Photo: Washington Capitals
Every year, The Hockey News magazine releases a list of the Top 50 players in the NHL. 2017’s list was just released, and some of the rankings may surprise or irritate Capitals fans. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, goaltender Braden Holtby, and centers Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov are the Capitals included on the list.
Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers is ranked at No. 1, with Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby ranked second. Rounding out the Top 10 are Erik Karlsson (Ottawa), Patrick Kane (Chicago), Carey Price (Montreal), Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus), Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh), Auston Matthews (Toronto), Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay), and Brent Burns (San Jose). The complete list:
The highest-ranked Capital is Holtby, who is ranked 13th overall. This is surprising in some ways, as Holtby was the 2016 winner of the Vezina Trophy (Best Goalie) and finished runner-up to Bobrovsky this past season. Price won the Vezina and Hart Trophy (MVP) in 2015, but has played just 74 games the past two seasons due to injury, whereas Holtby has played 129 games and has won 90 games. While both Price and Bobrovsky are two of the best goaltenders in the NHL, many (not just Capitals fans) would argue that Holtby belongs in the Top 10.
Backstrom is three spots lower than Holtby at No. 16. Despite having been one of the league’s best playmakers in his career, Backstrom has only been voted to the NHL All-Star Game once and has yet to be mentioned among the league’s best defensive forwards, despite strong praise from both his head coach and teammates and being voted as the NHL’s Most Underrated Player by his peers two seasons ago. While Matthews is talented and one of the best upcoming young stars, he has played just one season in the league, hardly enough of a sample size to rank at eighth overall.
Despite his down season last year, Ovechkin was still an effective player last year for the Capitals and showed flashes of his usual self. He is ranked at 36th overall, ahead of Kuznetsov, who is all the way down at No. 44. Ovechkin is ranked below players such as Ryan Getzlaf, Jack Eichel, and Blake Wheeler, while ranked ahead of players such as Max Pacioretty, Steven Stamkos, and Artemi Panarin. Kuznetsov, as mentioned above, is 44th overall and for a player of his talent and skill level, it’s puzzling. He is ranked below players such as Ovechkin, Leon Draisaitl, Matt Murray (a goalie), and Joe Pavelski, but above players such as Roman Josi, Stamkos, Claude Giroux, and Kris Letang.
No matter how one looks at it, this list is sure to generate some discussion. What do you think Caps fans? Which players are too low? Too high? Let us know your thoughts!
By Michael Fleetwood