NHL Network will air the third episode of "Top 50 NHL Players Right Now," a five-part series, Sept. 16 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 Tracey Myers ranks her top 10 players in the Central Division.
1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
The 23-year-old forward was the driving force behind the Avalanche's return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year. Center of Colorado's top line with Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, MacKinnon set NHL career highs in goals (39), assists (58) and points (97) and was a finalist for the Hart Trophy for the NHL's most valuable player. His 1.31 points per game were second only to Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (1.32).
Video: Nathan MacKinnon lands at No. 5 on the list
2. Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets
The 20-year-old scored an NHL career-high 44 goals in his second season, finishing second to Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin (49). More impressive is that Laine scored 18 of those goals during a 15-game stretch from Feb. 16-March 18.
Video: Patrik Laine is named No. 6 on the list
3. Roman Josi, Nashville Predators
The Predators have one of the deepest defenses in the NHL, and Josi, 28, is a big part of it. Josi had 53 points (14 goals, 39 assists) in 75 games and was third on the team with 20 power-play points behind defenseman P.K. Subban (25) and forward Filip Forsberg (21).
Video: Roman Josi is named No. 34 on the list
4. P.K. Subban, Nashville Predators
It's hard to mention one great Predators defenseman without mentioning another. A Norris Trophy finalist, Subban, 29, was eighth in the NHL with 59 points (16 goals, 43 assists) and led the Predators with 25 power-play points.
Video: P.K. Subban lands at No. 5 on the list
5. Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
The Jets captain, 32, scored an NHL career-high 91 points. His NHL career-high 68 assists were tied for first in the NHL (with Philadelphia Flyers forward Claude Giroux). Wheeler, who signed a five-year contract extension worth $41.25 million on Sept. 4, led the Jets with 40 power-play points and was ninth in the NHL with 1.12 points-per-game.
Video: Wheeler on signing five-year extension with the Jets
6. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
In a season of inconsistency for the Blackhawks, Kane, 29, was the steadiest performer on offense. The forward led Chicago with 76 points (27 goals, 49 assists), including a team-high 22 power-play points. Kane has had a lot of different players on his line the past few seasons but he's consistently put up points.
Video: Patrick Kane takes the No. 4 spot on the list
7. Pekka Rinne, Nashville Predators
The 35-year-old didn't have the best postseason (7-6, 3.07 goals-against average, .904 save percentage in 13 games). But you can't ignore a stellar regular season in which Rinne went 42-13-4 with a 2.31 GAA and .927 save percentage to win the Vezina Trophy.
Video: Pekka Rinne lands at No. 7 on the list
8. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
Why were the Jets able to weather so many injuries last season to finish second in the Central Division with 114 points? A lot of credit goes to Hellebuyck, the 25-year-old goaltender. In his second NHL season as a starter, Hellebuyck led the NHL in wins with a 44-11-9 record (2.36 GAA , .924 save percentage) and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.
Video: Connor Hellebuyck is named No. 4 on the list
9. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars
While the Stars have had their ups and downs in recent seasons, Benn, 29, has been steady. The forward led Dallas with 79 points (36 goals, 43 assists) and seven game-winning goals last season. He's played in 404 of 410 games over the past five seasons.
Video: Jamie Benn takes the No. 8 spot on the list
10. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
The forward scored 66 points (33 goals, 33 assists in 80 games) last season. Tarasenko, 26, led the Blues in goals for the fourth consecutive season and was second on the team in points, behind forward Brayden Schenn (70).
Video: Vladimir Tarasenko comes in at No. 11 on the list