Top 10 NHL Players for the 2017-18 Season II

Nikita Kucherov  Photo courtesy of The Score

Nikita Kucherov

Photo courtesy of The Score

By: Ryan Aceman

1. Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers

2016-2017’s MVP has taken the league by storm, proving he’s worthy of being considered the next generational hockey talent. McDavid’s league-high 100 points and consistent leadership as team captain helped catapult the Oilers into the postseason for the first time in a decade. And a new 8-year/$100 Million contract all but ensures they remain a playoff team for the foreseeable future. Arguably the fastest player to ever lace ‘em up, McDavid has lightning quick hands to match his blazing speed, plus exceptional vision, and a knack for getting his teammates involved. As he continues developing his shot and becomes more aggressive, look out – the McDavid era is officially upon us.

2. Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins

Still arguably the best player on the planet, Crosby is fresh off his third Stanley Cup and second consecutive Conn Smythe trophy. Not to mention 89 points in 75 regular season games, including a league high 44 goals. In what will be his 13th NHL campaign, Sid the Kid has almost nothing to prove, as one of the most consistent producers and winners in NHL history. He possesses a hockey IQ unlike any other player, and a requisite set of physical skills that make him impossible to stop. With Crosby at the helm, the Penguins are poised to make a run at their third consecutive Stanley Cup. Simply unreal.

3. Erik Karlsson, D, Ottawa Senators

Karlsson was the driving force behind Ottawa’s miraculous playoff run, all while playing through foot fractures which he had surgery on during the offseason. His overall impact demands a legitimate argument that Karlsson is the most valuable player in the NHL to his team. Not only was he Ottawa’s leading scorer in the regular season and playoffs (89 points in 96 games), but he was second in the NHL with 201 blocked shots during the regular season. His two-way impact is astounding and transcendent. Just entering his prime at age 27, Karlsson has already made a name for himself as perhaps the most dynamic and best defensemen of his generation.

4. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins

Somehow, I think Evgeni Malkin is underrated. And those are strong words for a two-time Art Ross winner, former league MVP, and Conn Smythe recipient. But I still believe it. Barring injuries, Malkin has been one of the most productive players in the NHL over the last decade. Coming off a regular season in which he compiled 72 points in just 62 contests, plus a whopping 28 points in 25 playoff games, Geno needs to be considered a top-5 player. Malkin is a deadly finisher around the net, able to score in any way imaginable – tip-ins, wristers from the slot, undressing the goalie on a breakaway, and everything in between. He possesses elite vision and passing ability, and is one of the NHL’s best playmakers. I assume having two of the three best centres in the league is something Pittsburgh cherishes very much as they make a push for their third consecutive cup.  

5. Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago Blackhawks

2015-2016’s leading scorer had another outstanding season for the Blackhawks last year, collecting 89 points in 82 games. He’s produced at or above a point-per-game in every season since 2012-2013, and the 28-year old is in the midst of his physical prime. Undoubtedly one of the league’s most skilled players, Kane’s exceptional stickhandling and slippery skating make him nearly impossible to contain. Opposing defenders often look lost trying to stop the American superstar, as he attacks the offensive zone as a dangerous playmaker and scorer. Kane can do it all, and should lead Chicago deep into the playoffs after a surprising first-round exit last season.

6. Nikita Kucherov, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning

After losing Steven Stamkos to injury, Kucherov became the Lightning’s offensive focal point, and did nearly everything for the Bolts. Collecting 40 goals – including seven game winners – and 45 assists in 74 games, Kucherov was their only player with over 21 goals, and his +13 rating was a team high. That plus/minus is even more impressive considering 32 of his 85 points came with the man advantage. This is why he was a serious contender for the Hart Trophy. After a true breakout in 2016-2017, I expect Kucherov to continue getting better, cementing himself as one of the most dangerous and exciting players in the NHL.

7. Carey Price, G, Montreal Canadiens

I don’t care who wins the Vezina or has the highest save % year-to-year. For my money, Price is the best goalie in hockey. The 2014-2015 league MVP is as consistent as they come, and is perhaps the only reason Montreal has made the playoffs four of the last five seasons. Prime example: despite posting a ridiculous save percentage of .933% while allowing just 1.86 goals against in last year’s postseason, the Canadiens were eliminated in the first round. For a team that has minimal forward depth and an aging d-core, Price’s steady play in net makes him one of the most valuable players on the planet.

8. Brent Burns, D/F, San Jose Sharks

The 6’5 230 lbs Burns is a catalyst for much of San Jose’s offense and one of the most unique defensemen in the league. He plays multiple positions, alternating between forward and defense based on what his team needs. He has free roam to play anywhere on the ice. Fresh off his second consecutive 75+ point campaign and first Norris Trophy, he has proven that his 2015-2016 breakout was more than a mere flash in the pan. 211 points in the last three seasons is exceptional for any player, let alone a top-tier team’s #1 defenseman. Burns is undoubtedly one of the most active and productive two-way players in the game.

9. Jamie Benn, C/W, Dallas Stars

After a down season for Dallas, lots of hockey fans seem to have forgotten about Jamie Benn. Sure, his 69 points in 77 games last year don’t scream top-10, but in his three prior seasons, he amassed a massive 255 points in 245 games, including an Art Ross trophy in 2014-2015. Benn is elite and certainly one of the NHL’s best all-around players. At 6’2 210 lbs, the Stars’ captain has quintessential size to play a sound two-way game, while being one of the league's most productive scorers. With the additions of Ben Bishop and Alexander Radulov and without various key injuries, I expect Benn and the Stars will return to top form in 2017-2018.

10. Mark Scheifele, C, Winnipeg Jets

Scheifele is one of my favourite players and a guy who has improved every season, dating back to his Junior days in Barrie. A relative unknown until just months before his draft in 2011, Scheifele’s commitment to hockey and work ethic have helped him blossom him into one of the NHL’s premier centremen. With 32 goals and 82 points in 79 contests last season, he cemented himself as a true #1 centre, complementing elite offensive production with a team-high +18 rating. Never in his NHL career has Scheifele had a negative plus/minus. At 6’3 207 lbs and just 24 years of age, the sky's the limit for Scheifele and the Jets moving forward.

Just missed: Nicklas Backstrom, Steven Stamkos, Sergei Bobrovsky, Brad Marchand, Auston Matthews, Tyler Seguin, Drew Doughty, Vladimir Tarasenko, Victor Hedman, John Tavares, Alexander Ovechkin, Jack Eichel, Ryan Getzlaf, Leon Draisaitl, Patrik Laine

Ryan Aceman