NHL Network aired the premiere episode of "Top 50 NHL Players Right Now," a five-part series, on Sept. 1. New episodes will air each Sunday through Sept. 29.
Before the network unveils 10 players on its list in each of the first four episodes, an NHL.com writer will reveal his or her top players in one of the four divisions the previous Friday. In the fifth week, NHL.com columnist Nicholas J. Cotsonika will reveal his top 10 players in the League. Today, NHL.com staff writer Mike Zeisberger ranks his top 10 players in the Atlantic Division.
[RELATED: Top 10 in Metropolitan Division | Top 20 Centers | Top 20 Wings | Top 20 Defensemen | Top 10 Goalies]
1. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
The 26-year-old right wing separated himself from the pack by winning the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL scoring champion with 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists). The 12-point gap between Kucherov and Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (116 points; 41 goals, 75 assists) is the most between the top two finishers in the scoring race since Chicago Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane (106 points; 46 goals, 60 assists) was 17 points ahead of the runner-up, Dallas Stars right wing Jamie Benn (89 points; 41 goals, 48 assists), in 2015-16. Kucherov won the Hart Trophy as NHL most valuable player after he had his second consecutive 100-plus point season. Of note: He leads the NHL in power-play points (84) over the past two seasons.
Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Kucherov
2. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
The respect the Maple Leafs center has earned in the eyes of his peers is reflected by how he was picked by Boston Bruins wing David Pastrnak as the favorite to win the Hart Trophy in 2019-20 during the NHL European Player Media Tour in Stockholm last month. Matthews, who turns 22 on Sept. 17, has scored at least 34 goals in each of his first three NHL seasons and had an NHL career-high 73 points (37 goals, 36 assists) despite missing 14 games in 2018-19. He has 136 points in 130 games (1.05 per game) the past two seasons.
Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Matthews
3. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Lightning coach Jon Cooper refers to Hedman as the player who drives the boat for Tampa Bay. When he's not at 100 percent, neither are the Lightning. That was evident when an upper-body injury caused the defenseman to miss the final four games of the regular season, then Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets. With Hedman ailing, Tampa Bay was swept by Columbus. The 28-year-old has been a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the top defenseman in the NHL the past two seasons, winning it in 2018. He led the Lightning in ice time last season (22:46 minutes per game), plays on the power play and penalty kill, and had at least 54 points in each of the past two seasons.
Video: Victor Hedman is ranked No. 2 on the list
4. Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
It will be fascinating to see how new coach Joel Quenneville, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Blackhawks (2010, 2013, 2015), can help elevate the ceiling of the uber-talented center. Barkov, who turned 24 on Monday, set NHL career highs last season in goals (35), assists (61) and points (96), 10th in the NHL and the most by a Panthers player in one season. He won the Lady Byng Trophy as the most gentlemanly player in the NHL (four minor penalties all season) and finished fifth in voting for the Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL.
Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Barkov
5. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
The 34-year-old center is arguably the best two-way forward of his generation. He's won the Selke Trophy four times and has been a finalist for the award on eight occasions including last season, when he was tied for third with seven shorthanded points and tied for fourth with four shorthanded goals. Offensively, Bergeron tied his NHL career high with 32 goals and set a new high of 79 points in 65 games last season, then had 17 points (nine goals, eight assists) in 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help the Bruins reach the Cup Final. He's also won more than 50 percent of his face-offs for 14 consecutive seasons, including 56.6 percent last season.
Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Bergeron
6. John Tavares, Toronto Maple Leafs
The center, who turns 29 on Sept. 20, flourished in his first season with the Maple Leafs, setting NHL career highs in goals (47; third in NHL), points (88) and rating (plus-19). Consistency continues to be Tavares' mantra. He's scored at least 33 goals in four of the past five seasons and at least 24 in every season since entering the NHL with the New York Islanders in 2009-10. He also tied his NHL career high with eight game-winning goals last season.
7. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
The 31-year-old left wing tied for fifth in the NHL with 100 points (36 goals, 64 assists), an NHL career high. Showing his versatility at both ends of the ice, he finished tied for ninth in power-play points (10 goals, 24 assists, 34 points) and tied for third in shorthanded points (seven points; three goals, four assists). Marchand's nine game-winning goals (three in overtime) tied him for second with McDavid and Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog. He tied St. Louis Blues center Ryan O'Reilly for the lead in playoff scoring with 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in 24 games.
Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Marchand
8. Mitchell Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs
The 22-year-old right wing, a restricted free agent, finished 11th in scoring with 94 points (26 goals, 68 assists), the most in 22 years by a Maple Leafs player since Hockey Hall of Fame center Mats Sundin had 94 in 1996-97. Marner has led Toronto in scoring the past two seasons and has 224 points (67 goals, 157 assists) in 241 games. He had 21 power-play points, three shorthanded points and five game-winning goals last season.
Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Marner
9. David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
The 23-year-old right wing has been the model of consistency by scoring at least 34 goals in each of the past three seasons. Pastrnak had an NHL career-high 81 points (38 goals, 43 assists) last season and his three hat tricks were tied for first with Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin. He had 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists) in 24 playoff games. His 107 goals the past three seasons are ninth in the NHL during that span.
Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Pastrnak
10. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning
The 25-year-old narrowly beat out Lightning center Steven Stamkos for the final spot in the Top 10 after winning the Vezina Trophy as the top goalie in the NHL. Vasilevskiy was 39-10-4 with a 2.40 goals-against average, .925 save percentage and six shutouts last season. He's led the NHL in wins in each of the past two seasons (83-27-7 in 118 games) and helped Tampa Bay win 62 games, tying the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for the most in NHL history.
Video: Andrei Vasilevskiy claims the No. 1 spot on the list