The third part of the list features the NHL players who are considered to be upper echelon talent but do not quite make it to superstar level.
50. Logan Couture
The Sharks center really showed out in the postseason, and had his best regular season to date as well. He finally digs into the upper tier of NHL players with a 70 point season. The postseason performance is what pushes him this high though, so hopefully Couture can emphasize on that stretch with a spectacular regular season as well.
49. Claude Giroux
Giroux continues to be incredibly productive, even as he’s aging. Scoring 85 points for a bad Philadelphia team is an accomplishment in itself. The Flyers winger also is a strong defensive forward, and he will look to continue his production even through his advancing age.
48. Matthew Tkachuk
Tkachuk proved to be a staple in the Flames offense, getting his first season with over 70 points. Despite having a reputation as a dirty grinding forward, Tkachuk was able to add much more offense to his game, upping his point total by 28 points between 2017-18 and 2018-19.
47. Kris Letang
Letang had a great year for the Penguins. The defenseman had 56 points, and, similarly to Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, has trouble staying healthy. Letang finally was able to maintain health, and had a great season. Although Pittsburgh’s season ended early, Letang had a season that puts him back in the conversation of top NHL defensemen.
46. Mark Scheifele
Scheifele had a season that reaffirms his status as a top NHL player after a down year. Upping his point total by 24 points, Scheifele had a resurgent season after being considered a top 25 NHL player. Scheifele has still not proven enough to be considered a top 25 NHL player, mostly due to his inconsistency between years. There is still plenty of time though, and he will undoubtedly continue to make strides.
45. Torey Krug
Krug had an outstanding season. Staying healthy has been an evasive concept for Krug, but he finally was able to, mostly, stay in the lineup, and proved his effectiveness when healthy by scoring 53 points, leading all defensemen in points per game.
44. Ryan McDonagh
McDonagh, a star defenseman for the Tampa Bay Lightning, is a very solid blueliner. McDonagh added 46 points, while playing solid defense. McDonagh is pretty underrated, mostly due to the shining star of the Lightning’s defensive corps, Victor Hedman.
43. Pekka Rinne
Rinne, who won the Vezina trophy in 2018, backed it up with another strong season. Finishing 7th in the Vezina voting, the Predators goalie still has solid game. Rinne will look to anchor a Predator defense that has suffered the loss of defensemen PK Subban in a trade to the New Jersey Devils.
42. Joe Pavelski
The longtime San Jose Shark left the Sharks to join the Dallas Stars this offseason. Pavelski, who will join Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov on the Stars, has scored at least 60 points each of the last 6 seasons and was a mark of consistency on the Sharks, but will look to continue his production as he ages and moves cities.
41. Phil Kessel
Kessel had an outstanding tenure with the Pittsburgh Penguins that ended with a trade to the Arizona Coyotes. Kessel drops in the list because, for obvious reasons, he won’t be playing alongside former Hart trophy winner Evgeni Malkin anymore. The 31 year old winger will look to continue the production in the desert with a team that may be able to finally climb out of mediocrity.
40. Sebastian Aho
Aho had an outstanding season by scoring 30 goals and 83 points, leading the Hurricanes to their first playoff berth since their cup victory in 2006, and eventually taking them all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals before their loss to the Boston Bruins. Aho will look to continue his upward trajectory with the addition of former Maple Leaf defenseman and scapegoat Jake Gardiner.
39. Sean Monahan
The Calgary centerman had an outstanding year. A two way center, Monahan flies under the radar on his own team because of the stardom of Johnny Gaudreau. The Flames center is a star, and he may need to cement his own stardom with an even stronger season.
Eichel is one of those players that generates plenty of hype on a consistently underperforming team. The center scored 82 points for the Sabres in a quality offensive season. However, the Sabres need to perform better as a team for Eichel to finally make the jump to elite status.
37. Jonathan Huberdeau
Huberdeau is underrated to many, perhaps including me. Huberdeau had more than 90 points, playing every game on his way to a breakout season. Another quiet superstar playing in the faraway reaches of Sunrise, Florida, Huberdeau does not have the exposure as many of the other 90 point scorers.
36. Matt Duchene
Duchene split last year between the Ottawa Senators and Columbus Blue Jackets. Duchene had a solid year, scoring 70 points, even after a poor run with the Columbus Blue Jackets, which should make Nashville fans happy, because they haven’t had a 70 point scorer in years. Add him to a team that severely lacks goalscoring along with defenseman Roman Josi, who himself is a top 10 defenseman, and the Predators look to be a scarier team than last year.
35. Taylor Hall
The former Hart trophy winner had a year that was nothing short of awful last year. The Devils winger scored 37 points before getting hurt and missing the rest of the year, which ended unceremoniously, with the Devils finishing last in their division. Hall hopes to rebound with a reloaded Devils team that features 1st overall pick Jack Hughes, star defenseman PK Subban, and power forward Wayne Simmonds.
34. Ryan O’Reilly
O’Reilly had an incredible showing in the postseason, winning the Conn Smythe trophy. Only adding to his hardware from this year, O’Reilly beat out Mark Stone and Patrice Bergeron respectively for the Selke trophy. O’Reilly was hidden with his last two teams, the Avalanche (before their good years) and the Sabres, and he is finally getting the exposure that he needed to be considered a top player in the NHL.
33. Vladimir Tarasenko
The St. Louis Blues winger was getting looks to be traded at the deadline. A great second half later, Tarasenko is a champion and bonafide superstar in today’s NHL. He almost eclipsed the 80 point mark, and, a strong postseason later, Tarasenko proves his status as a top 40 NHL player.
32. Mark Stone
The former Ottawa Senators winger had another outstanding season. He scored 73 points and even finished 2nd behind Ryan O’Reilly in the Selke race. After getting traded to Las Vegas, Stone went on an incredible hot streak, culminating in an otherworldly playoff performance, scoring 12 points in only 7 games, which may see him vault to the status of NHL elite: if he’s not there already.
31. Blake Wheeler
The former Bruin and Winnipeg Jets winger had another great year for the Winnipeg Jets. He scored 91 points, aided by more than 70 assists. The Winnipeg captain provides outstanding offense for the Jets, and his defensive instincts are also excellent. Wheeler, despite an advanced age, is still a key contributor on a contending team in Winnipeg.
30. Roman Josi
The tough defenseman and Nashville Predators captain had another spectacular season. Josi scored 15 goals and added 41 assists for a grand total of 56 points. Josi will look to anchor the Predators’ blueline without PK Subban. He will definitely be helped by the addition of Matt Duchene and the return of Viktor Arvidsson from injury and the hopeful resurgence of Filip Forsberg.
29. Evgeni Malkin
The Pittsburgh Penguins star had a down year compared to his usual standards, only scoring 72 points. The former Hart trophy winner is still a great player nevertheless, but his increasing age and decreasing production leads to his drop. A report by the Athletic about Malkin details his malcontent with his production last year, so we may be able to expect him to come out strong.
28. Tyler Seguin
The former Bruin continues to put up great numbers in Dallas. He is definitely an elite player in this league, and, alongside new addition Joe Pavelski and returning stars Jamie Benn, Miro Heiskanen, and Alexander Radulov, Seguin will help the Stars return to the playoffs, maybe even in a top seed.
27. Artemi Panarin
The former Blue Jackets winger joined the Rangers on a long term, high AAV deal. The winger is a constant offensive threat, who should continue to put up numbers in the points department, often scoring as many as 80 points and 30 goals.
26. Mikko Rantanen
Rantanen had an incredible year in his breakout season. The winger still falls outside of the top 25, because of the incredible talent in the NHL today. Rantanen should only get better, though, so look for him to continue this trend. Playing alongside Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog, plus the addition of offensive defenseman Cale Makar, should help Rantanen continue his point scoring pace.
Photo Credits: Bob DeChlara, USA Today