Predicting the Top 7 NHL Players of 2021/22

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Now that we have a good chunk of the 2021 season underway, there has been some enlightening games that have had us all rethinking our options for the best NHL players. The best point-scorers, playmakers, lockdown defenders and more are on this list, and no one can deny they are, but at what rank? There are trophies, goals, and points to consider – not to mention the overall results of the games and the love of the fans. 

Who is really the best of the best? Well, that’s what we’re here to discuss. A few games in, it became clear who was going to lead their team to victory and who was lower on the totem pole. Take a look at our rankings and see for yourself if you think we got it right. 

Or head to some of the top sites for betting and put your money where your mouth is. Ultimately, the time on the ice rink will prove it.

  1. Artemi Panarin, LW, New York Rangers

2020-21 Stats: 42 games, 17 goals, 41 assists, 58 points

Panarin had the pick of the bunch when he started, with teams everywhere clambering to draft him. But instead, he entered the arena a free agent in 2015 and has since gone on to rack up points, at 473, putting him in fifth place since 2015. 

And that’s all without mentioning his well-deserved Calder Trophy win as Rookie of the Year in 2016. It made him the first Chicago player to win the award since Patrick Kane in 2007. 

  1. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Washington Capitals

2020-21 Stats: 45 games, 24 goals, 18 assists, 42 points

Nicknamed Alexander the Great for a reason, the Washington Capitals player was unfortunately limited this season to 45 games by an injury. However, he set out to prove that a little wear and tear wasn’t going to hold him back and led his entire team in goals. He also passed players Mike Gartner and Phil Esposito to reach to 6th in NHL history with 730. 

  1. Nikita Kucherov, RW, Tampa Bay Lightning

Honors: Art Ross Trophy (2018-19), Ted Lindsay Award (2018-19), Hart Memorial Trophy (2018-19), Stanley Cup champion (2019-20, 2020-21)

We’re getting into the true greats now. Separating the boys from the men starts with Nikita Kucherov. More than just a pretty shirtless face, Kucherov has proved he became the darling of Tampa Bay with his skills on the ice.

Rather than dragging himself out of a hip surgery, he practically strode out of it and then went on to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to their second straight Stanley Cup win. It’s truly an underdog story for the ages. The sooner a movie is out, the better. 

I say “lead”, because he managed to produce 32 points in 23 amazing games, which came out to nine more than any other postseason player. His points-per-game stats at 1.31 is only bested by famed Connor McDavid. 

  1. Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins

Honors: Art Ross Trophy (2006-07, 2013-14), Rocket Richard Trophy (2009-10, 2016-17), Ted Lindsay Award (2006-07, 2012-13, 2013-14), Hart Memorial Trophy (2006-07, 2013-14), Conn Smythe Trophy (2015-16, 2016-17), Stanley Cup champion (2008-09, 2015-16, 2016-17)

Once he was Sid the Kid, way back when he first stepped onto the NHL rink, now he’s reaching 34 and still is showing no signs of slowing down. 

After 16 seasons, that no. 1 overall pick 2005 is still paying off, with a placement of 10th in the league due to a point-per-game clip that saw him dominate with 62 points over 55 games. But it shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Penguin player has always managed to expertly maintain his point-per-game pace. 

His racking up of trophies and honors alone will surely see him make it into the Hall of Fame. 

  1. Nathan MacKinnon, C, Colorado Avalanche

Honors: Calder Trophy (2013-14), Lady Byng Trophy (2019-20)

A baby-faced Nathan first stepped up to the NHL ice rink at just 18 and has since raised himself and his Avalanche team to an elite level. It’s no coincidence that the Colorado team quickly gained drastic progress from 2016 when they were last overall, to the President’s Trophy in 2020.

MacKinnon’s 354 goals since 2017 have only been beaten by two other players in that time, making for a hell of a great risk that has well paid off.

  1. Leon Draisaitl, C, Edmonton Oilers

Honors: Art Ross Trophy (2019-20), Ted Lindsay Award (2019-20), Hart Memorial Trophy (2019-20)

The second of two Edmonton Oilers on this list, Draisaitl is a sublime player that has gained a lot of respect in his 25 years. Added to that list of awards is his 20-21 place as fourth in the league in terms of goals, with his impressive 31 total and his Most Valuable Player win in 2019. 

His superior size has served him well, at a whopping 6’2” and 208 pounds, he has surprising versatility on his side, as well as speed. This, plus his determined vision to score has led to him scoring the most goals for the Oilers, 11 across 27 games. 

  1. Connor McDavid, C, Edmonton Oilers

Honors: Art Ross Trophy (2016-17, 2017-18, 2020-21), Ted Lindsay Award (2016-17, 2017-18, 2020-21), Hart Memorial Trophy (2016-17, 2020-21)

Could it really be anyone else? The 24-year-old was the top overall pick in the 2015 draft and has only gone from strength to strength since them, racking up awards like he’s collecting them. Just look at that list of honors, and it’s skimmed down to only the best. 

And only the best is exactly what he gives. The 2020-21 season was a particular favorite, seeing him collect 105 points across 56 games with his impressive speed and stick handling that should be taught in schools. He is regularly seen on the weekly highlight reels and gained his Most Valuable Player nod by a unanimous vote, which is only the second occurrence of such an event, joining a certain Wayne Gretzky in that list. 

Seeing his name next to a great like that can only mean that he deserves the place of top ranking. But who knows what the rest of the season will bring?

I’ve been a freelance journalist since 2000 and have had my work published via AskMen, Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, Busted Coverage, and Autotrader. I’ve done stand-up comedy. I'm a dad, youth soccer club President, and former team statistician for the oldest indoor football team in the world, the Omaha Beef. I’ve married six couples in 10 years and my Marriage to Still Married ratio is 6:6. I always say, it isn’t so much about the “love,” as it is the tasteless jokes that became vows. I started the I-80 Sports Blog to have all the work I've published located in one place and to write about things I want to write about. I don't take anything too seriously and it is a real time saver.