6 – Brad Marchand
The progression of this player over the past five years has been astounding. Marchand has gone from being a really good top-six option you can pencil in for 25-30 goals to a complete 200-foot forward that can play in every situation and gives you 30-40 goals. In today’s NHL, that puts you right at the top of the pack. The 29-year-old is fifth in the league in goals over the last two seasons behind Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, and Vladimir Tarasenko.
7 – Artemi Panarin
One of the bigger storylines around the league is the curiosity about what Panarin will look like in Columbus, away from Kane, Anisimov, Toews, and all the great options Panarin has been able to ride shotgun to in two seasons in Chicago. Panarin put up 151 points in 162 games over that span before being traded to the Blue Jackets for Brandon Saad, Anton Forsberg, and a draft pick. His numbers have been pretty consistent since coming into the league regardless of who he’s skated with, so I wouldn’t expect too big a drop-off.
8 – Blake Wheeler
The promise he showed in flashes while he was in Boston has come to fruition in Winnipeg. Wheeler, who has played 697 of a possible 704 games going back to the start of the 2008-09 season (his rookie season), has emerged as a force in the few seasons. He followed up a career-high 78 points in 2015-16 with 74 last season. The 31-year-old is one of the top two-way forwards in the league.
9 – Phil Kessel
Just a nice guy that tries hard and loves the game. The thing I always say about Devils forward Taylor Hall is once he’s on a great team you’ll see how good a player he is. That was true with Kessel, who suffered through six seasons in Toronto after forcing his way out of Boston in 2009. In two seasons since being dealt to Pittsburgh, the Penguins have won back-to-back Stanley Cups (first team to do so since 1997-98 Red Wings, in case you didn’t hear), and Kessel has played an integral role on both those title teams. He was the best player on the HBK line with Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs before riding shotgun to 2017 SCP leading scorer Evgeni Malkin a year later. The 29-year-old has played 610 straight games, not missing a game since October 2009.
10 – Taylor Hall
Unfortunately Hall has been stuck on bad teams throughout his seven-year career, so he’s never had a chance to truly showcase how good a player he is. The lack of success in Edmonton – and last season, New Jersey – has come despite Hall’s production. The one problem with Hall has been his ability to stay on the ice. Only once has he played 82 games in a season, and he’s 87 games during his seven seasons in the league.