10. Brad Marchand, LW, Boston Bruins
Marchand was third in the NHL with 69 points (29 goals, 40 assists) in 53 games last season, first in shorthanded points (seven) and tied for 10th with a plus-26 rating. He led the Bruins in power-play points (18) and game-winning goals (five), and led Boston forwards in average ice time per game (18:55). Marchand has scored at least 24 goals in each of the past eight NHL seasons, and his 426 points (166 goals, 260 assists) since 2016-17 is third in the League behind Connor McDavid (526) and Leon Draisaitl (446).
“He’s one of the best two-way guys in the entire NHL,” NHL Network analyst Mike Johnson said. “He’s got all of the tools you need to be one of the very best. The fact that he gets to play in every situation, that he’s not just being carried by (Patrice) Bergeron and (David) Pastrnak. … When you have that kind of skill, you’re always a threat.”
9. Artemi Panarin, LW, New York Rangers
Panarin scored 58 points (17 goals, 41 assists) in 42 games to lead the Rangers in scoring for the second straight season; he was tied for third in the NHL with 95 points (32 goals, 63 assists) in 69 games in 2019-20. Panarin led the Rangers in even-strength points (40), was tied for second in power-play points (18), and was third in power-play goals (five) and plus/minus rating (plus-14). His 153 points (49 goals, 104 assists) the past two seasons are fifth in the NHL, and his plus-50 rating is tied for fourth.
“He makes it go on the wing,” Johnson said. “He’s just one of the most gifted offense players in the League. He does it with his brain. Obviously he has great skill, his puck skills. But he is not the biggest, not the fastest, not the strongest, can’t shoot the best, but he understands how to create.”
8. Victor Hedman, D, Tampa Bay Lightning
Hedman tied for third among defensemen with 45 points (nine goals, 36 assists) in 54 games last season and led players at the position with 24 power-play points. He was seventh in the NHL in average ice time per game (25:03), led the Lightning in total time on ice (1,352:26) and helped them win the Stanley Cup for the second straight season. Hedman won the Conn Smythe Trophy voted as playoff MVP in 2020 when he scored 22 points in 25 games, including 10 goals, the third-most ever by a defenseman in the playoffs. He has been a finalist for the Norris Trophy voted as best defenseman in the NHL each of the past five seasons and won the award in 2017-18. He was third in voting last season.
“Even at his not very best, he is still elite,” Johnson said. “Dealt with an injury (knee) a lot this year and fought through it and still won another Stanley Cup and was very effective even with that injury. … He really does a great job of appreciating what he wants; that’s the puck. .. He’s as good as there is in the NHL.”
7. Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Tampa Bay Lightning
Vasilevskiy was 31-10-1 in 42 games, and led the NHL in wins for the fourth straight season. Among goalies to play at least 20 games, he was eighth in goals-against average (2.21), sixth in save percentage (.925) and fourth in shutouts (five). Vasilevskiy set a Lightning record with a shutout streak of 228:09, including three straight shutouts from Feb. 24-March 2. Vasilevskiy has been a finalist in voting for the Vezina Trophy voted as best goalie in the NHL each of the past four seasons and won the award in 2018-19. He was second in voting last season. Vasilevskiy played every minute in the playoffs each of the past two seasons to help the Lightning win the Cup in back-to-back seasons. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP last season, going 16-7 with a 1.90 GAA, .937 save percentage and five shutouts in 23 games.
“He has separated himself from every other goalie as the cream of the crop,” Johnson said. “… I don’t think he gets enough credit for how good he is asked to be at times for Tampa. … He is a big, huge part of the reason why they win, why they are back-to-back champs. And he is, unquestionably, the best goalie in the League which is the most important position in our game.”
6. Auston Matthews, C, Toronto Maple Leafs
Matthews won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the leading goal-scorer in the NHL last season, finishing with 41 goals, eight more than McDavid, who was second. He scored 66 points in 52 games while dealing with a right wrist injury for most of the season. Matthews was the first Maple Leafs player in 75 years (Gaye Stewart, 37 goals, 1945-46), and the first United States-born player in 24 years (Keith Tkachuk, 52 for the Phoenix Coyotes, 1996-97), to lead the NHL in goals. Since entering the League in 2016-17, Matthews has scored 199 goals, second in the NHL behind Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals (205), who has played 24 more games.
“Five-on-five, this guy is doing it at a level we haven’t seen,” Johnson said. “And it’s getting harder to scored … He did it last year with a bum wrist for the second half of the year and still ran away with the Rocket. … As far as greatness, individual greatness, goal-scoring greatness, he’s the best in the world right now.”
5. Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins
Crosby was 10th in the NHL with 62 points (24 goals, 38 assists) in 55 games last season. He led the Penguins in points per game (1.13), even-strength points (39), power-play points (22) and shots on goal (159), and was first among Pittsburgh forwards in ice time per game (20:24). Crosby became the first player in Penguins history to score at least 20 goals in 13 NHL seasons, and averaged at least 1.00 points per game for the 16th straight season to start his NHL career. Only Wayne Gretzky (19) and Gordie Howe (17) have more point-per-game seasons than Crosby.
“The fact that he keeps on chugging, evolving, improving, figuring out where it’s going, how it’s going to be different and how he will be successful in that new game is amazing,” Johnson said. “And he’s still right there with the very best in the League. … You have to tip your hat to him … He’s one of the best of all time.”
4. Nikita Kucherov, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning
Although he missed the entire regular season recovering from hip surgery, Kucherov returned in the playoffs to lead all scorers with 32 points (eight goals, 24 assists) in 23 games. It was the second straight season he led the playoffs; he scored 34 (seven goals, 27 assists) in 25 games in 2020. Kucherov scored 85 points (33 goals, 52 assists) in 68 games in 2019-20 after leading the NHL with 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists) in 82 games in 2018-19 when he won the Hart Trophy voted as NHL most valuable player. He scored 398 points (153 goals, 245 assists) in his last four NHL seasons (2016-20), second in the NHL behind McDavid (421).
“To step back in after not playing the whole year and dropping a 32-point postseason … it really was amazing,” Johnson said. “He really just finds so many different ways to score. Not to mention, he might be a better passer than he is a goal scorer. … We saw what he does in the playoffs. He gets better.”
3. Leon Draisaitl, C, Edmonton Oilers
Draisaitl, who was voted the Hart Trophy and led the NHL in scoring in 2019-20 with 110 points (43 goals, 67 assists) in 71 games, finished second last season with 84 points (31 goals, 53 assists) in 56 games, 21 behind McDavid. He led the League with 15 power-play goals, his plus-29 rating was tied for second and his eight game-winning goals were tied for third. Draisaitl has scored 299 points (108 goals, 210 assists) the past three seasons, second in the NHL behind McDavid (318). He’s also one of two players to score least 70 points in each of the past five seasons, along with McDavid.
“He is able to drive his own line, create his own offense, prove that he is great on his own, even though he is fortunate enough to play with Connor McDavid,” Johnson said. “He can do it all in that regard. … Just an excellent, excellent player. … I think people can appreciate just how great he is and how great he is not just because of Connor McDavid. I think that was maybe the narrative a few years ago, but not so much any more.”
2. Nathan MacKinnon, C, Colorado Avalanche
MacKinnon, who was a finalist for the Hart Trophy last season, was eighth in the NHL with 65 points (20 goals, 45 assists) and was plus-22 in 48 games. He was third in power-play points (25) and shots on goal (206), and among skaters to play at least 10 games, his average of 1.35 points per game was fourth in the League. MacKinnon scored 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) during a 15-game point streak from March 27-April 28, the longest in the NHL last season. He was second on the Avalanche in scoring, one point behind forward Mikko Rantanen, after leading Colorado each of the previous four seasons. MacKinnon’s average of 1.38 points per game in the playoffs ranks third all time (minimum 50 games played) behind Wayne Gretzky (1.84) and Mario Lemieux (1.61).
“As great as he is in the regular season, he gets better in the playoffs,” Johnson said. “Playoffs more intense, powerful, faster, and more emotional. All the things that he brings at a heightened level and can elevate more and draw from than most players. The fact that his numbers jump, pop, to that extent in the playoffs, I think speaks volumes.”
1. Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers
McDavid led the NHL with 105 points (33 goals, 72 assists) last season and was voted the Hart Trophy. He was the second unanimous Hart winner in the 97-year history of the award, joining Gretzky (1981-82) following his 92-goal, 212-point season. McDavid led the NHL in assists, even-strength points (68) and power-play points (37), and was second in goals and game-winning goals (11). It was the third time he led the NHL in scoring (100 points in 2016-17, 108 in 2017-18). Despite missing 37 games with an injury as a rookie in 2015-16, McDavid leads the NHL in points in his six seasons with 574 (195 goals, 379 assists) in 407 games, 43 more than Patrick Kane in 46 fewer games.
“He is the most evolved offensive player that the game of hockey has ever seen,” Johnson said. “He can skate faster just about than anyone ever has. His hands, and maybe most importantly, his mind, operate at a speed that we have almost never seen. … You’re not supposed to be able to do what he has done in his career. … To be widely recognized as the best player in the world as he already is as young as he is (24), is a testament to his greatness.”