Who is the most underrated player in the NHL?
It’s a tough question and one with many answers. In fact, everyone probably has their own favorite radar dodger and the variety of the type of player will span all spectrums and roles in hockey.
Is it Jordan Staal? He’s been considered somewhat of a disappointment by a few because his offense hasn’t caught up to his defensive awareness yet, while other 2006 draftees picked after him, such as Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Backstrom, Phil Kessel and Derick Brassard garner league-wide attention. Yet no one can deny his stellar two-way game.
Is it perhaps Troy Brouwer? Not a point-producer by any measure, Brouwer brings a sharp edge and a hard nose to the Hawks and he can get the puck to the tough areas and persuade the opposition to keep him in check, instead of those more apt to tally a marker.
Players who used to be in the discussion, but have graduated on to full respectability don’t apply to this argument. Duncan Keith, Max Talbot, Stephane Robidas and even David Krejci may still be, unbelievably, underrated by some, but they no longer fall under the banner of most underappreciated.
To be the most underrated, you must have an immense impact each game without getting the headline recognition and play second fiddle to another player.
I nominate Brent Seabrook as the most underrated player in the league, because his show-stopping slapper, big hits and controlled end-zone play take a back seat to not only the young stars who are the faces of the Blackhawks franchise, but to his own defense partner Duncan Keith.
Whenever this debate is brought up, Keith is usually among the first mentioned, so I find it hard to grasp the rationale behind how a guy so widely recognized could fall into this category anymore. There comes a saturation point and when everyone recognizes you as underrated, guess what? You’re no longer underrated.
Seabrook is second on his team and 10th in the league, averaging 25:48 of ice time per game, Surprisingly at first glance, Seabrook is the top defenseman on his team in power play time per game and is tied with Keith for the lead in shorthanded ice time.
With one goal and seven points in nine games – he’s currently out with a concussion – Seabrook is right there with Brian Campbell and Keith, two guys you equate with offensive production, for the defenseman scoring race on his team.
After leading his team in blocked shots by a margin of 20 last season, Seabrook again was tops in that category this year before missing the past two games. He ranks third on his team in hits, another category he comfortably led the Hawks in a season ago.
It’s fitting that the most underrated player in the league leads his contending team in two crucial, tangible stats that never show up on the scoresheet and rarely headline the game story.
Before long, Seabrook will get his accolades. He’s only 24, earning more responsibilities along the blueline on an evolving Chicago team and he’s up for a new contract after next season. Whether the Blackhawks will be able to keep him (he’ll want a raise over his current $3.5 million salary) remains to be seen, but they’d surely miss him if he had to go.
So I nominate Seabrook as my most underrated player, though I realize there are others. Who would you choose?
AND ANOTHER THING…
Phaneuf on Okposo: clean.
Mitchell on Toews: clean.
Richards on Booth: clean.
End of story. Deal with it.
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com’s web content specialist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season.
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