With the NHL now back to work in Return to Play camps across the league, what better time to discuss the Top 100 players in the NHL right now?
Certainly, we took the shortened regular season into account along with the player’s body of work prior to this year, and with a little projection as to how much room they still have to grow in the future as well. Put it all together and you’ve got a mix of two-way centers, high-scoring wings, hard-hitting defenseman and red-hot goaltenders who combine to add up to the best 100 players in the league.
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Here are players 26 through 50 as we count down from 100 all the way back down to 1 with apologies to familiar players like Phil Kessel, P.K. Subban and Henrik Lundqvist who all fell out of the Top 100 with tough seasons this past year.
50. Mike Hoffman, LW, Florida Panthers
The 30-year-old Hoffman has been a reborn player in Florida with perhaps something to prove after the way things ended in Ottawa. After putting up 34 goals and 70 points last season, Hoffman was on pace to put up similar numbers this year when the regular season went on pause after never hitting the 30-goal mark during his four full seasons in Ottawa.
It remains to be seen if he stays in Florida for the long term after his name has been whispered in trade rumors over the last season, but Hoffman is one of the most dangerous goal-scoring wingers out there in the prime of his career.
49. Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anaheim Ducks
Certainly not a youngster on this list by any means, the 35-year-old Getzlaf continues to grind it out for the Anaheim Ducks as they struggle in the Western Conference. The 6-foot-4, 221-pounder has 13 goals and 42 points in 69 games this season and has been in line with those kinds of numbers for the last five seasons or so.
Getzlaf brings leadership, size, strength and tons of experience to a Ducks team that’s short on offensive talent, even if he hasn’t scored 20 goals in a season in a while and been a combined minus-35 over the last two seasons.
48. Claude Giroux, LW, Philadelphia Flyers
The 32-year-old Giroux probably isn’t the same guy who's been a top-5 Hart Trophy finalist three different times and was an All-Star with 34 goals and 102 points a few years ago.
But he’s still a solid No. 1 center for a playoff team that had 21 goals and 53 points in 69 games this past year after 22 goals and 85 points last season. And he’s still at the back end of his prime while playing big minutes and keeping his two-way game in check as a big point producer.
47. Devan Dubnyk, G, Minnesota Wild
It was a tough season all-around for the 34-year-old Dubnyk while he pushed through off-ice issues that clearly and understandably impacted his on-ice play, but it doesn’t take away from his overall ability as a goalie. It also didn’t help that he was playing for a dreadful Wild team. This season, though, the 12-15-2 record with a 3.35 goals against average and .890 save percentage are obviously sub-standard numbers for a goalie who will need to improve if he wants to keep his standing in the Top 50.
46. Thomas Chabot, D, Ottawa Senators
After a breakout campaign with 14 goals and 55 points last season where he garnered Norris Trophy consideration and All-Star votes, Chabot had an up and down season in Ottawa after getting paid with a long-term deal. The six goals and 39 points in 71 games were okay, but clearly Chabot has some work to do with a combined minus-30 rating over the last two seasons.
So he’s got some work to do on the defensive end, but the talent is absolutely there for him to be one of the best D-men for a long period of time.
45. Nikolaj Ehlers, LW, Winnipeg Jets
The speedy, skilled and young Ehlers was on his way to his best NHL season at 24 years old with 25 goals and 58 points in 71 games this past year. But he’s a player who's been in the 20-goal and 60-point range for the last four seasons with the Jets as one of their key offensive guys and is clearly on the rise while never putting up more than 25 goals or 64 points to this point in his career.
Much like some of the other players on the list, Ehlers is being ranked this high based on his upside moving forward as well as what he’s done in the recent past.
44. Shea Weber, D, Montreal Canadiens
A four-time All-Star and a regular Norris Trophy finalist at the height of his career, the big-bodied Montreal defenseman finally regained full health this season and had 15 goals and 36 points in 65 games while playing 24 minutes a night. He probably won’t hit 20 goals or 50 points again or be a Norris Trophy finalist anymore at 34 years old, but Weber was easily a No. 1 defenseman for the Canadiens this season.
You can’t say the same about the guy Montreal traded away to get him, P.K. Subban, who slid off the Top 100 list this season after looking well onto the back nine of his career this season in New Jersey. Health is the key for Weber and he has that again in Montreal.
43. Mika Zibanejad, C, New York Rangers
The 27-year-old Zibanejad hit 40 goals this season with the Rangers for the first time in his career and has really taken a step forward as the second part of a high-scoring duo with Artemi Panarin.
Zibanejad set career highs this year with the 41 goals and 75 points while only playing 57 games after suffering a concussion and should be in line to keep this up as New York builds a bundle of talent around him. You think Ottawa might want to have that deal back after shipping him to New York for Derick Brassard and a seventh-round pick back in 2016?
42. Andrei Svechnikov, RW, Carolina Hurricanes
The 20-year-old Russian winger is one of the youngest players on the list after really breaking through in his second NHL season with 24 goals and 61 points in 68 games. This after a respectable rookie year as an 18-year-old where he scored 20 goals and played in all 82 games before challenging Alex Ovechkin to a fight in the playoffs.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound Svechnikov is just starting to come into his own for a talented, improving Hurricanes bunch and could climb really high on this list given his age and high talent level.
41. Sean Couturier, C, Philadelphia Flyers
The 27-year-old Flyers forward has become one of the best all-around centers in the NHL after posting back-to-back 30-goal, 75-point seasons before finishing with 22 goals and 59 points in 69 games this year. Couturier was the runner-up to the Selke Trophy a couple of years ago as well and will absolutely win it one of these years as he continues to play big minutes, and pay attention to the 200-foot game and post good numbers for a Flyers team on the rise.
Couturier might be the most underrated player in the entire league.
40. Mathew Barzal, C, New York Islanders
After posting 22 goals and 85 points in his rookie season while winning the Calder Trophy, the 23-year-old Barzal has been good and had 19 goals and 60 points in 68 games this season. More importantly, Barzal was a plus-5 while producing within a more defensive-oriented system from Barry Trotz while playing bigger and more important minutes on the ice.
Barzal is still creative and explosive on the ice with the puck on his stick, but he’s also becoming a better all-around player as he enters the prime years of his career.
39. Patrik Laine, RW, Winnipeg Jets
The 6-foot-5, 206-pound Laine had a bit of a dip last season in terms of his overall production, but the big, skilled winger was back to normal this season with 28 goals and 63 points in 68 games for the Jets. Even with his struggles last season, Laine had scored 30 goals in every season in the NHL since joining Winnipeg as an 18-year-old and was well on his way to 30 goals again this season went things went on pause.
Even more encouraging, Laine had a career-high in assists this season and is beginning to develop into more than a one-dimensional goal-scorer while having already scored 138 career goals as a 21-year-old. The sky is the limit for Laine.
38. Jamie Benn, LW, Dallas Stars
The 30-year-old Benn is a three-time All-Star and he’s been the best player on the Dallas Stars roster for the last decade, but he struggled this year with just 19 goals and 39 points along with a minus-4 rating in 69 games. Some of that was about a much more defensive system in Dallas, and some of that is about both Benn and Tyler Seguin not really playing all that well for the Stars this season.
It may be that Benn peaked with his Hart Trophy finalist year in 2015-16 when he topped 40 goals and 80 points because it feels like he may not get back there again now that he's on the wrong side of 30 years old.
37. Drew Doughty, D, Los Angeles Kings
The 30-year-old Droughty won the Norris Trophy four years ago, has four All-Star appearances and won a pair of Cups at the height of hockey in Los Angeles, but is no longer the dominant force that he once was. Some of that is the talent level eroding around him with the Kings where he’s a minus-50 over the last two seasons and some of that is about Doughty beginning to decline after playing huge minutes and a massive role over the last decade.
Doughty is still a No. 1 guy in Los Angeles who does everything well and plays in all situations, but seven goals and 35 points in 67 games is a pretty ho-hum season for him.
36. Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Washington Capitals
The skilled Kuznetsov was in the midst of another strong season with the Capitals and had 19 goals and 52 points in 63 games this season. He was also a minus player for the first time in his NHL career over the course of a full season and wasn’t quite dominant like he was a couple of years ago when he had 27 goals and 83 points.
Still, he’s in the middle of his prime right now at 27 years old and could really explode in the next few years for a Washington team loaded with offensive talent.
35. Brayden Point, C, Tampa Bay Lightning
The 24-year-old Point really landed on people’s radar last season with 41 goals and 92 points for the Lightning and then followed that up with a very strong postseason for Tampa Bay. A slow start to this season dulled a little of that momentum, but he finished with 25 goals and 64 points in 66 games along with a plus-28 rating for a stacked Lightning group.
Point is just scratching the surface of how good he can be and is turning into a dominant two-way center for the Lightning who is sometimes still overshadowed by some of the bigger names on that roster.
34. Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Tampa Bay Lightning
The 25-year-old Vasilevskiy is among the best goaltenders in the game and finished last season as the Vezina Trophy winner and an All-Star. This season he was 35-14-3 with a .917 save percentage and a 2.56 goals against average — a far cry from last season’s numbers — and the Lightning had some issues finding a quality backup to give him the rest that he needed during the regular season.
He also has some things to prove with a career .912 save percentage in the playoffs, but Vasilevskiy should be plenty good for the juggernaut roster that plays in front of him.
33. Kyle Connor, LW, Winnipeg Jets
The 23-year-old Connor just keeps getting better each and every NHL season and had 38 goals and 73 points in 71 games for Winnipeg this year. Those were both career highs as his ice time was upped and his attention to detail in the 200-foot game improved as well.
Connor is another player in Winnipeg who's just coming into his own at the beginning of his prime years and should lead the Jets for years to come. As those players keep getting better, the quality of the 2015 NHL Draft class just gets more and more impressive.
32. Dougie Hamilton, D, Carolina Hurricanes
After beginning to build All-Star and Norris Trophy credentials in each of the last three seasons with Calgary and Carolina, Hamilton was actually pushing for serious Norris Trophy consideration this season until he broke his leg.
As it is, Hamilton finished with 14 goals and 40 points in 47 games and is expected to give Carolina a major boost if he can be healthy when play resumes. At 27 years old, the talented Hamilton may finally be developing into the defenseman everyone thought he would be in Boston when he was first drafted almost 10 years ago.
31. Max Pacioretty, LW, Vegas Golden Knights
After a bit of a difficult transition going from Montreal to Vegas, Pacioretty really came into his own this year with the Golden Knights while posting 32 goals and 66 points in 71 games. The 66 points were just one off a career high for Patches and portend good things to come for him as a 31-year-old still at the top of his game.
Pacioretty was also dominant for the Golden Knights during the playoffs last season and could be a real factor for Vegas this summer.
30. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, St. Louis Blues
The 28-year-old Tarasenko essentially had a lost season for the Blues due to injury, but now he’s healthy and ready to go for a St. Louis team that will be defending its Stanley Cup title. Tarasenko had five straight 30-goal seasons prior to this year, has two All-Star appearances under his belt, and at 28 years old still has a few more years of explosive scoring potential left at the very least.
The Russian sniper could end up being a major impact player for a Blues team that’s going to be a handful this summer.
30. Tom Wilson, RW, Washington Capitals
The 26-year-old Wilson doesn’t put up massive offensive numbers like so many of the other players around him in the rankings, but Wilson is still a huge factor for the Capitals. Wilson came in just shy of his seventh straight season with over 100 penalty minutes and is still a major physical factor whenever he throws around his 6-foot-4, 218-pound frame, but he’s also become a threat offensively as a power forward. Wilson topped 20 goals and 40 points for the second straight year and was on his way to career highs with 21 goals and 44 points in 68 games this season.
Wilson might be the most intimidating power forward in the game right now and that makes him extremely effective.
29. Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, Florida Panthers
The 27-year-old Huberdeau is another player who's been underrated while doing excellent work in Florida and had a great season with 23 goals and 78 points in 69 games. He was also a plus player after being a minus-14 last year while topping 30 goals and 90 points, and really seemed to do a good job of balancing two-way play under new coach Joel Quenneville.
While at times Aleksander Barkov gets too much of the hype down in Florida, Huberdeau is the real deal in the prime of a very good NHL career.
28. Cale Makar, D, Colorado Avalanche
The 21-year-old Makar was a game-changer for the Avalanche this season after making an impressive debut in the playoffs last spring. Makar is the likely Calder Trophy winner this season after posting 12 goals and 50 points in 57 games while averaging 21:01 of ice time and managing a plus-12 rating.
He’s explosive during 5-on-5 play, creative with the puck and an excellent puck-mover who made a transition from Hockey East to the NHL look easy, so the sky is the limit for him after his rookie season. He could get very high on this list within just a couple of NHL seasons.
27. Elias Pettersson, C, Vancouver Canucks
The 21-year-old Pettersson is just getting started in Vancouver where he had 27 goals and 66 points in 68 games after virtually identical offensive numbers last year in three more games last year while winning the Calder Trophy.
Pettersson still needs to get bigger and stronger while proving he can stay healthy at the NHL level with his lean frame, but he’s already shown he’s got the offensive goods to be a dominant force in Vancouver. It will be fun to see what a player like Pettersson can do in the playoffs when he’s finally given a chance to shine this summer.
26. Tuukka Rask, G, Boston Bruins
A one-time All-Star, one-time Vezina Trophy winner and a Jennings Trophy winner this season, Rask could be adding to his hardware list this season after posting a 26-8-6 record along with a 2.12 goals against average and a .929 save percentage. It was his best regular season in a few years and came after a glorious postseason run last spring where he would have been the Conn Smythe winner had the B’s beaten St. Louis in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
As it is, Rask leads active NHL goaltenders in save percentage and is in the Top 10 all-time in playoff save percentage as well. He’s clearly the best regular-season goalie in Bruins history, but needs the Stanley Cup under his watch in Boston to really begin to clinch a potential Hall of Fame career.