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Top-producing players prove age is just number

by Rob Vollman / NHL.com

It is very hard to compete in today's NHL beyond age 35. Even if a player can contribute, most teams prefer to invest roster space in a young, developing, more affordable player. Only the very best players can continue to remain a factor into his late 30s.

There are 40 skaters and two goalies 35 or older (as of Nov. 11). There are 33 players age 20 or younger. Remaining in the League past age 35 is only slightly less difficult than breaking in as a teenager.

There are several players who manage to get his name on the score sheet past age 35, including three who are leading their team in scoring: Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin, Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg, and Florida Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr, who at 43 last February is more than four years older than the League's next oldest player, Dan Boyle of the New York Rangers, who turned 39 in July.

Top Scorers, Age 35 and older, 2015-16
Age Player Team GP G A PTS
35 Daniel Sedin Vancouver 16 5 10 15
35 Henrik Zetterberg Detroit 15 4 11 15
37 Andrei Markov Montreal 17 2 13 15
35 Henrik Sedin Vancouver 16 5 7 12
43 Jaromir Jagr Florida 13 7 5 12
38 Jarome Iginla Colorado 15 7 5 12
36 Joe Thornton San Jose 14 2 8 10
35 Francois Beauchemin Colorado 15 1 8 9
36 Patrick Marleau San Jose 14 4 5 9
35 Mike Ribeiro Nashville 14 1 7 8
36 Mark Streit Philadelphia 15 3 5 8

Using these traditional stats and some of NHL.com's enhanced stats, we came up with a 35-and-older all-star team of three forwards, two defensemen and one goalie.

Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings, 35: Zetterberg led Detroit in scoring by five points over Gustav Nyquist and Dylan Larkin, who split time at right wing on his line, with Justin Abdelkader on the left. Zetterberg hasn't finished more than one point back of the Red Wings scoring lead since 2008-09. He ranks second in the League in even-strength scoring rate in this age group, with 3.26 points per 60 minutes.

One of the League's best playmakers, Zetterberg is a complete two-way player. Whether Mike Babcock or Jeff Blashill is coach, whether it's the regular season or the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Zetterberg has always lined up against top opponents and is trusted to consistently drive possession.

Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks, 35: The Canucks lead the Pacific Division and their scoring is fueled by the Sedin twins, one of whom has led them in scoring for the past 10 seasons.

Choosing between the two high-scoring Swedes is difficult; each has won the Art Ross Trophy for leading the NHL in scoring, they each won either the Hart Trophy or Ted Lindsay Award as the League's most valuable player, and they are two points apart in scoring over the past four seasons. But Daniel is leading the scoring race 15 to 12 this season, so he gets the nod.

There is competition from outside the family tree: Jarome Iginla (Colorado Avalanche) and Jagr are pure offensive forces who can play a similar role, and whose career totals significantly eclipse Daniel Sedin's, but he has superior possession numbers. In terms of SAT, which is the share of all shot attempts when the player is on the ice, Sedin's 53.3 percent is superior to Jagr's 49.4 and Iginla's 40.5. Other than Henrik Sedin, four forwards in this age group have a better SAT than Daniel Sedin, the highest of which is …

Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks, 36: Thornton's SAT of 59.16 leads this age group and ranks top 10 in the League (minimum 10 games played). San Jose gets the bulk of the attempted shots when Thornton is on the ice because of his ability to control possession and translate that advantage into scoring chances.

Thornton's stiffest competition for the final forward spot on this team is teammate Patrick Marleau, who may be a more complete player but is a stride back in terms of possession and playmaking.

Age appears to be no obstacle to playmaking; three of the best playmakers of this century are older than 35: Thornton, Henrik Sedin and Scott Gomez. Wait a minute … Scott Gomez? Yes, using modern estimates of how many shot attempts a player set up, and actual counts conducted by manual trackers including Ryan Stimson, Gomez was among the NHL's best in his prime, and his even-strength scoring rate of 3.64 points per 60 minutes leads this age group.

Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens, 36: Montreal is 13-2-2, leading the League with 28 points. One of the less-recognized players behind this incredible success is its No. 2 defenseman Andrei Markov.

Markov is an offensive force at even strength and on the power play. In terms of traditional statistics, Markov is tied for second among NHL defensemen in scoring with Dallas' John Klingberg, one behind defense partner P.K. Subban, and Markov's plus-9 is tied for eighth overall.

He is a well-rounded player who works a regular shift on the penalty kill, and whose 52.17 SAT was second to Brian Campbell (Florida Panthers) among defensemen in this age group.

Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins, 38: Imagine the Bruins without their 6-foot-9 captain. With Dennis Seidenberg's injury, and the departures of Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton, coach Claude Julien is already scrambling to manage a blue line with one other established NHL regular, Torey Krug. Having to distribute Chara's team-leading 24:49 of average ice time would be a nightmare.

Though Chara's seven points were tied for fourth among defensemen in this age group, it's his defensive play that would be hard to replace. Chara leads this age group with an average of 3:47 of penalty-killing per game. Willie Mitchell of Florida, Francois Beauchemin of the Colorado Avalanche, and Rob Scuderi of the Pittsburgh Penguins are the only others who work on the top shorthanded unit, but none has the same possession numbers as Chara, and only Beauchemin has a comparable offensive upside this season.

Roberto Luongo, Florida Panthers, 36: The easiest selection on this list is at goaltender, because there are only two goalies from which to choose, and Vancouver's Ryan Miller hasn't exactly been enjoying his best season. Luongo, on the other hand, is in fine form. His .928 save percentage is fourth among goalies with at least 10 starts and the second highest of his career (.931, 2003-04).

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