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Top 50 player countdown resumes on NHL Network

Rising young forwards, veteran defensemen among Nos. 21-30 on list chosen by expert panel

NHL.com @NHL

As the dog days of summer wind 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, taking into account players coming back from injury, younger players expected to break out and veterans with a proven track record.

Check out Nos. 41-50 | Nos. 31-40

Here are Nos. 21-30:

30. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Calgary Flames

"Johnny Hockey" had a strong second season in the NHL, leading the Flames in scoring with 78 points (30 goals, 48 assists) in 79 games. That followed a stellar rookie season, when Gaudreau, 23, had 64 points (24 goals, 40 assists) in 80 games in 2014-15 and was a finalist for the Calder Trophy. Gaudreau also was named to the 2015 NHL All-Star Game as an injury replacement, and had two assists.

Gaudreau is part of a promising young core in Calgary, along with fellow forwards Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett, that the Flames hope can power them to Stanley Cup Playoff contention in the Western Conference.

Video: Recapping the Top 50 Players right now: 50-21

29. Patrice Bergeron, C, Boston Bruins

Perhaps the best two-way forward in the League, Bergeron, 31, is still going strong entering his 13th season with the Bruins. He was Boston's leading scorer last season with 68 points (career-high 32 goals with 36 assists), his best offensive numbers since 2006-07, when he had 70 points as a 21-year-old.

Bergeron is a member of the Triple Gold Club, having won an Olympic gold medal, World Championship gold medal and the Stanley Cup, and is a three-time winner of the Selke Trophy, awarded to the top defensive forward. He ranks eighth on Boston's all-time scoring list with 618 points (238 goals, 380 assists), ahead of such Boston greats as Terry O'Reilly, Cam Neely and Milt Schmidt.

28. Henrik Lundqvist, G, New York Rangers

At 34 years old, "The King" looks as if he won't be abdicating his throne anytime soon. The Rangers goaltender wrapped up the 2015-16 season with a .920 save percentage. Entering his 12th NHL season, all with New York, Lundqvist has won 35 or more games seven times, including last season when he won 35 to go along with a 2.48 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.

He is the winningest goaltender in Rangers history with 374 victories, 73 more than second-place Mike Richter, and has the most shutouts (59) on the franchise list, 10 ahead of second-place Ed Giacomin. On the NHL all-time list, Lundqvist ranks 14th in wins and likely will be in the top 10 by season's end, and is 17th on the League's career shutout list.

27. Shea Weber, D, Montreal Canadiens

After being traded to Montreal for defenseman P.K. Subban on June 29, Weber, 31, is looking for a fresh start with the Canadiens after 11 stellar seasons with the Nashville Predators. He had 51 points last season (20 goals, 31 assists) and was a force on the man-advantage with 26 power-play points (career-high 14 goals with 12 assists).

Known for his powerful slap shot, Weber is a hard-rock defenseman with size (6-feet-4, 236 pounds) and savvy who always has been a steadying and dominating presence in his own end. Montreal fans should expect nothing less from him this season.

Video: SJS@NSH, Gm3: Weber beats Jones with a huge one-timer

26. P.K. Subban, D, Nashville Predators

Subban, 27, might be the most electrifying defenseman in the NHL, and should orchestrate plenty of highlight plays with the Predators. In six full seasons with the Canadiens, Subban had 278 points (63 goals, 215 assists) in 434 games, including 51 points or more in each of the past three seasons.

His skating and stick-handling ability make him difficult for opponents in the offensive end, and can jump into the rush like a forward. He's looking forward to the next chapter of his career in Nashville, and hopes he can one day lift the Stanley Cup in the Music City.

25. Roman Josi, D, Nashville Predators

Thanks to Josi, 26, the Predators have two elite defensemen. Josi played on Nashville's first pair with Weber last season, and now may slide to the second pair after the Predators acquired Subban.

Josi has gradually increased his offensive numbers in each of his first five NHL seasons, and had a career-best 61 points (14 goals, career-high 47 assists) and is known for his durability, having missed two games in the past two seasons. He enters this season as the fourth-highest scoring defenseman in Predators history with 190 points (52 goals, 138 assists), trailing Weber (443 points), Kimmo Timonen (301) and Ryan Suter (238), and is prepared to climb up that list.

24. Cory Schneider, G, New Jersey Devils

When Schneider took over as starting goaltender for the Devils, he had one of the hardest jobs in hockey: fill the shoes of Martin Brodeur, the NHL's all-time winningest goalie with 688 career victories. No one can do that, but in each of his three seasons in New Jersey, Schneider, 30, has improved his win totals, and had a career-high 27 in 58 starts last season.

His 2.15 goals-against average ranked fourth in the League, and Schneider has had a 2.26 GAA or lower in each of his six full NHL seasons. With 69 wins, he already ranks third on the Devils' all-time goaltender list, behind Brodeur and Chris Terreri (118).

Video: NJD@TBL: Schneider kicks away a deflected puck

23. Kris Letang, D, Pittsburgh Penguins

Now in the prime of his career at 29, Letang is a strong two-way defenseman who set career highs in goals (16), assists (51) and points (67) last season, when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup. He has plus ratings in six of his past seven seasons, and is a plus-55 through his 10 seasons in the League.

Letang ranks second on Pittsburgh's all-time scoring list among defensemen, with 352 points (82 goals, 270 assists), trailing only Hall of Famer Paul Coffey, who had 440 points (108 goals, 332 assists) with the Penguins.

22. Victor Hedman, D, Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning had high hopes for Hedman when they selected him with the No. 2 pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, and those hopes have been realized. In seven NHL seasons, Hedman, 25, has become the cornerstone of an ever-improving Tampa Bay defense. He led Lightning defenseman last season with 47 points (10 goals, 37 assists) and was Tampa Bay's third-leading scorer behind forwards Nikita Kucherov (66) and Steven Stamkos (64). 

The Lightning committed to Hedman and their future when they signed him to an eight-year, $63 million contract extension (average annual value $7.875 million) on July 1. With 229 career points (49 goals, 180 assists), Hedman is third on Tampa Bay's all-time scoring list among defensemen, and should pass second-place Pavel Kubina (243 points) and take over the top spot from Dan Boyle (253) sometime this season.

21. Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers

If it weren't for a collarbone injury cutting his season to 45 games, McDavid, 19, would have been a heavy favorite for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. Still, he finished third in voting after 48 points (16 goals, 32 assists) with the Oilers, and was the fourth-highest rookie scorer in the League.

Much is expected from a healthy McDavid, who was Edmonton's third-leading scorer last season behind the since-traded Taylor Hall (65), and center Leon Draisaitl (51), and should be the face of Edmonton for years to come.

Video: VAN@EDM: McDavid puts puck past Markstrom for a PPG

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