Since 2009-10, there have been 2,196 skaters and 229 goaltenders who appeared in at least one National Hockey League game. As this decade comes to a close, it’s time to parse the rolls, narrow the field and select the best of the best.
Presenting the top 100 NHL players of the 2010s.
The following list ranks the best of the decade, pitting skaters against defenseman against goaltenders. The order was determined through statistical and analytic comparisons; consideration for postseason success and awards; and good old-fashioned subjectivity. A few factors we weighed in creating the ranking:
Longevity was respected but not essential. There are players on the list who compiled points through 10 seasons of play, and players who landed on the list by virtue of dominating for a shorter period of time.
Hence, dominant stretches for players can carry weight, even if the seasons surrounding them are just average.
Rates are frequently more important than raw numbers, whether it’s stats per game or per 60 minutes.
Heavy consideration was given to goals and wins above average, as found on the invaluable Evolving Hockey. It’s a metric that attempts to assign a total value to each player, which represents how much that player contributed to their team in a single number. It’s one of the most effective ways to separate the heavy lifters from the coasters.
The list was created through separate rankings for each position that were then contrasted to determine the final order.
A brief word of thanks to everyone who added their expertise to this process, including Luke and Josh of Evolving Wild, Vince Masi of EPSN Stats & Information, ESPN columnist Dimitri Filipovic and many others.
And now, let’s count down the top 100 NHL players of the decade. Let the debates begin!
Note: Players are listed as being with the team with which they’re most closely associated this decade (which may not be their current team). The majority of the stats listed here are through Dec. 16, and were compiled from sources like NHL.com. Hockey Reference and Evolving Hockey.
It’s the ultimate cliché to call a Russian player “enigmatic,” but it’s applicable for a player who started the decade with 40 goals as a core player for the Capitals, and was out of the NHL at 31 years old following one goal in 15 games with Montreal. In between? Three middling seasons with Carolina.
A diminutive but elite offensive backliner for the Bruins, who had a higher power-play points-per-game average in his first four seasons than players like Brent Burns and P.K. Subban.
In pro wrestling, veteran wrestlers in the sunset of their careers are known to bounce from territory to territory, putting on a show at every stop until the crowd starts chanting “you still got it.” To that end, Jaromir Jagr was the Mick Foley or Terry Funk of the NHL this decade. He scored 120 goals and 202 assists for 322 points with (deep breath) the Flyers, Stars, Bruins, Devils, Panthers and Flames from 2011-12 to 2017-18. He lasted only 22 unmemorable games in that last stop before heading to the Czech Republic to play for Kladno, the team he owns. Age finally caught the ageless one.
His total of 466 points in 741 games ranks him 46th among forwards for the decade, but it’s his playoff reputation as “Mr. Game 7” in the Kings’ two Stanley Cup wins that we’ll always remember. Well, that and his role in those goofy “Storm Surge” victory celebrations with the Hurricanes.
Vanek entered the decade as one of the NHL’s best instant-offense guys, with 228 points in 267 games for the Sabres. The rest of the decade: Four trades, and stints with the Islanders, Wild, Red Wings, Panthers, Canucks, Blue Jackets and then the Red Wings again. In the end, his 529 points ranked him 34th for the decade.
Since 2017, Gibson leads all goalies in goals saved (67.3) and wins (12.8) above average. He won the Jennings Trophy in tandem with Frederik Andersen for the 2015-16 season.
With 171 points over the last two seasons, the 23-year-old Finn is just getting started.
Marner just edges ahead of Rantanen with 248 points to the Avs forward’s 229, including 94 points in his very enriching 2018-19 season.
The Jets center ranked 37th in the NHL in points per game for the decade, at 0.84, and ranked 20th in goals above average per 60 minutes (0.616). He ranked eighth in points per game from 2015-16 to 2017-18, the best stretch of his 482-game career.
You know who had a sneaky great decade? The man who chugged an adult beverage through his jersey at a Stanley Cup parade. Oshie had 505 points in 712 games for the Blues and the Capitals, and was an incredible ninth in goals above average for the decade (138.1).
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A steady defenseman whose plus-182 with the Rangers and Lightning ranked him second to Zdeno Chara for the decade. ‘Twas a time when his tandem with Dan Girardi was considered the best in the NHL.
Koivu’s 516 points in 719 games ranked him 34th among forwards, but it’s his defensive prowess that made him one of the decade’s best, though sadly he was never rewarded with much love in Selke Trophy voting.
Kovalchuk had 302 points in 352 games this decade, which started with him on the Atlanta Thrashers (RIP). His stint with the New Jersey Devils featured an awesome 19-point performance in their 2012 run to the Stanley Cup Final, as well as a ridiculous 15-year contract that led to his “retirement” and departure to the KHL. The less said about his recent stint with the Kings, the better.
Vasilevskiy led the league in wins from 2017 to 2019, finishing third for the Vezina Trophy in 2017-18 and winning it last season. A promising start for a goalie signed through 2028.
The winger had 378 points in 533 games with the Rangers, Blue Jackets (remember that?), Kings and Senators at the end of his career. That included a playoffs-high 14 goals in the Kings’ 2014 Stanley Cup win.
Fifteenth among forwards in goals (262) through 706 games, Carter also had 18 goals in the Kings’ two Cup runs.
With 345 points in 691 games, Ekman-Larsson was a top-20 offensive player among defensemen. He spent the decade with the Coyotes, a team that made one playoff appearance. Probably would have been a Norris finalist without that Arizona blind spot by the voters.
Four seasons of 30-plus goals for the Rangers and Blue Jackets, although his greatest offensive hits were in the previous decade. His career ended prematurely at 33 years old, due to multiple concussions.
Thanks to injuries, Parise never lived up to the roll on which he entered the 2010s with the Devils. But, his 251 goals in 652 games ranked him 20th for the decade, and gave him a higher goals-per-game average than Jeff Skinner and Jonathan Toews. But the thing that defined his decade: 13 years and $98 million from the Minnesota Wild as a free agent, signing as a package deal with Ryan Suter. Heck, it was the decade for the Wild, too.
The forward, in his second stint with the Sharks, didn’t miss a game to injury this decade. He started the decade with a 44-goal season, and went on to score 281 of them. His 567 points ranked 26th among all forwards. Also, was a cool uncle to Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner in Toronto.
Big Buff began the decade as a hulking winger with the Blackhawks and ended it as a hulking defenseman with the Winnipeg Jets. So he was technically third among defensemen at 139 goals for the decade.
Landeskog had 425 points in his first 594 games as one of the better left wings of the decade, made even more impressive by having played on some weak Colorado teams.
The Blackhawks netminder backstopped them to two Stanley Cups, including a .932 save percentage and a 1.84 goals-against average in 2013. He was also sixth in even-strength save percentage for the decade (.926).
No one played more games in the decade than Yandle. Not only did he not miss a single game, he played 84 of them in 2014-15 thanks to a midseason trade from the Coyotes to the Rangers. As a result, he amassed 510 points, third most among defensemen. But he finished top five for the Norris only once.
One of the most underrated defensemen of the decade, with a goals above replacement per 60 minutes (0.59) that’s better than any other defenseman. Take it with a grain of salt as always, but Ellis’s plus-107 for the decade ranks him sixth. He’s never received Norris Trophy support, because he’s the guy behind the guy (Roman Josi).
Pacioretty’s 0.37 goals per game through 693 contests was tied for 26th in the NHL for the decade. From 2013-14 through 2016-17, he was fourth in the NHL in goals (141 in 316 games).
The steady complement to Patrice Bergeron at center for the Bruins, Krejci hit 73 points twice, and led the playoffs in points in Boston’s 2011 and 2013 trips to the Stanley Cup Final.
Six feet and seven inches of goalie, Bishop is tied with Pekka Rinne for second in even-strength save percentage for the decade (.927) during stints with the Blues, Senators, Lightning and Stars. Oh, and seven games in L.A. He is fourth in goals saved above average per 60 minutes (0.315).
Forsberg averaged 0.80 points per game from 2014 on, putting him in the neighborhood of Logan Couture and Ryan O’Reilly, and ahead of linemate Ryan Johansen. All the more reason the 2013 trade that sent him from Washington to Nashville for [checks notes] Martin Erat is one of the most lopsided of the decade.
His 537 points in 766 games ranked him in the top 30 among forwards, but his defensive play and 48 playoff goals (second most in the decade) earn him accolades here.
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The final decade of the all-time great’s career saw him score 216 goals with the Flames (including 43 In 2010-11), Penguins, Bruins, Avalanche and Kings.
Between his time with the Flyers and the Blue Jackets, the winger was 24th in both points (450) and power-play points (151).
One of the most underrated goalies of the decade. Andersen ranked 15th in even-strength save percentage (.924), but he was first in goals saved above average per 60 minutes (.408) and wins above average per 60 (0.077) for the decade. In raw numbers, he was fifth in GSAA (134.5) and fifth in wins above average (25.3).
Hossa scored 324 goals in the previous decade, but the 2010s might be the time when he earned newfound appreciation as a two-way player. He had 48 points combined in the Blackhawks’ three Stanley Cup championship runs.
Draisaitl was drafted third overall in 2014 to be a dominant center for the Oilers. Instead, he ended up being a dominant winger with Connor McDavid, hitting 50 goals last season. He’s fifth in points per game (1.11) since the start of calendar 2016.
One of the most unpredictable renaissances of the decade: Nine seasons after he last hit 40 goals, Staal scored 42 with the Wild in 2017-18. For the decade, his 262 goals with the Hurricanes, Rangers and Wild ranked him 16th. Remember, that was with some less-than-stellar clubs: Staal appeared in only 15 playoff games this decade.
Since he burst onto the scene by winning the Calder Trophy with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015, and through his years in Columbus, Panarin has the 10th-best points-per-game average (1.02) among all players. A wizard with the puck, and a possession driver.
Once Ryan Suter left and Shea Weber was traded, Josi took over the legacy as the Predators’ homegrown defensive ace. He was sixth among defensemen at 0.63 points per game in 593 games.
The winger was 10th in assists (445) and 12th in points (674) for all players in the decade. Bring it down to just right wings, and only Patrick Kane had more points. (Wheeler’s points per game, on the other hand, ranked him 11th.)
The steady defenseman always seemed like he was on the cusp of elite status. By traditional measures, he was really good: tied for 17th among defensemen in points per game (0.59) in 713 games. By advanced stats, he was third in the league for the decade in goals and wins above average.
For a few seasons, “Pickles” was the go-to example of “most underrated defensive defenseman in the NHL.” From 2013-14 to 2016-17, he led all defensemen in goals above average per 60 minutes at (0.53) and was tied for third in wins above average (10.8).
Thomas won his second Vezina Trophy in 2011, along with the Conn Smythe and the Stanley Cup. He won 70 games from 2010 to 2012, but retired in 2014 after a season split between the Stars and Panthers. Thomas then left the public eye, recently revealing his seclusion was related to post-concussion symptoms.
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One of the top two-way centers in the league, he was 11th among forwards in points per game (1.01) from 2015 onward, including last season’s 96-point breakout. He was also top six for the Selke Trophy three times in that span.
After years as an offensive force — 468 points from 2005 to 2011 — Zetterberg settled into his “late-career Steve Yzerman” mode, pairing consistent offensive output with outstanding defensive play. His 555 points in 650 games gave him the 34th highest points per game average (0.85) among all players in the decade.
O’Reilly spent his first six seasons with the Colorado Avalanche, went to the Buffalo Sabres, lost his smile, was traded to the Blues and then won the Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe and the Selke Trophy in one fell swoop. One of the best defensive players of the decade, he also had 527 points in 766 games.
Duchene was 25th in the NHL with 568 points in 756 games, but 65th in points per game (0.75) during stints with the Avalanche, Senators, Blue Jackets and Predators. He’s perhaps best known this decade for being a mile offside in a game and serving as the catalyst for this scourge of replay reviews.
Daniel finished the decade (and his career) with 579 points in 664 games, good for 26th overall. However, his twin brother was just a little bit better.
Henrik won the Hart Trophy in 2010 with a 112-point season — one in which his brother missed 19 games. In fact, his three-season run to start the decade saw him score more points (287) than any other player.
If this was Top 100 NHL Twitter Feeds of the Decade, Lu is the clear No. 1. The previous decade was his best on the ice, and some of his underlying numbers weren’t great this decade, but his first three seasons with Vancouver and his yeoman’s work with the Panthers later on earned him this spot.
Johnny Hockey is the third-highest-scoring left winger for the decade, at 0.96 points per game over 428 games, and was 11th in goals above average per 60 for forwards (0.611). The 5-foot-9 dynamo has his defensive deficiencies, but the Flames aren’t paying him for defense.
The annual debates among Bruins fans about Rask’s abilities quieted considerably in recent seasons, and for good reason: No goaltender had a better even-strength save percentage than Rask (.929) through 510 games. He won the Vezina Trophy in 2014.
The Sabres star has a 0.96 points per game average in 319 games, ranking him 13th overall for the decade. No one is finishing the decade more emphatically than the No. 2 pick from the 2015 draft.
He’s much more than a booming slap shot. Weber was 13th in points per game (0.61) and ninth in goals above average (100) among defensemen for the decade. Although he didn’t win one, he was a Norris Trophy finalist three times with the Predators. Injuries late in the decade distract from how great Weber was offensively for the rest of it.
Rinne is tied for second in the decade in even-strength save percentage (.927) and was second in wins (321) through 585 games, but tied for 22nd in goals saved above average per 60 minutes (0.21). But those four nominations for the Vezina Trophy and his win in 2018 loom large.
Is it possible Suter was so overrated he became underrated? That 13-year contract gave him unrealistic expectations. He ended up with 442 points (10th among defensemen for the decade) while skating more per game (26:59) than anyone else. He was fourth in goals above average (110.1) among defensemen.
From the moment Matthews stepped on the ice — and scored four goals in his first NHL game — he’s been one of the league’s elite offensive talents. His 0.53 goals per game ranks behind only Alex Ovechkin since 2016, and is second to Steven Stamkos for centers this decade.
Since 2016, only Alex Ovechkin has scored more goals than Pasta (133) has during one of the more dominant offensive stretches of the decade. He was sixth in goals above average (60.4) during that stretch as well.
Following a Stanley Cup and an ill-fated trade from the Bruins, Seguin blossomed into one of the league’s top scorers of the decade at 0.86 points per game (28th). From 2014-15 to 2017-18, he was tied for fifth in goals per game (0.44).
Fleury’s decade had more peaks and valleys than the Andes. He struggled after winning his first Stanley Cup in 2009, including first-round playoff losses in four of five seasons. He watched Matt Murray lead the Penguins to the 2016 Cup. Even though he played 15 games in their 2017 Cup win, he was sacrificed to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights … where he became the masked face of the franchise, led them to the Cup Final in their inaugural season and finished top five for the Vezina Trophy in both seasons in the desert. He’s not just a survivor, but a winner: he’s notched 340 of them in 585 games, most in the decade.
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Oh, you just discovered John Carlson after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup and he started scoring at Bobby Orr levels this season? Where were you when he was amassing the eighth-most points in the decade (448) among defensemen? His defense steadily improved as the decade went on, too.
After winning the Calder Trophy in 2013-14, it took a few years before MacKinnon found that next level. But when he did … buckle up. He was third in points per game (1.31) from 2017 on, and finished second for the Hart Trophy in 2017-18.
One of the unique talents of the past decade, Stone finally started getting his due after Ottawa traded him to Vegas. He had five straight seasons of 20-plus goals and was third in the decade for goals scored above average per 60 minutes (0.825). Meanwhile, he had 571 takeaways defensively in just 419 games. Sigh … if only they gave the Selke Trophy to wingers.
The decade began with Kessel having been traded to Toronto, where he would spend six seasons, score 181 goals and then get run out of town by local media that spun tales of him visiting local hot dog vendors. The Penguins traded for him in 2015, and he ended up winning two Stanley Cups (with one Conn Smythe-worthy performance). For the decade, Kessel was seventh in goals (298) and ninth in points (716).
One of the best setup men in hockey history rolling through (another) decade. Jumbo’s 1.56 assists per 60 minutes ranked him seventh for the decade in 765 games. In total, he was 16th in total points, at 648. He was on the positive side of puck possession every season, and outpaced his teammates in Corsi for percentage in all but one season. While the Sharks are still looking for their first Stanley Cup, Thornton was 24th in points-per-game average (0.78) in the postseason. He scored 148 goals for the decade; much to the disappointment of all hockey fans, never four in the same game.
Perry’s production has fallen so far off in recent seasons that it’s hard to picture when he was one of the NHL’s preeminent goal-scorers, but from 2009-10 to 2011-12, only Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin scored more goals than Perry’s 114. That included a 50-goal campaign that earned him the Hart Trophy for the Ducks in 2011. But since 2018, he’s a minus-1.7 in goals scored above average.
When he was good for the Ducks — and that frequently meant “healthy” — he was great. He was above a point-per-game average in five seasons during the decade. He also had three seasons south of 0.60 points per game. From 2010, Getzlaf had the highest playoff points-per-game average (1.06) in 69 games.
There’s no denying Quick’s success. He was fourth in the decade in wins (296), all with the Kings. He led the playoffs in save percentage and goals-against average in capturing the Conn Smythe in their 2012 Cup win, and then backstopped another Cup team in 2014. He was seventh in goals saved above average per 60 minutes (0.293), but he was tied for 24th in even-strength save percentage (.922). He won the Jennings twice and was a Vezina finalist twice. Don’t let his recent struggles obscure his dominant decade.
He only played through 2014-15, when he retired at 39, but St. Louis reached “ageless wonder” status with the Lightning and Rangers. St. Louis was ninth for the decade in points per game (1.01) in 444 games, having opened it with 94 and 99 points in 2009-10 and 2010-11. He won the scoring title in the lockout-shortened season. His 15 points in 25 games helped spark the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final in 2014.
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“The trade was one for one.” That was Bob McKenzie’s famous tweet on the deal that sent Hall — who had 328 points in 381 games with the Oilers — to the Devils for Adam Larsson, in one of the most lopsided trades of the decade. Hall had 208 points in his first 211 games with the Devils, including his 39-goal effort in 2018 that earned him the Hart Trophy.
Another player whose recent results — which have been so underwhelming that the Stars’ CEO compared his play to horse excrement in 2018 — may have obscured a truly dominant stretch in the middle of the decade. From 2012-13 to 2017-18, Benn amassed 436 points, fourth among forwards. He won the scoring title in 2014-15 with 87 points, which is like winning The Masters with a two over par.
How boring would this decade have been without P.K. Subban? The cult of personality, the celebrity, the controversy, the charity, the comedy … oh, and one of the most stunning one-for-one trades in NHL history. On the ice, Subban was 14th in points among defensemen (413), winner of the 2013 Norris Trophy and a finalist three times. A fascinating study in analytics too, as the fancy stats community defended his defensive acumen when pundits attempted to frame him as overrated. Without question, the NHL player with the most appearances on the Nickelodeon Kids’ Sports Awards in the decade.
Only Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos scored more goals than did Tavares (332) in the decade, and he had a points-per-game average (0.94) that ranked him 16th. A two-time Hart Trophy finalist, Tavares was only 48th in goals above average per 60 minutes (0.442). Without question, he was one of the decade’s top centers, which is something even Islanders fans can agree with. Maybe.
Holtby’s run from 2014-15 to 2017-18 was one of the decade’s best for a goalie, with 165 wins, a .927 save percentage and 21 shutouts. He won the Vezina in 2016, finished second for it in 2017 and backstopped the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup in 2018.
Telling someone in 2010 that Marchand would be considered one of the NHL’s best all-around players in 2020 is like telling someone in 2011 that Adam Sandler is likely getting an Oscar nomination in 2020 … but here we are. The Bruins winger’s transformation from pest with upside to pest that’s a perennial 30-goal scorer and a 100-point player has been one of the decade’s most dramatic. Marchand is tied for ninth in goals-per-game average for the decade (0.39).
Price’s decade highlight is the 2014-15 season, when he became just the eighth goalie in NHL history — and the first since Jose Theodore in 2002 — to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP. He also won the Jennings, the Vezina and the Pearson (the NHLPA’s player of the year) that season, leading the league in wins, save percentage, goals-against average and an incredible 36.70 goals saved above average. It’s arguably the best season for an individual player for the decade. The rest of those years? He’s tied for sixth in even-strength save percentage (.926) and is sixth in goals saved above average per 60 (0.304).
The Blues’ winger is built like a tank and was an offensive engine like few others this decade, ranking sixth in goals per game (0.42) among forwards, and fifth among all players in goals scored above average per 60 minutes (0.653). He was always on the positive side of possession, and with defense that improved as the decade went on. He never received awards love, however.
Chara won his only Norris Trophy right before the decade began, but it was in the last 10 years that his greatness was truly recognized. A dominant defensive presence, he led the decade in plus/minus (plus-216) for all players, and the Bruins had a save percentage with Chara on the ice above .918 in every season but one. His 336 points were 21st among defensemen, and he was nominated for the Norris three times in the decade. A towering achievement by a towering achiever.
Few players have as many cheerleaders in both the traditional and fancy stats communities. Letang is third among defensemen with a 0.73 points-per-game average this decade. He’s also third in shot attempt differential for the decade, and tied for eighth in goals above average per 60 minutes (0.38). An elite puck-moving defenseman who has excelled with a variety of partners. Health was an issue, which is one reason he had only one Norris Trophy nomination.
Who had the fifth-highest points-per-game average for centers in the decade? If you’re surprised it’s Nicklas Backstrom at 0.98 points per game, that’s more supporting evidence for those who say he’s one of the most underrated players in hockey — especially when you factor in his defensive acumen.
Oh, the irony of the Philadelphia Flyers seeking a solution in goal for most of the decade (and the previous one) and watching Bobrovsky, their former backup, win two Vezina Trophies with the Blue Jackets. He is tied for sixth in even-strength save percentage (.926) and third in goals saved above average per 60 minutes (0.318) for the decade.
Only five players scored more goals in the decade than Pavelski (304 in 789 games), and arguably none of them scored more off their faces. Great on faceoffs, dominant in possession (54.4 shot attempts percentage for the decade) and was behind only Alex Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos in goals (132) from 2012-13 to 2015-16, one of the best goal-scoring stretches of the decade.
No defenseman generated more shots on goal than Burns, who had 2,445 in 752 games. He was first in goals (168) and second in points (553) among defensemen. Despite strong puck possession metrics, Burns was criticized by some as a one-dimensional defenseman. That dimension was good enough to earn him the Norris Trophy in 2017, and finish in the top three another three times.
The Flyers center-turned-winger was tied for 16th in the NHL in points-per-game average (0.94) during a tremendous decade, especially when you set aside his underwhelming first two seasons and his 58-point clunker in 2016-17. He was 18th in goals scored above average per 60 minutes (0.50). He didn’t get much awards love, but was a Hart Trophy finalist once and fourth in the voting two other times. This is because, as Flyers fans will tell you, Giroux doesn’t get his due. Well, he does here.
Doughty played a ton of tough minutes (26:31 per game, second in the NHL for the decade) and got frequently spectacular results. His 462 points in 806 games ranked fifth among defensemen, and he excelled defensively as one of the Kings’ top possession drivers. Doughty was a Norris Trophy finalist four times, winning the thing in 2016.
Until last season, Giordano was one of the most underrated performers of the decade. He is 14th in points per game for defensemen (0.58, minimum 500 games) but it’s his underlying numbers that are the star here. Giordano led all defensemen in goals (134.5) and wins (25) above average for the decade. His 74 points last season earned him an overdue Norris Trophy and the recognition that comes with it. But no player in our top 20 outkicked his coverage more than Giordano, who was constantly better than his teammates on Flames teams that made the playoffs just three times in the decade.
How good was Jonathan Toews? That’s a rhetorical question here, but over the course of the decade it was a raging debate. Nevertheless, his numbers were stellar: 656 points in 761 games, good for 14th among all players. His plus-167 was fifth highest among all players. His 140.3 goals above average was the sixth highest for the decade. His 57.3 faceoff winning percentage was second best, one of the reasons he won the Selke Trophy and was a finalist three other times. Oh, and then there was that Conn Smythe win in 2010. That too. His 0.87 points per game in the playoffs this decade ranked fifth.
The Lightning winger is sixth in points per game for the decade (1.04) and 10th in goals above average per 60 minutes (0.636). His Hart Trophy win last season, when he also captured the scoring title, came during a three-season stretch in which he was second in the NHL in points and goals. The sample was small relative to other top players. His impact wasn’t.
The Kings center was a possession monster (55.4 shot attempt percentage) as one of the best two-way centers in the NHL, winning the Selke Trophy twice and finishing as a finalist four times in total. He led the playoffs in points in both of the Kings’ Stanley Cup wins, and was 16th among all players at 0.89 points per game. He was second in goals above average (153.8) and wins above replacement (28.5) for the decade. How good was Kopitar? They basically created Team Europe so that he could play in the World Cup of Hockey.
Hedman’s 0.62 points-per-game rate tied him for eighth in the decade among defensemen, and his goals above average per 60 minutes (0.452) was better than that of Mark Giordano (0.449) and well ahead of Duncan Keith (0.201). One of the most dominating defensive presences in the game, Hedman had a 52.09 expected goals percentage at 5-on-5 for the decade. His three straight Norris nominations, and one win, closed the decade strongly.
To quote old Ben Kenobi: “Now, that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time.” Datsyuk left for the KHL in 2016 as a 37-year-old, which likely helped his rates for the decade remain so pristine before the decline. In 427 games, Datsyuk had a 0.93 points-per-game average, good for 14th in the decade. He won his last Selke Trophy to start the decade in 2009-10, and was a finalist for the next three straight seasons. But the reason he ranks ahead of other two-way centers with similar numbers: No player in the NHL over the last decade, with a minimum of 300 games played, had a better goals above average per 60 minutes than Pavel Datsyuk (0.901), and he was second overall in wins above average per 60 (0.166) as well. Better than Connor McDavid. Better than Sidney Crosby. What a player.
Keith was the backbone of the Blackhawks’ success this decade. He averaged 25:16 of ice time per game, scoring 455 points in 755 games (fourth in the NHL). He won two Norris trophies and the 2015 Conn Smythe in what was one of the most dominant postseasons ever for a defenseman: 21 points in 23 games, a 64.29 goals-for percentage and 31:07 average ice time. Alas, his play began to decline soon after that.
Kane will end the 2010s as the decade’s leading scorer in total points, although his points-per-game average (1.08) ranks him fourth overall. He’s the best right wing of the decade, scoring 20 or more goals every season. His run from 2015-16 to now is one of the best stretches for any scorer in the decade, with a 1.17 points per game average. Kane won the Hart in 2016 and the Conn Smythe in 2013, finishing second in the decade in points-per-game average in the postseason (0.98). On the ice, an all-decade performance, but one that was overshadowed at times off the ice due to a noncriminal disorderly conduct charge that was conditionally discharged after an incident with a cab driver in 2009, and a police investigation into a sexual assault allegation in 2015.
The second-best goal-scorer of the decade, full stop. In 695 games, Stamkos scored 383 goals, second most for all players. His goals-per-60 minutes average (1.22) was first overall, and he was seventh among forwards in goals above average per 60 minutes (0.656). Stamkos was fifth in the decade at 1.08 points per game. He won the goal-scoring title twice, hitting 60 in 2011-12 to end a three-year run in which Stamkos scored 18 more 5-on-5 goals than any other player in the NHL. The knock on him: nominated only once for the Hart, and his postseason numbers (0.76 points per game) were a significant tick down from his regular-season output.
Imagine a player who finished in the top five for one award every season for an entire decade. Imagine this wasn’t just reputation-based, but earned through undeniable prowess. Nicklas Lidstrom couldn’t do it with the Norris nor Martin Brodeur with the Vezina in the 2000s. You’d have to go back to Wayne Gretzky and the Hart Trophy in the 1980s to find a run like Patrice Bergeron had with the Selke this decade, winning it four times. The best two-way center of the decade, Bergeron had a goals-for percentage of 59.9 at 5-on-5, led all players in faceoff percentage (58.5, minimum 500 games) and had a 0.82 points-per-game average. Put it this way: They’re not calling it The Perfection Line in Boston for Marchand and Pastrnak.
The NHL infamously left Malkin off its “Top 100 players of the league’s first 100 years” list, so the least we could do was rank the Russian dynamo in the top 10 here. The Penguins star was third in the decade in points-per-game average (1.15) and ninth in goals scored (284). His 50-goal, 109-point campaign in 2011-12 is as good as you’ll find in the decade. He led the Penguins with 28 points in 25 playoff games during their second Cup of the decade. It’s fascinating, and a bit depressing, to think that Malkin could be higher on this ranking were it not for injuries.
The King among goalies for the decade. Lundqvist was tied for the lead in goals saved above average per 60 minutes (0.408), a remarkable feat at 611 games played. In terms of raw numbers, his 242.1 goals saved above average is over 75 more than the next player on the list. He was second in the decade in even-strength save percentage (.927) and third in wins (314) in backstopping the Rangers to seven playoff appearances. Remarkably, he won the Vezina just once (2012) and was a finalist twice. While the general managers who vote for that award didn’t appreciate him this decade, we certainly do.
One of the singular talents the NHL has ever seen on the blue line. Karlsson led all defensemen with 588 points and 569 takeaways for the decade. His a 0.82 points-per-game average ranks ninth all-time for NHL defensemen. He won the Norris Trophy twice and was a finalist four times, despite (tenuous) criticisms that his game was one-dimensional. Injuries in the latter part of the decade slowed him a bit, but his underlying metrics reinforced his stellar play. Between the previous two decades of Nicklas Lidstrom and this decade with Karlsson, it would be nice if the Swedes let someone else take a turn as the definitive defenseman for the next decade.
Everyone knows where the puck is going when Ovechkin is on the ice, and where he wants to shoot. It’s just that no one can stop it. In 794 games, Ovechkin scored 460 goals, with 177 on the power play. No one else cracked 400. His 1.04 points-per-game average in 794 games makes him one of the decade’s most underrated playmakers as well. That carried over to the playoffs, too: The last misbegotten vestiges of “Ovechkin as playoff choker” were rendered futile with his 0.90 points-per-game average in the postseason (ninth in the NHL, minimum 50 playoff games). He won six goal-scoring titles, one Hart Trophy, one NHLPA Player of the Year award and the Conn Smythe in the Capitals’ first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.
As baffling as it seems today, there were times when some questioned whether Ovechkin was washed up when he scored “only” 32 goals, or when Dale Hunter tried to turn him into a shot-blocker, to the point where one columnist claimed the Capitals would have been “blessed” to see him leave for the KHL. Instead, he finishes the decade very much on pace to one day surpass Wayne Gretzky as the greatest goal scorer of all time.
Now, in the interest of equal time, ESPN’s Dimitri Filipovic argues that Ovechkin should be higher: “What Ovechkin did this decade really has no comparable. The difference between him and second place in goals (Steven Stamkos) is the same as Stamkos and 15th place (Jonathan Toews). The difference between him and second place in power-play goals (Stamkos again) is the same as Stamkos and 12th place (Patrick Marleau). He has 3,240 shots during that time, and no one else has over 2,500. The sheer volume of what he did and how he was able to stay healthy the entire time is nuts. Plus, he won a Cup as the best player on the team, for those out there that put a lot of significance on that sort of thing.”
As of Dec. 17, McDavid has played 323 NHL games this decade and, thus, for his career. So it’s understandable if your reaction to this lofty ranking is to scream “SAMPLE SIZE!” while clutching your Alex Ovechkin bobblehead doll. The same might have been said about Ovechkin at the end of last decade, when he had played 324 games and averaged 1.30 points per game. It was a performance that landed him on the NHL’s all-decade first team. McDavid this decade, at 1.33 points per game, has been even better.
In four-plus seasons, McDavid has two scoring titles, a Hart Trophy and another top-three finish for the award. He’s done that on Oilers teams that have gone 169-160-36 in that span, with one playoff appearance. McDavid leads the NHL in wins above replacement per 60 minutes (0.168) for the decade. He’s actually 30th in the league in wins above replacement (102.9); 26 of the players in front of him have played over 700 games, and none has played fewer than 420. Factor in that he’s second in goals above average (0.89) per 60 for the decade, and that’s an astonishing impact that one player has had on his team. But that’s McDavid.
Then there’s the ethereal argument. Simply put, McDavid does things with the puck on his stick that we’ve never seen before, or at least haven’t seen at that velocity. He’s a generational talent who had teams strip-mining their rosters in an effort to draft him, and an offensive force that turns NHL defensemen into parodies of one on a single rush. That he hasn’t played more than two rounds in the playoffs this decade is negligent to the sport itself. Connor McDavid is the best player in the NHL in the 2010s … were it not for the existence and performance of that other Canadian-born center.
It was Sidney Crosby’s decade, but you already knew that. You watched him lead the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups, the first time an NHL team had accomplished that feat since the 1996-98 Red Wings. You watched him win back-to-back Conn Smythe trophies, only the third player in NHL history to accomplish that feat and the first since his former landlord Mario Lemieux did it in 1991 and 1992. You watched him amass 836 points in 670 games, which leads the decade. You saw the scoring title, the two times he led the NHL in goals scored, the Hart Trophy and the two NHLPA Player of the Year awards. You probably didn’t know he led the NHL in goals (174) and wins (32.3) above average, but you do now.
More than anything, you watched the slowly building respect for Crosby as one of the greatest players to ever step on NHL ice. Remember 2009? The first Stanley Cup? Remember what Sidney Crosby was then, to a lot of people? The guy who complained to the refs? Who complained about how long it took to clean up the hats during that double-hat-trick playoff game against the Capitals? The guy who used to inspire fans to bring pacifiers to the game, as one of the most polarizing players in hockey?
That all, literally, feels like a decade ago now. At 32, Crosby is the most respected player in the NHL by his peers, for his play and his comportment and the way he’s constantly working to hone different parts of his game — the decade saw Crosby become a Selke Trophy-worthy defender, for example. He’s silenced his critics, and converted many of them to the Church of Sid.
But his impact goes beyond what happened on the ice. The concussions that he suffered in early 2011 put a renewed focus on player safety and the potentially devastating effects of hits to the head in hockey. Rule 48 was already in place when those hits by David Steckel and Victor Hedman happened; on the first day of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, Gary Bettman announced the creation of the Department of Player Safety to better police borderline hits.
On and off the ice, this was Sidney Crosby’s decade. No matter where his career goes after it, the hockey world should be honored to have watched it.
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