#NHLTopPlayers: Top 10 in Pacific Division
NHL.com writers make selections to highlight NHL Network weekly countdownby Tim Campbell @TimNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer
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 Tim Campbell ranks his top 10 players in the Pacific Division.
[RELATED: #NHLTopPlayers Right Now]
1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
Repeating his ranking from last year, the Oilers center has no rival as the best player in the Pacific Division. McDavid finished second in the NHL in scoring last season with 116 points (41 goals, 75 assists) in 78 games, behind the 128 points by Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning. No NHL player was more productive in the past three seasons; McDavid had 324 points (112 goals, 212 assists) in 242 games, winning the Art Ross Trophy as the leading scorer twice (2016-17, 2017-18). The 22-year-old was voted the winner of the Ted Lindsay Award as most outstanding player by the NHL Players' Association twice (2016-17, 2017-18) and the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP by the Professional Hocky Writers' Association in 2016-2017. In his four NHL seasons, McDavid had 48 points, then 100, 108 and 116. There is concern that a knee injury will keep him out of the lineup to start the season, but assuming he's healthy, there's no question where he ranks in the division.
Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: McDavid
2. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
The forward had NHL career highs in goals (50), assists (55) and points (105) last season. The 23-year-old finished second in the NHL in goals, one behind Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, and was fourth in the scoring race behind Kucherov (128), McDavid (116) and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks (110). Among players who had at least 82 shots on goal last season, Draisaitl led the NHL in shooting percentage (21.6 percent). He is a blend of size (6-foot-2, 208 pounds) and strength and of strong skating and a great shot, often deployed on a line with McDavid. He can play center, and sometimes drives his own line, but it's looking like new coach Dave Tippett will use Draisaitl with McDavid together frequently this season.
Video: Leon Draisaitl settles in at No. 6 on Top 20 Wings
3. Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
A consistent impact player in all phases of the game, Giordano's excellence was recognized in 2018-19 when he won the Norris Trophy voted as the best defenseman in the NHL for the first time. He had never finished higher than sixth in the voting (2014-15). The 35-year-old had an NHL career-best 74 points (17 goals, 57 assists) in 78 games, second in the NHL among defensemen behind Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks, who had 83 (16 goals, 67 assists). Giordano led the NHL with a plus-39 rating and was an all-situation player who averaged 24:14 of ice time.
Video: Giordano claims the No. 23 spot on the Top 50 list
4. Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
The 34-year-old has the size (6-foot-5, 230 pounds) and mobility to make him a formidable opponent in all three zones. He has more of an outside-the-box game than most defensemen, and his offense continues to be elite. The 2016-17 Norris Trophy winner has scored at least 60 points in each of the past five seasons and has produced more points, 261 (101 goals, 260 assists in 410 games) than any other NHL defenseman in that time.
Video: Brent Burns claims the top spot on the list
5. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
The forward has exceptional vision and creativity, and he had NHL career bests of 36 goals, 63 assists and 99 points in 82 games last season. The 26-year-old finished tied for seventh in the NHL in points with Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche. Gaudreau led the Flames in points for the fourth straight season and scored 30 goals at even strength for the first time in his NHL career. There's always been a strong connection with center Sean Monahan, who had an NHL career-high 82 points (34 goals, 48 assists) in 78 games last season, but Gaudreau enjoyed another surge in production thanks to instant chemistry with Elias Lindholm, who was acquired in a trade from the Carolina Hurricanes on June 23, 2018. Lindholm had NHL career highs with 27 goals, 51 assists and 78 points in 81 games.
Video: Top 10 plays of 2018-19: Gaudreau
6. Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks
Acquired in a trade from the Ottawa Senators on Sept. 13, 2018, the defenseman was limited to 53 games because of injuries in his first season with the Sharks and had 45 points (three goals, 42 assists), his fewest since 2012-13, when he had 14 in 17 games. The 29-year-old had surgery to repair a groin injury May 31 and said earlier this month that he will be 100 percent this season. When healthy, Karlsson is a dynamic defenseman and could shift the balance of power in the division. He signed an eight-year contract with San Jose on June 17.
Video: Karlsson checks in at No. 24 on Top 50 Players list
7. Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights
The 27-year-old forward has soft hands and underappreciated vision and anticipation on the ice. Stone was acquired in a trade from the Senators on Feb. 25, and with 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 18 games with the Golden Knights, he finished with an NHL career-high 73 points (33 goals, 40 assists) in 77 games.
Video: Mark Stone lands at No. 13 on the list
8. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
The durable and impactful defenseman had a down season in 2018-19, with 45 points (eight goals, 37 assists) and a minus-34 rating in 82 games. The 29-year-old, who won the Norris Trophy in 2015-16, has not missed a regular-season game in the past five seasons and played more minutes (11,282:17) than any NHL player in that span.
Video: Tarasenko, Doughty take No. 40 and No. 39 on the list
9. Elias Pettersson, Vancouver Canucks
In his first NHL season, Pettersson wowed with his quick release and accurate shot, and was voted the winner of the Calder Trophy as the NHL rookie of the year in 2018-19. The 20-year-old forward was sixth in the NHL in shooting percentage (19.4 percent) and led the Canucks with 66 points (28 goals, 38 assists) in 71 games, including seven game-winning goals.
Video: Expectations for Elias Pettersson in 2019-20
10. Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks
Couture's NHL career-best 70 points (27 goals, 43 assists) in 81 games last season signaled what a force he would be in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when the forward led the NHL with 14 goals in 20 games. The 30-year-old was named Sharks captain Sept. 12.