By Todd Singer @breakingbadfish on April 10, 2014
With the NHL Playoffs fast approaching, some of the game's best players will be on the outside looking in. While the playoffs showcase the best teams in the respective conferences, obviously not everyone can make it. And as such, a handful of the league's brightest stars will either be watching from home or checking the scores while on the golf course. Click through the slideshow to find out who those players are.
Kyle Okposo had a breakout season playing on the wing of the No. 1 player on this list and finally fulfilled the massive potential the Islanders saw in him when they drafted him 7th overall in 2006. Okposo averaged almost a point per game this season, landing him in the top 20 in league scoring, and continues to be one of the more well-rounded forwards in the NHL. His Islanders will be home for the playoffs, so look for him next season.
Taylor Hall, the 1st overall pick in 2010, has really come into his own the past few seasons. Hall toils in relative obscurity playing in Edmonton, but he's quietly tied for 8th in the NHL in points and has established himself as one of the best playmakers in the league. Unfortunately for Hall, the Oilers will finish near the bottom of the league once again meaning he's still yet to play in a playoff game in his young career.
Alright, perhaps this is cheating a bit, but you can't have one Sedin without the other, right? While neither Daniel nor Henrik has enjoyed their typical standout season under defensive minded head coach John Tortorella, both twins are still two of the most gifted players in the league. With the organizational upheaval transpiring in Vancouver, this could be a long offseason for Canucks fans, but at least they have these two to fall back on.
Eric Staal, the captain of the Carolina Hurricanes, had one of his worst seasons of his career which coincided with his team struggling mightily. Luckily for Carolina, Staal will only be 30 at the start of next season and still remains one of the better end-to-end players in the NHL. Even in a down season, Staal still amassed 58 points, but he's going to have to kick it up a notch next season to get Carolina back to the playoffs.
How, you may ask, does the NHL leader in goals scored by a seven goal margin only come in at No. 6 on this list? While Ovechkin's goal totals are impressive, it's the rest of his game that has been severely lacking. Perhaps an even more impressive feat than leading the league in goals is the fact that Ovechkin has the worst plus/minus in the NHL and has also tallied a low assist total for such a skilled forward.
Niklas Backstrom, Ovechkin's teammate in Washington, has been the beneficiary of many of Ovechkin's goals as he's third in the league in assists and top ten in points scored. Backstrom has proven to be one of the best playmaking centers in the league, but even with such a skilled first line, the Capitals haven't been able to get to the next level. Washington will miss the playoffs this season, but it's no fault of Backstrom's, that's for sure.
Shea Weber is arguably the best defenseman in hockey, and he proves that on a nightly basis for the Nashville Predators. Unfortunately for Weber, one Norris-caliber defenseman doesn't make a team, and as such, the Predators will be sitting the playoffs out this spring. In addition to his defensive prowess, Weber is fourth among defenseman in scoring and continues to be one of the best all-around blueliners in the game.
Phil Kessel has had quite the year for the Maple Leafs, as he's currently in the top six in the league in both goals and points. Kessel is one of the most highly-skilled forwards in the game and the numbers certainly bear that out, but Toronto will fall just short of a playoff berth this season. With Maple Leafs fans starting to get awfully impatient with management, the team could be in for an overhaul this offseason.
Erik Karlsson is also a candidate for best defenseman in the game, and this former Norris winner has a shot at doubling up on that award after this season. Karlsson is the only defenseman in the top 20 in total points, largely thanks to him being 7th in the NHL in assists. While Karlsson's been a standout player this season, the rest of his Senators teammates didn't pick up the slack and will miss out on playing in the playoffs.
John Tavares is one of the top five players in the world, but unfortunately for him, he's hitched his wagon to the trainwreck that's been the New York Islanders franchise. Tavares was top three in the NHL in points, averaging over a point per game, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury playing for Team Canada during the Olympic break, but he'll still finish in the top 30 in scoring despite only playing 59 games.
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