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With the NHL’s 2017-18 season underway, hockey fans will be entertained by the skills of the league’s elite players. Two of the very best are the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby.
McDavid and Crosby are also among the top centers in the league. McDavid is the reigning scoring champion and was deemed the most valuable player to his team during the regular season. Crosby, meanwhile, was playoff MVP for the second consecutive year, leading the Penguins to a second straight Stanley Cup.
There are pre-eminent stars at every position in the NHL. But which ones could be the best this season?
Here’s a look at the top NHL players at every position for 2017-18. Feel free to express your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.
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5. Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild
Since joining the Wild midway through 2014-15, Dubnyk’s consistently ranked among the league’s best goaltenders. He was a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2015, won 40 games in 2016-17 and posted five shutouts in each of the last three seasons.
4. Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins
Murray backstopped the Penguins to consecutive Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017. Now in his second full NHL season, the 23-year-old is a full-time starting goalie. Injuries hampered him last season. If he stays healthy in 2017-18, he could have a shot at the Vezina Trophy.
3. Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets
Bobrovsky shook off two mediocre seasons to carry the Blue Jackets to a franchise-best 108 points in 2016-17. As a result, he won the Vezina Trophy for the second time in his career. His long injury history is a concern. Another robust performance, however, could earn him another Vezina nomination.
2. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
Winner of the Vezina and the Hart Memorial Trophy in 2015, Price remains among the league’s elite players. He rebounded from an injury-shortened 2015-16 to carry the Canadiens back into the playoffs last season. Over the previous four-plus seasons, his save percentage is .928.
1. Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals
The 2016 Vezina winner has been a model of durability and consistency. Over the last three seasons, he regularly exceeded 40 wins and recorded nine shutouts twice. His stellar efforts played a significant role in the Capitals winning the Presidents’ Trophy in 2016 and 2017.
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5. Roman Josi, Nashville Predators
No longer overshadowed by former teammate Shea Weber, Josi’s an elite defender who anchors a very talented Predators’ blue line. He led all Nashville blueliners in points (49) during the regular season and in the playoffs (14). Last month, the club recognized his leadership by naming him team captain.
4. Drew Doughty, Los Angeles Kings
Winner of the James Norris Memorial Trophy in 2016, Doughty reached the 40-point plateau last season for the fifth time in his NHL career. A superb two-way, big-minute defenseman, the 27-year-old could open up his offensive game under new head coach John Stevens. He might exceed 50 points in 2017-18.
3. Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks
Last season’s Norris Trophy winner, Burns led the Sharks and all NHL defensemen in scoring with a career-best 76 points. He also led the league in shots (320). The 6’5″, 230-pounder is an outstanding offensive blueliner. The 32-year-old’s production could drop a bit this season but he’ll remain a significant scoring threat.
2. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
A two-time Norris winner (2012, 2015), Karlsson is an established superstar. He finished third (71 points) among NHL defensemen in scoring last season and led the underdog Senators to the 2017 Eastern Conference Final. Offseason foot surgery could hinder his play this season. If he makes a full recovery, he should remain among the elite blueliners.
1. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
Hedman may be the best all-around defenseman in the NHL today. He finished second among all blueliners last season with a career-best 72 points. The 26-year-old is a strong combination of size (6’6″, 230 pounds), speed and two-way skills. Hedman has come into his own as an elite defender and should become the favorite to win the Norris Trophy this season.
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5. Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins
Kessel finished third among Penguins’ scorers last season (70 points) and third among last spring’s playoff scoring leaders with 23 points. He’s improved his playmaking ability, giving him a more well-rounded offensive game. The 30-year-old right wing remains a highly skilled offensive threat.
4. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
Listed as a center, Draisaitl’s spent much of his short NHL career at right wing. Playing in just his third season, he netted a career-high 77 points in 2016-17 and was the Oilers’ leading scorer in the postseason with 16 points. Draisaitl has considerable upside and should exceed last season’s performance.
3. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
The Blues’ franchise player, Tarasenko exceeded 70 points in each of the last three seasons. During that period, he also led the Blues in scoring and shots. A perennial 40-goal candidate, the 25-year-old has the potential to reach 50 goals.
2. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Winner of the Art Ross and Hart Memorial Trophy in 2016, Kane finished third among league scorers last season with 89 points. Though linemate Artemi Panarin was traded to Columbus in the offseason, Kane remains among the league’s elite. He could bring out the best in young teammates Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman.
1. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
Kucherov emerged last season from the shadow of teammate Steven Stamkos, becoming a scoring star in his own right. He tallied 40 goals for the first time and led the Lightning in goals and points. He also finished fifth (85 points) in the NHL. The best is yet to come from the 24-year-old Kucherov, who could challenge for the Maurice Richard Trophy in 2017-18.
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5. Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
Though his point production last season dipped to 58, the 23-year-old Forsberg netted over 30 goals for the second straight season. A solid two-way player with strong offensive instincts, Forsberg will continue to improve in 2017-18.
4. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
A broken finger sidelined Gaudreau for 10 games last season, but he still led the Flames in assists (43) and points (61) for the second straight year. The 24-year-old left wing is a speedy, highly skilled playmaker. He has the potential to reach 80 points in 2017-18.
3. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
A late-blooming scoring star, Marchand reached career highs last season in goals (39), assists (46) and points (85). He was the Bruins’ top scorer and sixth among the league’s scoring leaders. The 29-year-old might not reach those heights this season but should remain a 30-goal, 70-point candidate.
2. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
One of the greatest scorers in NHL history, Ovechkin slumped to 33 goals last season. The 32-year-old could be in decline but he’s rebounded back from previous slumps earlier in his career. Don’t bet against the six-time goal-scoring champion regaining his 50-goal form in 2017-18.
1. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars
Winner of the Art Ross Trophy in 2014-15, Benn’s production plummeted last season from 89 points in 2015-16 to 69 last season. However, the 28-year-old Stars captain is a swift-skating power forward who’s still in his playing prime. Expect Benn to lead his team to a strong bounce-back performance in 2017-18.
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5. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins
Injuries limited Malkin to 62 games last season but he still netted 72 points. Healthy for the 2017 playoffs, he was the scoring leader with 28 points as the Penguins won their second straight Stanley Cup. Despite his recent history of injuries, he remains among the best centers in the game.
4. Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg Jets
Since his first full NHL season in 2013-14, Scheifele’s steadily blossomed into a star. His 82 points in 79 games last season led the Jets and ranked seventh among NHL scorers. Now 24, Scheifele has established himself among the elite top-line centers.
3. Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Despite the Stars’ struggles last season, Seguin still tallied over 70 points for the fourth straight season. He and linemate Jamie Benn should rebound in 2017-18, especially if they jell with playmaking right wing Alexander Radulov, who was acquired via free agency in July.
2. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
The longtime face of the NHL, Crosby won his second consecutive Conn Smythe Trophy while leading the Penguins to their second straight Stanley Cup last season. He also won his second Maurice Richard Trophy with 44 goals. The 30-year-old Crosby is no longer a kid but he’s still a force to reckon with.
1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
McDavid took over the mantle of the NHL’s best player from Crosby last season. He became the first Oiler since Wayne Gretzky (1987) to win the Art Ross and the first since Mark Messier (1990) to win the Hart Memorial as MVP. He was the only player to reach 100 points last season. Only 20, McDavid has barely scratched the surface of his immense potential.
Player stats and award info via NHL.com.