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Top Players

#NHLTopPlayers: Top 10 in Atlantic Division

NHL.com writers make selections to highlight NHL Network weekly countdown

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL Network will air the premiere episode of "Top 50 NHL Players Right Now," a five-part series, Sept. 2 at 7 p.m. ET. New episodes will air each Sunday through Sept. 30. 

Before the network unveils 10 players on its list in each episode, an NHL.com writer will reveal his or her top players in one of the four divisions the previous Friday. Today, NHL.com staff writer Amalie Benjamin ranks her top 10 players in the Atlantic Division.

 

[RELATED: #NHLTopPlayers]

 

1. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators

Though Karlsson, 28, could be traded by the Senators, for now he reigns supreme in the Atlantic Division. The two-time Norris Trophy winner carried the Senators to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final in 2017, despite an injured foot and ankle, with his dynamic skill, sheer determination and improved work in the defensive end. During the past five seasons, no NHL defenseman had more points than Karlsson's 355 (83 goals, 272 assists), and he certainly should be regarded as the best offensive defenseman in the League. 

Video: NYI@OTT: Karlsson pots Duchene's nice feed

 

2. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

Kucherov finished third in the NHL in points with 100 (39 goals, 61 assists) last season and formed a strong partnership with center Steven Stamkos for the Lightning, who won the division and reached the conference final. The 25-year-old forward had 85 points (40 goals, 45 assists) in 2016-2017 and signed an eight-year, $76 million contract extension (average annual value $9.5 million) on July 10 that begins next season. Kucherov had the second-most points in the NHL the past two seasons with 185 (79 goals, 106 assists), behind Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (208; 71 goals, 137 assists). 

Video: TBL@WSH, Gm3: Kucherov beats Holtby on power play

 

3. John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs

Tavares will make his Atlantic debut this season after signing a seven-year, $77 million contract (AAV $11 million) with the Maple Leafs as a free agent July 1. Selected No. 1 in the 2009 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders, Tavares, 27, figures to make an already dangerous Toronto attack even scarier, bringing 621 NHL points (272 goals, 349 assists) in 669 games to his hometown team. Tavares could end up as center on a line with Mitchell Marner and Zach Hyman this season, perhaps raising his point totals even higher than the 84 (37 goals, 47 assists) he scored in 82 games last season.

Video: Discussing the analytics of Tavares and Matthews

 

4. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

It has not been an easy road for Stamkos during the past five seasons, which included four surgeries and two seasons when he played 37 games or fewer. But the 28-year-old center remains one of the best players in the NHL; he had 86 points (27 goals, NHL career-high 59 assists) last season, his highest point total since he had 97 (60 goals, 37 assists) in 2011-12. He also has become more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer, finding chemistry with Kucherov. 

Video: Steven Stamkos comes in at No. 11 on the list

 

5. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins 

Arguably the best two-way center in the game, Bergeron, 33, has performed impressively the past two seasons, which included two groin injuries, each requiring offseason surgery. The four-time Selke Trophy winner as the NHL's best defensive forward has been a finalist for the award the past seven seasons. He scored 30 goals in 64 games last season, his fourth 30-goal season in the NHL, on a line with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. Hard to say he's underrated anymore. 

Video: TBL@BOS, Gm4: Bergeron pots PPG off give-and-go

 

6. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning 

Hedman won the Norris Trophy, awarded to the NHL's best defenseman, last season when the 27-year-old had 63 points (17 goals, 46 assists). He can control the game with his size (6-foot-6, 223 pounds) and ability to shoot the puck. 

Video: Hedman takes home the Norris Trophy

 

7. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

There is plenty of time for Matthews to climb this list, though it would not be hard to argue the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft should be higher. The 20-year-old center has scored 132 points (74 goals, 58 assists) in his 144 NHL games the past two seasons.

Video: BOS@TOR, Gm3: Matthews goes top shelf on Rask

 

8. Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers 

Barkov, 22, has quietly built an impressive resume in Florida and is coming off a breakout season. The underrated center had the highest point total of his five-season NHL career with 78 (27 goals, 51 assists) and appears poised to continue his ascent. He also led the NHL with five shorthanded goals and finished fourth in Selke Trophy voting last season.

Video: BOS@FLA: Barkov pots 100th goal off Dadonov's feed

 

9. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins 

Marchand, 30, is one of the most skilled forwards in the division, having scored more than 30 goals each of the past three seasons (37 in 2015-16, 39 in 2016-17, 34 in 2017-18). He has increased his value even further by finally getting regular time on the power play, along with his play on the penalty kill.

Video: BOS@TBL, Gm1: Marchand nets nifty redirection goal

 

10. Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres 

Though Eichel, 21, has acknowledged there have been ups and downs in his three NHL seasons, he also said recently he knows how dominant he can be. Eichel, who has had each of the past two seasons affected by ankle injuries, has the talent, even if his NHL career has been overshadowed by that of McDavid, who went one pick ahead of him at No. 1 in the 2015 NHL Draft. The Sabres center had about a point per game last season with 64 (25 goals, 39 assists) in 67 games.

Video: BUF@NSH: Eichel records five helpers in Sabres' win

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