Every team has a player or players that, despite having a strong season, do not get the recognition they deserve. These are the less talked about players whose play has helped their team have success this season. Here are the top-10 underrated players of the 2021-22 season.
10) Craig Smith, Boston Bruins
Craig Smith has been a welcome addition to the Boston Bruins’ lineup the last two seasons as he has helped provide solid bottom-six scoring for the team. He has 29 even-strength points this season in 62 games and has helped them outscore the opposition 41-34 when he has been on the ice. Most importantly, he has shown he can play up and down the lineup having success in 178 minutes playing on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
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As for Smith’s analytics, they are amongst the best on the Bruins. He has a 55.40% Corsi at even strength along with a 57.77% shots for percentage and a 55.20% high danger chances for percentage. Lastly, he isn’t afraid to play physically, as he has 80 hits this season. The 32-year-old has been a force in 2021-22 and the Bruins’ third line of Trent Frederic, Charlie Coyle and himself should cause havoc for the opposition once the postseason begins.
9) Ian Cole, Carolina Hurricanes
Ian Cole is having one of the best seasons of his career for the Hurricanes this year. The 33-year-old defenceman has 18 points this season and is less than 30 minutes of even-strength time on ice from passing 1,000 minutes for the season. He is a versatile defenceman who has shown he can play not just with a rotating cast of partners, but also on both sides of the ice as the left-shot defenceman has played over 200 minutes on the right side.
This season, Cole has a 56.74% Corsi while the Hurricanes have outscored opponents 43 to 33 at even strength. Lastly, he has thrown 93 hits while blocking 86 shots. Carolina has a very deep team, and the two-time Stanley Cup winner is a big reason why their defensive group is one of the best in the entire NHL.
8) Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Tampa Bay Lightning
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare centers one of, if not the best fourth line in the NHL, playing alongside Corey Perry and Patrick Maroon. His work shorthanded has Tampa as a top-10 penalty-killing team in the league, and at even strength, the Lightning have only allowed 17 total goals in the 770 minutes of ice time he has played this season. He has become a premier shut-down center in the league and is one of its best defensive forwards this season.
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While Bellemare is known for his defensive play, the Lightning have done well in the offensive zone with him on the ice as well. Tampa has scored 35 goals at even strength, with him collecting 16 even strength points on the season. Lastly, he has been one of their best faceoff men all season, recording a 51.4% win percentage. If the Lightning have eyes on capturing a third straight Stanley Cup, he will play a key role in the process.
7) Blake Lizotte, Los Angeles Kings
Mostly centring a line with Arthur Kaliyev and Brendan Lemieux, Blake Lizotte is starting to establish himself as a strong bottom-six forward in the league. The former St. Cloud State University center has 19 points in 61 games and has been a force on the penalty kill all season. In 64 minutes of ice time shorthanded, the Kings have scored five times while giving up seven goals on 43 shots. He has also helped limit the opposition to 24 high danger chances while the Kings have been on the power play.
At even strength, he has stepped up as well. In 647 minutes of even-strength ice time, he has 16 points along with a 57.20% Corsi rating. The Kings have outscored the opposition 27 to 21 when he is on the ice, and he is over 50% in categories such as shots for percentage, high danger chances for percentage and scoring chances for percentage. Lastly, he has had a strong year in the faceoff circle, including a 53.7% overall win percentage and a 56.1% win percentage in the defensive zone. Lizotte has been a key part of the Kings’ success this season and will play a major factor in this year’s playoffs for them as well.
6) Dillon Dubé, Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames are one of the strongest teams in the league this season, and a big reason why is the play of Dillon Dubé. Playing mostly with Sean Monahan, the former Kelowna Rockets has 22 points in 66 games and has become one of the best bottom-six forwards in the Western Conference. Whether it is at even strength, on the power play or killing penalties, he has become a key part of the Flames’ success in 2021-22.
Related: Dillon Dube – The Next Ones: 2016 NHL Draft Prospect Profile
This season, the fourth-year player has a Corsi of 55.22%, while the Flames have outshot the opposition 433 to 358 at even strength with him on the ice. He has also collected at least a point, not just on the power play but also shorthanded. Whether it is at center or on the wing, Dubé has stepped up and helped the Flames become a powerhouse in the West.
5) Pierre Engvall, Toronto Maple Leafs
Pierre Engvall has helped the Leafs maintain a strong third line all season. Playing mostly with David Kampf, the former 2014 seventh-round pick has a career-high 27 points in 66 games, with 21 of them coming at even strength. While most of his success has come there, his work on special teams has also helped the Leafs become one of the top teams in the Atlantic Division once again.
When it comes to his analytics at even strength, it is clear why he is having a career year. He has a 54.17% Corsi with the Leafs outshooting the opposition 414 to 316 while he is on the ice. Toronto has also outscored the opposition 27-21 during his 745 minutes of even-strength ice time. The big-bodied winger will need to continue his strong play if Toronto wants to break the curse and win a playoff series for the first time since 2004.
4) Logan O’Conner, Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche are such a stacked team that a player like Logan O’Conner is sometimes overlooked. The 25-year-old has been a major bright spot for them this season registering 29 points in 70 games. A player who has taken full advantage of every opportunity he has been given, he is an added weapon for an Avalanche forward group that is already one of the deepest in the league.
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O’Conner has taken a huge step forward this season from his play at even strength to his emergence as a strong penalty killer. In 156 minutes of shorthanded time, the Avalanche have held opponents to 20 goals while scoring four times shorthanded. He has also helped limit the opposing power play to 10 high danger goals. With Colorado pressed against the cap, his addition and strong play have been crucial to the Avalanche’s success in 2021-22.
3) Alex Goligoski, Minnesota Wild
Alex Goligoski may be the most underrated defenceman in the NHL this season. The 15-year-veteran has been a rock for the Wild all season, whether it be on the special teams or at even strength. His strong campaign even led to him receiving a two-year extension worth $2 million in average annual value.
The statistic that sticks out the most when looking at Goligoski is his goals-for percentage. So far at even strength, the Wild have outscored the opposition 76 to 39. Of the 76 goals, he has collected points on 25 of them, which is the most amongst all Minnesota defencemen. Despite averaging his lowest ice time since 2008-09, he is showing he can still have success even in a smaller role than he is used to.
2) Nicolas Roy, Vegas Golden Knights
Two things have been constant in Vegas this season, injuries and strong play from Nicolas Roy. The former 2015 fourth-round pick has a career-high 33 points in 67 games and has had to step up and fill in as his team continues to battle for a playoff spot. His strong play has seen him get more opportunities, not just at even strength but also on special teams, where he has seen increased work on the power play and penalty kill.
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While his even-strength analytics are impressive, it’s his penalty kill work that has really shone. In 92 minutes of shorthanded ice time, he has held the opposition to just nine goals while helping to generate three for the Golden Knights. He has also been able to limit the opposition’s high danger chances as Vegas has only given up 31 with him on the ice. Without Roy’s strong play, they would not have been able to survive this season, as his strong performance has made him one of the most underrated players in the league.
1) Mason Marchment, Florida Panthers
Few players have had a better season from an analytical perspective than Mason Marchment. In 45 games with the Panthers, he has registered a 60.56% Corsi percentage and outscored the opposition 47 to 21. Everything has gone right for the former Maple Leaf forward as he has helped Florida build the best third line in hockey with Sam Reinhart and Anton Lundell.
Despite only averaging 13:55 of ice time, Marchment has taken full advantage of his opportunities. He has 40 points, with 38 of them coming at even strength. That ranks him 75th in the league despite playing only 588 minutes at even strength. He has also shown his physical side, recording 96 hits so far. If he continues his strong play, the Panthers should have no problem winning their first playoff series since 1996.
Underrated Players Shine In The Playoffs
Underrated players usually play a key role in a team’s quest for the Stanley Cup. Whether it was Erik Cernak with the Lightning, Tyler Bozak with the Blues or Lars Eller with the Capitals, there is always that one player who steps up when their team needs them the most. The 10 players mentioned have all stepped up this season and will look to continue their strong campaigns as they fight for the Stanley Cup in a few weeks.