Hockey is a sport full of violence, beauty, and grace. The stars of the NHL have learned how to balance all three. The display of skills that Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl bring to the ice nightly makes the sport must-see TV. These are the best players in the NHL that will have you running to your couch!
Sidney Crosby Is Still At The Top Of The Mountain
Perhaps the best player in the NHL since he entered the league, Sidney Crosby is still playing at the highest level in his mid-30s. Part of what has made Crosby so successful for so long is his hockey IQ. He is one of the smartest players in the league.
Crosby has twice won the Hart Memorial Trophy (2007 and 2014), which is awarded to the player voted as the most valuable to his team. He has also led the Penguins to three Stanley Cup championships.
Connor McDavid Is A Generational Talent
The brightest young star in the NHL right now is Connor McDavid. The 24-year-old star plays for the Edmonton Oilers, and in some circles has had his potential compared to that of Wayne Gretzky.
Whether or not Connor McDavid delivers on his game-changing potential, we'll have the next decade to watch and find out. In 2021, though, there is no doubt that just being on the ice for Edmonton makes the Oilers a Stanley Cup contender.
Victor Hedman Is A 6'7" Defensive Wall
Since 2017, Victor Hedman has made winning championships and awards a yearly occurrence. That year, he was selected to his first All-Star game and was named to the NHL Second All-Star Team. The next year he won the James Norris Memorial Trophy, an award given to the best defender in the league.
Most recently, Hedman added Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe Trophy winner to his list of accomplishments. As he continues to excel, we imagine that list will only grow.
Patrick Kane Is The King Of Chicago
Patrick Kane has spent his entire career with the Chicago Blackhawks and has built one of the most impressive resumes in the history of the game. With everything he has accomplished, it would be easy to think he was 40-years-old and not 32!
Since being drafted, Kane has won three Stanley Cup titles. In 2016, he showed just how impressive he was, winning the Art Ross Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy, and Ted Lindsay Award.
Brad Marchand Is Hated By Everyone Except His Teammates
Brad Marchand is the exact kind of hockey player NHL fans love to hate. When he plays for your team, you couldn't be happier to have him patrolling the ice, scoring points with enviable ease.
When he's not on your team, the last thing you want in the world is to have to play against him. At the start of this article, we noted that the best hockey players show grace, beauty, and violence. Well, Marchand might be the measuring stick for that commentary that all other players are lined up against.
Patrice Bergeron Isn't Letting Age Slow Him Down
Still considered one of the best centers in the NHL despite being 35-years-old, Patrice Bergeron has no plans of letting age slow him down. Four times, Bergeron has won the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which is given to the offensive player who demonstrates the best defensive skill per season.
Marchand was drafted by the Boston Bruins in 2003 and has spent his entire career on the East Coast. In 2011, he won his first, and so far only, Stanley Cup title.
Artemi Panarin Makes The Talent Around Him Better
In July of 2019, Artemi Panarin signed a seven-year, $81.5 million contract with the New York Rangers. The move came two years after the excellent two-way player was traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Columbus Bluejackets.
In New York, Panarin has found a home. He earned 95 points in his first season with the Rangers while also improving the play of the players who share the same line with him.
Nikita Kucherov Is Looking To Build On His Epic 2018-19 Season
Nikita Kucherov proved to a force to be reckoned with during the 2018-19 season, earning 128 points. That year he also led all players in the postseason with 33 points. Since then, he hasn't slowed down at all.
For as good as he is, though, one thing Kucherov cannot fight is injury. In December 2020, he underwent surgery on his hip, ending this most recent season before it really began. When he finally returns, we expect him to pick up exactly where he left off.
Jack Eichel Does A Lot With Very Little Around Him
The Buffalo Sabres aren't close to the most talented team in the NHL, but they do have one superstar on the roster - Jack Eichel. In 68 games during the 2020 season, Eichel earned 78 points and scored 36 goals.
Eichel was taken with the second overall pick by the Sabres in the 2015 NHL Draft and made an immediate impact on the team. Two years later he was inked to an eight-year, $80 million extension.
Alex Ovechkin Waited Nearly His Whole Career For A Title
One of the oldest players on this list also had to wait for nearly his entire career to finally win a Stanley Cup title. Alex Ovechkin was the first overall draft pick in 2004 by the Washington Capitals. One of the best scorers in the history of the NHL, he didn't taste ultimate glory until 2018.
Still a highly skilled player in his mid to late 30s, Ovechkin is nearing the end of a 13-year contract extension worth $124 million he signed in 2008.
Roman Josi Might Be The Best Defender In The League
The star defender for the Nashville Predators, it's not far-fetched to call Roman Josi the best defensive player in the NHL in 2021. Elite at every defensive aspect, he was awarded the Norris Trophy in 2020 for his prowess.
Josi was originally drafted by the Predators in the second round of the 2008 NHL Draft and made his professional debut on the team in 2010. He has been an irreplaceable part of the Nashville roster since then.
Auston Matthews' Career Can Only Go Up
The first overall pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2016 NHL Draft, Auston Matthews has more than lived up to the hype. In his first game for the Leafs, he scored four goals, setting the tone for what has been an incredible start to his career.
In 2019, Toronto signed Matthews to a five-year, $58.17 million contract, making him one of the highest-paid players in the league. He repaid the team's trust by scoring 47 goals one season later.
Brayden Point Scored 97 Points On His Way To A Championship
Between the regular season and the playoffs in 2020, Brayden Point played in 89 games and earned 97 points. At just 24-years-old, there is no doubt he was a major reason the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup.
Originally taken by the Lighting with the 79th pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, Point has proven that he should have been taken much higher. In 2020, he set the Tampa Bay record for most playoff goals in a single season, with 14.
Nathan MacKinnon Is Giving Hope To Avalanche Fans
Nathan MacKinnon was signed by the Colorado Avalanche to a three-year entry-level deal in 2013. That same year he made his NHL debut, becoming the youngest player in Avalanche history to dress for a regular-season game.
Since that moment, MacKinnon has been a staple in Colorado's lineup and has developed into one of the most exciting players in the NHL. Just 25-years-old at the start of the 2021 season means we'll be watching him skate circles around the competition for years to come.
Mitch Marner Is One The NHL's Craftiest Players
Playing for the Maple Leafs, Mitch Marner spends most of his time sharing a line with either Auston Matthews or John Tavares. And he makes sure that whoever he is paired with, that he is helping create scoring opportunities through his crafty play.
Over the last two seasons, Marner has played in 141 games and been credited with 119 assists. When he's out there, he's not looking to be selfish, he just wants to be the best teammate possible!
Leon Draisaitl Scored 110 Points In 2020
The 2019-20 NHL season may have been truncated because of the global health crisis, but that didn't stop Leon Daisaitl from dominating the ice. The Edmonton Oiler put on a performance for the ages, scoring 110 points and running away with the Hart Memorial Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, and Art Ross Award!
An elite offensive player, he allows the Oilers to have two dangerous line changes during the game, one with him and one with Connor McDavid.
Alex Pietrangelo Does It All
Alex Pietrangelo plays for the Las Vegas Golden Knights and forms one of the best 1-2 defensive punches in the NHL skating alongside Shea Theodore. Previously a member of the St. Louis Blues, Pietrangelo is making them regret letting him go.
The defensive star only became available to sign with the Golden Knights after he and the Blues were unable to agree to terms on a contract extension. Las Vegas was then able to sign him to a seven-year, $61.6 million deal.
David Pastrnak Is A Magician With The Puck
On the ice, skating on the same line as Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak is a true magician with the puck at the end of his stick. In 2020, he scored 48 goals and shared the Rocket Richard Trophy.
An elite talent, Pastrnak was the 15th overall pick by the Boston Bruins in 2014. In 2017, Boston showed their commitment to the young star, signing him to a six-year, $40 million contract extension.
Ryan O'Reilly Blossomed After Leaving Buffalo
Drafted in 2009 by the Colorado Avalanche, Ryan O'Reilly never lived up to his high draft slot. In 2015, Colorado traded him to Buffalo. The Sabres thought they found a franchise player and signed him to a seven-year, $52.5 million contract extension.
Not long after he was labeled as a problematic player, so Buffalo traded him to St. Louis. It was here that O'Reilly really started to fit in and find his stroke. His first year in St. Louis, he helped the team win the Stanley Cup. And prior to the 2020 season, he was named a captain.
Evgeni Malkin Is Still Elite When Injured
Evgeni Malkin played the 2020 NHL season for the Pittsburgh Penguins while battling through several injures. He was able to suit up for 55 games, scored 25 goals, and earned 74 points, proving that even injured he is worth the price of his contract.
A career Penguin, Malkin was originally drafted by the team with the second overall pick in the 2004 NHL Draft. In 2014, Evgeni signed an eight-year, $76 million contract, ensuring he would likely retire as one of the greatest Pittsburgh players of all-time.