by Mike Chen on 09/30/08 at 02:36 PM ET
#9 in our countdown of 1998’s THN Top 50 players brings a familiar face: Chris “Stompin’” Pronger.
At the tender age of 23, Chris Pronger was just emerging as a blueline force. Think Dion Phaneuf minus the hefty power play points (he was a year shy of that) and plus a DUI charge. Pronger’s points were good but not top-tier, but that was still to come as St. Louis’s go-to offensive defenseman Steve Duchesne left via free agency.
Pronger earned his high THN ranking based on a growing offensive game and an astonishing +47 rating on a mid-level Blues team with questionable goaltending. Ten years on, Pronger is still one of the game’s elite, and while his THN rating may have slipped a little bit (down to #11), the fact that he’s been a perenniel top-10 player for the past decade showcases both his versatility and his durability.
On the ice, his offensive game has grown, and his monster shot is a mainstay on the Anaheim power play. He’s still a fearsome competitor and a harsh shut-down player, though his tendency to take temper-driven bad penalties has gone down over the years. Pronger still plays with an edge (literally and figuratively); it’s just dulled a little bit as he’s matured, though his game hasn’t.
In comparison, this year’s #9 spot belongs to Evgeni Malkin—high praise for a third-year player. While Malkin represents a completely different position and style from Pronger, both hold equal importance to their team. We’ll see if Malkin’s still a top-10 player in 2018.
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