This week’s THN.com Top 10 takes a look at plus-minus. Not the top-10 plus-minus leaders (40 percent of whom are Bruins), but rather we looked at the NHL’s plus-minus leaders (through to No. 30 when you discount players behind their team’s leader) and selected only the top player from each team.
So although four of the top 10 highest plus-minus marks come from Boston players, only Blake Wheeler makes the list because he leads Bruins.
But the sorting doesn’t stop there. We’ve crunched the numbers and ranked the players according to how much they lead their respective teams by.
10. Blake Wheeler, RW, Boston, plus-33
The 22-year-old rookie is having the best season of any first-year skater and if not for Columbus goalie Steve Mason he would be a Calder Trophy front-runner. The fifth overall pick in 2004 leads the league in plus-minus, but leads his team by just one in the category, which accounts for his 10th-place finish on this list.
9. Mike Green, D, Washington, plus-28
Green thrust himself into Norris contention with an NHL-record eight-game goal scoring streak as a defenseman, a league-leading 15 power play goals and better than a point per game. The 23-year-old is tied for fifth in NHL plus-minus and is two better than his closest teammate.
8. Simon Gagne, LW, Philadelphia, plus-21
Hard to believe Gagne is already in his ninth NHL season. The two-time 40-goal scorer is plus-21 this season, good for 17th in the league. He leads the Flyers by three in the category.
7. Patrick Marleau, C, San Jose, plus-25
Marleau’s resurgence this season after a horrible 2007-08 is one of the big reasons the Sharks are leading the West and sitting as Stanley Cup favorites. Marleau’s plus-25 is ninth in the NHL and four better than his closest teammate.
6. Travis Zajac, C, New Jersey, plus-27
Along with Zach Parise, Zajac represents the offensive future of the Devils. But his defensive play has improved as well this season. It’s lucky sevens all around for the Winnipeg native; he ranks seventh in the NHL in plus-minus and leads his team by five.
5. Rene Bourque, LW, Calgary, plus-18
The most surprising name on this list, the 27-year-old Bourque is having a breakout season with 20 goals already. His plus-minus is tied for 23rd in the league and is outpacing his nearest teammate by six.
4. Pavel Datsyuk, C, Detroit, plus-30
The reigning Selke Trophy winner is up to his old tricks again. He’s fourth in NHL scoring and fourth in plus-minus. The 30-year-old Russia native is six better than any other Red Wing in plus-minus.
3. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins, plus-17
It’s no surprise to see the league’s leading scorer on this list, but it is somewhat surprising to see him this high up. Malkin is tied for 30th in NHL plus-minus, but leads his team by eight in the category.
2. Jan Hejda, D, Columbus, plus-22
What’s that, you say? A Blue Jacket amongst the league leaders in plus-minus? It’s true. The 106th pick of the 2003 draft has found a home in Columbus. He’s tied for 14th in NHL plus-minus rankings and leads his team by nine.
1. Duncan Keith, D, Chicago, plus-31
Keith is one of the least well-known elite blueliners in the league. Did you know he has 31 points, tied for 19th amongst defenders? The 25-year-old Keith is looking like a Canadian Olympian in 2010; he’s third in NHL plus-minus and is nine up on the closest Blackhawk.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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