Sidney Crosby is widely acknowledged as the best player in the game today. With his year long absence, other players were given more of an opportunity to the chance to make their own case as signature players in the NHL. While some fans may be critical of the depth of talent league-wide, there has never been a time, since the original expansion, where we have seen more legitimate superstar players.
Everyone has their favorite players to watch and that’s what this post is all about. Hopefully, this will generate some talk among readers and their friends.
Here are mine, in no particular order.
Alexander Ovechkin – Though he has struggled to fit into the more defensive-minded approach of the Washington Capitals over the past year and a half, Ovie remains a compelling force of nature in the sport. When he’s on the ice, all eyes are drawn to him. Fans wait for something special to happen. Opponents watch to locate him on the ice and try to force him into a non-threatening area of the ice. Teammates look for ways to get him into a top-scoring circumstance. Everyone looks for the magic when the puck is on his stick.
Ovechkin has all the physical tools, to play a fast, physical style and play an up-tempo game that is really fun to watch. The joy he exhibits, whenever he, or a teammate scores a goal, reminds us all that this is a game that we have played, too.
Jonathan Toews – The Captain of the Chicago Black Hawks is two years removed from his successful leadership of he Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup championship. There’s a lot to like about the big center. He is not a vocal leader and not a player who needs the puck on his stick all the time. In the past, he has been known more as a distributor of the puck, with his wingers reaping the goal-scoring rewards.
This season, he is off to the best offensive start of his career, with 32 points in 28 games, to rank among the league leaders. He is on a pace that would see him exceed the point per game mark for the first time in his career. He has the look of a leader, with good size, skill and a classiness about him.
Zdeno Chara is listed at 6’9” 255 lbs and the best of the new bread of big men who are now looking to make their mark in the NHL. The captain of the defending champion Boston Bruins is equally as imposing whether on offense or defense. He augments his unique size with a great commitment to fitness, which allows him to be among the highest-ranking players in terms of ice time per game.
It has to be such a luxury for the Bruins to put him out on their special teams where his unequalled wingspan clogs up the defensive zone. Offensively, he owns the hardest shot in the league and is a big threat to score on the power play. I wouldn’t want to block his shot. Would you? As far as challenging him, some of his fights are legendary clips on YOU TUBE.
Corey Perry – If there is a team leader who reminds me of Hall of Famers like Sittler, Messier, and Clarke, it has got to be Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks. Not only is he the lynchpin for one of the league’s top scoring lines, but he is also a fantasy pool owner’s dream component, a player who will be an asset in all manner of categories. Perry is a vocal leader, but also leads by example.
Consider his 2010-11 season where he notched 50 goals, the only NHL player to reach that plateau last year. He added 48 assists and totaled over 100 penalty minutes for the fourth straight year to clinch his reputation as a great power forward. He is fearless in terms of his desire to camp out I front of opposing goalies and one of the best at tipping in teammate’s shots.
Phil Kessel – It’s hard not to pull for a guy like Phil Kessel, who has notched at least 30 goals in each of the last three seasons. That is a rare feat equaled by only eight other NHLers over the last three years. He’s well on his way to making it four years in a row as he leads the NHL scoring race at this time. He is quickly becoming one of the most naturally-gifted goal-scorers in the league
He is a rare sight on the ice these days as he can wheel from one end of the rink to the other and simply outrace opposing defenders who try to keep up with him, whether he cuts to the inside or the outside. The quiet Kessel’s most impressive moment may have been the way he handled being the last player chosen in last year’s All-Star Draft. He overcame that with a quiet dignity, just as he has in overcoming a bout with cancer when he was only 21. Like I said, it’s hard not to pull for a guy like Kessel.
Pavel Datsyuk – For the past 20 years, the Detroit Red Wings have been a model of consistency, a franchise that has been built through shrewd work at the draft table, while a heavy dose of players born outside of North America. None has been more dynamic than Pavel Datsyuk, the Wings 6th round draft pick (171st overall) in the 1998 Amateur Draft. He was brought into the talent-rich Detroit roster and soon established himself as a dependable point-per-game scoring machine.
What has made his 10 year career more worthy of note, is the fact that through much of that time, the Wings haven’t employed a bona fide designated fighter on their roster. Datsyuk has had to make his own way, against emboldened opponents who could take their best shot at derailing him, without fear of retribution. He has thrived on his journey to become one of the acknowledged leaders of the current version of the Red Wings. His unique skills have made his shootout performances mandatory viewing to see some of the many tricks in his offensive arsenal.
Jarome Iginla is a veteran power forward who has toiled without much front-line support during his career in Calgary. In his 15th year in the NHL, all spent as a member of the Flames, Iginla has long been the face of this franchise. [editor’s note: Iginla should be next in line to join the NHL’s 500 goal club]
He has been a model of durability, never missing more than 12 games in any season during his career. That’s a remarkable achievement for a first-line player, who has never been blessed enough to play with similarly-skilled line mates, has been the focal point of game-planning by each opponent and has been compelled to fight all of his battles. Luckily for him, he’s not only one of the game’s best scorers, but he’s also very adept when the gloves come off.
There’s my Magnificent Seven. Share yours with our readers.
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