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NHL.com players poll: Most underrated player

Barkov, Backstrom lead large field of candidates

by NHL.com @NHLdotcom / NHL.com

NHL.com asked 61 of the League's top players for their opinions at the NHL European and North American Player Media Tours on topics surrounding the game and its players. The fifth installment of a series that will run each Friday for the next several weeks focuses on who they believe is the most underrated player in the NHL today.

 

Aleksander Barkov is the most underrated player in the NHL, according to his peers.

The 23-year-old center, named captain of the Florida Panthers before the start of this season, was chosen by 10 of the 56 players who provided an answer. Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom finished second with eight votes. Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler finished third, earning three votes.

Seven players earned two votes each and 21 more received one vote apiece. Five players abstained.

Barkov's size and skills have made life miserable for opposing defensemen since he joined the Panthers for the 2013-14 season. In 343 NHL games, Barkov has 259 points (102 goals, 157 assists), so they might be able to speak best about his talent level.

Video: FLA@WSH: Barkov expertly slots home shootout goal

"I think he is a good player; you don't even realize what he does," said Anaheim Ducks defenseman Josh Manson, who also received a vote. "He's so strong on his skates, and his hands are disgusting. His shot is good. He's underrated for sure in my eyes."

But forwards can also appreciate what Barkov does in playing a 200-foot game. The 6-foot-3, 213-pound Finland-born player is already considered one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL.

"He's big, he's strong, has phenomenal hands and is deceptively fast," Vancouver Canucks center Bo Horvat said.

It's hard to imagine the No. 1 center on a Stanley Cup-winning team being underrated, but several players felt that way about Backstrom, who had 23 points (five goals, 18 assists) for the Capitals during the run to their first championship in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, capped by a five-game victory against the Vegas Golden Knights in the Final.

"The last couple years he's gotten more attention, but still not enough as he deserves," Calgary Flames forward Elias Lindholm said.

Backstrom, 30, has 17 points (three goals, 14 assists) in 14 games this season. He has 816 points (212 goals, 604 assists) in 829 NHL games.

Video: DAL@WSH: Backstrom lights lamp with top-shelf wrister

"I still think he gets overlooked," Colorado Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog said. "He's so smart, and his passing is just unbelievable."

Another Capitals center received some support as well. Evgeny Kuznetsov, 26, has the backing of Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov.

"He's a superstar," Kucherov said of Kuznetsov, who has 284 points (86 goals, 198 assists) in 354 NHL games. "He's unbelievable."

Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone was tabbed by Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane.

Stone, 26, has 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) in 16 games this season, including a five-point game on Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils. He has 268 points (101 goals, 167 assists) in 323 NHL games since joining the Senators during the 2012-13 season.

"I feel he's really good at takeaways and good offensively," Kane said. "He doesn't really get a lot of recognition.

Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn stumped emphatically for his teammate, defenseman John Klingberg.

Klingberg, 26, was sixth in the voting for the Norris Trophy last season after finishing with an NHL career-high 67 points (eight goals, 59 assists) in 82 games.

He has 227 points (47 goals, 180 assists) in 319 NHL games.

"I don't know what else he needs to do," Benn said. "I get to see it every day, so it's obvious for me. You don't realize how much he does for our team. A lot of people just look at how many points he puts up. But he plays in every situation for us. He's good in his own zone and plays against the best players every night. What else do you want out of your best D-man?"

 

Most Underrated Player (61 votes)

Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers, 10; Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals, 8; Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets, 3; Roman Josi, Nashville Predators, 2; John Klingberg, Dallas Stars, 2; Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals, 2; Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins, 2; Artemi Panarin, Columbus Blue Jackets. 2; Rickard Rakell, Anaheim Ducks, 2; Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche, 2; Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Vegas Golden Knights, 1; Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins, 1; John Carlson, Washington Capitals, 1; Matt Grzelcyk, Boston Bruins, 1; Niklas Hjalmarsson, Arizona Coyotes, 1; Ondrej Kase, Anaheim Ducks, 1; Anders Lee, New York Islanders, 1; Josh Manson, Anaheim Ducks, 1; Patrick Marleau, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1; Ryan O'Reilly, St. Louis Blues, 1; Dmitry Orlov, Washington Capitals, 1; Tyler Pitlick, Dallas Stars, 1; Tobias Rieder, Edmonton Oilers, 1; Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights, 1; Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues, 1; Mark Stone, Ottawa Senators, 1; Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild, 1; Chris Tierney, Ottawa Senators, 1; Vincent Trocheck, Florida Panthers, 1; Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers, 1; Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers, 1; No answer given, 5.

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