter is a great defenseman for the Nashville Predators who could see an increase in his role if Shea Weber leaves Nashville in the next two years.

    Suter has averaged at least 35 points per season since 2008-09.

    Suter also was a plus-20 last season which attests to the two-way nature of his game.

    In addition to performing in the NHL, Suter has been a long-standing member of Team USA. In 2004, Suter won a gold medal at the world championships and a silver medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

    All around, Suter is sound player and deserves more credit than he is given.

2. Bobby Ryan

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    Bobby Ryan is a player that has a bright future, and he has had a steady growth since entering the NHL. He isn't quite on the level of Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry yet, but he is on his way there.

    Last season, Ryan scored 34 goals and 37 assists for 71 points. His linemate and buddy Corey Perry had a landmark season as he captured the Rocket Richard Trophy.

    Ryan could potentially have a similar growth this season but only time will tell. Nonetheless, Ryan will enter his fourth season in the NHL and many expect it to be a great one.

1. Loui Eriksson

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    The NHLPA took a poll this year and asked who the most underrated player in the league was.  Loui Eriksson took home the honor of being the league's most underrated player.

    If Loui Eriksson and the Dallas Stars can have a successful season sans Brad Richards, Eriksson may prove that he earns that title.

    Last season  Loui Eriksson scored 27 goals and 46 assists for 73 points. Eriksson also finished the year with a plus-10 rating.

    Overall, Eriksson is one of those players who flies under the radar. Hopefully, he can still produce this year sans Brad Richards.

Comments,Questions,Concerns

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    Did I miss someone? Is there a player on here that you don't agree with?

    Leave a comment in the section below stating your case and I will promptly address it.

    I hope you enjoyed reading and if you liked what you saw, show it some props, hit the like button, and +1 it.

    Tom Urtz is an NHL Featured Columnist.

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