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Top Players

#NHLTopPlayers: Nos. 20-11

NHL Network reveals best of current crop

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL Network is getting ready for this season by ranking the top 50 players in the League. Researchers, producers and on-air personalities compiled the list, and players 20-11 were revealed Sunday in the premiere of the eighth program in a nine-part offseason series. Here is the list:

 

[#NHLTopPlayers Right Now: 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21Top Centers | Top Wings | Top D-men | Top Goalies]

 

20. Tuukka Rask, G, Boston Bruins

Rask went 26-8-6 in 41 games last season and led the NHL with a 2.12 goals-against average, was second with a .929 save percentage (Anton Khudobin, Dallas Stars, .930; minimum 20 games), and was tied for second with Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights and Elvis Merzlikins of the Columbus Blue Jackets with five shutouts. Rask and Jaroslav Halak shared the William M. Jennings Trophy after the Bruins allowed the fewest goals in the NHL (167). Rask allowed two or fewer goals in 27 of his 41 starts and began the season with a 20-game home point streak (14-0-6). He finished second to Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets in voting for the Vezina Trophy.

"When you know you have a constant in net, and that's what Tuukka Rask has been for the Boston Bruins, yes they are very structured defensively and they help him out as well, but they just know when they do make a mistake ... you know you've got Tuukka Rask there to make the big save time and time again," NHL Network analyst Ken Daneyko said. "He's been terrific for the Bruins."

Video: Top 50 Players Right Now: Tuukka Rask

 

19. Brayden Point, C, Tampa Bay Lightning

Point set NHL career highs in goals (41), assists (51) and points (92) in 2018-19, when he led the League with 20 power-play goals. He was third on the Lightning with 64 points (25 goals, 39 assists) in 66 games, was plus-28 and won 51.1 percent of his face-offs last season. In four NHL seasons, Point has scored 262 points (116 goals, 146 assists) in 295 games, and 21.6 percent of his goals (25) have been game-winners, including four in 2019-20. He scored 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) in 23 games during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs to help the Lightning win the Cup.

"Brayden Point is such a complete player," Daneyko said. "...Could have easily won the Conn Smythe Trophy. The motor is always going. I love that about Brayden Point. He's so responsible defensively as well. He was magnificent in the Stanley Cup Playoffs."

Video: Top 50 Players Right Now: Brayden Point

 

18. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins

The three-time Stanley Cup champion (2009, 2016, 2017) has scored at least 25 goals in 10 of his 14 NHL seasons and at least 70 points in 11 of the 14. Malkin led the Penguins last season with 74 points (25 goals, 49 assists) and has averaged more than one point per game in each of the past nine seasons. He was voted winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs in 2009 after scoring 36 points (14 goals, 22 assists) in 24 games during Pittsburgh's championship run and is fourth among active NHL players with 63 postseason goals.

"This season, 74 points, more than a point a game still at 34 years of age," NHL Network analyst  EJ Hradek said. "Still getting it done and still very difficult to play against when he is going at his best."

Video: Top 50 Players Right Now: Evgeni Malkin

 

17. Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Tampa Bay Lightning

After winning the Vezina Trophy in 2018-19, Vasilevskiy (35-14-3) led the NHL in wins for the third straight season and finished third in voting for the Vezina. He finished with a 2.56 GAA, a .917 save percentage and three shutouts, and allowed two goals or fewer in 27 of 52 starts. He had a 21-game point streak (19-0-2) from Dec. 17-Feb. 15 and helped Tampa Bay win at least 10 straight games twice. During the past three seasons, Vasilevskiy leads the NHL in wins (118), is tied with Fleury for first in shutouts (17) and is fourth in save percentage (.921) among goalies who played at least 100 games during that span. He played every minute in the postseason, going 18-7 with a 1.90 GAA and a .927 save percentage to help the Lightning win the Stanley Cup.

"He thinks he's going to stop every puck, and I know every goaltender is going to say they think can stop every puck, but you believe it (with Vasilevskiy)," Daneyko said. "This guy is so confident in his game, he's so atheltic, he's big (6-foot-3, 216 pounds), he plays a lot of games. He's terrific."

Video: Top 50 Players Right Now: Andrei Vasilevskiy

 

16. Patrice Bergeron, C, Boston Bruins

Bergeron scored 56 points (31 goals, 25 assists), was plus-23 and averaged 18:44 of ice time in 61 games last season. He helped the Bruins allow the fewest goals in the NHL (167; 2.39 per game) and win the Presidents' Trophy with the best points percentage in the League (.714; 44-14-12). Bergeron ranked fourth in the NHL in face-off winning percentage (57.9 percent; minimum 750 draws), tied Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres for seventh in face-offs taken (1,311), and was fifth in face-offs won (759). Bergeron has won the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL four times (2012, 2014, 2015, 2017) and has been a finalist for the award in each of the past nine seasons.

"You need to win a big draw, you have Patrice Bergeron out there," Daneyko said. "You need a big play at the right time in the playoffs, he makes the big play. ... His offensive numbers seem to always be at the right time, He's just one of those guys you can't win without."

Video: Top 50 Players Right Now: Patrice Bergeron

 

15. Jack Eichel, C, Buffalo Sabres

Eichel scored an NHL career-high 36 goals in 68 games last season and finished with 78 points, four below his high set in 2018-19. He set NHL career highs in power-play goals (11), power-play points (27) and plus-minus rating (plus-5) and was tied for third in the NHL with nine game-winning goals. Eichel scored four goals against the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 16, the start of a 17-game point streak (31 points; 16 goals, 15 assists) that was the longest in the NHL last season. He has scored at least 24 goals in each of his five NHL seasons.

"His best days are obviously moving forward," Hradek said. "I think he had a big season this year, took a big step forward even though the Buffalo Sabres struggled. ... He's going to be a 100-point guy in this League. He's going to be a guy that maybe can get 50 goals down the road."

Video: Top 50 Players Right Now: Jack Eichel

 

14. John Carlson, D, Washington Capitals

Carlson led NHL defensemen in assists (60) and points (75), each an NHL career high, and tied his high from 2017-18 with 15 goals in 69 games last season. He averaged 1.09 points per game, becoming the first defenseman since Hockey Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1.26), Sergei Zubov (1.14) and Al MacInnis (1.09) in 1993-94 to average more than one point per game for a full NHL season. Carlson was first among NHL defensemen in game-winning goals (six), second in power-play points (26; two goals, 24 assists) and tied for ninth in average ice time (24:38). The runner-up for the Norris Trophy for 2019-20, he had six assists in five postseason games.

"I thought he should have won the Norris Trophy; that was I think a real debate throughout the year. " Hradek said. "... Carlson, terrific player, had a great year. I don't know if I'd have him as high on this list as he is but I still think he's a heck of a defenseman."

Video: Top 50 Players Right Now: John Carlson

 

13. Roman Josi, D, Nashville Predators

Josi won the Norris Trophy last season after setting NHL career highs in goals (16), assists (49) and points (65) in 69 games, ranking second among NHL defensemen in each offensive category. He was third in the League in average ice time (25:47 per game). Among defensemen, he was fifth in power-play points (23; four goals, 19 assists), tied for seventh in plus-minus rating (plus-22) and tied for 33rd in blocked shots (108). Josi has scored at least 53 points in five of six seasons since 2014-15 and ranks third among defensemen with 339 points (86 goals, 253 assists) during that span. He had four assists in four games in the 2020 postseason.

"Roman Josi is one of those guys, he's been doing it for years in Nashville," Daneyko said. "He's a guy that, for me I use it a lot, but he's really had to cover because you never know where he is. When a guy is always in motion, he's finding holes, he's always moving his feet, he's got speed gliding. He's also got a terrific shot."

Video: Top 50 Players Right Now: Roman Josi

 

12. Brad Marchand, RW, Boston Bruins

Marchand scored 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) in 70 games last season, the fourth in a row he's scored at least 85 points. During that span, he ranks fifth in the NHL with 357 points (137 goals, 220 assists) in 297 games. The right wing led Bruins forwards in average ice time per game (19:27) and helped them win the Presidents' Trophy. Marchand ranks second in the NHL during the past three postseasons with 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists) in 49 games, one point behind Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov.

"He has worked his tail off to become an elite player in this League and his offensive skills have continued to get better and better throughout his career," Daneyko said. "That intangible of playing on the edge ... that's what makes him such a special player."

Video: Top 50 Players Right Now: Brad Marchand

 

11. Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago Blackhawks

Few players have been more dynamic or consistent during the past decade than Kane, who finished eighth in the NHL last season with 84 points (33 goals, 51 assists). He has scored at least 21 goals in each of his 13 NHL seasons and is third in points since entering the League in 2007 (1,022; 389 goals, 633 assists). The right wing had a 15-game point streak (11 goals, 13 assists) from Nov. 2-30, 2019, the second-longest in the NHL last season behind Eichel, and helped the Blackhawks advance to the playoffs.

"A cat burglar with the puck," Hradek said. "He's just got ice water in his veins, he'll hold the puck, hold the puck, hold the puck to make plays and he's the rare bird in that he's a playmaker on the wing. Usually, the playmaker is in the middle, he's on the wing. But boy, what a special player. He's been a treat to watch."

Video: Top 50 Players Right Now: Patrick Kane

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