1. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: After last season, what with Ovechkin scoring 65 and Kid Crosby missing time with the ankle injury, an argument could be made Ovechkin is the best hockey player in the world. It would be the wrong argument, but at least it could be made.
Aside from the spectacular scoring exploits, Ovechkin also finished ninth in the league with 220 hits. But the truly remarkable number is 199. That's how many times Ovechkin missed the net. So add in his league-leading 446 shots, which were 88 more than his nearest competitor, and Ovechkin launched 645 pucks towards the cage. That's why he's the best goal-scorer on the planet.
Which makes it all the more puzzling why he threw the puck in the corner when he had the series on his stick in Game Seven. But I digress.
2. Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings: (Sunshine) Detroit.
Yeah, Zetterberg is a far superior two-way player than Ovechkin, but c'mon, dude. Sixty-five goals ain't no joke.
3. Brenden Morrow, Dallas Stars: Dallas' combative captain set career highs in goals (32), points (72), power-play goals (12), short-handed goals (2), game-winners (7), and shots (207), and he did it all while racking up 260 hits, the second-most among NHL forwards.
Morrow was a one-man gang in the playoffs, willing the Stars into the Campbell Conference Finals. He finished with nine goals in 18 games, eclipsing the eight goals he had scored in his previous 60 postseason contests. He even amped up the brutality, registering 90 hits for a 5.0 per-game-average, up from his 3.17 regular-season mark.
Folk songs have been written about Morrow's 19-hit performance in Game Six against the Sharks. He's taken his place among the legends, right alongside the likes of Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, and Don Knotts. Morrow is Texas hockey. Forget the Alamo. Remember Morrow.
4. Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta Thrashers: Kovalchuk bagged the second 52-goal season of his career, and he's now scored 146 goals since the lockout, second to only Ovechkin's 163.
While there's been a slight improvement in his overall game and maturity, there are still miles to go before he sleeps. And with the situation in Atlanta getting worse by the second, I wouldn't be shocked to see Kovalchuk hit the block this season.
5. Dany Heatley, Ottawa Senators: Few teams in NHL history did less with more than the 2007-08 Ottawa Senators. Sure, Heatley may not have been part of Emery and Spezza's Off-Broadway production of "Scarface," but he has to take his share of responsibility. But you know the guy's good when 41 goals is a "down year." And in case you're wondering, he's got 141 since the lockout.
6. Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets: Under Ken Hitchcock's watchful eye, Nash has developed into a terrific all-around player, using his freakish reach to become a dynamic penalty killer. He had four short-handed goals last year and averaged 2:34 per night on the kill, the most of any premier left winger. Nash also set career-highs in assists (31), points (69), and shots (329).
I say it every year, but Nash is (all together now) 50 goals waiting to happen. The Blue Jackets failed yet again in their attempts to acquire a playmaking center, but R.J. Umberger and Jakub Voracek could provide some offensive support. Seriously, would it kill Columbus to trade Nash to Pittsburgh? Can you imagine him on Kid Crosby's wing? To quote another great hockey mind, "Ooh la and la."
And you can never see this too much...
7. Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Donald Trumps: Vanek went buckwild in February, connecting for 13 goals in 15 games to salvage what was fast becoming a horrific season. He ended with 36 goals, down from the 43 he scored the previous year, but hardly shameful considering the departures of Chris Drury and Daniel Briere. While Vanek's 64 points marked a 20-point drop, he did close strong, recording 42 in his final 45 games.
8. Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks: Wonder Twin powers activate! Form of a creepy red-headed Swedish dude! Sedin's a tremendous all-around player, but I think he has to lose some credit for being completely incapable of doing anything without his equally creepy brother. Then again, they did make for a damn fine commercial...
9. Alexander Frolov, Los Angeles Kings: A groin injury put Frolov on the shelf for 11 games, limiting him to just 23 goals and 67 points. The goal production was down, but the 0.94 points-per-game average was the best of his career. He’s a big body with good hands, which, oddly enough, sounds a lot like my prom date. The Kings are quietly amassing a whole heap of talent. Which brings us to…
10. Alexander Semin, Washington Capitals: On talent alone, Semin should be seventh. His wrist shot is rather awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, even after he scored 38 goals in 2006-07, there were lingering doubts he was strong enough to compete at the NHL level. And, not surprisingly, he missed 19 games last year with assorted injuries. Sure, the main culprit was a high-ankle sprain, which could afflict anyone, but it still raises a red flag. This kid’s a legit 40-goal scorer, though.
Dustin Brown Courtesy of the ol' Puck Daddy
Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings: At 23, Brown's just starting to find his stride, ringing up 33 goals and a league-high 311 hits last season. The kid is a beast. And don't f with him on suggested retail prices, either.
Simon Gagne, Philadelphia Flyers: Reports have Gagne looking better than ever, but head injuries are tricky. If healthy, he could go for 40 in Philly’s high-flying offense.
Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins: The coolest hockey player on the planet. Period. Fear Lucic!
Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils: Parise backed up his 31 goals and 63 points in 2006-07 with 32 and 65 last year, establishing himself as a true top 10 contender.