#NHLTopPlayers: Nos. 30-21

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[#NHLTopPlayers Right Now: 50-41 | 40-31 | Top Centers | Top Wings | Top D-men | Top Goalies]

 

30. John Tavares, C, Toronto Maple Leafs

Tavares set NHL career highs in goals (47; third in NHL), points (88) and rating (plus-19) in 2018-19, his first season with the Maple Leafs. He scored 26 goals last season and has scored at least 24 every season since entering the NHL with the New York Islanders in 2009-10. Tavares scored at least 60 points for the ninth time in 10 full NHL seasons and won 55.3 percent of his face-offs, the sixth straight season he won at least 50 percent.

“John Tavares has been money since he’s gotten [to Toronto],” NHL Network analyst Mike Rupp said. “He’s over a point-per-game type player for the Toronto Maple Leafs and has been for most of his career. … I love what he’s done. He’s lived up to the bill.”

Video: John Tavares places 30th on the top 50 players list

 

29. Sebastian Aho, C, Carolina Hurricanes

Aho scored an NHL career-high 38 goals last season and led the Hurricanes in points for the second straight season with 66. He scored four shorthanded goals and leads the NHL with eight over the past two seasons. Aho had eight multigoal games and was one of 11 players to score at least five points in a game (three goals, two assists against the Minnesota Wild on Dec. 7). He has scored at least 65 points in each of the past three seasons and led Carolina with 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in eight Stanley Cup Playoff games last season.

“There’s something to be said when the other team starts game planning for you and then you still put those numbers up,” Rupp said. “But when they’re game planning for him and he still does it, gets better every year … that’s where that kid is a really special player.”

Video: Sebastian Aho places 29th on the top 50 players list

 

28. Mark Stone, RW, Vegas Golden Knights

Stone scored 63 points (21 goals, 42 assists) in 65 games to top the 60-point mark for the fifth time in the past six seasons. He led Golden Knights forwards in ice time per game (19:25) and was second in shorthanded ice time per game (1:56). He was tied for second in the NHL in takeaways (78), the third time in the past four seasons he finished in the top two in the category. Stone, who was voted the runner-up for the Selke Trophy in 2018-19, awarded to the best defensive forward, has scored 74 points (26 goals, 48 assists) in 83 regular-season games and 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 27 playoff games with the Golden Knights since being acquired in a trade from the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 25, 2019.

“Usually the guys that are in that echelon (for goals) don’t lock it down defensively in a lot of areas,” Rupp said. “He doesn’t have to cheat to get the offense. Is he ever going to get 100 points? I don’t believe so. But as a winger, he was a Selke finalist.”

Video: Mark Stone places 28th on the top 50 players list

 

27. Mark Scheifele, C, Winnipeg Jets

Scheifele has been one of the most consistent centers in the NHL during the past five seasons. He tied Kyle Connor for the Jets lead with 73 points (29 goals, 44 assists) last season after leading them with 38 goals and scoring an NHL career-high 84 points in 2018-19. Scheifele has scored at least 29 goals in four of the past five seasons and at least 73 points in three of the five. He scored 14 goals in 17 games in the 2018 playoffs.

“If you’re asking me for centerman today, to go into a playoff series … there might be three or four in the League that I’d pick over him. That’s how high I think of him,” Rupp said. “He doesn’t get the attention as much as he probably should.”

Video: Mark Scheifele places 27th on the top 50 players list

 

26. Alex Pietrangelo, D, Vegas Golden Knights

Pietrangelo scored an NHL career-high 16 goals in 70 games for the St. Louis Blues last season, and his 52 points were two shy of his high, set in 2017-18. He also set NHL career highs in power-play points (22; six goals, 16 assists) and shots on goal (225) playing a St. Louis-leading average of 24:11 per game. Pietrangelo, who was Blues captain from 2016-20, helped them to the best points percentage in the Western Conference last season (.662) after leading NHL defensemen with 19 points (three goals, 16 assists) in 26 games in the 2019 playoffs, when St. Louis won the Stanley Cup for the first time in its history. He scored six points (one goal, five assists) in nine games in the 2020 postseason before signing a seven-year contract with Vegas on Oct. 12.

“He is consistent. He eats a lot of minutes, he can add to your power play, he’s very solid defensively,” Rupp said. “He does everything good. Nothing’s going to blow you out of the water, but he’s solid and he eats up those minutes which are so important.”

Video: Pietrangelo places 26th on the top 50 players list

 

25. Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, Florida Panthers

Huberdeau led the Panthers with 78 points (23 goals, 55 assists) in 69 games last season after his 92 points (30 goals, 62 assists) were second to center Aleksander Barkov‘s 96 in 2018-19. He led them in power-play points (29), was second among forwards in ice time per game (18:46), became Florida’s all-time leader in points (437), and had seven games with at least three points to help Florida earn a berth in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers.

“I like where he’s at on this list,” Rupp said. “What he did in the strange season of 2019-20, he’s still on pace to be a 90-plus-point guy. … This guy has put the points up. … Jonathan Huberdeau, I don’t think we’ve seen the ceiling on him yet.”

Video: Huberdeau places 25th on the top 50 players list

 

24. Mikko Rantanen, RW, Colorado Avalanche

Although he was limited to 42 games last season because of injuries, Rantanen was fifth on the Avalanche with 41 points (19 goals, 22 assists) after scoring at least 84 in each of the previous two seasons. He is tied with center Nathan MacKinnon for first on the Avalanche with 36 power-play goals and second with 82 power-play points (36 goals, 46 assists) to MacKinnon’s 100 since 2017-18. Rantanen has scored 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) in 27 playoff games the past two seasons.

“Health is the biggest concern with this guy because if he is healthy … he could crack top 10 on this list,” Rupp said. “This guy is that good.”

 

23. Aleksander Barkov, C, Florida Panthers

Barkov scored 62 points (20 goals, 42 assists) in 66 games last season after setting NHL career highs in goals (35), assists (61) and points (96) in 2018-19. He won the Lady Byng Trophy voted as the most gentlemanly player in the NHL in 2018-19, when he was called for four minor penalties all season and finished fifth in voting for the Selke Trophy. 

“I love his game, I love him as a player — he’s got to find that next level, though,” Rupp said. “He’s not underrated anymore, and now I think that he’s getting to that point, if they’re going to have success in South Florida, Sasha Barkov’s got to crank that up to another level.”

 

22. Mika Zibanejad, C, New York Rangers

Zibanejad had the only five-goal game in the NHL last season (March 5 against the Washington Capitals) and led the NHL in goals per game (0.72; 41 in 57). Although he missed 13 games with an upper-body injury, he set NHL career highs for goals and points (75), increasing his total in each for the third straight season. Zibanejad led Rangers forwards in ice time per game (21:38) and shorthanded ice time per game (2:37), and he was tied for third in the NHL with five shorthanded points (three goals, two assists).

“Mika had an unbelievable year this year,” Rupp said. “This guy could be — he was in the conversation for the Hart. He should be in the conversation for Selkes. He was in the running for the Rocket [Richard Trophy] this year for goals. He’s the complete package, Mika.”

 

21. Mitchell Marner, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs

After leading Toronto with an NHL career-high 94 points (26 goals, 68 assists) in 2018-19, he finished second last season with 67 points, including a Toronto-leading 51 assists, behind center Auston Matthews‘s 80. Marner led Maple Leafs forwards in ice time per game for the second straight season (21:33) and scored 24 power-play points (six goals, 18 assists), his fourth straight season with at least 20. He had four assists in five postseason games last season.

“He’s the one player, if you plucked him out of that, the team would be hurt the most,” Rupp said. “He drives offense. He sets up plays, he runs that power play … you don’t notice those things a lot of times because you have John Tavares, you have Auston Matthews. Mitch Marner, he’s been awesome.”

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