Top 50 NHL players of the 24-team playoff: 40-31
With the NHL preparing for a 24-team playoff, theScore will be counting down the top 50 players who will be taking part in this unique event, as voted on by our hockey editors. We'll reveal 10 players every day until the top 10 is unveiled on June 10.
40. Kris Letang, Penguins
At 33 years old, Letang continued quietly trucking along as one of the league's best defensemen this past season. His 25:44 average time on ice ranked fourth among blue-liners, and his .72 points per game ranked 11th. With three Stanley Cup titles and a plethora of playoff experience under his belt, the Penguins will look for Letang to help steer them deep into the playoffs.
39. Connor Hellebuyck, Jets
Hellebuyck was unquestionably Winnipeg's MVP this season. He posted dazzling numbers worthy of Vezina Trophy consideration for a team that struggled mightily defensively. The Jets gave up the seventh-most shots against per game in the regular season, yet are viewed by many to be a dark horse as the 9-seed in the Western Conference thanks to their starting goalie.
38. Blake Wheeler, Jets
The Jets captain continues to be a model of consistency for his club. Wheeler has contributed at least 20 goals and 60 points over the previous seven seasons, missing only 15 games during that span. Despite losing several key defensemen last offseason, the Jets look to secure a playoff spot for the third consecutive campaign in large part to Wheeler's impact as a leader both on and off the ice.
37. Quinn Hughes, Canucks
Hughes is just the third defenseman in the last 80 years to lead all rookies in points, joining Brian Leetch and Bobby Orr. The 20-year-old is one of the most exciting players in the game, and it's a shame we didn't get to see him and Cale Makar duel it out for the Calder Trophy over a full season. He's one of the future faces of the league.
36. Carey Price, Canadiens
Numbers aside, Price remains one of the premier goaltenders in the NHL. The Canadiens certainly aren't the most deserving postseason club, but they'd be a lottery team in the expanded playoff format without their No. 1 netminder. Price is starting to decline at age 32, but he's still capable of carrying the team and singlehandedly stealing a game every so often.
35. Mikko Rantanen, Avalanche
Rantanen was forced to miss nearly 30 games due to injury this season, but when he was on the ice for the Avalanche, he was a difference-maker. He managed 19 goals and 41 points in 42 games, and is a catalyst for one of the league's most menacing lines. If Colorado wants to prove it's one of the top contenders this summer, Rantanen will need to be at the top of his game.
34. Tuukka Rask, Bruins
Rask is often lost in the gigantic shadow cast by the Bruins' strong defensive structure and big-name forwards, but there's no questioning the Presidents' Trophy-winning club wouldn't be the team it is without its backbone. Rask led the NHL in goals saved above average this season, and owns a remarkable .927 save percentage across 89 career playoff starts. If Boston goes on another deep run, he'll be a big reason why.
33. Mika Zibanejad, Rangers
The Rangers' top pivot has developed into one of the most electrifying talents in the world. Zibanejad ranks eighth among all players in goals per game (0.51) over the past two campaigns and was playing at a 91-point pace over an 82-game season in 2019-20. The superstar Swede put his scoring on full display during a 6-5 win over Washington in March, becoming the first Rangers player since 1983 to score five goals in a game.
32. Mark Scheifele, Jets
Scheifele becomes the fourth - and highest-ranked - Jet to land in our top 50. It's deserving, too. He tied for the team lead in points this season and was a point per game or better for the fourth straight campaign. The 27-year-old is one of the most well-rounded centers in the game. He doesn't have one standout trait that "wows" fans, but he's incredibly intelligent and always seems to make the right play at the right time.
31. Sean Couturier, Flyers
Couturier might be the most underrated player in the NHL - and arguably has been for a long time. The 27-year-old has evolved into one of the league's best two-way centers, regularly shutting down opposing stars in addition to providing ample contributions on the offensive end. Given this versatility, he deserves to be recognized as a star in his own right.