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#NHLTopPlayers: Nos. 10-1

NHL Network reveals best of current crop

NHL.com @NHL

As the preseason winds down, NHL Network is getting you ready for the regular season by ranking the top 50 players in the League. NHL Network researchers, producers and on-air personalities compiled the list, culminating with players 1-10. Here is their list.

 

[RELATED: Nos. 50-41 | Nos. 40-31 | Nos. 30-21 | Nos. 20-11 | #NHLTopPlayers coverage]

 

10. Braden Holtby, G, Washington Capitals

Holtby won at least 41 games each of the past three seasons and was 131-42-23 in that span. He won the Vezina Trophy in 2015-16, when he tied Martin Brodeur for the NHL record with 48 wins (48-9-7) and had a 2.20 goals-against average, a .922 save percentage and three shutouts. He followed that up by going 42-13-6 with a 2.07 GAA, a .925 save percentage and a League-high nine shutouts, and finishing second in Vezina voting.

"He means everything to the Capitals," NHL Network analyst and nine-year NHL veteran Brian Lawton said. "He's calm, he's cool, he's collected. He's exactly what you would think from a goaltender."

The 28-year-old made the NHL First All-Star Team in 2015-16 and the Second All-Star Team last season. He had at least 63 starts each of the past three seasons, including 72 in 2014-15. Holtby leads the League in wins (177) since the 2012-13 season.

Video: Braden Holtby takes the No. 10 spot

 

9. Nikita Kucherov, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning

Kucherov, 24, had NHL career highs in goals (40, tied for second in the League), assists (45), points (85, tied for fifth), power-play goals (17, tied for first), power-play points (32, third), game-winning goals (seven), shots on goal (246) and penalty minutes (38) last season.

"He was tremendous, particularly in March [with] 22 points … 21 goals after the All-Star break, when it mattered most, when they were trying to make a push for the playoffs," Lawton said. "He was the guy that stepped up and he is, it should be recognized, the only player here in our top 10 that's not on a playoff team."

He had at least 29 goals, 36 assists and 65 points each of the past three seasons. Kucherov has 234 points (108 goals, 126 points) and is plus-63 in 285 NHL games, and has 42 points (22 goals, 20 assists) in 45 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Video: Nikita Kucherov takes the No. 9 spot

 

8. Auston Matthews, C, Toronto Maple Leafs

Matthews, the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, lived up to the hype. The 20-year-old scored four goals in his NHL debut Oct. 12 at the Ottawa Senators and was tied for second in the League in goals (40). He led NHL rookies in goals, points (69), shots on goal (279) and game-winning goals (eight), and had 21 power-play points (eight goals, 13 assists). Matthews set Maple Leafs rookie records for goals and points in a season.

"Boy, is the future ever bright for him and the Toronto Maple Leafs," Lawton said. "… Judging by what we saw he's doing over the summer -- he's up, he's training -- I don't think this is a guy that's going to have a sophomore jinx. I think he's really going explode this year."

Matthews, who won the Calder Trophy as the top rookie in the NHL, had three goal streaks of three or more games, including a five-game streak from March 25-April 3. He had five points (four goals, one assist) in six playoff games for Toronto, which qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2012-13 by improving its point total from 69 in 2015-16 to 95 last season.

Video: Auston Matthews takes the No. 8 spot

 

7. Carey Price, G, Montreal Canadiens

Price won the Vezina Trophy in 2014-15, when he led the NHL in wins (44), GAA (1.96) and save percentage (.933), and finished tied for second in shutouts (nine). He also won the Hart Trophy as League MVP and the Ted Lindsay Award as the most outstanding player, as voted by the players. He followed up that season by going 10-2-0 with a 2.06 GAA and .934 save percentage in 12 games in 2015-16, when an MCL sprain to his right knee Nov. 25 ended his season. He was third in Vezina voting last season, when he was 37-20-5 with a 2.23 GAA, a .923 save percentage and three shutouts.

"The thing I like about Carey right now -- he's the No. 1 goaltender for me, clearly, in the National Hockey League -- is the way he tracks the puck," Lawton said. "He's always so on top of it, so focused, he makes saves look effortless."

Price, 30, has made at least 60 starts in four of the past six full NHL seasons. He has a 2.40 GAA and .920 save percentage in 509 games in his NHL career, and his 210 wins since the 2010-11 season rank fourth in the League.

Video: Carey Price takes the No. 7 spot

 

6. Brent Burns, D, San Jose Sharks

In 2016-17, Burns led NHL defensemen in goals (29) and points (76), each a career high, won the Norris Trophy in his second consecutive season as a finalist, and was voted to the NHL First All-Star Team, one season after he made the Second All-Star Team. Burns played 82 games for the third straight season and led the NHL in shots on goal (320) after finishing second behind Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin in 2015-16 (398-353).

"He's exploded since he's gone to San Jose, finally settled into just the role as defenseman," Lawton said. "He vacillated back and forth at times between a forward, and he was a good forward, capable of playing with Joe Thornton and contributing in a meaningful way. I like him back there on D. Nobody gets pucks to the net better than he does, and he led the League last year in that stat."

The 32-year-old averaged 24:51 of ice time per game last season and had six game-winning goals and 25 power-play points (eight goals, 17 assists). He helped the Sharks advance to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016, scoring 24 points, tied for sixth-most by an NHL defenseman in one playoff year.

Video: Brent Burns takes the No. 6 spot

 

5. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin often flies under the radar because he's teammates with Sidney Crosby, but he finished tied for 14th in the NHL in points (72) and tied for 13th in goals (33) last season despite missing 20 games. His 1.16 points-per-game average was third in the League behind Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (1.22) and Crosby (1.19) among players with at least 20 games.

"In his 11 seasons, 10 times he's averaged more than a point per game," Lawton said. "That in itself is remarkable. I love what he brings to the Penguins. I love the combination of him and Crosby and the rest of their characters. He gets the job done at the most important times, as evidenced by his 28 points last year in the playoffs, which they absolutely needed to repeat, more than ever when they lost Kris Letang."

Malkin, who has won three Stanley Cup championships with the Penguins (2009, 2016, 2017), led all scorers in the 2017 postseason with 28 points (10 goals, 18 assists) after he had 18 (six goals, 12 assists) in the 2016 playoffs. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2009 with 36 points (14 goals, 22 assists) in 24 games. 

The 31-year-old had at least 70 points in four of the past five full NHL seasons and has 414 points in 354 NHL games since 2011-12. He's won the Art Ross Trophy as the leading scorer in the NHL twice (2009, 2012), the Ted Lindsay Award (2012) and the Calder Trophy (2007).

Video: Evgeni Malkin takes the No. 5 spot

 

4. Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago Blackhawks

Kane had 106 points to win the Art Ross Trophy by 17 in 2015-16, when he finished second in goals (46; Ovechkin, 50) and third in assists (60). He had a 26-game point streak (16 goals, 24 assists) from Oct. 17-Dec. 13, 2015, the longest by a United States-born player in NHL history, and won the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award. Kane followed that with 89 points (34 goals, 55 assists) last season, finishing tied for second in the League in points and fifth in assists, and was named to the NHL First All-Star Team for the second consecutive season.

"People forget, in his 10 seasons he's never scored less than 20 goals," Lawton said. "He can make plays with the best players in the League, but he also can score. That's something that every team can use. Now, guys that can score on their own consistently, Patrick Kane is a threat not only on the power play, not only shorthanded, but particularly 5-on-5. He can make things out of nothing consistently."

Kane, 28, scored more than 20 goals each of his first 10 NHL seasons and has 752 points (285 goals, 467 assists) in 740 games, all with Chicago. He's won the Stanley Cup three times (2010, 2013, 2015). Kane won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2013 (nine goals, 10 assists in 23 games) and was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players.

Video: Patrick Kane takes the No. 4 spot

 

3. Erik Karlsson, D, Ottawa Senators

Karlsson is a two-time Norris Trophy winner (2012, 2015) and finished second the past two seasons. He had 71 points (17 goals, 54 assists) last season, second among NHL defensemen behind Burns. Karlsson had 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) in 19 playoff games to help the Senators come within one win of the Cup Final, doing so playing the entire postseason with two hairline fractures in his left heel.

"Erik Karlsson can do it all," Lawton said. "He's the single biggest reason, in my opinion, why the Ottawa Senators had the type of season they had. … Everything he does is at a high level, IQ-wise. That's what's made him so special. He's not the biggest man in the National Hockey League, he's not the strongest, but for me, he has absolutely -- certainly over the last three seasons -- been the No. 1 defenseman in the National Hockey League."

The 27-year-old had at least 66 points, 16 goals, 45 assists and 26 power-play points each of the past four seasons. He finished fifth in the NHL last season in total ice time (2,066:29) and fourth in average ice time per game (26:50).

Video: Erik Karlsson takes the No. 3 spot

 

2. Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins

From June 2016 through June 2017, Crosby racked up the hardware. He was Penguins captain for back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, with Pittsburgh defeating the San Jose Sharks in six games in the 2016 Final and the Nashville Predators in six games in the 2017 Final. Crosby won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP following each championship (six goals, 13 assists in 24 games in 2016; eight goals, 19 assists in 24 games in 2017). He also had 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in six games as captain of World Cup of Hockey 2016 champion Team Canada and won tournament MVP.

"For me, it's not just the incredible skill and talent, it's how he drives his team to win consistently," Lawton said. "That's the most important thing. Who's winning? Well, guess what, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Two Stanley Cups in a row, in this era, very, very impressive."

Last season, Crosby led the League in goals (44) and was tied for second in points with Kane. Crosby, 30, was a finalist for the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award each of the past two seasons. He was voted one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players.

Video: Sidney Crosby takes the No. 2 spot

 

1. Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers

The No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, McDavid won the Art Ross Trophy with 100 points (30 goals, 70 assists) in 82 games last season, his second in the League. He also won the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award. McDavid, 20, had 27 power-play points, six game-winning goals and was plus-27 to help the Oilers qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2005-06.

"Nobody in the game right now creates time and space for himself like Connor McDavid," Lawton said. "It's all done because of his legs. At just 20 years old, he hasn't even developed into the full man that he will be. Just give him another year or two. ... He's No. 1 on our list here because there is nobody more dynamic right now, more exciting, nobody that plays at as high a tempo as he plays at consistently."

McDavid had 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) during an NHL-high 14-game point streak to end the regular season and had nine points (five goals, four assists) in 13 playoff games for the Oilers, who advanced to the Western Conference Second Round. He also was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy in 2015-16 (48 points in 45 games).

Video: Connor McDavid takes the No. 1 spot

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