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Top Players

#NHLTopPlayers: Nos. 50-41

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 50-41 were revealed Sunday in the premiere of the fifth program in a nine-part offseason series. Here is the list:

 

[RELATED: Top 20 Centers | Top 20 Defensemen | Top 20 Wings | Top 10 Goalies | #NHLTopPlayers]

 

50. William Karlsson, C, Vegas Golden Knights

Karlsson arguably was the biggest surprise of last season, when he scored 43 goals (third in the NHL) and had 78 points in 82 games; he entered the season with 18 goals and 50 points in 183 NHL games. He led the NHL with a plus-49 rating and was tied for second in shorthanded goals (four). 

Selected by the Golden Knights from the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, Karlsson helped Vegas win the Pacific Division and advance to the Stanley Cup Final, which it lost to the Washington Capitals in five games. The 25-year-old had 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 20 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

"What changed is the opportunity he had with the Vegas Golden Knights," NHL Network analyst Alex Tanguay said. "I think when (general manager) George McPhee, when he drafted him in the expansion draft … not knowing who his first-line center was going to be.

"He's very strong, he's a great skater. But what we did not know was the offensive abilities that he had. You just look at the number, plus-49, not only plus-49 but plus-49 playing against the top line on the opposing side night after night."

Video: William Karlsson is named No. 50 on the list

 

49. Mathew Barzal, C, New York Islanders

Barzal's first NHL season was one to remember. He led the Islanders and NHL rookies in scoring with 85 points (22 goals, 63 assists), tied for 13th in the League. The Calder Trophy winner dazzled with his passing ability, finishing fifth in the NHL in assists. The 21-year-old had three five-point games, the first rookie to do accomplish that in 100 years (Joe Malone, Montreal Canadiens, 1917-18).

"The five-point games we can talk about, but for Islanders fans it will be reminiscent of a guy that also had 63 assists in his rookie year," Tanguay said. "A guy by the name of Bryan Trottier that led this team (to) great things, Stanley Cup champions multiple times. If Mathew Barzal is any bit as good as Brian Trottier, Islanders fans, you have something extremely good on your hands."

Video: Mathew Barzal comes in at No. 49 on the list

 

48. Filip Forsberg, LW, Nashville Predators

Forsberg led the Predators with 64 points (26 goals, 38 assists) in 67 games last season. It was the third time in his four full NHL seasons he led Nashville in scoring. The 24-year-old also led the Predators with 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in 13 playoff games and set NHL career highs in rating (plus-27), power-play goals (13) and shooting percentage (14.5 percent). In 2016-17, Forsberg scored 31 goals, including 10 in a five-game span from Feb. 21-Feb. 28, including back-to-back hat tricks.

Video: Filip Forsberg takes the No. 48 spot on the list

 

47. Dustin Byfuglien, D, Winnipeg Jets

Byfuglien had 45 points (eight goals, 37 assists) in 2017-18, the seventh straight full NHL season he has had at least that many. His plus-15 rating was an NHL career high, and his 22 power-play points ranked third on the Jets. The 33-year-old had 147 hits, topping 100 for the 10th straight full NHL season, and reached 100 blocked shots for the third consecutive season. He had 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 17 playoff games to help the Jets advance to the 2018 Western Conference Final, which it lost to the Golden Knights in five games.

Video: Dustin Byfuglien lands at No. 47 on the list

 

46. John Klingberg, D, Dallas Stars

Klingberg's 67 points in 82 games last season were one behind John Carlson of the Washington Capitals for most among NHL defensemen, and Klingberg led the position in assists (59). He increased his point total by 18 from the previous season, and his 204 shots on goal were 80 more than he had in 2016-17. Klingberg, who turned 26 on Aug. 14, was plus-10 and played 24:04 per game, an average that has increased in three straight seasons.

Video: John Klingberg is named No. 46 on the list

 

45. Jack Eichel, C, Buffalo Sabres

Eichel missed the first five weeks of last season with an ankle sprain but averaged almost a point per game after returning, with 64 points (25 goals, 39 points) in 67 games. The 21-year-old had 18 multipoint games, including three with at least four points. It was the third straight season Eichel had at least 24 goals, 20 power-play points and four game-winning goals.

"In order to be the player that he wants to be, he's going to have to perform night in and night out, so more consistency out of him, more consistency playing against the top line on the other side," Tanguay said. "It's nice to get points when the score is 4-1 for the other side, but it's much nicer when the game is 0-0 and you put your team ahead. … we all know that he can produce points now. What the Buffalo Sabres fans want to see him produce are wins."

Video: Jack Eichel comes in at No. 45 on the list

 

44. David Pastrnak, RW, Boston Bruins

Pastrnak had NHL career highs in almost every offensive statistical category last season, including goals (35), assists (45), points (80), power-play goals (13), power-play points (26) and shooting percentage (14.2 percent). The 22-year-old played all 82 games for the first time in his four NHL seasons and had 18 multipoint games, including six with at least three points. Pastrnak led the Bruins with 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 12 playoff games.

Video: David Pastrnak takes the No. 44 spot on the list

 

43. Pekka Rinne, G, Nashville Predators

Rinne, who has played all 12 of his NHL seasons with the Predators, won the Vezina Trophy last season, going 42-13-4 with a 2.31 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage and eight shutouts, which tied Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning for the NHL lead. 

Rinne is one of four NHL goalies to have at least 30 wins in each of the past four seasons (Braden Holtby of the Capitals, Tuukka Rask of the Bruins and Devan Dubnyk of the Arizona Coyotes and Minnesota Wild). Rinne's 148 wins in the past four seasons rank second in the NHL behind Holtby (165). The 35-year-old is a four-time Vezina finalist, finishing second in 2011 and 2015 and third in 2012.

Video: Pekka Rinne lands at No. 43 on the list

 

42. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Vegas Golden Knights

Fleury was 29-13-4 with a 2.24 GAA, a .927 save percentage and four shutouts with the Golden Knights last season. The 33-year-old, selected by Vegas from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL Expansion Draft, was 13-7 to help the Golden Knights reach the Stanley Cup Final and ranked first in shutouts (four) and second in GAA (2.24) and save percentage (.927) among goaltenders who played at least five postseason games. The three-time Cup winner with the Penguins (2009, 2016, 2017) ranks third among active NHL goalies in wins (404) and fifth in shutouts (48), and he leads in playoff wins (75) and playoff shutouts (14).

"He went from being the backup [in 2016-17] in Pittsburgh to being the face of the franchise when he was drafted in the expansion draft," Tanguay said. "We all know about the tools that he has, the reflexes, the competitive nature, the glove that's extremely good, same thing on the blockers, he's extremely good. But the fact that he loves the game was so contagious and so crucial for the Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season. 

"The success that they had had a lot to do not only with the player Marc-Andre Fleury is, but with the type of person that he is. It really showed in this team and this community."

Video: Marc-Andre Fleury is named No. 42 on the list

 

41. Alex Pietrangelo, D, St. Louis Blues

Pietrangelo had NHL career highs in goals (15) and points (54) in 78 games last season. The 28-year-old St. Louis captain had a plus rating for the third straight season and fourth in the past five (plus-8). Pietrangelo had 13 power-play points and five game-winning goals, and he led the Blues in total ice time (2,007:27) and average ice time (25:44; sixth in the NHL).

Video: Alex Pietrangelo comes in at No 41. on the list

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