by PuckStopsHere on 08/24/11 at 04:28 PM ET
For my top 50 players list, I use the question: Which 50 players would I most want on my team for the upcoming season? As a result this list is more of a projection toward next season than a ranking of last year’s results. That is not to say that a player who played well last year will not be ranked well, but that will only happen if I think they will keep up their results.
Usually, I like to compare my list to that of The Hockey News, but for the first time in years, they failed to publish a list this year.
Here is my top 50 player list:
1. Sidney Crosby - Because of the questions regarding his recovery from last year’s concussion, I considered downgrading him several times, but I couldn’t bring myself to do so. His partial season last year was too good. He would have been a clear MVP if he kept it up all season.
2. Alexander Ovechkin - He had a down year last year because he spent large parts of the season playing hurt. If anyone else can be as dominant as Crosby was for the first half of last year, it is likely Ovechkin.
3. Zdeno Chara - I think he is the best defenseman in hockey today and the most likely choice for next year’s Norris Trophy, though I wonder if he might be overlooked as he isn’t the highest scoring defenseman in the game. He led the league in team and zone adjusted Corsi last year.
4. Tim Thomas - The best player in hockey last season. Age and a lack of a track record of seasons at that level keep him from a top rating, but he is clearly one of the top picks for this season.
5. Steve Stamkos - A talented young scorer who may succeed Crosby and Ovechkin as the league’s top scorer if they continue to have injury problems.
6. Duncan Keith - A very talented defenseman who had an All-Star caliber season last year, but it was seen as a down season because his 2010 year was so good.
7. Daniel Sedin - Last year’s top scorer. A beneficiary of a league leading number of offensive zone starts, but a top scorer nonetheless.
8. Martin St. Louis - Second highest scorer in the league last year. He turned 36 this summer, so it is reasonable to wonder about age.
9. Henrik Sedin - The 2010 MVP is the second most valuable Sedin in part because he is less of a goal scorer.
10. Jonathan Toews - The best defensive forward of the top ten and also a very good scorer, though not on the level offensively of those ranked above him.
11. Ryan Miller - Last year was a bit of a down season, but he is clearly one of the game’s top goalies.
12. Evgeni Malkin - A talented scorer who gives Pittsburgh a strong one-two punch, if both he and Crosby are healthy.
13. Nicklas Lidstrom - Even while winning the Norris Trophy last year he showed signs of decline. His numbers at even strength are nowhere near what they once were, but he is clearly still a top player.
14. Drew Doughty - An unsigned restricted free agent who could be a Norris Trophy candidate or winner with the right breaks.
15. Roberto Luongo - His performance in the finals was disappointing, but he is a perennial Vezina candidate and a 2011 nominee. Many East Coast hockey fans only saw him well in the later rounds of the playoffs and downgrade him. This requires overlooking an awful lot of high quality hockey.
16. Henrik Lundqvist - A consistent top level goalie who is yet to have a serious Vezina candidate season.
17. Shea Weber - Many argue that he should have won the Norris Trophy were it not for the nostalgia vote that boosted Lidstrom. While I do not buy this premise, he is a top defenseman.
18. Tomas Vokoun - He took a very undervalued deal to play in Washington. As a top goaltender that nobody really noticed as he toiled in poor markets, it will be interesting to see how he does as a contender.
19. Pavel Datsyuk - A talented two-way player but unlikely to be among the NHL’s top scorers at this point in his career.
20. Patrick Kane - Young enough that his offensive numbers may take a jump forward and a pretty good scorer already.
21. Anze Kopitar - An underrated two-way talent who should be mentioned as a Selke Trophy contender.
22. Henrik Zetterberg - Another talented two-way forward.
23. Brent Burns - Played a tough role in Minnesota and will likely get an easier role in San Jose and show himself to be a star.
24. Ryan Suter - Pushing Weber in the race to be the best defenseman in Nashville. He has the ability, he could win the race.
25. Mike Green - Uncertainty is due to his concussion, but he is the top offensive defenseman in hockey.
26. Ryan Kesler - Injuries cause some uncertainty here, but he had a great two-way season winning the Selke Trophy last year.
27. Nicklas Backstrom - A talented linemate of Ovechkin who is a top player on his own as well.
28. Ryan Getzlaf - One of the top scorers last year by points per game. I think he is Anaheim’s top player, despite teammate Corey Perry being reigning MVP.
29. Carey Price - He took over the Habs’ goaltending when Jaroslav Halak was traded and was a success in a situation he could have easily failed.
30. Kris Letang - He had a breakout season with the Penguins last year but was overlooked when the awards came along..
31. Pekka Rinne - Last season was a strong one as he finished second for the Vezina. It is unclear that he has the ability to repeat at that high level.
32. Jarome Iginla - An offensively talented veteran who keeps leading the Flames year in and year out.
33. Corey Perry - This is a low ranking for an MVP, but he is a player who had never had a point-per-game season until last year.
34. Alexander Semin - An incredible talent who has had his heart questioned. With the right bounces could have a huge season.
35. Eric Staal - The top offensive player in Carolina. He is often overlooked as he plays in a non-traditional market.
36. Zach Parise - Must bounce back from a year lost to injury. He would have been rated much higher if he was clearly healthy.
37. Cam Ward - A very good goalie, though likely on the tier below serious Vezina contenders.
38. Joe Thornton - A talented veteran who plays an underrated two-way game.
39. Brad Richards - He signed a big contract in New York and will help the team, but any hope he makes them a contender is a bit of a dream.
40. Jonas Hiller - I would rank him higher if he didn’t have vertigo issues. If he is healthy he is a top goalie.
41. Ilya Kovalchuk - His first season in New Jersey had some growing pains, but he is a top goal scorer.
42. Vincent Lecavalier - He looked like a superstar a few years ago, but is a few years removed from a top season. The talent is there and I bet he bounces back somewhat.
43. Lubomir Visnovsky - My pick for last year’s Norris Trophy. Given his age (35) and his lack of a track record of Norris seasons, I expect some regression this year.
44. Rick Nash - He has been the top player in Columbus for several years, but has never exceeded 79 points in a season.
45. Brent Seabrook - A very good defenseman in his own right, though he is somewhat in Keith’s shadow in terms of fame.
46. John Tavares - The young top offensive player on the New York Islanders. He looks ready for a big leap forward.
47. Mike Richards - A strong two-way player that Philadelphia will regret trading. He will help the LA Kings.
48. Marian Gaborik - A talented offensive player who is downgraded somewhat as he is an injury risk.
49. Ilya Bryzgalov - Philadelphia has a good goalie, but they paid a huge cost to obtain him.
50. Dan Boyle - A consistent talented offensive defenseman in San Jose.
To see how things change, here is last year’s top 50 list. Gone from last year’s list are Dany Heatley (who was ranked 19th last year) who will have to pull out of his decline in Minnesota, Marian Hossa (36th) who is into his 30s and has had two straight 51 point seasons, Brian Rafalski (38th) who retired, Patrick Marleau (39th) who may be slowing down as he pulls into his 30s, Jason Spezza (40th) who hasn’t had a point per game year since 2008, Miikka Kiprusoff (41st) who was a below average starter last year, Marc Savard (43rd) who has a career on hold due to concussions, Andrei Markov (44th) who has been plagued by injuries, Brenden Morrow (45th) who hasn’t cleared 56 points in three years, Tyler Myers (46th) who didn’t keep his momentum from his Calder Trophy into the first half of last year, Mikko Koivu (47th) who missed a bit of time due to injury and Martin Brodeur (49th) who is past his prime.
That means 12 players appear here who missed out last year. They are Brent Burns, Jonas Hiller, Ryan Kesler, Kris Letang, Corey Perry, Carey Price, Pekka Rinne, Brent Seabrook, Ryan Suter, John Tavares, Lubomir Visnovsky and Cam Ward.
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