The 10 Most Underrated Players In The National Hockey League
The 10 Most Underrated Players In The NHL
The influx of young talent in the National Hockey League has given birth to a new generation of superstars. Several names are now gracing the game's biggest stage, with the average age in the league seemingly declining everyday. The meteoric rise of some of these names have left others in their dust.
The NHL features quite a collection of underrated talent. Some guys go about their business without garnering much attention, but still perform at a high level. There just isn't much flash to their game. Others don't attract as much publicity because of the market in which they play. We all know what the top markets are around the league, but there is plenty of top tier talent hanging around in the smaller ones.
Whether they're stuck in a small market, started off their career too slowly for people to notice them, or are playing behind a bigger name, it's time to give some recognition to the folks who don't see it quite as much as they should.
A prime example of underrated is the gentleman pictured above, Dustin Brown. He didn't make the list because a Stanley Cup and a run at the Conn Smythe Trophy gave him some validation. But even now, he still doesn't get the type of credit he deserves because he's not a 100-point type player.
This list features players from all three levels, mainly up front, but with a mix of defense and a goaltender thrown in as well. Some play in big markets, some play in small markets. But none have gotten the credit that they deserve to this point in their careers. I should add that this list isn't actually in any sort of order, since a level of underrated would be difficult to measure.
Chris Kelly - Boston Bruins
I love players like Chris Kelly. He's the kind of guy who would fit well with any team. He's versatile, can play both on the wing and center, and is quietly one of the better defensive forwards in the league. He wins faceoffs and can kill penalties with the best of them. Last year showed he has an offensive touch as well, with a 20-goal season.
Brent Seabrook - Chicago Blackhawks
On a team with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook might be their best defenseman, or at least the steadiest. He's an elite shutdown d-man, but his offensive game has also come a long way, which includes a big shot from the blue line. He's a potential Norris Trophy candidate at some point in the future.
Kari Lehtonen - Dallas Stars
Kari Lehtonen is the best goaltender you've never heard of. His numbers make him a top 10 goaltender in the league, and that new five-year deal he just signed shows it as well. Playing on a mediocre team like Dallas the past couple of seasons hasn't helped him get much pub, but an improved club could help him take his game to a more national audience.
Mikko Koivu - Minnesota Wild
Mikko Koivu is an interesting case among the players on this list. Some might consider him overrated, but despite playing in such a huge hockey market, Koivu doesn't nearly get enough attention. Health has been his main issue the past couple of seasons, but he's been productive when he is on the ice. He wins faceoffs and can play physical when he has to. Perhaps playing with Zach Parise this season might get him the praise he's been lacking.
Dan Girardi - New York Rangers
The whole "shutdown" defenseman thing is kind of a theme on this list (See: Seabrook, Brent). Dan Girardi is one of the very best at what he does. He's as steady as they come defensively. He's large, physical, he blocks shots, and he is a nightmare matchup for opposing forward. His offensive game isn't up there with Seabrook, but it's solid. Playing on a team with bigger names on the blue line around him, along with a game predicated on defense, hold him back from real recognition.
Ryan O'Reilly - Colorado Avalanche
There is a wealth of young talent in the Mile High City, and the 21-year-old Ryan O'Reilly is right in the middle of it. His third year in the league showed a big jump in his development, with a very strong 55 points in 81 games. With rising stars in Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, along with Paul Stastny, you can see why O'Reilly is underrated among them. But he's a key piece of an Avs team that could be playoff bound this season, and should work his way off of this list before long.
Tomas Fleischmann - Florida Panthers
Injuries have held Tomas Fleischmann back from getting some recognition, but we finally saw what he could do with a full season under his belt last year. He had a career year, with 61 points in 81 games, including four game-winning goals. He was a major reason for the rebirth of the Panthers this season and is a core player for this group moving forward.
Antoine Vermette - Phoenix Coyotes
He's never played in a great market, so Antoine Vermette has never received the credit for how many ways in which he actually contributes. He's a strong two-way center in the top six, probably among the better ones in the game. He's a key player on both the power play and penalty kill. He might not be a superstar, but he is the total package in the middle of that top six for the Coyotes.
Jason Pominville - Buffalo Sabres
One of two captains on this list, Jason Pominville is quietly a stud up in Buffalo. He's been an incredibly steady player for the Sabres over the course of his career. As a captain and a two-time 30-goal scorer, he deserves some more attention to what he brings to the ice every night.
Patrick Sharp - Chicago Blackhawks
You can't have an underrated list without Patrick Sharp on it. Playing with several other stars in the Windy City, Sharp has consistently been among the top scorers in the league the last few seasons. He has a deadly accurate shot and is an outstanding penalty killer. His dashing good looks don't hurt him, either.