Official rankings exist, but in the hearts and minds of hockey fans, the players that come out on top can often vary a bit from the official list. How do you compare, for example, a top point scorer in team full of great offensive players with the single goal tender who saves his otherwise middling team from defeat after defeat? A player’s real worth is intimately connected to their value to their team – and what they mean to the fans.
At any rate, how can a defender, for example, be exactly compared with a forward – there are a range of different skills involved and they are not always exactly comparable. And yet, none of this seems to dampen NHL fans love of lists and ranking the top players whom they hope can bring home a Stanley Cup for their team. Ranking the top flight players of the NHL is inevitable, and NHL betting odds rely on these metrics of performance to in turn calculate the likelihood of all sorts of hockey outcomes.
Without deference to the official numerical rankings then, we have put together the top ten players who can be expected to set the things alight in 2021 (or who have already done so). These are the players who really mean something to their respective teams, and who’s world-beating performance draws the crowds week after week.
- Auston Matthews
Scoring forty goals as a rookie by 2016, it has been clear for a while that Auston Matthews is one of the star snipers in the NHL, and an invaluable asset to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Second only to the mighty Alexander Ovechkin when it comes to goals scored over the last five seasons, Matthews is never a disappointment to watch.
- Brad Marchand
Top Canadian winger Brad Marchand has been nothing but a blessing for the Boston Bruins since he joined a decade ago. A well-balanced player and a sprightly presence on the rink, he has scored over twenty goals in all but one season during his time at the Bruins.
- David Pastrnak
Playing to the right of Brad Marchand is the Boston Bruins other secret weapon. David Pastrnak has an excellent shooting touch and plays in almost perfect harmony with his eminent teammates. Were it not for injury, last year would have seen him score over thirty goals for a fifth straight year.
- Artemi Panarin
With the Calder Trophy and a top five official ranking when it comes to both assists and points, the Russian winger has become a beloved member of the New York Rangers. Into the bargain, he netted nearly twenty goals last season and it seems set to continue.
- Alexander Ovechkin
Nicknamed “Alexander the Great” at the Washington Capitals, Ovechkin has more than earned the moniker. When it comes to goals, Ovechkin has by now put away enough to climb to sixth place in NHL history. Recently, injury has somewhat held him back, but that seems to be over now.
- Nikita Kucherov
Down in Tampa, Kucherov has long since achieved legendary status, which is all the more impressive considering his remarkable run of success doesn’t seem to be coming to an end any time soon. Coming back from hip surgery with a vengeance, Kucherov produced thirty-two points in twenty-three games, handily surpassing any other postseason player.
- Sidney Cosby
Well into his thirties, Sidney “Sid the Kid” Cosby doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all. After sixteen seasons, his reputation remains undimmed. Cosby has never failed to maintain a point-per-game pace and has won more trophies for his team and himself than any other player currently active.
- Nathan MacKinnon
Coming to the Colorado Avalanche as an 18-year-old, MacKinnon has risen in the ranks alongside his team as the Avalanche have become a major force in the NHL. Boasting four straight point-per-game seasons, leading all the way up to the Presidents’ Trophy last season. MacKinnon was integral to that achievement.
- Leon Draisaitl
Leon Draisaitl is known for racking up a range of fairly diverse achievements and rankings over the course of his time at the Edmonton Oilers. Fourth in the league in goals, second in assists and second in points, the German star was also voted the NHL’s Most Valuable Player after 2019-2020. Draisaitl is a versatile player who works exceptionally well with his teammates. He is also one of the fastest players on the ice.
- Connor McDavid
And it is another star player for the Edmonton Oilers that makes the top spot on our list. Connor McDavid has been the NHL’s star player nearly his whole professional career. With three scoring titles, two MVPs and serious recognition from the players association, McDavid is a star that rises beyond the top. McDavid has produced 105 points across fifty-six games, leading to an average that has only been surpassed by six players in the last half century. He is a player you cannot ignore and who will be remembered for decades after hanging up his skates.