Skill in the NHL is at an all time premium. With rule changes optimizing offense and intricate systems set up by coaches, skill is a necessary trait to survive at the NHL level. Third and fourth line “grinders” are slowly being replaced by players who can chip in some offense. When it comes to dragging fans out of their seats with all-world skill, here are the league’s five best:
5. Sidney Crosby
Crosby may be the league’s very best player when it comes to making plays in confined spaces. He has a knack for deflecting pucks in traffic, and is easily the league’s most elusive player beneath the goal line. Combine that ability with perhaps the best set of eyes in the league, and you get the most dangerous passer that any team will ever have to face.
4. Evgeni Malkin
If Mario Lemieux was the original, then Malkin is the remix. Stopping a player of his size is a difficult enough task, but when he can also completely undress defensemen and goaltenders like this, the task becomes nearly impossible. Not only is he a dominant one on one (or three) player, Malkin is also a gifted passer with an excellent vision of the ice. Pittsburgh fans should count their lucky stars every night that they have two of the league’s very best.
3. Vladimir Tarasenko
No other player in the NHL has enjoyed a bigger rise in popularity and recognition than Tarasenko this season. Consider this publication a passenger on the Official Tarasenko Hype Train. Funnily enough, he was already scoring beautiful goals last season. When he curls off the half wall, defensemen have to respect his laser of a wrist shot, which at times makes them over commit, allowing him to dangle right around them. Tarasenko is the real deal, giving St. Louis the goal-scorer they’ve desperately needed.
2. Pavel Datsyuk
The Datsyukian deke. Everyone has seen it, many have tried to replicate it, but none have quite captured its magic and fluidity. To reduce Datsyuk to one move though, would terribly undersell his insane skill level. Like Crosby, he’s extremely elusive and crafty beneath the goal line and along the boards. Just ask Logan Couture. The NHL’s original Youtube star, the crazy number of “Datsyuk Tutorial” videos out there are a testament to his greatness.
1. Patrick Kane
On a scale of one to ten, ten being ,”Holy crap, did he he really just do that?”, Kane is an 11. He’s utterly embarrassed goalies in the shootout, always topping his goals off with a hard fist pump, just for added emphasis. There’s no denying that Kane is absolutely cocky out on the ice, but he backs it up with the most amazing set of hands in the league and an absolute bullet of a shot. On top of his goal scoring ability, he may actually be an even better passer, delivering incredible spin-o-rama backhand passes. Love him or hate him, Patrick Kane is the most skilled player in the NHL.
Felix Sicard is the Anaheim Ducks’ Lead Writer for The Hockey Writers. Now in his third season of covering the team, he writes previews and recaps for all Ducks’ home games, as well as weekly analysis pieces.
In addition to covering the Ducks at THW, Felix co-hosts SB Nation’s Anaheim Calling: The Podcast, as well as hosting The Garage Hockey Podcast.
For consistent Ducks’ content, be sure to check out his Twitter @Felix_Sicard.