The NHL is a very dangerous and competitive environment which results in some rough exposure to the player's body. Injuries as well as this tough environment can sometimes limit how long a player can last in the NHL. Concussions, torn ligaments and other injuries which require long recovery times can halt a player's career and keep them from reaching their full potential. These players are extremely determined in what they do and they will play through this pain, but sometimes that pain is too much and they are forced to hang up the skates for good.
Another factor that keeps players from having long careers is the fact that their play changes over time and some players actually get worse with more experience rather than better. In today's game, consistency is key and when a player can only put up a solid season once every five years, his career won't last long with the team he is playing for. Some players don't ever make it to the big leagues and are stuck in the minors for most of their careers which eventually makes them lose hope of ever playing at the highest level in hockey.
All of these factors are affecting the players in today's game. Some players are struggling health wise and others cannot keep a consistent game which will eventually lead them to lose their job. It is not guaranteed that some of the players on this list will retire before they hit 30 years of age but one can speculate what can happen in the future if their bodies can't take the amount of pressure they are put through or if they simply end up being without a job due to declining or sub-par play.
15 Kris Letang
Kris Letang is one remarkable player. Having helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win two Stanley Cups, he serves a great part on the team’s offensive end as well as providing some solid defensive work for his goaltender. The main struggle with Kris is the fact that he has had to face many injuries throughout his career.
Letang has suffered three concussions, a stroke, an elbow infection and a broken foot. This is just a sample size of the long list of injuries he has suffered throughout his 11-year tenure with the Pens. He has also not played a full season since the 2010-11 season.
Kris is currently 29 years old and is dealing with an upper body injury which has kept him out of the lineup for a few weeks. We can only hope that his injury luck gets better because he is a skilled player with many great assets to bring to the game of hockey.
14 Erik Johnson
Another talented defender on this list that is dealing with an injury riddled career is Colorado Avalanche forward Erik Johnson. Erik recently came back from a broken fibula that he suffered in December of 2016 and one can only imagine how much his body has gone through in his 7-year tenure with the Avs.
Johnson has never played a full 82 games in a single season. He was limited to less than 50 games in the current season and 47 in the 2014-15 season. It is a shame as the former 1st round pick has accumulated some solid numbers throughout his career and at only 29 years of age, he has a lot of room to improve his game and evolve into the elite top-four defender that the Avalanche desperately need. Consequently, his health does pose some concern if he can play into his 30s.
13 Steven Stamkos
Steven Stamkos is one of the most talented forwards in today’s game. A 60-goal scorer who is only 27 years of age, Steven has had his fair share of injuries throughout his career with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In 2013, Stamkos broke his tibia in a game against the Boston Bruins. This injury kept him out for months and it was only the start of many more downturns in his career. In 2016, Stammer was diagnosed with a blood clot which required surgery. His bad luck didn’t even end there as in November of 2016, he suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee. With such talent, Stamkos was limited to just 17 games this season and fans can only hope that his injuries come to a halt because his body has taken a huge toll over the past three years.
12 Eddie Lack
The Swedish goaltender Eddie Lack is currently the backup goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes. Although, he is the average netminder, Lack has been able to put up some respectable stats for his former team, the Vancouver Canucks and looks to replicate that with the Canes.
This took a detour once he suffered a concussion in November of 2016. Lack eventually came back from his injury but a few days ago, the hockey world saw him become hospitalized after suffering a neck strain in a game against the Detroit Red Wings. At 29 years of age, Lack has starred in a total of 132 NHL games but hopefully these injuries are not the start of something worse to come as the Canes would love to see their young goaltender on the roster for the foreseeable future.
11 Semyon Varlamov
The Colorado Avalanche have had bad luck with injured players this year. Semyon Varlamov is another player the Avs can add to the list. At only 28 years of age, Varlamov has played for his draft team, the Washington Capitals and his current team, the Colorado Avalanche.
Semyon is a decent goalie but he has been struggling with groin problems for quite a few years now. In January of 2017, the Avs put Varlamov on the injury reserve as he required a season ending surgery. This wouldn’t be a concern if the problem he faced wasn’t a reoccurring one but the fact that this has been bothering him for years seems like a call for concern. Even with this successful surgery, there is no guarantee that Varlamov will play through his 30s without any discomfort.
10 Simon Despres
The Anaheim Ducks got a very intriguing prospect when they traded for defender Simon Despres from the Pittsburgh Penguins. They recently inked him to a five year deal as well which means they are expecting him to help the team compete for many years to come.
All of this seems great but Despres’ career has not been all perfect. He has been dealing with a concussion for the most part of his career and this has limited him to 49 NHL games in the past three seasons. This was a huge shutdown for the young 25-year-old defender as he has yet to prove his mark in the NHL and these injuries are just stopping him from reaching his full potential.
If these injuries do not fade away, Despres might not be able to play through his 30s.
9 Tyler Pitlick
The Edmonton Oilers saw potential in Tyler Pitlick as they took him 2nd overall in the 2010 NHL draft. After spending three years in the AHL, he was ready to prove himself with some NHL action. Unfortunately, he was in the midst of a career year until he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in December of 2016 which put him out for the year.
Tyler is no newcomer to injuries as his career has been full of them. At only 25 years of age, Pitlick has only shown the Oilers 58 games of NHL experience and these downturns seem to only slow him down when he wants to prove himself most. Fans can only hope that he returns to his former self when he recovers as his body will only become more delicate over time.
8 Jhonas Enroth
Jhonas Enroth is not on this list due to the fact that his body has taken a huge toll over his career. The biggest challenge he faces is basically that he gets literally zero NHL starts.
Enroth has not played an NHL game since the last season and even then he only started 6 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in that year. He is nearing the end of his one-year deal and currently is playing for the AHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks. He is nearing 30 years of age and if there isn’t a single team that desires his services, what will he do in terms of his hockey career? It seems like wasted potential to not utilize him as a backup for an NHL team but one can only speculate where he ends up in the next year.
7 Nail Yakupov
The Edmonton Oilers are notorious for receiving the first overall picks of the recent drafts and they used their 2012 first round pick to draft promising Russian forward Nail Yakupov. After a decent rookie season, Nail has pretty much fallen off the map as his play seems to have hit a low.
In October of 2016, Yakupov was traded to the St Louis Blues. He has currently starred in 40 games and has scored a measly 3 goals and added 6 assists during that span. If things keep going at this rate, Yaks might never pick up and his future in the NHL will be questionable. One can assume that if things do not work out, he might head to the another league such as the KHL. We hope this isn’t true as this former 1st overall pick needs to get his game in order and prove to the hockey world he has what it takes to be a deadly presence on the ice.
6 Scott Glennie
Another draft bust belongs to the Dallas Stars. In the 2009 draft, the Stars chose Winnipeg native Scott Glennie with the 8th pick. Glennie made his NHL debut in the 2011-12 season but it was short lived as he spent only one game with the Stars and then was demoted to the AHL affiliate for the next four seasons.
Scott actually sat out the entire 2015-16 season in order to completely recover from his injury and work on improving his game. He made a comeback in the current year but his stats seem to have actually declined from his usual self. At only 26 years of age, Scott may or may not get another chance to play at the NHL level and he probably does not wish to spend the rest of his hockey career in the minors.
5 Erik Gudbranson
A hockey player’s biggest tools are his hands and once something happens to them, they can cause a player to be out for a long period of time. This seems to be the case for Vancouver Canucks defender Erik Gudbranson who suffered a torn wrist ligament in December of 2016.
Erik was limited to only 30 games so far in the current season and his recent operation may affect his game in the foreseeable future. As a defender who needs to move the puck and use his body to control the game, any future effect on his already injured wrist may see him miss more time. Gudbranson looks to improve his game and at only 25 years old, the only concern to the continuation of his hockey career is his recently repaired wrist ligament.
4 Tom Sestito
The market for an enforcer in the NHL is dwindling as the game seems to be changing drastically and teams are looking for depth forwards who can play a gritty game as well as put the puck in the back of the net. This means that a player like Pittsburgh Penguins forward Tom Sestito seems to see a diminishment in his role on the team.
Tom has seen most of his career spent in the AHL and has amassed 152 NHL games of experience so far. He was recently suspended for his illegal hit on Winnipeg defender Tobias Enstrom and this further proves the point that a dirty and gritty game is less needed nowadays in the NHL. Sestito is a UFA at the end of this year and at 29 years of age, there may be no team that is in need of his services.
3 Ondrej Pavelec
Ondrej Pavelec was once the goalie that the Winnipeg Jets relied on for many seasons. After a notable performance in the 2014-15 season, Pavelec’s career seemed to go downhill in the following seasons and he now actually finds himself playing more in the minors than the NHL.
Pavelec has also had his fair share of injury scares. In 2010, he actually fainted during a game which hospitalized him. While this may have been a simple one-time thing, it doesn’t hide the fact that his play is getting worse each season. At 29 years of age, Ondrej is nearing the end of his 5-year deal with the Jets and his future in hockey will depend on if he will be offered another contract when he hits free agency this summer.
2 Mattias Janmark
Mattias Janmark is a promising forward for the Dallas Stars who scored notched 15 goals in his rookie year. Things seemed to be going well for Mattias until he suffered a knee injury at a practice which evidently sidelined him for at least half a year.
Janmark has made zero appearances for the Stars this season and this is due to the fact that his knee injury is much more serious than expected. He suffers from osteochondritis which means that there is damage to the cartilage of his knee. This truly affects his future in the NHL because there is reason to be concerned about how bad this can get as time goes on. At only 24 years of age, Janmark should have a long career ahead of him and hopefully this doesn’t stop him from playing hockey completely.
1 Beau Bennett
Beau Bennett is a special case. Not only is he the most commonly injured player in the NHL but the way he gets these injuries is remarkable in a sense. This is a player who actually missed a few weeks after he got injured celebrating a goal that he scored. It doesn’t stop there.
Bennett actually contracted the mumps and required wrist surgery not too long ago. Keep in mind, Beau is only 25 years old and he has only spent five seasons and 190 games in the NHL so far. He has hit a career high in games played this season but the vast amount of injuries he has suffered in just these five years seems to cause concern that he will play through his 30s. Hopefully, the frequency of these injuries diminish but it is actually shocking at the sheer amount of stress his body has been put through in such a short period of time.