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Top Players

#NHLTopPlayers: Nos. 20-11

NHL Network reveals best of current crop

NHL.com @NHL

As the preseason continues, 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, continuing with players 11-20. Here is their list.

 

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

 

20. Steven Stamkos, C, Tampa Bay Lightning

Stamkos had 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in 17 games last season and was tied for third in the NHL in scoring when he sustained a season-ending knee injury Nov. 15. He had 64 points (36 goals, 28 assists) in 77 games in 2015-16 and 72 (43 goals, 29 assists) in 2014-15, when he helped the Lightning reach the Stanley Cup Final.

"He can make the difference on one shot," said Mike Rupp, who is an analyst for NHL Network and played 11 seasons in the League from 2003-14. "One shot can change the course of the game and Steven Stamkos has one of the best releases in the National Hockey League. Having him healthy is all the difference in the world for this Tampa Bay Lightning team."

Stamkos scored at least 23 goals each of his eight NHL seasons prior to 2016-17 and has scored more than 40 four times, including an NHL career-high 60 in 2011-12, when he won his second Maurice Richard Trophy as the top goal-scorer in the League (2009-10). The 27-year-old has 582 points (321 goals, 261 assists) in 586 NHL games.

Video: Steven Stamkos lands at No. 20 on the list

 

19. John Tavares, C, New York Islanders

Tavares had 66 points (28 goals, 38 assists) in 2016-17 to lead the Islanders in scoring for the third straight season and seventh time in his eight NHL seasons. He's scored at least 24 goals every season he's been in the League and hasn't had fewer than 54 points in a full NHL season.

"When you get a Jordan Eberle, like the New York Islanders did, it'll give [Tavares] a little more flair to play with," Rupp said. "I think that's what's been lacking with this guy and I think that's why this guy, sometimes, doesn't get the respect that he should in this league. He's one of the absolute elite, we wouldn't be talking about him in this position if he wasn't. He has the ability to go even higher on this list. This guy's a top-10 guy in my opinion."

Tavares, 27, finished second in the League in points in 2014-15 (86) and is a two-time Hart Trophy finalist (2013, 2015). Thirty-nine of his 235 NHL goals (16.6 percent) have been game-winners, and 71 (30.2 percent) have come on the power play. He has 537 points (235 goals, 302 assists) in 587 NHL games.

Video: John Tavares takes the No. 19 spot

 

18. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Washington Capitals

Ovechkin was tied with T.J. Oshie for the Capitals lead in goals last season (33) and has been their leader or co-leader in goals each of his 12 NHL seasons. He's won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the leading goal-scorer in the League six times, including four straight seasons from 2012-16. He has scored 50 or more goals seven times in his NHL career, most recently in 2015-16 when he had a hat trick in Washington's penultimate game to reach 50.

"He just knows how to get it through and he changes that shot angle all the time," Rupp said. "He's so impressive and he's so good at moving around from side to side. … When people start questioning great players, they usually come back with a nice little follow-up. So, I expect Alex Ovechkin to have a monster season this year."

Ovechkin, 32, has been named to either the NHL First All-Star Team or Second All-Star Team 10 times. He has won the Hart Trophy three times and the Ted Lindsay Award three times. He has been durable, missing 29 games in his NHL career, and his 558 goals and 1,035 points lead the League since 2005-06, his rookie season. Ovechkin was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players.

Video: Alex Ovechkin comes in at No. 18 on the list

 

17. Jamie Benn, LW, Dallas Stars

Benn had 26 goals and 43 assists last season, his lowest totals in a full NHL season since 2011-12. However, he has been first or second in scoring on the Stars each of the past three seasons. Benn had 41 goals (third in the NHL), 48 assists and 89 points (second) in 2015-16 after winning the Art Ross Trophy in 2014-15 for leading the League in points (87).

"He is so skilled, so good, great vision, great finish, he's huge," Rupp said. "Usually when you slow the game down, you've got to know as a player that someone's coming to get you, someone's going to hit you and make up that gap that you're leaving. But Jamie Benn's so big, you come to hit him, he'll invite it. He'll get you on his hip and he'll take you for a ride, take you to the net and score a goal."

Benn, 28, has made the NHL First All-Star Team twice and the Second All-Star Team once, and has scored at least 22 goals each of his seven full NHL seasons. Over the past three seasons, Benn has 245 points, third in the NHL behind Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane (259) and Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (258).

Video: Jamie Benn is named No. 17 on the list

 

16. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Columbus Blues Jackets

Bobrovsky put up the best numbers of his NHL career last season, going 41-17-5 with a 2.06 goals-against average and .931 save percentage, each No. 1 in the League, to win the Vezina Trophy for the second time (2012-13). He had seven shutouts and finished third in Hart Trophy voting as NHL most valuable player, one season after injuries limited him to 37 games. Prior to that, he had won at least 30 games the previous two seasons.

"When you look at certain goaltenders, I think you can mention a Braden Holtby … a guy that plays very under control, he's got his correct angles," Rupp said. "Bobrovsky has those things, but then he also has got the athleticism of a Marc-Andre Fleury or the competitive nature of never giving up of Jonathan Quick. He does everything."

Bobrovsky, 29, was a big reason the Blue Jackets won 16 straight games Nov. 29-Jan. 3, the longest streak in their history, going 14-0-0 in that span. He was 10-0-2 with four shutouts, including three straight (March 2-7), from Feb. 26-March 28.

Video: Sergei Bobrovsky lands at No. 16 on the list 

 

15. Victor Hedman, D, Tampa Bay Lightning

Hedman set NHL career highs in goals (16), assists (56) and points (72) last season. He was second among NHL defensemen in points behind the San Jose Sharks' Brent Burns (76) and was a finalist for the Norris Trophy for the first time. Hedman averaged 24:30 of ice time per game and was named to the NHL Second All-Star Team. He has scored at least 10 goals four straight seasons and had at least 47 points in three of them.

"He's such a big man," Rupp said. "He can play a physical game, but he can also skate like the wind and he can keep up with the shorter, more skillful players. I think it's just the tip of the iceberg with this guy."

The-26-year-old was second in the NHL with 33 power-play points last season and scored five game-winning goals. Hedman, the No. 2 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, has 301 points (65 goals, 236 assists) and is plus-33 in 549 games, all with Tampa Bay. He helped the Lightning advance to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015.

Video: Victor Hedman takes the No. 15 spot

 

14. Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, St. Louis Blues

Tarasenko has scored at least 37 goals and had at least 73 points each of the past three seasons, and has led the Blues in points each of them. He had an NHL career-high 75 points (39 goals, 36 assists) last season and an NHL career-high 40 goals in 2015-16.

"He's got a heavy shot, really different-looking release than an Alex Ovechkin, but it's world class," Rupp said. "… Because of his size (6-foot, 219 pounds) he can play in traffic, and if you can play in traffic, you can score goals in the National Hockey League, and he's one of the best at it."

The 25-year-old had 64 power-play points (29 goals, 35 assists) and 21 game-winning goals the past three seasons, and has become one of the best shooters in the game. He scored on 13.6 percent of his 286 shots on goal last season and is at 13.8 percent for his NHL career. The Blues have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs each of Tarasenko's five NHL seasons.

Video: Vladimir Tarasenko comes in at No. 14 on the list

 

13. Drew Doughty, D, Los Angeles Kings

The 2015-16 Norris Trophy winner played 82 games last season, averaging 27:08 of ice time per game (second in the NHL to Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien). He was first in the League in total ice time (2,225:50) and had 44 points (12 goals, 32 assists).

"He's very focused on passing lanes," Rupp said. "His stick is always in them, that's what you want from defensemen. Take away passing lanes, he knows where you want to go with the puck. He knows the seams you want to get the puck through, and he simply just puts his stick there. He's very patient and he just has a great head for the game, great vision for the game."

Doughty, 27, has missed 16 games in his nine-season NHL career, has made the First or Second All-Star Team three times, and has been a Norris finalist three times. He's finished in the top three in total ice time four of the past five seasons and helped the Kings win the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014.

Video: Drew Doughty is named No. 13 on the list

 

12. Brad Marchand, LW, Boston Bruins

Marchand finished tied for fifth in the League in points (85) and tied for fourth in goals (39) last season, each an NHL career high. He was one of nine players in the League who averaged more than one point per game (1.06, seventh). It was the fourth straight season he scored at least 24 goals and the sixth time in his NHL career.

"He's an absolute spark plug," Rupp said. "When he's going, the Boston Bruins are going, and he's been spectacular. You could even date it back to when he was playing with Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron in the World Cup. That was the best line for Team Canada, and really from that point on it really propelled him, in my belief. This guy is an elite talent."

Marchand, 29, had NHL career highs in power-play goals (nine), power-play points (24) and game-winning goals (eight) in 2016-17, and was named to the NHL First All-Star Team. He won the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011 and has 374 points (192 goals, 182 assists) in 534 NHL games.

Video: Brad Marchand lands at No. 12 on the list

 

11. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Washington Capitals

Backstrom finished second in the League in assists last season (63) and was fourth in points (86). In the past four seasons, he's had at least 18 goals, 50 assists, 70 points and 30 power-play points. Backstrom, 29, is the playmaker for the Capitals more often than not; he has 540 assists since entering the NHL in 2007-08, and his 728 points (in 734 games) since then rank sixth in the League.

"He doesn't score a ton, it's usually around the 20, maybe a few more than 20, range," Rupp said. "But when he lets it go, he can really wire it. That's what kind of makes him dangerous. You've got to respect the fact this guy is as good as they get."

Video: Nicklas Backstrom takes the No. 11 spot

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