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Adam Gretz's top 50 players in the NHL

by | NHL Blogger

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is Adam Gretz's No. 1 player in NHL (US Presswire)  
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is Adam Gretz's No. 1 player in NHL (US Presswire)  

Now that the NHL and NHLPA have tentively agreed to a new labor agreement, I can start looking forward to the 2013 season. Here's who I think are the Top 50 players in the NHL.

A number of factors went into the list, including overall production, advanced metrics (via BehindtheNet.ca), personal observation, all-around play and what kind of role they are asked to play by their coaches. For example: If two players are similar in their production and are comparable in their style of play, the guy who is asked to face tougher competition or tougher assignments, among other factors, is probably going to get the edge.

To make it even easier: I basically started with the question of "If I'm building a team to win the Stanley Cup this season, who would I want?"

There will be disagreements, I'm sure. And as is always the case, if a player you like is too low, or excluded, that obviously means I hate him and your team

Top 50 NHL Players
C | Pittsburgh Penguins

When he's healthy and on the ice his game has no weakness. Every weakness he's had throughout his career he's managed to correct and turn into a strength. Didn't score enough goals early in his career? He has a 50-goal season on his resume. Struggled with faceoffs? Fixed. He's now one of the best in the NHL. Read more >>>

C | Tampa Bay Lightning

For all of the attention that Steven Stamkos gets for his offensive game -- and it is impressive -- he's become a complete player that now excels at both ends of the ice. He's taken over as the best goal-scorer in the NHL and looks to be a favorite for the Rocket Richard Award for the next few years. Read more >>>

C | Pittsburgh Penguins

For all of the attention that Steven Stamkos gets for his offensive game -- and it is impressive -- he's become a complete player that now excels at both ends of the ice. He's taken over as the best goal-scorer in the NHL and looks to be a favorite for the Rocket Richard Award for the next few years. Read more >>>

LW | Washington Capitals

2011-12 certainly wasn't the best season we've seen from Ovechkin, and based on the standards he's set for himself over the first seven years of his career it was a bit of a disappointment, but only four players in the NHL scored more goals than he did last season. And he's still one of the two or three most talented players in the NHL. Read more >>>

D | Nashville Predators

Weber is perhaps the most complete defenseman in the NHL, playing a physical game, facing some of the toughest competiton in the league (and dominating it), and scoring at a pace that few other defensemen can match.

Since the start of the 2008-09 season no defenseman has scored more goals than Weber's 74. Read more >>>

C | Detroit Red Wings

Like his teammate, Henrik Zetterberg, Datsyuk's goal-scoring took a bit of a decline during the 2011-12 season. But it didn't take away from how dominant a two-player that he still is. Anytime you have a guy who can serve as a shutdown defensive player, play against the other team's top line and also score a point-per-game, you're talking about one of the best players in the NHL. Read more >>>

D | Boston Bruins

Zdeno Chara has been one of the top two or three defensemen in the NHL for the better part of the past five or six seasons. He's as durable as they come, rarely missing games and regularly playing over 25 minutes per night in all situations, serving as a matchup defenseman in even-strength situations, quarterbacking the power play and killing penalties. Read more >>>

C | Los Angeles Kings

Playing his entire career on the West Coast for a team that, while in a major media market, never really accomplished anything on the ice, helped to hide what a sensational player Anze Kopitar has been for six years. That all changed during the 2011-12 season, specifically the playoffs, when the Los Angeles Kings went on their second-half tear and dismantled the Western Conference and knocked off the New Jersey Devils to win their first Stanley Cup. Read more >>>

C, LW | Vancouver Canucks

It's next to impossible to separate Henrik and Daniel Sedin. They're identical in almost every way, other than the fact that Daniel scores most of the goals and Henrik sets most of them up. When they're together, they're pretty much unstoppable offensively and more productive than just about any other duo in the NHL. They have identical .84 point-per-game averages in the league, and they've both won a scoring title. Read more >>>

C | Chicago Blackhawks

I'm not going to lie -- it took me longer than most to jump on the Jonathan Toews bandwagon. He always struck me as a really good player, but I wanted to see a little more offensive production from him before I put him at this level (and, over the past two years, he has definitely shown that). Read more >>>

C | Philadelphia Flyers

Giroux turned out to be more than capable of leading the charge offensively for Philadelphia (one of the best offensive teams in the league, as it turns out) and ended up finishing third in the NHL scoring race with 93 points. Read more >>>

LW | New Jersey Devils

Ilya Kovalchuk has always been one of the best goal-scorers in the NHL, but something has happened to him since joining the New Jersey Devils. He's not only a dominant force offensively; he also has significantly improved his defensive game and managed to do so without sacrificing any of the offense that made him an All-Star in the league. Read more >>>

C | San Jose Sharks

There might not be a more underappreciated player in the NHL during his era than San Jose Sharks forward Joe Thornton. He will probably be a player who, 20 years after he's done playing, will get more recognition for how great he actually was than he did during his playing days. Read more >>>

C | Washington Capitals

Backstrom was selected fourth overall in the 2006 draft as part of an impressive group that included Jordan Staal, Jonathan Toews and Phil Kessel at the top of the class. Since he entered the NHL, he's sixth in the NHL in assists over that time.Read more >>>

RW | Chicago Blackhawks

Simply put: Marian Hossa is one of the best two-way players in the NHL. He always has been, and he still is. He's a goal-scorer, a playmaker and is a fantastic defensive player who is relentless on the backcheck.Read more >>>

G | New York Rangers

It was only a matter of time until New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist won his first Vezina Trophy, an honor that he received following a 2011-12 season that saw him put up career highs in wins, save percentage, and goals against average. Read more >>>

G | Nashville Predators

Rinne is pretty darn valuable and might have been the right investment for Nashville. At least for now. In general, I'm still not a huge fan of long-term, big-money contracts for goaltenders. But I'm really not sure where this team would have been last season had it not been for Rinne. Read more >>>

D | Ottawa Senators

And no defenseman was as productive as Karlsson in 2011-12. Few defensemen in recent years have been as productive as he was last season. His 78 points in 81 games led all NHL blue liners. Read more >>>

D | Los Angeles Kings

The 2011-12 campaign wasn't the best season of Drew Doughty's career. But whatever he didn't provide in the regular season, he more than made up for it in the playoffs. Read more >>>

C | Chicago Blackhawks

Patrick Kane seems to always be an adventure off the ice, and probably not a guy that you would want to spend a Saturday night with (or maybe you would?), but he's always exciting on the ice and one of the best, most creative playmakers in the NHL. Read more >>>

RW | Tampa Bay Lightning

Undersized, undrafted and let go by the Calgary Flames, St. Louis signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning before the 2000-01 season. In the 11 seasons since, he has been one of the most productive offensive players in the NHL and is still going strong. Read more >>>

G | Los Angeles Kings

He has steadily improved in each of the past three seasons since becoming the Kings' starting goaltender. I don't know that he should be expected to duplicate a .929 save percentage every season; few goalies can. But he has solidified himself as one of the top goalies in the NHL. Read more >>>

C | Anaheim Ducks

Getzlaf has been a player whom you can pencil in for somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 goals over an 82-game season. That made last year's 11-goal output all the more shocking, especially since he's still in what should be the prime of his career (age 27). Read more >>>

C | Carolina Hurricanes

His 24 goals in 2011-12 were the lowest total since his rookie season of 2003-04 (he scored just 11). Part of it was a lower shot total as well as a lower shooting percentage than we're used to seeing from him. Another part of it was some bad luck. Read more >>>

RW | Anaheim Ducks

He's 42, but you would never know it by watching him play. He still flies around the ice, he's still productive, and he's still, on most nights, the best player on the ice during any given shift.Read more >>>

C | Detroit Red Wings

The 2011-12 season was a down year for Henrik Zetterberg offensively as he finished with 69 points, his lowest total since his 67-point performance in 2006-07 (a season in which he played just 63 games). Read more >>>

LW | Dallas Stars

If it's possible for a player to be so criminially underrated througout his career that he actually becomes a little overrated, Loui Eriksson might be that player. It seems he can't be brought up in a hockey discussion without somebody talking about how underrated he is. Eventually that gets talked about so many times he's no longer underrated. Read more >>>

C | New York Islanders

Tavares had a breakout season, averaging a point per game for the Islanders and finishing with 31 goals and 50 assists while also making his linemates better. So much better that he should probably get a cut of the multi-year contract P.A. Parenteau signed with the Colorado Avalanche in free agency. Read more >>>

C | Ottawa Senators

After two injury-shortened seasons the Ottawa Senators finally had a healthy Jason Spezza again in 2011-12 and he was one of the driving forces behind their surprising return to the playoffs under first-year coach Paul MacLean. Read more >>>

LW | Minnesota Wild

Parise is still an excellent player and one of the best forwards in the NHL, but there should be some long-term concerns with his contract and how long he'll continue to be a top player offensively. Since his peak season back in 2008-09 when he scored 45 goals and finished with 94 points his production has steadily dropped. Read more >>>

C | Anaheim Ducks

Corey Perry saw his numbers decline during the 2011-12 season, but that's not necessarily because he had a bad year. That's just what happens when you score 50 goals and finish with 97 points like Perry did during the 2010-11 season. Read more >>>

LW | Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins' acquisition of James Neal from the Dallas Stars for Alex Goligoski during the 2010-11 season was a classic example of a trade that was a win-win for both teams. The Penguins had an overload of defensemen and needed a young goal-scoring winger, while the Stars had an overload of young goal-scoring wingers and needed a young, puck-moving defenseman. Read more >>>

D | Minnesota Wild

The Penguins' acquisition of James Neal from the Dallas Stars for Alex Goligoski during the 2010-11 season was a classic example of a trade that was a win-win for both teams. The Penguins had an overload of defensemen and needed a young goal-scoring winger, while the Stars had an overload of young goal-scoring wingers and needed a young, puck-moving defenseman. Read more >>>

C | Anaheim Ducks

You might remember Bobby Ryan as the guy taken one spot after Sidney Crosby in the 2005 NHL draft. In his four full seasons in the NHL, Ryan has never scored fewer than 30 goals and has scored 136 since entering the league at the start of the 2007-08 season. Read more >>>

C | San Jose Sharks

At the age of 32, Marleau's production is starting to decline in terms of goals and assists, dropping from 44 goals and 83 points in 2009-10 to 30 goals and 64 points in 2011-12. But even with the declining numbers, he's still a key player for the Sharks in terms of advancing the play up ice and doing so against top competition. Read more >>>

C | Carolina Hurricanes

In Pittsburgh, Staal was constantly matched up against other teams' top players, and despite playing some of the toughest minutes in the NHL, he was still a force when it came to driving play up the ice and controlling the puck -- and was on a pace to set career high in scoring had he not missed 20 games due a leg injury. Read more >>>

RW | New York Rangers

For most of his career Marian Gaborik has always been that guy who you kept asking, "What could he produce if he ever stayed healthy?" After three years they've been rewarded with one of the best goal-scorers in the NHL over that stretch, as Gaborik has already topped the 40-goal mark in two of the three years, and is fifth in the NHL in terms of goals-per-game over the past three years. Read more >>>

D | Pittsburgh Penguins

When he's at his best Letang is a workhorse on the blue line who logs nearly 25 minutes of ice-time per game (and nearly a minute per shift) in every situation. He's usually the best skater on the ice every time he steps onto a rink, and along with his puck-moving, offensive ability he also has a bit of a mean streak to his game and isn't afraid to play physical or drop the gloves if he needs to. Read more >>>

RW | Toronto Maple Leafs

He's one of just seven players in the NHL to score 30 goals or more in each of the past four seasons, a list that includes Jarome Iginla, Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrick Marleau, Rick Nash, Alex Ovechkin and Bobby Ryan. In terms of total goals he's eighth over that stretch. Read more >>>

C | San Jose Sharks

Perhaps a surprising name on the list, but Joe Pavelski has turned into one of the more complete centers in the NHL, not only producing at a consistent 25-goal, 60-point pace over the past four years, but also by helping to keep play moving up the ice against extremely tough competition. Read more >>>

LW | Edmonton Oilers

Taylor Hall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NHL draft, has had some injury problems over the first two years of his career that have limited him to just 126 of a possible 164 games. And that's a shame for him and the Oilers. But when he has been healthy and on the ice, he has been a difference maker. Read more >>>

RW | Los Angeles Kings

Dustin Brown was one of the many Los Angeles Kings who gained some of the national recognition that he has long deserved during their run to the Stanley Cup last spring. Read more >>>

C | Saint Louis Blues

He's a player who does everything on the ice and plays in every possible role: killing penalties, contributing on the power play and not only playing tough even-strength minutes but also still being able to push the play up the ice. Read more >>>

C | Boston Bruins

Look at this way: The Bruins were one of the best teams in the NHL last season and, as a 20-year-old, Seguin led the team in goals, points, shots on goal, even-strength goals and was second in Corsi Relative. Read more >>>

D | Saint Louis Blues

Pietrangelo was the third of those players to be selected (after Drew Doughty and Zach Bogosian and just before Luke Schenn) and is now well on his way to becoming a franchise defenseman in St. Louis. The 2011-12 season was a breakout year for Pietrangelo and saw him finish fourth in the Norris Trophy voting. Read more >>>

D | Winnipeg Jets

Byfuglien is an interesting case. He has drawn criticism in recent years for his weight and because of his frame doesn't "look" like a guy who should be a dominant offensive force. But when he's out there, he has been as productive as any defenseman in the NHL over the past two seasons and possesses one of the most vicious slap shots in the league. Read more >>>

C | San Jose Sharks

The San Jose Sharks might be one of the deepest teams in the league at forward, and Logan Couture, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2007 draft, is in the process of becoming a star for them. Like Benn, he's another guy who's getting ready to enter the prime of his career and has already posted back-to-back 30-goal seasons. Read more >>>

LW | Dallas Stars

He has steadily improved his production each of his three years in the NHL and is just now starting to enter what should be his prime. While he has the luxury of playing with some really strong talent in Dallas -- Loui Eriksson, the Stars' best player, was one of his most common linemates this past season -- his production never took a hit when he was separated from them, which is a very encouraging sign. Read more >>>

LW | New York Rangers

Rick Nash is a pretty clearly a player on the decline. The subject of trade rumors for much of the 2011-12 season as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Nash was finally dealt to the New York Rangers over the summer in a move that gave that Rangers some much-needed offensive firepower up front. Read more >>>

LW | Colorado Avalanche

The issue I had with Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog and his placement on my list (and whether I should even include him at this point in his career) is the simple fact that we have such a small sampling of games to go on since he has just completed his first season in the NHL. Read more >>>


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