The NHL has disbanded an all players are up for grabs once again. The answer seems easy, but when the future is just as important as the now, things get a little trickier.
If the Chicago Blackhawks proved anything last season, it’s that a workhorse defenseman like Duncan Keith can cover up a lack of depth – all the way to a title. Keith is a franchise player, and it’s funny to think the Hawks drafted him in the second round. He’d go much higher if we re-drafted the entire league right now, but how high? After all, he’s on the wrong side of 30, and if we’re looking toward the future, younger bucks must come into play. Here are the top-10 picks for a completely new NHL. Players must have skated in 2014-15 to be eligible.
10. Steven Stamkos The league is built around defensemen and centers. And even though Stamkos shifted to wing during the playoffs, he’s still one of the NHL’s major scoring threats down the middle at age 25.
9. Tyler Seguin His chemistry with Jamie Benn since coming to Dallas has been excellent, and Seguin himself has quickly become a premier NHL center. Not only does he have a Cup ring already, but there’s a ton of time to get even better, since he’s only 23.
8. Sidney Crosby No way we keep him off this list, even if he is the oldest of the bunch, turning 28 in August. Crosby has also dealt with injuries in his career, but only mumps could slow him down this season. Otherwise, he’s still a tremendous offensive force on the ice and an advanced stats driver.
7. John Tavares Once a draft phenom himself, Tavares has lived up to the hype, becoming a franchise player on an team that has grown around him. This year, he missed out on a scoring title by one point and won the majority of his draws. He’s good in the analytics department and is still only 24.
6. Jonathan Toews Mr. Everything, Toews is a consummate winner with multiple Cups and Olympic golds. He’s renowned for his leadership, faceoff prowess and is excellent in both the offensive and defensive zones. Toss in the fact that he’s still just 27 and you have quite the catch.
5. Victor Hedman Another star defenseman, Hedman is a 6-foot-6, 230-pound beast who skates like he’s 5-foot-11, 180. His reach, defensive game and rushing ability were on full display in the Stanley Cup final. And like his Tampa teammate Johnson, he’s only 24, so he’s got a lot of hockey left in him.
4. Tyler Johnson Tampa’s Cup final unravelled once Johnson’s broken wrist limited his effectiveness, but he still led the playoffs in scoring. The 24-year-old center had a great regular season, too, ticking off advanced stats and box score numbers along the way. And he’s just entering his prime.
3. Erik Karlsson Here’s the guy taking all of Doughty’s Norris Trophies. Also 25 years old, Karlsson was just a shade behind Doughty in ice time, but he put up a bunch more points, hence the end-of-season award. He’s the captain of the Senators and a tremendous rushing threat. If only he killed penalties, then he’d have it all.
2. Drew Doughty It’s practically criminal that Doughty doesn’t have a Norris Trophy yet, though settling for two Stanley Cups and two Olympic gold medals probably gets him through the night. He had the best advanced stats in the NHL, despite being on a non-playoff team. His 29 minutes of ice time was just seconds behind Ryan Suter, and Doughty is still just 25.
1. Carey Price Yes, traditional draft wisdom says you should never take a goalie in the first round, let alone first overall, but we know what Price is: a talent who almost single-handedly dragged the Habs to the second round of the playoffs. Not only that, he’s in the prime of his career (27) and younger than Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne and Jonathan Quick.
This feature appeared in the August 17 edition of The Hockey News magazine. Get in-depth features like this one, and much more, by subscribing now.