They’re far from the flashiest guys on the ice, but these five players quietly put up excellent seasons in 2013-14. They were underrated this year, but opposing teams would be smart not to underestimate them in the future.
By Andrew Heliotis
1. Wayne Simmonds
RW, Philadelphia Flyers
This past season Simmonds hit career highs in all three scoring categories and his 60 points were good enough for a top 50 scoring finish. Simmonds really excelled on the power play, however. Scroll down the special teams list of top goal scorers and it won’t take long to hit his name. Only Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and San Jose’s Joe Pavelski finished with more than Simmonds’ 15 power play goals. With 209 shots all season he scored at the same rate as Sidney Crosby and finished with a better shooting percentage than six of the top 10 point-getters of the season.
2. Alexander Steen
LW, St. Louis Blues
Early in 2005-06, two rookies for the Maple Leafs made their team’s scouts look like geniuses. Steen and Kyle Wellwood combined for 90 points and the Toronto faithful began salivating. But 20 games into 2008-09 Steen would forever be an afterthought in Hogtown when he was sent to the St. Louis Blues for Lee Stempniak. Oh, how things have changed. This season Steen, who built a reputation as a consistently underrated, solid two-way forward, led the Blues in goals (33) and points (62), recorded in just 68 games. Steen’s 0.49 goals per game was seventh in the NHL.
3. Kyle Okposo
RW, New York Islanders
Anyone who stopped paying attention to the Islanders after John Tavares went down in the Olympics missed quite a show by Okposo. In between the negative off-ice storylines that underlined and marred the Islanders’ season – everything from the failed Thomas Vanek experiment to an owner who publicly stated he would entertain offers to sell the team – you will find a player with 27 goals and 69 points in 71 games. If Okposo can put together another season like the one he just had, there is no doubt his name will be thrown out a lot more around the water cooler.
4. Andrej Sekera
D, Carolina Hurricanes
He’s far from flashy, but the 27-year-old Sekera epitomizes “Under The Radar.” Selected 71st overall by the Sabres in 2004, Sekera spent every season in Buffalo until he was dealt to the Hurricanes on draft day. It was clear Carolina had Sekera squarely on its radar when the team sent defenseman Jamie McBain and the 35th overall pick to the Sabres. Sekera’s plus-four rating and 33 assists this season were both good for second on the Hurricanes, while his 44 points ranked him third on a roster containing producers such as Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner.
5. Roman Josi
D, Nashville Predators
Ever since Ryan Suter left Nashville for Minnesota, the Predators have been looking to fill a major hole on ‘D’. Luckily for them, the answer has come in the form of a 23-year-old from Switzerland. In his first full NHL season after being drafted in 2008, Josi was the perfect complement to all-world blueliner Shea Weber. It seems like the pair will be together long term as Josi is inked for another six years, but you never know what can happen in Nashville. If Josi can keep getting better, don’t expect to see him on any more under the radar lists.