Jori Lehtera (Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images)
Who doesn’t get the credit they deserve and who gets far too much? We count down both sides of the spectrum.
At one point or another in nearly every NHLers career, he will be either overvalued or undervalued. One great year can lead to big money contracts and pundits gushing about their ability and a down year can lead to cries that they’ve lost their scoring touch and should be sent to the minors.
At certain points over the course of a campaign, there are a number of players who will fall into either the underrated and overrated category, but there are a select few who stand out at the end of a season as the players who have been given far too little — or too much — credit.
5. Corey Crawford, G, Chicago Blackhawks
There’s a perception of Crawford as the perfect system goaltender – he wins because of the team in front of him. This past season, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. Of the 35 goaltenders who played at least 1,500 minutes, Crawford had the eighth best 5-on-5 save percentage, ahead of goaltenders such as Tuukka Rask, Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick and Sergei Bobrovsky.
4. David Perron, LW, Pittsburgh Penguins
Perron gets labelled as an under-producer from time to time, but it’s hard to think of a single player whose production goes more unnoticed. At 5-on-5, Perron scored 14 goals and 31 points while posting a shot-attempts-for percentage of 55. He also had brutal puck luck: 2014-15 was the first time since his sophomore season that his shooting percentage was below 10 percent.
3. Derick Brassard, C, New York Rangers
On a team that boasted Rick Nash, Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider and Martin St-Louis this past season, Brassard sometimes flew under the radar. It won’t be that way much longer, however. Brassard set career-highs with 19 goals and 60 points, 39 of which came at 5-on-5. He has become a good distributor and a solid second-line center. The Rangers’ decision to buyout Brad Richards last off-season looks all the more genius now considering how well Brassard has continued to develop.
2. Danny DeKeyser, D, Detroit Red Wings
There aren’t many college free agents that pan out as quickly as DeKeyser has (ask Edmonton’s Justin Schultz). The smooth-skating defender is going to be the future of the Wings blueline and the heir apparent to Niklas Kronwall as Detroit’s next star defenseman. In 2014-15, DeKeyser posted two goals and 31 points, but he’s rarely talked about as a premier young defenseman.
1. Jori Lehtera, C, St. Louis Blues
Because of his age, he didn’t qualify for the Calder Trophy, but Lehtera was indeed a first-year NHLer in 2014-15. He wowed for St. Louis, but not much was made of his production because his great year was overshadowed by the play of Vladimir Tarasenko. But the Blues know his value. That’s why they signed the 27-year-old Finn to a three-year contract extension.
5. Ryan Miller, G, Vancouver Canucks
Miller’s game has slipped significantly, and that was evident this past season. Even before an injury took him out of the Canucks lineup, Miller nearly lost his starting role to Eddie Lack. In the post-season, Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins went with Lack over Miller for the first three games against Calgary. Miller isn’t the Olympic-caliber goaltender he once was.
4. Dan Girardi, D, New York Rangers
If blocking shots were enough for a player to be considered a star, Girardi would qualify. That’s not the case, yet you’ll still see Rangers fans going to bat for the 31-year-old. One problem is he’s the victim of a contract that misrepresents his value: he’s making the money of a star blueliner when he’s just a good workhorse defenseman and not much else.
3. Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles Kings
He’s got two Stanley Cup rings and could easily bounce back into the league’s elite, but this past season he was the 14th best starting goalie in 5-on-5 play and his 5-on-5 save percentage was lower than that of Ondrej Pavelec, Craig Anderson and Corey Crawford, to name a few. Quick was just an OK goaltender in 2014-15, not the great one he was believed to be.
2. Matt Beleskey, LW, Anaheim Ducks
The Bruins’ newest sniper scored 22 goals on 145 shots while playing alongside Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry or Ryan Kesler. But history suggests he won’t do that again. Beleskey is a good third- or fourth-line player, but his shooting percentage nearly doubled this past season, and those 22 goals are more than double his career high. One good year hasn’t made Beleskey a star.
1. Antoine Vermette, C, Arizona/Chicago
Yes, the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup, and, yes, Vermette was key to their series win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the final. But remember what the Blackhawks gave up to get Vermette: a first-round draft pick and a solid prospect in Klas Dahlbeck. Vermette was very effective in a second-line role earlier in his career and many believe the 33-year-old can play like his former self. But the perception of Vermette as a game-changing second-line center simply doesn’t hold up any longer.