The Top 20 underrated NHL players

When you think of NHL players, you think of Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin and Carey Price.  Everyone loves their team's stars, the ones who get the big money, and win the big trophies like the Hart (MVP), Rocket Richard (most goals), Art Ross (most points), Norris (best defenseman), and Vezina (best goalie).  But, there will always be players who are simply overlooked. They don't get much appreciation for how good they actually are from around the league.  I'm here to show you 20 players who are completely underrated (in no specific order).

Nick Leddy, D -- New York Islanders

Since being acquired by the Islanders from the Chicago Blackhawks before the 2014-15 season, Leddy has been the Islanders best defenseman.  He has 123 points over those three seasons, for 0.51 points per game.  His career corsi is a solid 52.6.  But, since he's in the same division as Kris Letang, John Carlson, Ryan McDonagh, Seth Jones and now Kevin Shattenkirk, Leddy doesn't get much attention as a puck moving defenseman who's averaged 41 points a season since joining the Isles.

Tyson Barrie, D -- Colorado Avalanche

The Avs had one of the worst seasons ever by a non-expansion team in 2016-17. =  Their defense was terrible.  But, their best defenseman, Barrie, wasn't credited enough for having a solid season despite the team's play.  Barrie did have a down season, with 38 points.  However, as a defenseman, he had 182 shots, which is a positive number.  His career points per game of 0.57 is impressive for a defenseman.  He's averaged over 23 minutes of ice time per game in the last two seasons, which is another positive number.  He isn't considered much of an offensive defenseman, but since the start of 2013-14, Barrie has averaged 44.5 points a season which is impressive to say the least.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D -- Arizona Coyotes

Another defenseman here, Ekman-Larsson, or "O.E.L", is actually recognized as top 10 defenseman.  But, he should be regarded as a top five defenseman in my opinion.  He is coming off a down year, but now captain of the Coyotes after the departure of Shane Doan will return to his normal, dominant self in 2017-18.  He scored just 39 points in 2016-17, but 19 were on the power play, which for a defenseman, is solid.  He's also not foreign to the 20 goal plateau.  He averaged 0.73 points a game in 2015-16, which is really good.

Sebastion Aho, F -- Carolina Hurricanes

We are finally at our first forward of the list.  In his rookie season of 2016-17, Aho dominated quickly, with 24 goals and 49 points.  He was one of just three rookies to score over 20 goals last year, joining Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine.  Also, he had 214 shots. If you shoot the puck, you will score!

Torey Krug, D -- Boston Bruins

It might seem that there is a lot of defensemen on this list, but there is only one more defenseman after Krug.  Krug is a very good offensive defenseman!  He scored 51 points in 2016-17, and has averaged 43.5 points a season in his career, not counting 2011-12 and 2012-13, where he played a combined three games.  In his qualifying career, Krug has averaged 210 shots a season, which is above average for defensemen.  With Boston having a terrible defensive core, Krug is overlooked.

John Gibson, G -- Anaheim Ducks

Here is our one and only goalie on the list. Gibson set a career high in games in 2016-17 with 52.  Jonathan Bernier was his backup then, and now it's Ryan Miller.  So, he probably won't be increasing that number in 2017-18.  But when he plays, Gibson is very good!  He had a 2.22 GAA last year with a SV% of .924.  His career GAA is also 2.22, and his SV% is .922.  Some impressive numbers for a guy who's never discussed in the Vezina race.

Mikael Granlund, C -- Minnesota Wild

Granlund had a breakout season in 2016/2017 scoring 26 goals and 69 points.  He was a Lady Byng finalist, with just 12 PIM.  His 14.7 shooting percentage was pretty good.  His 0.83 points per game last year was atop the league.  He has a career 0.63 points per game.  Even with these impressive numbers, Granlund still isn't thought of as a top 25 center in the league.

Nino Niederreiter, LW -- Minnesota Wild

Like his teammate Granlund, Niederreiter broke out in 2016-17 with 25 goals and 57 points.  He had a career high 186 shots, and it's gone up every year, so that's positive.  His 55.4 corsi last year was good.  Nino is a sneaky good player that people often forget about.

Erik Haula, C -- Vegas Golden Knights

Haula was also on the Wild last year, but was taken by the Knights in the expansion draft.  Haula is a good third line center.  He averages about 15 goals per season, which is very good for his role.  No one thinks of Haula as a solid scorer, but with a fresh new start in Vegas, he can maybe break out.

Marcus Johansson, F -- New Jersey Devils

Salary cap issues forced the Capitals to trade Johansson to the Devils, right after his breakout year.  Johansson scored 24 goals and 58 points.  Also, he had an amazing +25 rating.  In all 82 games, Johansson had just 10 PIM.  Always underrated, Johansson should get a lot of attention in New Jersey with them lacking star power after Taylor Hall and Cory Schneider.

Nazem Kadri, C -- Toronto Maple Leafs

Even playing in hockey's biggest market, Kadri has always been underrated.  He averaged 18.25 goals and 44.5 points a season from 2012-13 to 2015-16.  However, in 2016-17, Kadri broke out with 32 goals and 61 points, both career highs. But, with rookies Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander, Kadri was once again overlooked.

Josh Bailey, RW -- New York Islanders

Bailey isn't a fan favorite by any means, but quietly put up 56 points in 2016-17 playing alongside John Tavares.  He has always shown a good playmaking ability throughout his career and was finally able to put it together alongside Tavares.  However, with the addition of Jordan Eberle it is unclear if Bailey will lineup next to Tavares as regular this season.  Without Tavares it will be interesting to see if Bailey builds on last seasons numbers or reverts back to the guy he was before last season.

Brady Skjei, D -- New York Rangers

Here is our last defenseman on the list.  In his rookie season, Skjei (pronounced "Shea") scored 39 points, including 34 assists.  That helped him finish 10th in the Calder race.  He also has seven power play assists.  He has Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Shattenkirk ahead of him, but Skjei can still perform as evident by these numbers as a rookie.

Rickard Rakell, C -- Anaheim Ducks

After scoring 20 goals in 2015/2016, Rakell broke out in 2016-17 with 33 goals and 51 points.  He scored 0.72 points per game.  Things seem to be going skyward for the 24 year old forward.  He has always been overlooked by Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler, but he shouldn't be overlooked for much longer if he keeps up these numbers.

Brayden Schenn, F -- St. Louis Blues

Schenn was recently acquired by the Blues, and looks to have a good first year in St. Louis.  In his last year with the Philadelphia Flyers, Schenn scored 25 goals and 55 points.  The year before, he scored 26 goals and 59 points.  He's scored over 0.70 points per game in the last two seasons, but was always overshadowed by Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds.  Figuring to have a prominent role with the Blues, this is his chance to break out on the NHL scene.

Ryan Spooner, C -- Boston Bruins

Spooner has been the B's third line center behind Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci his entire career.  In 2016-17, Spooner put up a solid 39 points.  But the year before, 2015-16, Spooner scored 49 points, which is really good for a third line center.  In 2016-17, 18 of his 39 points came on the power play.  Spooner seems to be on the cusp of being a very steady player in this league for a long time.

Paul Byron, LW -- Montreal Canadiens

The speedy Byron flew under-the-radar in 2016-17, with a breakout year.  He was a great penalty killer, and scored 22 goals and 43 points.  Also, Byron led qualifiers in shooting percentage with a 22.9%.  In his career, he's had a 18.3%.  This means he really had the scoring touch last season. Expect another solid season from the third liner.

Radim Vrbata, RW -- Florida Panthers

Though he's at the end of his career, Vrbata has always been a steady and dependable top six forward and showed that once again last season scoring 20 goals and 55 points for the Coyotes.  In 2014-15, he scored 31 goals.  But, playing on the Canucks and the Coyotes recently, Vrbata hasn't gotten as much attention as he would if he played in Pittsburgh.

Kevin Hayes, F -- New York Rangers

So far so good for Hayes who is 3 years into his NHL career.  Last year, he tied his career high in goals with 17 and had a career high in points with 49.  In his career, he has scored 130 points in 234 games.  He really is better than people think, and this is coming from an Islander fan.

Tyler Bozak, C -- Toronto Maple Leafs

Like Kadri, Bozak has always been on a bad Leafs team, but last year, the Leafs were good.  Bozak had 55 points including 18 goals, but was often overlooked because of the trio of impressive Leafs rookies last season.  Bozak has been a solid top nine center for the Leafs in his career, who simply doesn't get any attention.

Carter LaCorte1 Comment