Top 50 players in the NHL: 40-31

The Hockey News
Nicklas Backstrom. (Photo by Patrick Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

In THN’s 2014-15 Yearbook, we asked our panel of executives, broadcasters and observers to rank the best hockey players in the world right now, heading into this season. If you were starting a franchise from scratch today, which players would you take?

We ended up with a ranking of the top 50 NHLers and we’re releasing that list in chunks of 10. Today, we present players ranked 31-40 in the NHL and where they ranked on last year’s Top 50 (LY). Stay tuned for the rest of the list. Read more

Top 50 players in the NHL: 50-41

The Hockey News
Alex Steen. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

In THN’s 2014-15 Yearbook, we asked our panel of executives, broadcasters and observers to rank the best hockey players in the world right now, heading into this season. If you were starting a franchise from scratch today, which players would you take?

We ended up with a ranking of the top 50 NHLers and we’ll start releasing that list in chunks of 10, starting today. Without further ado, here are players 41-50 in the NHL and where they ranked on last year’s Top 50 (LY). Stay tuned for the rest of the list. Read more

Is it fair to compare the Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl to the Kings’ Anze Kopitar?

Ryan Kennedy
Leon Draisaitl (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Player comparisons are fraught with peril, especially when teenagers who have yet to see their first NHL shifts are part of the equation. On top of the age gap, there’s also a hype factor because it’s much more fun to say a smaller skilled player is the next Patrick Kane versus the next Steve Sullivan or David Desharnais, no matter which is most accurate. But when scouts saw Leon Draisaitl play for the Western League’s Prince Albert Raiders this past season, names such as Joe Thornton and Anze Kopitar came up. Keep the latter in mind, because there’s more than just one similarity between the stupendous Los Angeles Kings pivot and the growing Raiders teenager.

When the Edmonton Oilers tabbed Draisaitl with the third selection overall at the draft, they made him the highest German pick ever. Not that it was a long list, but Germany has produced a decent amount of NHLers, from Marcel Goc (the former record holder, who went 20th in 2001) to Christian Ehrhoff and Jochen Hecht. But none of those players lacerated the landschaft the way Draisaitl did. As a 15-year-old in Germany, he put up a staggering 97 goals and 192 points in (wait for it) just 29 games. He kept the same six-points-per-game pace up in the playoffs. And keep in mind, that’s not as fun as it sounds when you’re serious about your sport.

“It was never easy,” Draisaitl says. “It’s not easy to get ready for those kinds of games when you know you’re going to score a lot of goals. It’s not easy to concentrate when you know it will be a high-scoring game. I just wanted to get better every game and work hard.”
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No more mystery: THN’s guest editor-in-chief is…

Adam Proteau
Roberto Luongo's unofficial Twitter account (courtesy of Luongo)

It’s not every day The Hockey News makes an NHL player our special guest Editor-in-Chief for an issue of the magazine. In fact, in the 67-year-history of our esteemed publication, we’ve never done anything of the sort. And when we initially batted around the idea of asking an NHLer to take on the task this summer, there was really only one man we wanted for the job.

Ladies and gentlemen, THN’s staff presents to you our boss for the next edition (on newsstands and online in mid-October): Roberto Luongo.

That’s right – in addition to training and preparing for the start of his first full season as Panthers goalie since the 2005-06 campaign, Luongo has been hard at work with THN the past couple weeks crafting our next issue. We can’t give you all the details, of course, but the star goalie (a) set the agenda for the issue by choosing stories for our staff to work on; (b) wrote an editor’s notebook (sorry, regular Editor-in-Chief Jason Kay, you’re out of the mix this time) offered greater insight into the end of his time in Vancouver and the trade back to Florida; (c) conducted an excellent interview with another Quebec-born goalie of Italian heritage, Canadiens draft pick Zach Fucale; (d) answered reader questions in a special “Ask Roberto” mailbag; and (e) posed for an out-of-the-ordinary photo for the cover.

To say Luongo was thrilled for the opportunity was an understatement. Sure, he’s been spectacularly successful with his unofficial Twitter account, but this was something different and he embraced it fully. And maybe that’s because the Luongo of September, 2014 is a man at peace with himself after surviving an emotional rollercoaster late in his Canucks career. Read more

Is Aaron Ekblad the next Nicklas Lidstrom?

Ken Campbell
Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

Funny how Aaron Ekblad looks neither particularly dangerous nor lonely the afternoon before the 2014 draft. He’s sitting in his designated spot at the National Constitution Center, wearing an NHL-issued golf shirt, khakis and casual footwear (no socks), swatting aside questions with the same ease he does 16-year-old lightweights in the Ontario League. His hair has a blond streak and he’s well tanned, the result of having a little downtime after the season to spend on his family’s new Sea-Doo 21-foot Challenger boat on Lake St. Clair near Windsor. There’s a certain irony that Ekblad, the day before he’ll be consigned to an NHL team over which he has absolutely no choice, is doing this in the same city where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed.

Ekblad’s emancipation from junior hockey, though, is almost complete. He’ll soon be a part of the Barrie Colts alumni. At 6-foot-4 with a cannon from the blueline, NHL hockey sense and the makeup to log big-time minutes, he’ll be playing in the best league in the world this coming season. On this afternoon, the only question is where. The Florida Panthers are dangling the first-overall pick and they’re getting some action, particularly from the Flyers, who want to make a splash in front of their fans. They also want the player who’s the most NHL-ready among all the prospects. “He’s a man,” says Panthers GM Dale Tallon, who stays up all night stewing over trade offers before deciding to take Ekblad. “He’s 18 going on 30.”
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After bumps in the road, Isles’ Kyle Okposo is proving his worth

Adam Proteau
Kyle Okposo (Jim McIsaac/NHLI via Getty Images)

Kyle Okposo’s favorite movie is The Count of Monte Cristo. The protagonist in the famous movie/novel is a teenager who appears destined for success, only to be thrown into turmoil beyond his control. While at his low point, he transforms himself into a learned man and goes about seeking revenge on a world that wronged him.

If you get to know Okposo, you can see why he loves this story. There are some striking similarities between the New York Islanders right winger and The Count. Okposo came into the NHL with much fanfare and a bright future, only to land in deep, sticky mud that caused him to question everything. But from that low point, Okposo has continued to develop and now he’s bent on leaving his mark on a hockey world that has doubted him too many times.

When the St. Paul, Minn., native was drafted seventh overall by the Islanders in 2006, he was coming off a big year at the University of Minnesota. He’d played at the legendary Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school and used to structure his class schedule so he’d have time to watch schoolmate Sidney Crosby practice. The world was his oyster bar, and he had an all-you-can eat meal plan.

But like all players not named Crosby or Jonathan Toews, Okposo discovered his road to the NHL was not going to be a simple one. After his 18-goal, 39-point rookie NHL season was followed up with a 19-goal, 52-point sophomore effort, he ran into roadblocks. Read more

When booze, smokes and a hint of sex paid our salaries

Jason Kay
Great moments in smoking

Today’s trends, tomorrow’s humor.

We’re pretty proud of our history at The Hockey News, with our rich and unique library dating back to 1947. But some of the content in our rearview mirror is curious, and some is downright hilarious.

Take the advertising. For the first few decades of our existence, the primary purchasers of space were alcohol and tobacco companies, targeting predominately a male audience. There were smaller, quaint ads, selling everything from local restaurants to skate sharpening to ice paint, but the vices drove the revenue machine.

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Hey NHL – let’s treat women as equals and ice the ice girls

Adam Proteau
Colorado Avalanche Ice Girls (Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The hockey world has made great leaps and bounds in social awareness issues in recent years: the anti-homophobia You Can Play Project was embraced by players and teams, and racist epithets hurled at certain players are met with increasing disgust from the majority of fans. But there are still some areas in which the sport – and in particular, the NHL – can do better. One of them is in eradicating the misogyny, explicit and casual, that exists in the sport.

And one of the easiest places to start is by getting rid of half-dressed ice girls.

This issue isn’t about the cheerleaders themselves. It’s about what we ask them to do under the guise of “entertainment.” We ask them work for next to no money in frigid arenas with their shoulders, midsection and/or legs exposed. We ask them to objectify themselves – to be ogled and leered at by strangers – and never stop smiling. We ask them to reduce their contributions so that they’re little more than eye candy.

And really, why? What purpose does it serve? Nobody has demonstrated teams that employ ice girls sell more tickets than teams that don’t. Nobody leaves a game and says, “The best part of the night didn’t have anything to do with the action on the ice – it was when that cheerleader jumped up and down in co-ordination with other cheerleaders and said something positive about the team!”

More importantly, let’s look at what the presence of ice girls does to the paying female customer. Read more