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’ve been releasing that list in chunks of 10. Today, we finish with the top 10 players in the NHL and where they ranked on last year’s Top 50 (LY). Here is the rest of the list:
1. SIDNEY CROSBY | PITTSBURGH | C | LY: 1
It’s pretty difficult to go against the guy who won the MVP award in voting by the players and media last season and won the scoring championship by 17 points. Crosby only had two goals in 19 Olympic and playoff games, but an injured wrist undoubtedly contributed to that.
2. DREW DOUGHTY | LOS ANGELES | D | LY: 10
The best player for the best team in the Olympics and the best player for the best team in the playoffs rockets up our list. The Kings have had internal meetings about Doughty and have determined there isn’t a player in the NHL for whom they would trade him.
3. JONATHAN TOEWS | CHICAGO | C | LY: 6
The only thing keeping Toews from best player in the world status is the offensive numbers to go with his all-around level of excellence at both ends of the ice. He’s the best leader in the game today, and if there’s one player you don’t worry about when it comes to giving him a long-term deal, it’s Toews.
4. STEVEN STAMKOS | TAMPA BAY | C | LY: 3
Had Stamkos not broken his leg, there’s a good chance he would have won his third Rocket Richard Trophy. He was on pace for 68 goals prior to his injury in November. Even with missing half of 2013-14, Stamkos has 210 goals in his past five seasons, seven more than anyone else.
5. ANZE KOPITAR | LOS ANGELES | C | LY: 22
None other than Wayne Gretzky himself said during the playoffs that Kopitar is the third-best player in the world. We don’t completely agree, but he’s certainly not far off. Kopitar epitomizes the big center ice man who has become synonymous with success in the Western Conference.
6. RYAN GETZLAF | ANAHEIM | C | LY: 33
After putting up the equivalent of a 91-point season in 2012-13, Getzlaf faced the challenge of proving he could remain among the league’s offensive elite. He succeeded with flying colors. Unlike a lot of other stars, he doesn’t feast on the power play. No player scored more points per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play than Getzlaf.
7. JOHN TAVARES | NY ISLANDERS | C | LY: 5
If Tavares hadn’t been injured during the Olympics, he likely would have finished second in NHL scoring with 90-plus points. That probably would have made him a Hart Trophy finalist for a second straight season. Any success the New York Islanders have in the next decade will be dependent upon how far Tavares can lead them.
8. PATRICE BERGERON | BOSTON | C | LY: 9
The winner of two of the past three Selke Trophies put up a 30-goal season to go with his defensive excellence in 2013-14. And he’s the undisputed best player in the league in two very key areas: puck possession and faceoffs. The analytics crowd loves this guy for very good reason.
9. CLAUDE GIROUX | PHILADELPHIA | C | LY: 16
Two summers ago he suffered a mysterious injury while golfing, and he had an off-ice setback (to say the least) this past summer. But we’re concerned with what players do on the ice, and Giroux is arguably the most creative and deceiving set-up man in the NHL today. He might have been the best player in the league in the last 60 games of 2013-14.
10. DUNCAN KEITH | CHICAGO | D | LY: 14
You look at Keith and wonder how this undersized, skinny guy gets it done. But he wins Norris trophies because he plays both ends of the ice with equal aplomb and logs big minutes, particularly in the playoffs. There might not be a better pure skater from the back end in the NHL today.
These rankings originally appeared in the 2014-15 THN Yearbook.