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Top Players

#NHLTopPlayers: Nos. 40-31

NHL Network reveals best of current crop

NHL.com @NHL

As summer winds down, NHL Network is getting you ready for this season by ranking the top 50 players in the League. NHL Network researchers, producers and on-air personalities compiled the list, continuing with players 31-40. Here is their list.

 

[RELATED: #NHLTopPlayers Right Now | | Top 20 NHL Centers | Top 10 NHL Goaltenders | Top 20 NHL Wings | Top 20 Defensemen | Top Players On The Bubble | #NHLTopPlayers: Nos. 50-41]

 

40. Phil Kessel, RW, Pittsburgh Penguins

Kessel has thrived in Pittsburgh since being traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1, 2015. He had 70 points (23 goals, 47 assists) last season, ranking third on the Penguins. Kessel also was third in 2015-16, when he had 59 points (26 goals, 33 assists). He led Pittsburgh with 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) in the playoffs in 2016 and had 23 (eight goals, 15 assists) in 2017, helping Pittsburgh win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships.

Kessel, who turns 30 on Oct. 2, has scored at least 20 goals in nine straight seasons after he had 11 and 19 his first two seasons in the League. He has scored at least 30 goals five times, doing so in four straight seasons (2008-09 through 2011-12). He has 649 points (296 goals, 353 assists) in 832 NHL games, including 202 on the power play (78 goals, 124 assists), and hasn't missed a game in the past seven seasons.

Video: Phil Kessel lands at No. 40 on the list

 

39. Leon Draisaitl C, Edmonton Oilers

Draisaitl set NHL career highs with 29 goals, 48 assists, 77 points, 27 power-play points (10 goals, 17 assists), five game-winning goals, 172 shots on goal, a 49.0 faceoff winning percentage and a plus-7 rating last season, his third in the League. He also helped the Oilers get to the playoffs for the first time since 2005-06 and led them in goals (six), assists (10) and points (16) in 13 postseason games. Draisaitl, 21, had an 11-game point streak from March 14-April 4, when he had 19 points (five goals, 14 assists), and a seven-game point streak from Jan. 16-31, when he had nine points (four goals, five assists).

Video: Leon Draisaitl takes the No. 39 spot

 

38. Blake Wheeler, RW, Winnipeg Jets

Wheeler has been one of the most underrated and consistent forwards in the League since 2013-14. He has 282 points (106 goals, 176 assists) the past four seasons, 12th in the NHL, and has had at least 26 goals and 35 assists in four straight seasons. Wheeler had 74 points (26 goals, 48 assists) last season and 78 (26 goals, 52 assists) in 2015-16. In each of the past five seasons, Wheeler, 30, has finished in the top three in goals, assists and points on the Jets. He has missed five games over the past six seasons. Wheeler has been a key contributor on special teams, with 109 power-play points and 17 shorthanded points in his nine NHL seasons.

Video: Blake Wheeler comes in at No. 38 on the list

 

37. Jack Eichel, C, Buffalo Sabres

Eichel, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, had 57 points (24 goals, 33 assists) in 61 games last season to lead the Sabres in scoring despite missing the first eight weeks because of an ankle injury. He had an 11-game point streak (five goals, 11 assists) from Feb. 14-March 7 and finished with 24 power-play points (10 goals, 14 assists). Eichel, 20, had 56 points (24 goals, 32 assists) as a rookie in 2015-16, helping the Sabres improve by 27 points (54 to 81) from the previous season.

"He's got that kind of different-looking skating stride," said NHL Network analyst Ray Whitney, who played 22 seasons in the NHL from 1992-2014. "It's very long and he doesn't necessarily look that fast on TV, but you'll see him just constantly blowing by guys. He's got the long stride, he's got great hands and a quick release. He loves the game, he works hard, and he's just someone that's going to be a future star in this league."

Video: Jack Eichel is named No. 37 on the list

 

36. Anze Kopitar, C, Los Angeles Kings

Kopitar was second on the Kings in scoring in 2016-17 with 52 points (10 goals, 42 assists) after leading them each of the previous nine seasons. Named captain prior to last season, Kopitar led Los Angeles forwards in ice time (1,578:14), average ice time per game (20:45), power-play ice time per game (3:00) and shorthanded ice time per game (1:54). Kopitar, who will turn 30 on Thursday, is a two-time Stanley Cup champion (2012, 2014). He won the Selke Trophy and the Lady Byng Trophy (most gentlemanly player) in 2015-16.

Video: Anze Kopitar lands at No. 36 on the list

 

35. Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks

The three-time Stanley Cup winner got off to a slow start in 2016-17 before scoring 37 points in his last 35 games to finish with 58 points (21 goals, 37 assists), the fourth straight season he had at least that many. The 29-year-old, who has scored at least 21 goals in each of his 10 NHL seasons, won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2010 and the Selke Trophy in 2013, and was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players.

Video: Jonathan Toews takes the No. 35 spot

 

34. Shea Weber, D, Montreal Canadiens

In his first season with the Canadiens after being traded from the Nashville Predators for defenseman P.K. Subban, Weber had 42 points (17 goals, 25 assists), including 22 power-play points (12 goals, 10 assists), four game-winning goals and was plus-20. Weber has scored at least 15 goals and 42 points in each of his past eight full NHL seasons and has averaged at least 25:04 in each of the past seven seasons. He's a three-time Norris finalist and made the First All-Star Team twice and the Second Team twice. Weber, 32, has been a presence defensively, with at least 147 blocked shots in each of the past four seasons.

Video: Shea Weber comes in at No. 34 on the list

 

33. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Calgary Flames

Gaudreau had 18 goals and led the Flames with 43 assists and 61 points last season. He also had 16 power-play points (four goals, 12 assists) and three game-winning goals. In 2015-16, he led Calgary in goals (30), assists (48) and points (78, tied for sixth in the League). The 24-year-old has at least 61 points each of his first three NHL seasons and has made the NHL All-Star Game in each. Gaudreau has 204 points (73 goals, 131 assists) in 232 NHL games and won the Lady Byng Trophy as the most gentlemanly player in the League last season, when he was assessed two minor penalties in 72 games.

"Johnny Hockey's just a guy I love watching play," Whitney said. "I can't believe that he's able to play his style at his size. … He's just a fun player. He's a really entertaining player more than anything, and he's someone Calgary is really lucky to have."

Video: Johnny Gaudreau is named No. 33 on the list

 

32. Matt Murray, G, Pittsburgh Penguins

In two NHL seasons, Murray already has become an elite goaltender. He has won the Stanley Cup twice, the only player in NHL history to do that as a rookie. He went 32-10-4 with a 2.41 goals-against average, .923 save percentage and four shutouts last season, and for his League career is 41-12-5 with a 2.32 GAA, .925 SV% and five shutouts in 62 regular-season games. After becoming the fourth rookie to win 15 games in a single Stanley Cup Playoff season, going 15-6-0 with a 2.08 GAA and .923 SV% in the 2016 postseason, Murray did even better last season, going 7-3-0 with a 1.70 GAA, .937 SV% and three shutouts in the playoffs. The 23-year-old finished fourth last season in voting for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the rookie of the year.

Video: Matt Murray lands at No. 32 on the list

 

31. Artemi Panarin, LW, Columbus Blue Jackets

Traded from the Blackhawks on June 23, Panarin was second on Chicago in goals (31) and points (74) last season behind Kane, and was named to the NHL Second All-Star Team. The 25-year-old won the Calder in 2015-16, leading rookies in goals (30), assists (47), points (77) and game-winning goals (seven), and finishing tied with Anthony Duclair of the Arizona Coyotes and Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart of the Buffalo Sabres for the lead in power-play goals (eight). His 151 points the past two seasons were tied for seventh in the League.

Video: Artemi Panarin takes the No. 31 spot

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