Nathan MacKinnon – Top dog for me because he proved he can do it with literally anyone on his line. He was missing Rantanen for a large chunk of the season and played serious time with guys like Donskoi, Calvert, and Burakovsky on his line. No surprise these guys all had career years, at least on pace for. Thanks Covid.
Connor McDavid – Easily the most valuable player on his team still and it isn’t even close IMO. One on one, hands down the scariest player in the world still. Completing his game in the faceoff department, a slapshot/one-timer, and remotely show up on the defensive end and he’s in back in the # 1 spot.
Sidney Crosby – Still one of the top dogs at his position until anyone below him can show the consistency needed to overtake him. Game 7/gold medal game, are you picking anyone else on this list to start for you? I didn’t think so.
Jack Eichel – Similar to MacKinnon, this guy can do it with literally anyone on his line with him. He dragged a garbage Sabres team to near contention before they fell off a cliff again. How much is Taylor Hall going to help? I wouldn’t be surprised is we see an Art Ross for Eichel next season.
Auston Matthews – Leafs fans are not going to like Eichel ahead of Auston, but I think the Leafs have that much more high end talent to work with. Skill wise, they are easily on par with eachother, but Matthews needs to take the Leafs to the next level.
Brayden Point – Is that the Stanley Cup in the picture? Yes, I’m pretty sure it is. Point was that spectacular during the Covid Cup Playoffs that he skyrocketed not only onto this list but into the top 10 for me. He is legit.
Evgeni Malkin – Similar to Crosby. I’m not ready to knock down this old dog yet until some of these young bucks consistently top him. He has shown signs of decline and then signs of mvp caliber the next shift. I would not be surprised to see another holy crap run from the Pens with Sid and Geno leading the way…obviously.
Leon Draisiatl – Finally right…Well I am one of the few (cough cough) that still think Draisaitl is a product of McDavid. They played 50% of even strength shifts together so who deserves more credit for all of their points. When Connor is on the ice, who is the D watching closer? Leon or Connor? When Connor is off the ice, who do you think takes the tougher D matchups? Leon or Connor? I’m sure any sane hockey minds answered Connor to both. But Draisaitl scored 12 point in the 7 games McDavid was out so he proved he could do it on his own right? RIGHT?! That is what cemented his Hart over MacKinnon. Of those 12 points, 9 were even strength and somehow he was a +1 only through these 7 games. How do you score 9 ES points and be a +1 only. By being god awful defensively. That is how. Oh and the Oilers went 3-2-2 over those 7 games. MVP though…And yes I picked that picture on purpose.
Aleksander Barkov – Barkov is the one on this list I really really want to put higher, but the Panthers cant get it done to get to or in the playoffs. Every year is a dissappointment.
Elias Pettersson – Elias is the reason IMO the Canucks do anything. Most will give credit to Hughes and he is a great player, but Pettersson is the catalyst for everything the Canucks do. Any surprise their PP was incredible and Boeser, Miller, and Hughes went off? Nope, its because of Pettersson. He is that good. And Horvat is similar to Draisaitl where he gets the weaker ES matchups and capitalizes on them, but gets big boy PP time still.
Matthew Barzal – Barzal is a player I consistently underestimate and wrote off as the Islanders getting lucky. Any coincidence that when Barzal started going off when he took the reigns from Tavares? Nope. The Islanders success has a lot to do with Barzal.
Patrice Bergeron – A guy who fell a bit compared to the NHL.com list from #7. I love Bergeron and I guess his cold stretch last season did it for me. Still was amazing, just not on par with his linemates. He is still the faceoff master and Crosby is the only other guy I’d pick ahead of him if I had to for game 7 starting C for me. But he is 35 and needs to show Pasta and Marchand are not carrying him, but he is still an equal contributor on that line.
John Tavares – A few years ago, I argued that Tavares is a top 5 C in this game. Then all the young guns took over. He is still big time, but I always said the Islanders lack of help was holding him back. What is the excuse now?
Ryan O’Reilly – Right behind Patrice for best 2 way center in the league. His Conn Smythe showed he is the man. No matter what happens, he will retire with a Cup, a Conn Smythe, and can say he was involved in what may be the worst trade in NHL history.
Mark Scheifele – All the potential in the world, but I fear the Jets may have missed their window for Scheifele to show he is a top 10 or top 5 guy in this league.
Sebastian Aho – Has been a quiet force over the past 3 seasons but finally were paying attention to him as a gamebreaker. I wont be surprised if he climbs 3-5 spots this season.
Steven Stamkos – Is he still a center technically? Until he’s officially a winger, i’ll keep him on the list. The injuries are what is keeping this sniper from being a top 10 guy still. If he proves he still has it, then give the Lightning the Cup again.
Nicklas Backstom – This is the one that pissed me off from NHL.com’s list. What has Backstrom done or lack there of to have him off a top 20 list? Sure Ovechkin is the flash and gets all the credit, but Backstrom has been the one consistent thing throughout AO’s career. Sure, Kuznetsov made it so they aren’t a 1C team anymore, but Backstrom is still awesome.
Mika Zibanejad – This is the one head scratcher for me. #9 NHL.com. Really? Mika is amazing when he shows up, which was all of this past season. Panarin have anything to do with that? He needs more consistency for me to throw him in the top 10. 1-2 more season of the same and yes, top 10 for sure.
Anze Kopitar – Another old dog. The Kings have been hot garbage for a while now, but Anze keeps them chugging along. Give him a real playoff caliber team around him and I wouldnt be surprised to see Hart votes flooded his way.
Honorable Mentions – Giroux/Couturier – Who is the C here? They play together, split faceoffs. Too much of both playing C and W to throw either on this list.