Top 10 NHL Players for the 2017-18 Season I
By: Landon Kapusianyk
1. Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers
It should be no surprise that McDavid captures the top position – he's the NHL’s reigning MVP and undeniable face of the league. This offseason, the league’s best player also became the league’s wealthiest, as Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli locked up the former first overall pick for the next 8 years and $100 Million. Already a captain at just twenty years old, he’s only getting started. Last year, “McJesus” eclipsed the 100-point mark and was the only player who even came close. His electric speed and quick release make him impossible to stop. There is no lapse in his defensive game either and it’s likely he will continue improving as he matures towards his physical prime. Last year’s Hart Trophy will be the first of many for the young phenom.
2. Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins
How is a recently crowned cup champion and Conn Smythe winner not the undisputed best player heading into next season? Crosby is just as qualified and talented as McDavid. However, Crosby recently turned 30 and concussion issues will always be a concern until he retires. Despite that, Crosby is still in his physical prime and tearing the league up. Crosby finished second in league scoring, falling just short of his third Art Ross. Instead he settled for his second Maurice Richard Trophy, second Conn Smythe, and third Stanley Cup. And let’s not forget the World Cup championship he led Team Canada to before the season. Crosby dominates using his excellent skating, low centre of gravity and elite hockey IQ. This year, Sid the 30 year old (doesn’t have the same ring to it), looks to add to his already legendary career and resumé as one of hockey’s GOATs. Look for Crosby to have another solid season where he is challenging for the Hart Trophy.
3. Erik Karlsson, D, Ottawa Senators
Ottawa came within a goal of reaching its first Stanley Cup final since 2007. Without Karlsson, Ottawa may have not even made the playoffs. The Swede put up 17 points in 18 playoff games with the Sens including 2 goals, both game winners. Karlsson is the highest scoring defenseman since the beginning of the decade, having 70 more points than second place Brent Burns. The two-time Norris Trophy winner almost captured his third this season but narrowly lost out, finishing runner up. His strengths have always been silky smooth skating and ability to be a quarterback on the power play. Early on in his career his main flaw was that he was a liability on the defensive end. Now, Karlsson’s defense is much improved, making him a complete player. The silky smooth Swede will be 27 heading into next season and shows no signs of slowing down. Expect Karlsson to build on his heroic playoff performance and continue to be one of the league’s premier defensemen.
4. Carey Price, G, Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price has almost done it all. A Hart Trophy, Vezina Trophy, Jennings Trophy and an Olympic gold... However, there is one crucial item missing: the Stanley Cup. The former MVP should be motivated heading into next season to capture that elusive first championship to complete his resumé and make a case for possibly being one of the best goaltenders of all time. Price has been the sole reason for the Canadiens' relevance for almost half a decade. The Anahim Lake, B.C. native is an athletic goaltender who is also technically brilliant. His biggest strength is composure and ability to play well under pressure, a crucial trait for playing in a hockey hotbed like Montreal. Over the last four seasons, Price has never had a save percentage below .923 or a goals against average higher than 2.32. Internationally, the Canadian has only allowed an average of one goal per game while competing in this year’s World Cup and the 2014 Winter Olympics. Now 30, Price remains in his prime and should finish top 3 in the Vezina race, as he does almost every year.
5. Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago Blackhawks
Kane is without a doubt one of the game’s most electrifying players, and should look to make up for a disappointing playoffs last year with a stellar 2017-18 season. The former first overall pick uses his sensational stick-handling to dangle around opponents and his quick release often leaves the goaltender guessing. The American is the driving offensive force on arguably the league’s most dangerous dynasty. Kane leads the league in points scored over the last two seasons with 195. As a result, he captured his first Art Ross Award and was awarded the Hart Trophy for league MVP in 2016. But more importantly, Kane takes home the real MVP award almost every season: Most Valuable Partyer. Kane looks to be an unstoppable force heading into next year, as the party never stops for the Blackhawks, hoping to capture their fourth cup in eight years.
6. Brent Burns, D/F, San Jose Sharks
Brent Burns is a player who may not be the stereotypical defensemen fans and scouts expect for a Norris winner. Whether you consider him a defenseman, forward, goalie or Zamboni driver, bottom line is: he can score, and score a lot. And that's exactly what the Barrie native did last year. Burns notched 76 points and 29 goals, good enough to for the honour of league’s best defenseman and a selection to the first team All Stars. “The Beard” has a booming shot and skates very well for a man who weighs about one and a half Johnny Gaudreau’s. Expect another high scoring season for Burns, creating a competitive rivalry with Karlsson for the honour of the game’s best d-man.
7. Sergei Bobrovsky, G, Columbus Blue Jackets
“You’re back on the case Bobrovsky!” A now famous quote screamed numerous times by former TSN anchor Jay Onrait was surprisingly quite accurate last season. Sergei Bobrovsky certainly was on the case in 2017, becoming a two-time Vezina trophy winner and solidifying himself as one of the NHL’s elite goaltenders. Bobrovsky led the league with a save percentage of .932 and a goals against average of 2.06. Behind newly hired bench boss, John Tortorella, Columbus won 21 more games than the year prior. Internationally, “Bob” has been stellar, winning 9 out of 13 games split between the World Cup and World Championships in 2016. He posted a save percentage above .930, which was good enough to earn a bronze medal in the 2016 World Championship. The Russian is in line for another good season, as Columbus remains mostly the same team as last year, adding Artemi Panarin and subtracting Brandon Saad. He’s only 29 and should have a couple more seasons of prime hockey left in him.
8. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins
If it were not for an upper body injury that held Malkin out for 20 games last year, he would likely be higher on this list. Unfortunately for Geno, injuries have been a reoccurring theme. Despite the ailments, Malkin still put up 72 points in 62 games last year. He had the third highest point per game average, trailing only McDavid and Crosby. At 6’3, Malkin has the size that many would expect from a power forward. However, the Russian is one of the most skilled players and relies on his shot and puck control to create offense. This June, Malkin won his third Stanley Cup with the Penguins, adding to his already impressive trophy case. If he can stay healthy, expect Malkin to be even higher on this list next season.
9. Victor Hedman, D, Tampa Bay Lightning
Victor Hedman is everything you could want in a defenseman. Big, bruising, smooth skating, shut down ability with offensive flair – he has it all. The former second overall pick’s breakout season had been delayed by injuries until last year. Hedman exploded for 72 points last season, good enough for second amongst defensemen. The hulking Swede is a nightmare for opposing forwards as he will physically punish you while also making you look bad on defense. Hedman excels on the powerplay where he led the league in powerplay points for defensemen with 33. He was a colossal part of Tampa’s run to the cup final in 2016 as well as Sweden’s World Championship in 2017. It is surprising that Hedman is yet to capture any major hardware at the NHL level. Look for Hedman to potentially add a Norris Trophy to his resume this season.
10. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Washington Capitals
It's about time Nicklas Backstrom gets the recognition that he deserves. Consistently one of the league’s most underrated players throughout the better part of a decade, Backstrom proved that he was the best player on one of the NHL’s most stacked teams. The Swede is a playmaker extraordinaire, aiding Alexander Ovechkin’s goal totals each year. The duo forms one of the league’s most potent power plays that is nearly impossible to contain. Out of Backstrom’s 86 points, 35 of them came with the man advantage. Backstrom also has great defensive prowess, as he is not afraid to shot block and doesn't turn the puck over often. I think Backstrom has been around the top 10 for a while now. Always heavily underrated, it took him until 2016 to finally get his first All-Star nod. Expect another All-Star caliber year heading into 2017-18.
Just missed: Auston Matthews, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Laine, Vladimir Tarasenko, Braden Holtby, Nikita Kucherov