Ovechkin has Stanley Cup AND tops our Best in the NHL list
When people talk about the best players in the NHL, a few of the same names are always thrown around (you know who they are).
But there are reasons they’re always mentioned. And at least some of them will appear as Hockey Weeky Online returns to an annual summer staple – the NHL’s 10 Best Players.
The names and rankings are my opinion, based mostly on what the players did during the 2017-18 season. But I also give a nod toward the past accomplishments of certain players who have had long and decorated careers.
So, here we go:
1. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Washington Capitals
Long recognized as the league’s premier goal scorer, Ovechkin now has 607 in his 13 NHL seasons. Plus, he finally led the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup. And as Washington dispatched first the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final and then the shocking Vegas Golden Knights in the Cup Final, Ovechkin could not have done any more. Of course, he scored goals – a total of a league-leading 15 for the playoffs. But he also back-checked, was physical – always a strong part of his game with his 6-3, 235-pound frame - and was a true leader in every sense of the word. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP after scoring 49 goals in the regular season to win his seventh Maurice (The Rocket) Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal scorer.
Yes, the game is getting younger and younger. But, for now, the 32-year-old Ovechkin is the best player in the NHL.
2. Taylor Hall, LW, New Jersey Devils
Hockey is a team game. Not only do the six players on the ice at a time have to contribute, but the entire 23-man roster – and usually more than that – must be in it to win it if an NHL team is to have a successful season. So there’s no such thing as a one-man team. But Hall came as close as humanly possible to just that this past season. He deservedly won the Hart Trophy as the league MVP after his 93 points (39 goals and 54 assists) were 42 points more than the Devils’ next highest point producer, rookie center Nico Hischier, and included a 26-game point streak. Make no mistake about it, New Jersey reached the playoffs in 2017-18 for one reason: Taylor Hall.
3. Nathan MacKinnon, center, Colorado Avalanche
MacKinnon, who was also a Hart Trophy finalist, was spectacular and actually had four more points than Hall (39 goals and 58 assists for 97 points). But he also had far more help. Still, MacKinnon dominated games for the Avalanche and was also the driving force that led them into the playoffs.
4. Nikita Kucherov, right wing, Tampa Bay Lightning
The man who seems to beat the Red Wings all by himself each time they play the Lightning has been producing similar numbers against everyone the past two seasons. In 2017-18, he reached 100 points (39 goals and 61 assists). Kucherov is dangerous anywhere in the offensive zone, but particularly from the right circle, where he either unleashes the game’s second-most dangerous one-timer – only Ovechkin’s is more lethal – or feathers a perfect pass through traffic across the crease for a backdoor tip-in by a teammate. Kucherov is also outstanding defensively and on the forecheck.
5. Victor Hedman, defenseman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Hedman simply does it all, as the Norris Trophy he recently won as the NHL’S top blueliner in 2017-18 indicates. Dominant at both ends of the ice and in all situations, Hedman had 17 goals and 46 assists for 63 points and was plus-32 last season.
6. Connor McDavid, center, Edmonton Oilers
McDavid, who’s only 21, won his second consecutive Art Ross Trophy as the league’s scoring champion with 108 points (41 goals and 67 assists). Likely the NHL’s fastest skater, McDavid is already considered by many to be the best player in the game. He would have been higher on this list had the Oilers made the playoffs last season.
7. Sidney Crosby, center, Pittsburgh Penguins
The Kid is beginning to show a bit of rust at the age of 30 (he’ll be 31 on Aug. 7). In 2017-18 NHL season, his 13th, he bounced back from an early-season slump to post 29-60-89 totals in all 82 games. He was only an even plus/minus player, making 2017-18 the first season since his rookie season (when he was minus-1) in which he was not on the plus side. But the Penguins’ second-round loss to Ovechkin’s Capitals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs wasn’t Sid’s fault. He averaged almost two points per game (21 points – 9 goals, 12 assists – in 12 games) in the playoffs.
8. Drew Doughty, defenseman, Los Angeles Kings
Consistently one of the game’s top all-around defenseman, Doughty was a Norris Trophy finalist last season.
9. P.K. Subban, defenseman, Nashville Predators
Sub is dynamic in all three zones but is greatly helped by playing on the best defense group in the league. Also was a Norris Trophy finalist.
10. Marc-Andre Fleury, goaltender, Vegas Golden Knights
Fleury was the biggest reason the Golden Knights became the most successful first-year expansion team in North American sports history and reached the Stanley Cup Final.