IN CONJUNCTION WITH TIM OGER
If there’s one thing we can tell you about the NHL, it’s that the league has definitely been slow moving this off-season since after the first few days of free agency.
That being said, we here at Game Changer Sports Network want to give you a little more hockey to read about, because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good old game of puck?!
In a series of articles, we will be counting down our selections for the Top 50 NHL players right now. These selections are based on the last three seasons and all aspects of the game, from plus/minus to points, were taken into consideration. This article will count down our choices from #50 to #41, followed by ten Honorable Mentions that were heavily considered, but did not make the list in the end.
These articles will be released right here on GCSN every Tuesday and Friday until the countdown is complete. You can also follow along with the countdown live every Thursday night for the rest of November from 8-9PM EST, as our hockey analysts Tim & Shane will take you through the countdown on GCSN’s live show Inside the Ice. If you want to watch live but are not available at the time the episode airs, you can watch on demand anytime you want on our Facebook page. Here is a schedule for both ways that you can follow along with our countdown:
INSIDE THE ICE
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 12 – 10 HONORABLE MENTIONS, #50-41
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 19 – #40-21
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 26 – #20-1
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 17 – #50-41 + 10 HONORABLE MENTIONS
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 20 – #40-31
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 24 – #30-21
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 27 – #20-11
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1 – #10-1
Now that you have the schedule written down and stuck in your brain, let’s get to the countdown. Here are our choices for #50-41 of the NHL’s Top 50 Players.
#50: Mathew Barzal, C (NYI)
Drafted 15th overall in 2015 by the New York Islanders, Mat Barzal has been a consistent force for the team in his three full seasons on Long Island.
In those three seasons, Barzal has already compiled an impressive resume, having scored a total of 59 goals and adding 148 assists for 207 points in 232 career games. That’s an impressive average of 0.89 points per game, and at 23 years of age, Barzal hasn’t even entered his prime yet.
In 68 games this past season, Barzal led the Islanders with 19 goals and 60 points, and was also a +5. He also recorded 17 points in 22 playoff games this year, in which the Islanders were eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals by the eventual Cup-champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
On the international stage, Barzal has a gold medal with Team Canada at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in Czech Republic. He also led Canada to a silver medal in the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships, in which he was one of the top ten scorers in the tournament.
Barzal won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie following the 2017-18 season.
49. Cale Makar, D (COL)
In his first complete season with the Colorado Avalanche, 22-year-old Cale Makar proved why he went 4th overall to the Avalanche in 2017.
In a Calder-Trophy-winning campaign this past season, Makar netted 12 goals and 38 assists for 50 points in 57 games and was also a +12. For a defenceman, these are pretty elite numbers. If his regular season performance wasn’t good enough, he lit it up in the postseason, scoring at a point-per-game pace with 15 points in 15 games, and was an additional +12. He also had 19 power play points and 4 game winning goals, also very impressive numbers for a first-year blueliner.
Internationally, Makar was a member of the gold-medal-winning Team Canada at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships in Buffalo, NY. He led all defensemen in points in the tournament, scoring eight points in seven games.
For a kid that is already playing top minutes in Colorado, you can only expect this young stud to get better the more experience he gets.
48. Sean Couturier, C (PHI)
Sean Couturier continues to be a heavy offensive threat for the team that drafted him 8th overall in 2011, the Philadelphia Flyers.
Over the last three seasons, the 27-year-old had the three best seasons of his career, scoring 86 goals and adding 125 assists for a total of 211 points in 231 games. To top it off, Couturier was a +57 over that span and had 44 power play points and 15 game winning goals.
Couturier continues to be one of the best two-way forwards in the league, and that has been proven by him winning the Selke Trophy this season as the NHL’s best defensive forward. Over the course of his career, he has 402 points in 647 games and is an eye-popping +92, which for a forward is absolutely insane.
Playing for his home country with Team Canada, Couturier won a silver medal in the 2011 World Junior Championships in Buffalo, NY. In the World Championships, he won a gold medal in 2015 and silver medals in 2017 and 2019.
47. Mark Stone, RW (VGK)
Mark Stone of the Vegas Golden Knights just had the best season of his career, and is looking to build on his career year next season.
A late pick by the 2010 Ottawa Senators, 178th overall to be exact, Stone has had the career of a first-round pick. In a total of 449 NHL games, he has 385 points for a points-per-game average of 0.86. Over his last three seasons split between the Senators and Golden Knights, though missing some time with injury, Stone averaged nearly a point per game, recording 54 goals and 136 points in 142 games. He’s also a +32 over that course.
At 28 years old, Stone is in the midst of his prime. He had 21 goals and 42 assists last season for 63 points in 65 games and was an impressive +15, while also netting 17 points in 20 playoff games.
Internationally, Stone has one medal of each colour, winning bronze in the 2012 World Junior Championships, and a respective gold and silver medal in the 2016 and 2019 World Championships.
46. Torey Krug, D (STL)
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Yes, that’s right. Although, it’s hard to believe that a top-pairing blueliner like Torey Krug was not actually drafted into the NHL. After signing with the Boston Bruins in 2012 straight out of Michigan State, Krug spent the last nine seasons in Boston before signing as a free agent with the St. Louis Blues this off-season.
The 29-year-old defenceman has had himself an impressive career so far, and has made a name for himself as a power offensive blueliner. He scored 9 goals and added 40 assists last season for a total of 49 points in 61 games and was also a -4.
Over the course of the past three seasons, he has 29 goals and a whopping 132 assists for 161 points in 201 games. He also had 82 power play points and 10 game winning goals, and was -6. Although he was a minus player over the past three seasons, Krug still maintains a career plus/minus of +23, which is a great stat to have as a defenceman.
Representing the United States on the world stage, he won a bronze medal at the 2015 World Hockey Championships in Czech Republic.
45. Matthew Tkachuk, RW (CGY)
Turning 23 this December, Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames is one of those guys you love if he’s on your team, but one you absolutely can’t stand playing against.
Drafted 6th overall by the Flames in 2016, Tkachuk has already made a name for himself as one of the league’s top agitators. That being said, he is also an offensively-gifted player who always find a way to help his team put the puck in the net.
Tkachuk scored 23 goals and had 61 points in 69 games this season and added 1 goal and 2 points in 6 injury-plagued playoff games. Over the course of the last three seasons, Tkachuk has 81 goals and 106 assists for 187 points in 217 games. He was also +8 and had 60 power play points over that same span. He has a steady average of 0.80 points per game over his career so far, and also has a career +22.
With the United States national team, Matthew Tkachuk led his country to a gold medal at the 2014 World U-17 Hockey Challenge in Nova Scotia, and won another gold medal for the United States the following year at the 2015 World U-18 Hockey Challenge. He has also won a bronze medal for the USA in the 2016 World Junior Championships.
44. Max Pacioretty, LW (VGK)
Even at 32 years old, Max Pacioretty of the Vegas Golden Knights isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
A 22nd-overall draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2007, Pacioretty managed nearly a point-per-game effort last season, scoring 32 goals and 34 assists for 66 points in 71 games, while also maintaining a plus/minus of +18. He also had 8 points and was -2 in 16 playoff games.
Over the last three seasons, Pacioretty has recorded 71 goals and 72 assists for 143 points over 201 games. He also had 42 power play points and 14 game winning goals over that span, and has 554 total points in 763 career games.
Another US national, Pacioretty has not played any games on the world stage for the red, white and blue. He does, however, have one All-Star Game appearance under his belt, in which he was named to the Pacific Division All-Star Team in 2020.
43. Bo Horvat, C (VAN)
In his first year as the captain of the Vancouver Canucks, 25-year-old Bo Horvat definitely put up some solid numbers.
Horvat was drafted by the Canucks 9th overall in 2013 and has been a consistent forward for the team since then. Last season, he put up 22 goals and 53 points in 69 games, his only real blemish being a -15. Leading the Canucks all the way to the Western Conference semifinals which they lost in 7 games, Horvat netted 12 more points in 17 games.
He also has 71 goals and 87 assists for 158 points in 215 games over the last three seasons, while also recording 47 power play points and 8 game winning goals. Throughout his career, Horvat has 275 points through 446 games but is a dismal -65.
Internationally, Bo Horvat has two gold medals at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournment and the 2012 World U-17 Hockey Challenge, respectively, while playing for Team Canada. On bigger stages while playing in the 2014 World Junior Championships and 2018 World Hockey Championships, Horvat’s Team Canada finished in fourth place at both events.
42. Mark Giordano, D (CGY)
Hard to believe Mark Giordano went undrafted, isn’t it?
That’s right, the 14-year veteran and current captain of the Calgary Flames, 37-year-old Mark Giordano, signed as a free agent with the Flames in 2004 after his major junior career with the Owen Sound Attack. He made his NHL debut in 2006 and has been solid for the Flames on the back end over the course of his career.
Last season, Giordano had 5 goals and 26 assists for 31 points and was +2 in 60 games. He also added 3 assists in 10 playoff games. Over the last three seasons, Giordano scored 35 goals and had 143 points in 220 games, as well as recording a +41 rating, 42 power play points and 6 game-winning goals.
For an undrafted defenceman, Giordano has been great in the NHL, recording career numbers of 483 points and +96 in 893 games. He also has 7 points in 23 career playoff games.
Internationally, Giordano played for Team Canada in the 2007 Spengler Cup, winning gold for his country. He was also a member of Team Canada at the 2010 IIHF World Hockey Championships, in which Canada lost to Russia in the quarterfinals. Giordano is also a three time NHL All-Star and won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenceman in 2019.
41. Jamie Benn, LW (DAL)
The Dallas Stars captain comes in at #41. 31-year-old Jamie Benn is the definition of heart.
If you haven’t seen the video of a very emotional Jamie Benn sitting alone in the Dallas Stars locker room following their Game 6 defeat to the Tampa Bay Lightning in this year’s Stanley Cup Final, go watch it and try to tell me that video doesn’t tug at your heart strings.
A lifelong Star, Benn was drafted 129th overall to the organization in 2007. Last season, Benn tallied 19 goals and 20 assists for 39 points in 69 games. In 27 playoff games, he had 8 goals and 19 points and was a +2.
Over the course of the past three seasons, Benn had 82 goals and 89 assists for 171 points in 229 games, with a +30 rating and 47 points in the power play. Over 814 career games, he is +47 with 688 points. A true leader, Benn makes this countdown solely for his leadership qualities alone.
On the world stage with Team Canada, he won gold at the 2009 World Juniors and another gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. He just needs the Stanley Cup to become a member of the elusive Triple Gold Club. Benn is also a two-time NHL All-Star and the 2015 Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer.
Now as we stated at the beginning of the article, the bottom 10 players of the top 50 were highly debated on, and we thought we should give some love to 10 players that were considered, but just didn’t make the cut. In no particular order, here are 10 Honourable Mentions:
FROM TOP TO BOTTOM, LEFT TO RIGHT:
Quinn Hughes, D (VAN)
Anze Kopitar, C (LAK)
Drew Doughty, D (LAK)
Mikko Rantanen, RW (COL)
Seth Jones, D (CBJ)
Miro Heiskanen, D (DAL)
Connor Hellebuyck, G (WPG)
Elias Pettersson, C (VAN)
Jordan Eberle, RW (NYI)
Nicklas Backstrom, C (WSH)
That’s it for the first instalment of the GCSN Top 50 NHL Players. Stay tuned for Inside the Ice on Thursday where we continue the countdown with #40-21, and the next article on Friday where we feature #40-31 from Thursday’s episode.
What are your thoughts on our selections for #50-41 and the Honorable Mentions? Let us know in the comments!
Featured photo courtesy of Shane Kunz / GCSN
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