NHL Power Rankings: Every team's most unheralded player
This is the eighth edition of theScore's NHL Power Rankings for the 2020-21 season. Check back for updated rankings every second Monday during the regular season.
In this edition, we look at the most unheralded player on each team: The guys who make their teams go but just don't get talked about as much as they deserve.
1. Florida Panthers (26-7-5)
Previous rank: 4
The Panthers are locked and loaded with talent throughout their lineup, but Carter Verhaeghe deserves more recognition. With a $1-million cap hit this season, he might be one of the NHL's most valuable contracts. He ranks third on the team with 31 points and has also chipped in 13 goals.
2. Carolina Hurricanes (25-8-2)
Previous rank: 1
Jordan Staal's career-high 29 goals came during his rookie season, so it feels like a bulk of the hockey community views his career with some disappointment. But he's easily one of the game's best defensive centers and the perfect captain to embody what head coach Rod Brind'Amour preaches.
3. Colorado Avalanche (24-8-3)
Previous rank: 9
Cale Makar gets all the love for his flashy plays and highlight-reel moves, but Devon Toews is quietly trucking along as one of the best defensemen in the NHL. He's playing at over a point-per-game pace with 26 points in 24 contests and ranks second on the team with a 59.0 expected goals for percentage at five-on-five.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning (26-9-5)
Previous rank: 3
Ondrej Palat is rarely a part of the discussion when it comes to what makes the back-to-back champs so dangerous. The veteran forward was sensational while the Lightning battled through injuries to their big-ticket stars. He ranks second on Tampa Bay with 15 goals.
5. Toronto Maple Leafs (24-9-3)
Previous rank: 5
David Kampf's 15.8% offensive zone start percentage is the lowest in the NHL among qualified skaters. However, despite the circumstances, he's posted relatively solid possession metrics (49.1% expected goals share). He's not flashy offensively, but Kampf has been exactly what Toronto needs out of a shutdown third-line center: Someone to do the dirty work and free up Auston Matthews and John Tavares for more offensive opportunities.
6. Pittsburgh Penguins (22-10-5)
Previous rank: 8
Teddy Blueger has been excellent for the Penguins this season. He was forced into a prominent role earlier in the year with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin out, but he's now settled into his shutdown role. He performs that as well as any bottom-six center in the league.
7. New York Rangers (25-10-4)
Previous rank: 6
Adam Fox now rightly gets the attention he deserves, but his partner, Ryan Lindgren, flies under the radar. The 23-year-old has been a perfect steadying, defensive presence alongside Fox and is easily the team's best left-handed blue-liner.
8. Minnesota Wild (22-10-2)
Previous rank: 11
The Wild as a whole are unheralded, but Ryan Hartman's year to date deserves singling out. The 27-year-old journeyman leads Minnesota with 16 tallies and is one point away from matching a career-high 31.
9. Boston Bruins (22-11-2)
Previous rank: 17
Jeremy Swayman got the short end of the stick once Tuukka Rask returned. He's unfortunately stuck in the minors for the foreseeable future after proving he belongs in the NHL by posting a .918 save percentage in 16 appearances while sharing starting duties with Linus Ullmark. His contributions while in the lineup can't be forgotten as Boston heats up.
10. Washington Capitals (21-9-9)
Previous rank: 2
Dmitry Orlov is an elite blue-liner whose contributions in the defensive zone often go overlooked when dissecting what makes the Capitals successful year after year. He leads all regular Washington defensemen in five-on-five goals against per 60, shot attempts against per 60, and expected goals per 60.
11. Nashville Predators (24-12-3)
Previous rank: 12
The Preds are full of options after a surprising start - they even had two entrants on our All-Nobody Team - but we'll go with Alexandre Carrier. Nashville churns out young defensemen better than any other organization, and Carrier, a fourth-rounder in 2015, is the latest example. The 5-foot-11 rearguard plays much bigger than his size and has been a staple in the club's top four this season.
12. St. Louis Blues (22-11-5)
Previous rank: 10
Ville Husso has only appeared in nine games so far this season but has been fantastic as the Blues' backup goaltender. His .935 save percentage is second among all goalies with at least nine appearances. With Jordan Binnington struggling as of late, it wouldn't be surprising if St. Louis turns to Husso more often as the season goes on.
13. Vegas Golden Knights (23-14-2)
Previous rank: 7
Zach Whitecloud is blossoming into a legitimate top-four defender on the Golden Knights' right side. The 25-year-old is averaging the most ice time (19:01) of his career by a significant margin and leads all Vegas blue-liners with a 57.41% expected goals rate at even strength. The six-year, $16.5-million extension he signed in October is starting to look like a steal.
14. Los Angeles Kings (20-13-5)
Previous rank: 19
One of the biggest surprises of the Kings' season so far has been Jonathan Quick's resurgence. After a few years of subpar play, the 35-year-old has been playing his best hockey in a while with a .921 save percentage and league-leading 12.1 goals saved above average at five-on-five.
15. Winnipeg Jets (17-12-5)
Previous rank: 18
Andrew Copp is on pace to shatter his offensive career bests across the board and sits fourth on the Jets in scoring. He picked a good year to break out, too, considering he's an unrestricted free agent at season's end.
16. Dallas Stars (18-15-2)
Previous rank: 20
More people need to be talking about Jason Robertson. He's now played 82 career games and has 78 points. He's leading the Stars with both a 64.2 expected goals for percentage and a 60.99 Corsi For rating. He's quietly been among the league's best since entering the league but hasn't gotten the recognition he deserves.
17. Anaheim Ducks (19-15-7)
Previous rank: 14
Troy Terry and Trevor Zegras occupy most of the spotlight for the surprising Ducks, but Sonny Milano is putting together a brilliant year and is one of Anaheim's top contributors. The 16th overall pick from 2014 has notched 25 points in 35 games.
18. Calgary Flames (17-11-6)
Previous rank: 13
It appears Oliver Kylington has arrived. The 24-year-old rearguard has more points than any other Flames defenseman with 19 and is playing four minutes more per game than he's averaged to this point in his career. Kylington has always had a high ceiling, and it looks like this is the year he's finally put it all together.
19. Vancouver Canucks (17-18-3)
Previous rank: 15
20. Edmonton Oilers (18-15-2)
Previous rank: 16
The Oilers are still struggling to get production from many of their players, but Jesse Puljujarvi is continuing to trend upward after revitalizing his career with the club last season. His 25 points in 33 games ranks fourth on the team, and he's been a great complementary piece in Edmonton's top six at the low cost of $1.175 million.
21. San Jose Sharks (20-17-2)
Previous rank: 21
Brent Burns has been doing some heavy lifting in San Jose this season, averaging 25:59 minutes of ice time per game, fourth-most in the NHL. He might not be the offensive juggernaut or top defenseman he once was, but his 26 points are still good for 11th among all blue-liners. Not bad for a soon-to-be 37-year-old.
22. New York Islanders (11-13-6)
Previous rank: 26
Adam Pelech doesn't rack up points, but he's exceptional defensively. He might've even made Team Canada if NHLers ended up going to the Olympics.
23. Detroit Red Wings (17-17-5)
Previous rank: 24
Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider are rightfully getting most of the attention for the Red Wings this year thanks to their great rookie seasons so far, but Dylan Larkin looks like he's back on track with 34 points in 34 games after a rough last season.
24. Columbus Blue Jackets (17-18-1)
Previous rank: 23
Alexandre Texier is tied for second on the Blue Jackets with 11 goals and is on track for the most productive season of his young career despite averaging less than 15 minutes per night. His 2.51 all situations points per 60 ranks third among Columbus forwards.
25. Chicago Blackhawks (15-18-5)
Previous rank: 25
The Seth Jones trade was relentlessly mocked as an overpayment, and while many still feel the same way today, the 27-year-old has ignored critics and quietly put together a quality debut season in the Windy City. Jones is third on the team with 25 points in 35 games while logging a whopping 25:54 per night.
26. New Jersey Devils (14-18-5)
Previous rank: 27
27. Philadelphia Flyers (13-17-7)
Previous rank: 22
28. Ottawa Senators (11-18-2)
Previous rank: 28
29. Buffalo Sabres (11-20-6)
Previous rank: 30
Kyle Okposo is authoring a renaissance year with a team-leading 23 points in 35 games. It's a welcome development for the veteran sniper, who was sidelined by an unfortunate string of injuries for each of the past two seasons.
30. Arizona Coyotes (8-24-4)
Previous rank: 32
Karel Vejmelka deserves a tip of the cap. He gets pelted with rubber every night on one of the worst teams on paper in recent memory, but he's posted a respectable .906 save percentage. It's his first season playing in North America, too.
31. Seattle Kraken (10-23-4)
Previous rank: 29
Jamie Oleksiak is 6-foot-7, skates well, can play both sides, and has posted superb underlying metrics this season. He's a player almost every team in the league wishes they had.
32. Montreal Canadiens (7-24-5)
Previous rank: 31
There isn't much to like about the Canadiens' season so far, but Alexander Romanov deserves more credit than he's getting. He's in just his second season, but the 22-year-old has taken on a much bigger role with the Canadiens due to their thin blue line. It's been rough at times for him, but overall he continues to show immense promise in his development.
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