16 – Nicklas Backstrom
Backstrom’s 86 points last season were the most by the Swede since 2009-10, when he put up 101 in his third NHL season. If there was Book on Backstrom, the second paragraph would tell you how he’s so unfairly miscast in Alex Ovechkin’s shadow – which I don’t entirely agree with, I feel the overwhelming consensus within the game is Backstrom is a pretty special player. He’s one of the game’s best playmakers, which is shines brightest on the powerplay, where he anchors one of the top man-advantage units in the league. Backstrom’s 35 powerplay points in 2016-17 led the league on a unit that boasted a 23.1 percent success rate, which was tied with the Penguins for third in the NHL. Since 2011-12, when a concussion cost Backstrom 40 games, he’s missed just seven games, playing all 82 games (or in the case of 2012-13, 48), in four of five seasons.
17 – Jack Eichel
Like I said earlier, the Sabres have one of the better cores in the league. Eichel is the crown jewel. After a high ankle sprain cost him nearly two months to begin last season, the 20-year-old put up 57 points in 61 games, with 36 coming over the final 31. He needs to improve on the draw (35.7 percent on faceoffs) but make no mistake about it, Eichel is on the verge of breaking out as a superstar in this league.
18 – Aleksander Barkov
Best player on a young, talented Panthers team and in short time will be one of the best players in the league. Injuries limited Barkov to 61 games last season but he still managed to put up 52 points. The Fin is the Panthers most dynamic player, who drives play on the ice while taking a bulk of the tough defensive assignments for Florida. The Panthers have their top two centers in Barkov ($5.9 million) and Vincent Trocheck ($4.75 million) locked up through 2021-22 at $10.65 million per year. That’s one of the biggest steals in the league.
19 – Leon Draisaitl
What impact Connor McDavid may or may not have on Draisaitl’s numbers are irrelevant. This kid can flat out play. No, he’s probably not producing 77 points or getting a $68 million deal without McDavid in front of him, but at the end of the day he’s a great two-way forward with few holes in his game. Oilers are setting themselves up nicely with him and McDavid together going forward.
20 – Tyler Seguin
Since being traded to the Stars from the Bruins in 2013, Seguin has 306 points, which ranks fifth in the NHL. To take it a step further, teammate Jamie Benn (who is third in points over that span) had 193 points in four seasons prior to Seguin’s arrival, which was tied for 54th in the league over that span. His creativity and speed in the open ice is among the best in the game.