Fans of the NHL, even if just casual, are very aware of some of the game’s premier players: guys like Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and Sidney Crosby, just to name a few. However, while those stars get the majority of the hype, and rightfully so, there are many other fantastic players throughout the league who do not receive the recognition they deserve. This article is for them, as today we will be looking at the most underrated player on all 31 NHL teams.
The Anaheim Ducks are in a transition period right now. Until fairly recently, they were one of the powerhouses of the Western Conference with the likes of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry leading the way. However, times have changed. With Perry being bought out prior to the 2019-20 season and Getzlaf in a steady decline, the Ducks are struggling and are receiving little media attention as of late.
While the team as a whole has struggled, 22-year-old Maxime Comtois has quietly put together a nice season to this point. In what is his first full regular NHL season, he has put up 10 goals and 22 points in 38 games played. Both his goal and point totals are tied for the team lead. The young Canadian forward is turning into a solid professional player, and will only continue getting better. Once the team turns things around, expect to hear his name more often.
For years, the easy answer to pick for the Arizona Coyotes most underrated player was defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, but things have since changed. While he is still a very good player, the Coyotes have a more underrated talent in Conor Garland, who is quietly having a fantastic season.
The recently turned 25-year-old forward has nine goals and 28 points in 37 games for the Yotes this season, after an impressive 22 goal, 39-point outing in last years shortened campaign. Due to the fact he plays for a market that doesn’t get talked about much in the Coyotes, he has received little to no recognition for his play the past two seasons. However, there have been trade rumours surrounding his name as of late. If a trade were to come to fruition, he would certainly get recognized more for just how good he is.
Despite the core getting older, the Boston Bruins continue to be one of the better team’s in the entire NHL. Guys like Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron are continuing to impress and look like they may never slow down. However, another part of that core group who has always gotten much less recognition is David Krejci, who at 34 years old is still finding ways to contribute to the teams success.
Despite having just two goal in 30 games this season, Krejci is still fourth in team scoring with 23 points. The Czech veteran continues to find ways to be productive. Throughout his entire 941 game career with the Bruins, he has 709 points. Though he is not talked about nearly as much as some of the other top Bruins players, he is a major reason why they have been this good for this long.
It is tough to pick an underrated player in Buffalo right now given how bad they have struggled over the years, particularly this season. However, just because Jack Eichel gets all the hype doesn’t mean they don’t have other talented players on the roster. One in particular who doesn’t get brought up nearly enough is Sam Reinhart, who is leading the team in scoring this season.
Reinhart has often caught flack for his lofty draft position at second overall in 2014, largely due to the fact that Leon Draisaitl went third. While Draisaitl is the superior player, it isn’t fair to criticize the 25-year-old Reinhart for that. Despite not being put in a position to succeed given the teams major struggles over the years, he has put up three seasons of 50 points or more in his NHL career, including a career high 65 in 2018-19. If he were to end up on a better team, he would certainly get a lot more respect.
While the top forwards in Calgary who receive recognition are Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk, one who has been just as productive in the past few seasons is Elias Lindholm. The 26-year-old was acquired by the Flames in a trade along with Noah Hanifin that saw Dougie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland go the other way, and has been a very good producer ever since.
In 2018-19, Lindholm’s first season with the Flames, he posted a career high 78 points. He then followed that up with a 29-goal campaign in the shortened 2019-20 season, which led his team by a wide margin. Despite the teams struggles this year, he has been able to continue his productivity with a team leading 31 points through 39 games, yet still fails to receive recognition despite playing in a Canadian market. On top of being very underrated, he is also massively underpaid, as he is on a contract with a cap hit of just $4.85 million that runs through the end of the 2023-24 season.
This was an extremely tough one to decide on, given that nearly every Carolina Hurricanes player is extremely underrated. However, I think it’s tough to argue with the selection of Sebastian Aho. The 23-year-old Finnish forward has quietly developed into one of the games most complete players, and is one of, if not the biggest reason that the Hurricanes are currently one of the top teams in the NHL standings.
Both Aho’s 15 goals and 33 points lead his team, one which is loaded with offensive weapons. The big numbers are nothing new for Aho either, who in 347 career games has a very impressive 136 goals and 296 points. The Canes have turned into a powerhouse this season, and likely won’t be going away anytime soon given how young their core is. Hopefully that results in Aho getting more attention from media down the road.
The Chicago Blackhawks find themselves in a scenario similar to the Anaheim Ducks, given that for years they were a dominant team in the Western Conference (albeit more successful) who have slowed down the last few seasons due to an aging core. The one player who continues to receive plenty of recognition is Patrick Kane, who at 32-years-old is still performing at an incredibly elite level with 49 points in 39 games. However, there are some newer, younger players in Chicago who are deserving of some hype themselves, one in particular being Dominik Kubalik.
Despite being a Calder Trophy finalist last season, Kubalik didn’t receive much recognition for his great rookie season given the fact that the two other nominees in Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar had some of the better seasons for rookie defenceman that we have seen in a long time. It was somewhat of a shame Kubalik had to be shadowed by them, as his 30 goals in just 68 games last season was a very impressive feat. He is proving in his second season the offensive totals were no fluke either, as he has 12 goals and 27 points in 39 games so far. He has been a very nice find for the Blackhawks.
The Colorado Avalanche are without a doubt one of the league’s best teams, possessing some of the game’s top players in Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar. While those three play a huge part in why they are so dominant, they have many other players who sometimes get overlooked and would be recognized as stars if they were on different rosters, perhaps none more so than Samuel Girard.
Despite already being in the league for four seasons, Girard is still just 22-years-old and is getting better every year. Last season saw him post 34 points in 70 games, and an even better 10 points in 15 playoff contests. It was clear then that he had raw offensive talent, and it has been on full display this season. In 35 games this year, he is tied for fourth in team scoring with 28 points. He is becoming one of the games better offensive defencemen, and will still only continue getting better.
Columbus Blue Jackets
When Oliver Bjorkstrand agreed to a five-year, $27 million extension with the Columbus Blue Jackets prior to the start of the 2020-21 season, many seemed to think the deal was an overpayment, proving just how underrated he is. The now 25-year-old has continually gotten better offensively each season, all while continuing to be very defensively responsible.
After posting two straight seasons of over 20 goals, Bjorkstrand has ramped it up even more this year with a team leading 14 goals and 31 points in 40 contests. Given the Blue Jackets struggles and drama that has surrounded them this season, Bjorkstrand has not garnered the attention he deserves. If they are able to turn things around however, expect that to change.
While Roope Hintz showed flashes of his potential with the Dallas Stars the past few seasons, it is clear he has arrived this year. After an impressive 19 goal, 33-point campaign in 60 games last season, he has been even better this year, sitting third in team scoring with 24 points despite playing in just 25 games.
Given some of the bigger names in Dallas like Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and John Klingberg, it is likely that Hintz will continue to fly under the radar going forward. Still, he has turned into one of their most important players and has established himself as a part of their main core going forward. Stars fans should be very thankful to have him in the fold.
Detroit Red Wings
If the Detroit Red Wings weren’t as bad as they have been the past few seasons, Filip Hronek would likely be talked about as one of the game’s better upcoming defencemen. At just 23-years-old, he is really starting to put up impressive numbers from the back end, and is leading his team in scoring this year with 22 points in 40 games.
Unfortunately for Hronek, the Red Wings are still in the early stages of a complete rebuild, and given that he is without a doubt their best defenceman as well as one of their best all around players, he will likely be there through it all. Hopefully general manager Steve Yzerman can turn things around so Hronek gets the credit he deserves.
The Edmonton Oilers had three-straight first overall picks from 2010-2012, but a decade later only have one of those players on their roster. That is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who was picked in 2011. After a very impressive rookie season, it took him some time to develop his offensive game at the NHL level, but has really figured things out the past few seasons. The 2019-20 season was shaping up to be the best we had seen from him, as he had 22 goals and 61 points in 65 games prior to the season pausing and then being cancelled.
Not only has he begun putting up solid offensive numbers, but he is also very sound defensively and is used in many situations by the Oilers. Considering he is playing behind two of the best players in the world in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, he will likely never get the recognition he deserves in Edmonton. However, he is currently set to become an unrestricted free agent at seasons end, and while the Oilers want to keep him around, the salary cap may not allow that to happen. If he were to move on, he would certainly get put in more conversations as one of the games better two-way centers.
Now, I know writing this that everyone will come at me saying the most underrated player on the Florida Panthers is Aleksander Barkov. In fact, he has even been voted as the leagues most underrated in polls decided on by other NHL players. However, with how much talk he has surrounding him about being underrated, it seems now that everyone, fans included, understand just how good he is. Now, there is another player in Florida who deserves the same hype in Jonathan Huberdeau.
Over the past three seasons, the 27-year-old Huberdeau ranks eighth in the entire NHL in scoring with an incredible 212 points over that span. Those great totals are continuing this year as he has a team leading 42 points on the season. With the Panthers currently sitting atop league standings, it may not be long until Huberdeau gets more acknowledgement as one of the games most offensively talented player.
Los Angeles Kings
While most would still think of Jonathan Quick when discussing the L.A. Kings goalies, the truth is the two time Stanley Cup champion has been forced to take a backseat this season to 26-year-old Cal Petersen. Coming into the 2020-21 season, he had just 18 NHL games under his belt, but had performed very well in them, and has continued to do so this year.
Now past the midway point of the season, he has appeared in 20 games to Quick’s 16. He has also posted far superior numbers, as he has put up a 2.49 goals against average (GAA) and a .926 save percentage (SV%) compared to Quick’s 2.99 GAA and .893 SV%. Although it is still a relatively small sample size, he looks like the Kings new starting goalie for the foreseeable future.
Since making his NHL debut during the 2012-13 season, Jonas Brodin has been the Minnesota Wild’s primary shutdown defenceman. It is a role he has excelled at for a long period of time now, but has failed to get much a ton of acknowledgement for. A big part of this has been due to little offensive productivity throughout his career, however that appears to be changing.
The 2019-20 season saw Brodin improve his offensive totals, posting a career high 28 points in 69 games. This year, the 27-year-old has 16 points in 34 games, all while still maintaining his steady defensive presence. While many questioned the seven-year, $42 million extension he received last September, the public perception on both him and the contract may soon change if the offence keeps up. Regardless, Wild fans know just how valuable he is even if the rest of the league has failed to take notice.
The Montreal Canadiens have had one of the more consistent and solid defencemen in the entire league in Jeff Petry for quite some time now, though few seemed to ever realize. Thankfully, that is changing this year due to his outstanding 11 goals and 27 points in 34 games.
As of now, he is certainly in the running for the Norris Trophy, which has garnered him some of the chatter he has deserved for a number of years now. If he is able to get to the 40-point mark this year, which seems likely, it will mark the fourth straight season he has done so. The offence is just one part of his game too, as he is also very good in his own end. It is great he is getting recognized for his terrific play this season, but as a whole he still remains quite underrated.
Compared to most others on this list, Nashville Predators forward Calle Jarnkrok is not a star forward, nor does he have the potential to be one. At 29-years-old, he has never scored 20 goals or had a 40-point season. Despite not having the offensive talent as some others here however, he is just as valuable of a player.
The best part about Jarnkrok is his consistency. Through his first six seasons in the NHL, he scored 16 and 15 goals two times each. He has also had north of 30 points in four of those seasons, including last year in which he put up 15 goals and 34 points in just 64 games. This season has been more of the same, as he has 11 goals and 19 points in 33 games. To make matters even better, he is terrific defensively and plays a huge role on the Predators penalty kill, all while being on a contract that carries a cap hit of just $2 million, which kicked in prior to the 2016-17 season. He has one of the most team friendly deals in the entire league and deserves more credit for just how solid of a player he is.
New Jersey Devils
When fans discuss the youth of the New Jersey Devils, it seems the most common names brought up are players like Jack Hughes, who went first overall at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, and Ty Smith, who is in the running for the Calder Trophy this season. However, another first overall pick in Nico Hischier often seems to get overshadowed.
While Hischier’s career has been injury riddled thus far, his great two-way play is on display when he is in the lineup. This is a player who at 18-years-old put up a 20 goal, 52-point season, so clearly the talent is there. Unfortunately, he has only appeared in five games this year due to injury, but is looking like he could return to the lineup in the near future. Hopefully when that happens the Swiss forward, who is still just 22-years-old, is able to prove to everybody just how good he is.
New York Islanders
The New York Islanders, outside of Mat Barzal, are a team that doesn’t possess a lot of elite level talent. Having said that, they are one of the better all around teams in the NHL, and that is in big part due to the amount of good, underrated players they have on their roster. One that really stands out is their captain, Anders Lee.
While many are aware that the Islanders captain is a solid player, he often gets overlooked when talking about some of the games better goal scorers. In five of his seven NHL seasons, he has 20 or more goals, and would have likely hit that mark again with 12 in 27 had he not suffered a season ending knee injury in March. Though he isn’t an elite goal scorer, he is in the tier right below, and doesn’t get brought up as much as he should.
New York Rangers
New York Rangers forward Pavel Buchnevich has been a player that many have predicted to have a breakout season the last two or three years, and now it is finally happening. The 25-year-old is quietly having a fantastic season for the Rangers with 14 goals and 32 points in 36 games, which is just four points shy of the team lead.
The Rangers are a star studded team with guys like Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad up front and Russian phenom Igor Shesterkin in net, so it may be tough for Buchnevich to get the credit he deserves going forward. However, if he is able to continue this great play moving forward, expect to hear his name get brought up more when the Rangers are being discussed.
The Ottawa Senators are a very young team with plenty of exceptional talent, which should be able to help turn them into contenders down the road. Due to hype players like Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle, and Josh Norris receive, another great young talent in Drake Batherson often gets left out.
Batherson, 22, spent the majority of the past two seasons with the Belleville Senators where he put up a combined 116 points in 103 games. He has impressed so far this year in Ottawa as well, as he is tied with Tkachuk for the team lead in goals with 12, while also tied with Thomas Chabot for first in points with 23. Though he doesn’t get brought up as much as he should, he is certainly one of the core players moving forward in Ottawa.
Though it took some time, Sean Couturier has figured things out offensively at the NHL level over the past four seasons. Despite the Philadelphia Flyers struggling, he is having another terrific year with 27 points in 25 games. As great as he has become offensively, he is even better defensively, proven by his Selke Trophy win last season.
Despite being awarded the Selke however, he still remains quite underrated and often fails to get brought up when talking about the games elite players. A great telling tale of this is how he has been left of nearly every Team Canada roster prediction for the upcoming 2022 Olympics. Even worse is that he is failed to even get listed in the players who just barely missed the cut. Hopefully more can realize just how good he is before the Olympics begin, as he is certainly deserving of making the team.
One of the more surprising stat lines looking back at the 2019-20 season was Bryan Rust having 27 goals and 56 points in 55 games. Sure, playing on a line with one of the best players to ever play the game in Sidney Crosby certainly plays a role in that, but those numbers are still extremely impressive and are certainly deserving of Rust getting more recognition than he has so far in his career.
Though he isn’t at the same point per game pace as last season, Rust is still tied for third in team scoring this year with 28 points in 38 games. He has clearly found chemistry with Crosby similar to what Chris Kunitz had done in the past, yet gets far less recognition for it.
San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks were a tough team to select from, given that a lot of their players are guys who received high recognition in years past but are now on the back nine of their careers. One player however who is still just 24-years-old and has proven he can put up good totals at the NHL level is Timo Meier.
Just two seasons ago, the young Swiss forward put up career highs with 30 goals and 66 points in 78 games. While he has regressed some since, he is still having a fairly productive 2020-21 season for the Sharks with 22 points in 35 contests. If San Jose is able to turn things around in the near future, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him go back to the same productivity he had two years ago.
St. Louis Blues
St. Louis Blues forward David Perron is a player who puts up very good numbers nearly every season but never seems to get talked about. He truly has become one of the games most underrated players at this point, and is off to another fantastic start this year, leading the Blues with 37 points in 37 games.
Given that he is 32-years-old, it seems unlikely that Perron will start to get talked about more at this point. For whatever reason, he is a player who has just flown under the radar his entire career, and will continue to do so. As of now, he has 236 goals and 587 points in 887 career games.
Tampa Bay Lightning
It is easy to discredit certain Tampa Bay Lightning players, given that they have some of the game’s greatest superstars in Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Simply put, they are absolutely stacked and there is a reason many expect them to repeat as Stanley Cup champions this year. One player who often gets forgotten about when talking about talent on their roster is Ondrej Palat.
The 30-year-old is now in his eighth season with the Lightning, and is continuing to put up impressive numbers for them. In 38 games this year, he has 12 goals and 33 points, trailing Hedman by just three for the team lead. This is shaping up to be the best season points per game wise of his career, so perhaps this is what will finally get people talking about him.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs are both a very good team and a very talked about team, given that they undeniably have the largest fan base in the entire league. Still, when it comes to Leafs discussions, the players who receive the most chatter are guys like Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander. Those three are extremely important players for them, but another who often fails to get the same praise is Zach Hyman.
Sure, Hyman isn’t nearly as skilled as the other three mentioned above, but he provides the Leafs with grit, something they have not had enough of in recent years. He has also proven to be a very good winger for Matthews, as he has no problem doing the dirty work like retrieving pucks in the corners. He is in the midst of his best NHL season to date with 12 goals and 25 points in 36 games.
Another captain who seems to fly under the radar throughout the league is Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat. The Canucks selected the now 25-year-old ninth overall at the 2013 draft after acquiring the pick in exchange for goaltender Cory Schneider. While the trade was received well by the Vancouver fan base at the time, views on it have certainly changed since. Still, on a team that has plenty of star-studded talent up front in players like Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, and J.T. Miller, Horvat often gets overlooked.
While Horvat will never be an elite offensive producer, he is capable of putting up north of 50 points a season, something he has done three times to this point in his career, including a career high 61 set in 2018-19. He has also recorded 20 goals or more in the last four straight seasons. On top of that, he is a great defensive player as well as a terrific leader for this young Canucks squad. Any team on the league would be extremely lucky to have a player like him.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights have many players who are underrated amongst the league. Until recently, Mark Stone could have been the player to put on this list, however in more recent years he seems to finally be getting the respect he deserves. One who has not gotten that is Shea Theodore, who is turning into one of the games better defenceman.
The 2019-20 season saw Theodore begin to come into his own, establishing new career highs with 13 goals and 46 points. While that was impressive in itself, this year has been a real coming out party, as the 25-year-old has 29 points in 33 games so far. Despite many not being very familiar with him, he is a near lock for Team Canada at the 2022 Olympics at this point. Perhaps being on the world stage will prove to everybody how special of a talent he is.
Did this one even need to be said? Sure, you could argue that Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals is like Barkov in that for years everyone said he was the league’s most underrated player, thus really making him no longer that. However, that talk surrounding Backstrom has died down in recent years despite the fact he is still playing at an elite level offensively.
At 33-years-old, Backstrom is continuing to get things done with 13 goals and 39 points in 38 games this season. With how good he is defensively, along with how good his entire career has been with 966 points in 994 games, it is truly a shame that he has no individual awards to his name, as he has certainly been deserving of some over his career.
When thinking about the top forwards on the Winnipeg Jets, the names that immediately come to mind for most are Blake Wheeler, Mark Scheifele, and in more recent years Kyle Connor. However, they have another equally dangerous one in Nikolaj Ehlers, who is quickly turning into one of the more underrated players throughout the entire league.
The 25-year-old has scored over 20 goals in four of his five seasons in the league, and is on pace to easily do so again this season despite it being just 56 games long. In 38 games so far, Ehlers has 15 goals and 36 points. He is turning into a star player this season and will hopefully get recognized as such in the near future.
In doing this list, there are several other players who are deserving of spots that had to be left off. To put it simply, the NHL is a very talented league with many very skilled individual players. In a league that only continues to get better and better, it is very exciting to imagine what the NHL will look like in the future.
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