The 2020-21 NHL season is finally here and the puck should drop in a week. So we look forward to the 56 match ranking and a prediction of who will be in the top 100.
We asked a panel of 11 ESPN NHL experts to rank the players according to their level compared to their peers this season. The focus was only on forecasting potential size for 2020-21, not on past performance. From these rankings we were able to determine the best of the best and compile a list of the top 100 players.
As expected in this list for the upcoming season, Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov, who was selected in the second round last year and is one of the top five prospects this time around, is not on the list because he is recovering from hip surgery that will keep him out of action for the entire regular season. The Lightning still have the most players on the roster with the Dallas Stars (two Stanley Cup finalists last season), six. A total of 29 of the 31 teams were represented, with the Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils absent.
For every player on the list, Greg Wyszynski and Emily Kaplan weighed in with their 2020-21 projections, and ESPN Stats and Information has the signature stats to know. Here’s the full list:
A jump to a well-known player who is not in the top 10:
J. Eichel B. Koopman. Hughes
M. Barzal | C. Price R. O’Reilly
P. Laine C. Giroux | E. Kuznetsov
S. Bobrowski. J. Guentzel. Me. Shavings
You’ll see more: Snubs | the future of the list
C | BoilersAge 24
McDavid currently sits fifth in NHL history with a career average of 1.34 points per game, just behind Bobby Orr (1.39). For the past 30 years, that puts him in third place behind Mario Lemieux (1.84) and Wayne Gretzky (1.43). McDavid is an offensive talent from another world, glorifying a new helpless defender every week in a great movie. And it hasn’t even reached its final form yet. -Greg Wisinski
Signature Status: Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby are the only active players to have scored at least 450 points in their first five seasons in the NHL. McDavid has also made 124 multi-point games since 2016-17, six more than any other player in that span.
C | AvalancheAge 25
Is there a better value in the league than McKinnon? He earns just $6.3 million, but has scored 289 points over the past three seasons, putting him third in the championship. The 25-year-old is a perennial candidate for the MVP position and often carries the load when his team faces marking depth issues or injuries. And again, to emphasize: He’s only 25 years old. — Emily Kaplan
Signature Status: McKinnon led the NHL with 25 primary passes in 5-on-5 situations last season. That’s 10 more than any other player on the Avalanche. According to Natural Stat Trick, only four players managed to make more rebounds than MacKinnon (36) last season.
D | Lightning
The Lightning defender has been a Norris Trophy finalist four seasons in a row, including one win. But his 22-point performance in their Stanley Cup race to win the Conn Smythe cemented the 30-year-old defensive player’s reputation as the best blueliner of his generation. — Vyshinsky.
Signature Status: Hedman is the third defensive player in NHL history to score 10 or more goals in a single postseason, joining Paul Coffey and Brian Litch.
C | BoilersAge 25
It turned out that Draisaitl was taller than Connor McDavid’s main character. With an incredible 110 points in 71 games, including 43 goals, he finally emerged from the shadows of his teammate to become the centerpiece of his line. He won the Hart Trophy as the Most Valuable Player and the Ted Lindsay Award as the NHLPA Player of the Year, earning him the respect of a superstar. — Vyshinsky.
Signature Status: In the 2019-20 season, Dreisail registered at least one point in 56 of his 71 appearances, the most in the NHL. He also set an NHL record with 33 multi-point performances, four more than any other player.
G | FlashAge 26
If you’re building a team from scratch, Vasilevsky would be an obvious option in goal. He’s just the best in the league right now. Over the past four seasons, no regular goaltender has had more wins (141) or a better save percentage (.920) than Wasilewski. But he will also be the best in the coming seasons, as he is only 26 years old. — Chaplain
Signature Status: Vasilevsky became the sixth goalie (seventh) since 1943-44 to lead the championship in terms of wins in three consecutive seasons. He joins five members of the Hockey Hall of Famers: Martin Brodeur, Ed Giacomin, Jacques Plante, Terry Sawchuk and Bill Durnan.
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