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Top Players

#NHLTopPlayers: Nos. 40-31

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 40-31 were revealed Sunday in the premiere of the sixth program in a nine-part offseason series. Here is the list:

 

[RELATED: #NHLTopPlayers: Nos. 50-41 | Top 20 Centers | Top 20 Defensemen | Top 20 Wings | Top 10 Goalies]

 

40. Jonathan Quick, G, Los Angeles Kings

Quick had 33 wins last season, marking the sixth time he won at least that many in the past eight full NHL seasons. In the past five, he had a goals-against average higher than 2.26 once (2.40 last season), and his save percentage has not been worse than .915 (2013-14). In 2015-16, he went 40-23-5 in an NHL-high 68 starts (68) and finished third in voting for the Vezina Trophy, the third time in five seasons he was in the top five.

Quick helped the Kings win the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2012, when he went 16-4 with a 1.41 GAA, a .946 save percentage and three shutouts. The 32-year-old ranks fourth in the NHL in wins since 2009-10 (271).

Video: Jonathan Quick takes the No. 40 spot on the list

 

39. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Washington Capitals

Backstrom had 71 points (21 goals, 50 assists) in 2017-18, the fifth straight season he had at least 70. His 284 assists since 2013-14 lead the NHL, and his 168 power-play points are tied for first with Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux. Backstrom, 30, had 23 points (five goals, 18 assists) in 20 playoff games to help the Capitals win the Stanley Cup last season.

Video: Nicklas Backstrom lands at No. 39 on the list

 

38. John Carlson, D, Washington Capitals

Carlson led NHL defensemen with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists) last season, tied for third in assists, and was second with 32 power-play points, one behind NHL leader Shayne Gostisbehere of the Flyers. Carlson had 146 blocked shots, second on the Capitals behind defenseman Brooks Orpik (168), and scored four game-winning goals. In the playoffs, the 28-year-old had 20 points (five goals, 15 assists) and was plus-11 with 12 power-play points (tied for second in the NHL) to help Washington win its first Stanley Cup title.

Video: John Carlson is named No. 38 on the list

 

37. Phil Kessel, RW, Pittsburgh Penguins

Kessel set NHL career highs in assists (58) and points (92) in 2017-18, when he scored 34 goals, marking the 10th straight season he scored at least 20 goals. The 30-year-old led the NHL in power-play points (42) and played in every game for the eighth straight season. Kessel has played in 692 straight games, the third-longest active streak in the NHL behind Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle (715) and Toronto Maple Leafs center Patrick Marleau (706).

Video: Phil Kessel comes in at No. 37 on the list

 

36. Connor Hellebuyck, G, Winnipeg Jets

Hellebuyck, the Vezina runner-up last season, went 44-11-9 to set the single-season NHL record for wins by a United States-born goalie, and he ranked in the top 10 among NHL goalies to make at least 20 starts with a 2.36 GAA (tied for eighth), a .924 save percentage (10th) and six shutouts (third).

The 25-year-old set NHL career highs in starts (64), wins, save percentage and shutouts last season. In the playoffs, he was 9-8 with a 2.36 GAA, a .922 save percentage and two shutouts in 17 games to help the Jets advance to the Western Conference Final for the first time in their history.

Video: Connor Hellebuyck takes the No. 36 spot on the list

 

35. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Calgary Flames

Gaudreau had NHL career highs in points (84) and assists (60) in 80 games last season, and has had at least 61 points and 16 power-play points in each of the past four NHL seasons. The 25-year-old finished third in Calder Trophy voting as the top rookie in the NHL in 2014-15 and won the Lady Byng Trophy, awarded to the player voted to best combine sportsmanship, gentlemanly conduct and ability, in 2016-17, when he had two minor penalties. Gaudreau led the Flames in scoring in each of the past three seasons.

"[He's a] hummingbird on skates," NHL Network analyst Bill Lindsay said. "The guy darts in and out, can go all over the ice, he's able to find those open seams. There's no one better in traffic in the NHL than Gaudreau. … A small player (5-foot-9, 157 pounds), but you have to have awareness and vision around you at all times. [He] draws a lot of penalties and is a very, very special player."

Video: Johnny Gaudreau lands at No. 35 on the list

 

34. Roman Josi, D, Nashville Predators

Josi continues to be a steady presence offensively and defensively. He had 53 points (14 goals, 39 assists), second among Predators defensemen behind P.K. Subban's 59, and an NHL career-high plus-24 rating in 78 games last season. The 28-year-old Nashville captain scored double-digit goals in each of the past five seasons and had at least 15 power-play points in each of the past four. He also led the Predators in shots on goal (253), blocked shots (120) and average ice time (24:28).

Video: Roman Josi is named No. 34 on the list

 

33. Aleksander Barkov, C, Florida Panthers

Barkov, who turned 23 on Sept. 2, scored 27 goals and led the Panthers in assists (51) and points (78) last season. He led the NHL in shorthanded goals (five) and was second in average ice time among forwards (22:04), one second behind Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar. Barkov took the fifth-most face-offs in the NHL (1,697), winning 908 of them (53.5 percent, fifth in NHL), and finished fourth in voting for the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL.

"He came into the League better defensively than he was offensively," Lindsay said. "The offensive numbers are starting to come around. … He gets a lot of his offensive chances just from being in the right position defensively, and that's a luxury for his linemates; they know where he's going to be. He makes everyone around him, whoever he plays with -- [forward Jonathan] Huberdeau, [center Nick] Bjugstad -- you can put anyone with Aleksander Barkov and they're going to become better."

Video: Aleksander Barkov comes in at No. 33 on the list

 

32. Seth Jones, D, Columbus Blue Jackets

Jones had NHL career highs in goals (16), assists (41), points (57), power-play goals (seven), power-play points (24), game-winning goals (four), shots on goal (249) and rating (plus-10) last season, his fifth in the NHL. The 23-year-old led the Blue Jackets in average ice time (24:36) and was third in blocked shots (124).

Video: Seth Jones takes the No. 32 spot on the list

 

31. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, St. Louis Blues

Tarasenko had 66 points (33 goals, 33 assists) in 80 games last season and led the Blues in goals for the fourth straight season. He's one of two players, along with Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, who has scored at least 30 goals in each of the past four seasons. The 26-year-old ranked fifth in the NHL with 306 shots on goal and had a plus-15 rating, 16 power-play points (six goals) and five game-winning goals.

"The release is in a blink of an eye and it's laser-like accurate," Lindsay said. "When he gets in the shooting position, it's on the stick, off the stick, and this is his repertoire; he's able to find that seam and he's able to cradle that puck. ... He just keeps those hands close together and when you have your hands close together like that, you're able to just cradle the puck and get it off so quickly. Tarasenko has that type of shooting, that it gets it done and just beats goaltenders from all over."

Video: Vladimir Tarasenko lands at No. 31 on the list

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