It goes without saying that being a captain of an NHL team requires an immense amount of fortitude, persistence and commitment. Undoubtedly, not all NHL players can bear the tremendous responsibility that comes with being an effective captain. In most cases, certain NHL players are chosen to be captains not only because of their notable aptitude for hockey, but because of the intangibles they possess.
NHL captains are usually the players who the coach can rely on in the last-minute-of-play type of scenario, and those who can make big-time plays. They also carry the responsibility of inspiring young hockey players to follow their exemplary leadership. In the many years that hockey has been around for, a plenitude of quintessential NHL captains have come and gone. These captains have helped evolve the sport of hockey and personify the role of a good leader.
With the new generation of hockey players emerging into the NHL, we will take a comprehensive look overarching all 30 NHL teams to determine their future captain.
30 Anaheim Ducks - Sami Vatanen
Although it seems like Ryan Getzlaf isn't going anywhere soon, the Finnish defenseman has an incredible potential to become a star no.1 defenseman. His offensive abilities drive up his value and help the Ducks in the goals department. Since Getzlaf and Perry and likely to retire at the same time, it opens up a spot for Anaheim's defensive trio of Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler and the newly re-signed Hampus Lindholm to display their talent.
Vatanen has worked on his overall defensive game considerably with the influence of veterans Kevin Bieksa and Clayton Stoner. Although he is not the most physical defenseman, he can still set a good example by rushing up the ice to create scoring chances. His vitality on the power-play adds to the Ducks' offensive power and his impeccable stick-handling provides the Ducks with a solid foundation for years to come.
29 Arizona Coyotes - Oliver Ekman-Larsson
With Shane Doan nearing the age of retirement, the Coyotes need someone to step up to the plate and take charge. That player is star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The former sixth overall pick has led the Coyotes in points for the last two seasons. His astounding puck-moving skills and offensive prowess have solidified him as one of the league's elite defenseman.
Although the Coyotes haven't found much playoff success during Doan's captaincy, Ekman-Larsson has a high standard to live up to as Doan has been a spectacular influence on the Coyotes organization. His remarkable hockey IQ has set him apart from other defenseman and further proves his potential to become a superb captain. His production totals are undeniably outstanding, but the real test is whether he can translate his personal success to the team's overall success.
28 Boston Bruins - Patrice Bergeron
Now you may be wondering why Brad Marchand wasn't chosen instead of Bergeron, but the cold truth is that he clearly does not have the maturity to attain the captaincy role. On the other hand, Bergeron has exemplified good leadership qualities on and off the ice. He has competed with Canada at the international stage on numerous occasions and has followed the lead of Sidney Crosby. He also is recognized as one of the prime two-way forwards of his time, winning three Selke trophies as the league's best defensive forward.
At season's end, current Bruins captain Zdeno Chara will be 40 years old, and will have the Bruins shifting their focus to a new leader. Bergeron fits the bill perfectly as he plays a complete 200-ft. game and competes with a high level of vehemence and intensity.
27 Buffalo Sabres - Ryan O'Reilly
With current captain Brian Gionta nearing retirement age, the Sabres are going to want to choose their next captain. O'Reilly joined Buffalo in the 2015 offseason and has since been an impeccable addition to the struggling Sabres. Alongside 2015 2nd overall pick Jack Eichel, he put up 60 points last season and is bound to continue improving offensively. Not to mention, he has incredible defensive instincts and is a force to be reckoned with on both ends of the ice.
Following the lead of Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews, he won gold at the 2016 World Cup with Team Canada, as well as back-to-back gold at the 2015 and 2016 World Championships. Before arriving in Buffalo, he had put up three successful above-50 point seasons with the Colorado Avalanche. At the age of 25, he's already one of Buffalo's assistant captains and there's no doubt he will lead the team to future playoff success.
26 Calgary Flames - Johnny Gaudreau
Widely dubbed as "Johnny Hockey", he is the future of the Calgary Flames along with teammate Sean Monahan. This past offseason, he signed a lucrative six-year deal worth $40.5 million with Calgary. After garnering a Calder Trophy nomination in his rookie season, his offensive totals have since continued to improve exponentially. His aptitude for scoring and setting up goals is unquestionable as he has helped Calgary compete for the playoffs in recent years.
The two-time NHL All Star possesses creativity when making plays on the ice and has tremendous hockey IQ. He is often the one kick-starting Calgary's offense and dependable when a goal needs to be scored. Although he doesn't provide a veteran presence on the Flames, he dominates all facets of the game and can ignite Calgary's firepower.
25 Carolina Hurricanes - Justin Faulk
The immensely offensively gifted defenseman is the sole backbone of the Hurricanes' defense. He has led the Hurricanes in defenseman scoring multiple times and shows no signs of slowing down. The 24-year-old currently serves as an alternate captain for the Hurricanes and appeared in his first NHL All-Star appearance in the 2014-15 season, when he posted a successful 49-point campaign.
His special knack for scoring has helped him make his way to the no.1 spot of the Hurricanes' defensemen depth chart. As a leader of the young Hurricanes team, he has potential to grow even more as a hockey player and become one of the most elite defensemen of his time. He plays a smart game, possesses spectacular hockey vision and is a smooth operator on skates on both ends of the ice. If he continues improving his offensive gifts, he will undoubtedly become an elite defenseman.
24 Chicago Blackhawks - Artemi Panarin
With Toews and Kane leading the charge in Chicago, I doubt that they will face the need to name a new captain in the next few years considering the length of their remunerative contracts. But for the sake of the article, Panarin has been deemed as Chicago's next leader. He won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2016 as a 24-year-old. The talented undrafted winger is much like other Russians in the aspect that he has a lethal shot and is primarily a streaky sniper.
Previously playing in the KHL, he has adapted incredibly well to the NHL and has undeniably brought his talents to Chicago. He has quickly found strong chemistry with his linemates Kane and Anisimov, and has been depended on by coach Quennville in clutch situations. Although he couldn't lead the Blackhawks past the first round last year, he will undoubtedly be an integral part of the team and continually grow as a player and leader.
23 Colorado Avalanche - Nathan MacKinnon
The former 1st overall pick in 2013 has been thriving in Colorado and has become one of the next NHL superstars. Much like comparable former 1st overall pick John Tavares, he is a complete player possessing a perfect combination of speed, skill and dynamism. He is the type of player to consistently and arduously battle for pucks in the corners. Over the years, he has developed in a force to be reckoned with on the young Colorado team.
This past offseason, he signed a lucrative seven-year deal with the Avalanche worth $44. 1 million. As implicated by his newly signed contract, he has posted a few successful campaigns in the NHL, earning him the Calder Trophy in 2014. Although the Avs haven't had much playoff success in recent years, with the newly minted "A" on the chest, MacKinnon will patently grow as a leader and improve his offensive totals.
22 Columbus Blue Jackets - Brandon Saad
The multi-talented winger joined the Blue Jackets in the 2015 offseason and has since thrived extensively. The former 2nd round pick previously played for the Chicago Blackhawks, where he found immense success and won two Stanley Cups in 2013 and 2015. His fantastic play early on in his career also earned him a Calder Trophy nomination in 2013.
Following his 2015 Stanley Cup championship, he signed a lucrative six-year deal worth $36 million. In his first season with the Blue Jackets, he recorded 53 points, which was preceded by a 52-point campaign. He has constantly been the primary leader of Columbus, along with current captain Nick Foligno. The streaky winger has a wide-ranged skillset with a lethal shot. The 2016 All-Star certainly has a bright future ahead of him.
21 Dallas Stars - Tyler Seguin
The former 2nd overall pick in 2010 is also another Stanley Cup winner - with the Boston Bruins in 2011 in his rookie season. Although he wasn't a major impact player on that team, it was only the dawn of his auspicious career. When he joined the Dallas Stars in the 2013 offseason, he instantly developed impeccable chemistry with captain Jamie Benn, two of whom have become a lethal pair together.
As his career has unraveled, he has undoubtedly become one of the NHL's current major stars. In fact, he is currently tied for the league-lead in points. Ever since he arrived in Dallas, he has been averaging over a point a game, which puts him in the elite tier of today's game. Although it seems like captain Benn won't be leaving Dallas anytime soon, with his magnificent play, Seguin definitely deserves donning the "C" at some point.
20 Detroit Red Wings - Dylan Larkin
The hometown-Michigan boy had a fantastic rookie season with the Red Wings last season. Originally drafted 15th overall in 2014, he has exceeded expectations in Detroit and has exhibited his immense burst of speed. His offensive abilities have evidently developed over time and the 20-year-old still has a lot more potential in him.
In his rookie season, his incredible play earned him a spot at the 2016 All-Star Game. At the SuperSkills Competition, he broke Mike Gartner's famous record for fastest skater by just over 0.2 seconds. It is evident that he has had an impact on his hometown team in his first season with them, and will only improve from here on out. Although he is still young, the plenitude of veterans in Detroit will certainly shape him into a mature NHL player.
19 Edmonton Oilers - Connor McDavid
Dubbed "The Next One" by many, his immaculate play has rightfully fulfilled that star label. Although he is already the captain of the Oilers, he was only named this year and he is essentially Edmonton's most recent star player. By being named captain this year, he became the NHL's youngest captain in NHL history.
It is undebatable that McDavid is a generational talent who is and will be the face of the Oilers franchise for a long time to come. The amalgam of his stupendous offensive abilities and impeccable hockey IQ is a paramount characteristic to his game and a factor of his unwavering success. In his rookie season, he averaged over a point a game, which is usually only associated with the most elite of the NHL. It is seemingly clear that he will continue to be a dominant force in the NHL and display his unquestionable eminence.
18 Florida Panthers - Aaron Ekblad
Following the recent unlikely naming of teammate Derek MacKenzie as captain of the Panthers, many people were baffled by the choice, but his veteran and leadership presence is vital to the Panthers' success. On the contrary, Aaron Ekblad, the former 1st overall pick in 2014, is a young star defenseman with immense potential. In the long run, it may be the right choice as Ekblad might not be ready for the captaincy at such a young age.
In his short NHL career, he has recorded two consecutive 30-point seasons and helped solidify the Panthers' defense. His rookie campaign of 39 points and pristine defense coverage was sufficient to secure his 2015 Calder Trophy win. This past offseason, he signed a lucrative eight-year deal worth $60 million. With many more years ahead of him, he will certainly blossom into one of the NHL's next elite defensemen.
17 Los Angeles Kings - Tyler Toffoli
The former 2nd round pick has been overshadowed by the star power of Anze Kopitar in L.A. But after reaching the 30-goal plateau last season, he has finally turned some heads. At the age of 24, the prolific scorer has found major success in Los Angeles, normally playing with Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson. He has rapidly improved at the NHL level since coming in and has helped L.A. win a Stanley Cup in 2014. Among his personal accolades, he also won a World Championship gold medal with Canada in 2015.
Although Kopitar recently signed a lengthy eight-year extension with the Kings, Toffoli has been a steal of a pick and rounded out L.A.'s forceful top-6 forward group. He already has been steadily increasing his point totals and still has many more years ahead of him. If he can keep up his steady improvements, he will likely become L.A.'s next superstar.
16 Minnesota Wild - Charlie Coyle
Originally drafted in the 1st round in 2010, the strong power forward uses all of his 6'3 body to score goals and create space in front of the net. The Minnesota youngster has consistently recorded 30-points NHL seasons, including a 42-point campaign last season. The 2015-16 season was a career year for him since he recorded personal best in goals, assists and points, and only second to goals behind assistant captain Zach Parise.
As he continues to grow and develop his game in Minnesota, he will have veterans to emulate such as Zach Parise, Eric Staal, Jason Pominville and Ryan Suter. The skillful centerman will have ample opportunities with the Wild to increase his point totals and also contribute in the defensive aspect of the game.
15 Montreal Canadiens - Alex Galchenyuk
The highly skilled offensive forward was selected third overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2012 and has not disappointed on any level whatsoever. He has been a reliable top 6 forward for the Canadiens, with his recent promotion to the top line this season. He has an excellent pair of hands that possesses an accurate shot. His superb offensive abilities have proven that he is an incredible asset to the team and can help them generate goals.
The 22-year-old centerman has consistently played on the top power-play and isn't afraid to release his wicked shot. For the most part, he normally plays alongside current captain Max Pacioretty, who has been a big influence on his overall game. Although Galchenyuk isn't the most reliable defensive forward, his marvelous scoring touch and robust skating skills make him a likely candidate for the captaincy in Montreal.
14 Nashville Predators - Filip Forsberg
Originally drafted 11th overall by the Washington Capitals in 2012, he was infamously traded to his current team, the Nashville Predators. Since the trade, he has thrived extensively with the team and has proven his aptitude for scoring. Not only that, he has continually developed his two-way game and is becoming a formidable force on both ends of the ice. He possesses a powerful, lethal shot and often uses his nifty set of hands to create open space and set up highlight-reel goals.
The 22-year-old winger has posted back-to-back 60-point seasons and shows no signs of slowing down. He recently reached the 30-goal plateau, and tied the Predators franchise record for most goals in a season (33). The 2015 All-Star has led the Predators in scoring for two years in a row and is also defensively responsible. Although he could improve his consistency, the Predators' next franchise player could well be captain in the near future.
13 New Jersey Devils - Pavel Zacha
The former sixth overall pick by the Devils in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft has been recently striking heads after getting the nod to play in the big league this season. Although he is in the primitive stage of his career, he definitely has a bright future ahead of him in New Jersey. Zacha has been deemed by many prospect scouts to have a particular knack for offensive production and possesses a rare, near-flawless combination of size, speed and skill.
The dynamic 19-year-old centerman has been developing his overall hockey abilities in the OHL with the Sarnia Sting, where he served as assistant captain. In his first career NHL game, he recorded 2 assists. The Czech Republic native can be heavily relied upon in clutch situations and is a dangerous force when he crosses his opponent's blue line. Zacha may be still quite young, but with the right development, he can become a great NHL star.
12 New York Islanders - Nick Leddy
The flashy defenseman was originally a 16th overall draft pick and played his first few NHL seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks. As a part of Chicago's dominant regime, he would eventually win a Stanley Cup championship with them in 2013. Before the 2014-15 season, his rights were traded to the New York Islanders, where he signed a lucrative seven-year contract worth $38.5 million.
He is widely known as the smooth operator on the team because of his superb puck moving skills and his calm demeanor on the ice. Leddy often mans the Islanders' power-play and is a redoubtable offensive producer from the back-end. He has posted four successful 30-point campaigns, three of which are consecutive. As the emerging star no.1 defenseman on Long Island, Leddy is bound to get the chance to don the "C".
11 New York Rangers - Derek Stepan
The explosive centerman has played an imperative role on the Rangers for years now and is only getting better with time. He was originally drafted in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and started playing for the Rangers in 2010. In his NHL debut, he became the fourth player in NHL history to record a hat-trick in his first NHL game. He has become a flashy scorer with great hands and a difference-maker in the Big Apple.
In his rookie season, he posted an impressive 45-point campaign with the Rangers. It was good enough to earn him a spot at the 2011 NHL All-Star game. He followed up his personal success with three consecutive 50-point seasons. His best season came in 2013-14 where he posted 57 points, and also helped guide the Rangers towards a Stanley Cup Finals berth. Stepan has been an incredible all-around player for the Rangers thus far, playing in almost every situation, so he could definitely become New York's future captain.
10 Ottawa Senators - Mark Stone
Originally a sixth round pick in 2010, the scoring winger spent some time in both the OHL and AHL before staying full-time in the big league. As a rookie in the 2014-15 season, he posted a career-high 64 points en route to a Calder Trophy nomination for the NHL's best rookie player. His extraordinary rookie season was just the beginning of his NHL tenure. Funny enough, his NHL debut came in Game 5 of the Senators' first round playoff series.
In his two full years of experience in the NHL, he has led the league in both seasons in takeaways. He has also posted consecutive 60-plus point seasons. The 24-year-old right winger has undoubtedly been one of the Senators' better forwards, if not the best. His offensive production and on-ice dominance led him to a 2016 World Championship gold medal with Canada. Surely, he has an auspicious career ahead of him in Canada's capital.
9 Philadelphia Flyers - Shayne Gostisbehere
Nicknamed the "Ghost Bear", the young and youthful defenseman is in his sophomore season and is already a major stud. In his rookie season with the Flyers, he amassed 46 points in 64 games, which as a defenseman is superbly impressive, especially in his first season in the big league. The star-studded defenseman was originally drafted by the Flyers in the third round back in 2012.
The 2014 NCAA champion has entered into the NHL like an experienced defenseman blessed with exemplary hockey sense and vision. Although he is still young, he has loads of potential and will certainly become the undisputed star no.1 defenseman in Philly. Gostisbehere possesses a calm and cool demeanor, which is perfectly paired with his smooth skating abilities. Get used to hearing his distinct last name because he will definitely become an elite defenseman in the coming years.
8 Pittsburgh Penguins - Olli Maatta
The young Finnish defenseman is widely known for his propensity for shot-blocking and possessing a high hockey IQ. He was drafted 22nd overall by Pittsburgh in 2012. In his first season with the Penguins, he amassed an incredible 29 points, which is his best season yet in terms of offensive production. Maatta is patient and reliable with the puck and is not afraid to pass an outlet to his teammates to get the puck out of harm's way.
As a 19-year-old, he earned a spot on the Finnish Olympic team in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, where he won a bronze Olympic medal. Among other accolades, he is a 2-time OHL champion and most recently won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2016. Although his offensive production has dipped since his rookie season, he has steadily improved on the defensive aspect of the game, which helps deepen the Penguins' back end.
7 San Jose Sharks - Logan Couture
The lethal scoring centerman has developed a spectacular reputation down in San Jose and has been become an emerging star over the past few seasons. Originally drafted ninth overall in 2007, the San Jose Sharks center has become an integral part of the team over the years. He has an immensely successful rookie season when he finished with 56 points, 32 of which were goals. His on-ice dominance was good enough to earn him a Calder Trophy nomination.
This past playoffs, he led playoff scoring with 30 points in 24 games. The Sharks unfortunately came up short when they were defeated in 6 games in the Stanley Cup Finals. Despite the heartbreak, Couture is sure to continue his personal success and eclipse the 60-point plateau again. The fan-favourite most recently won the World Cup with Canada and shows no signs of slowing down as he reaches the prime of his career.
6 St. Louis Blues - Vladimir Tarasenko
The dangerous and exceptionally talented right winger has been a prime leader for the Blues ever since his emergence into the NHL. In his rookie season, he scored both his first two NHL shots and ended the season with a 0.5 points per game average. As his time continues in St. Louis, he has become the paramount force driving the Blues' offense.
In terms of team success, Tarasenko has helped guide the Blues to four straight playoff appearances, although all of their efforts have resulted in utter heartbreak. Among personal achievements, he has competed with Russia internationally on numerous occasions, including winning a silver medal at the 2015 World Championships. The streaky winger has impeccable hockey vision and passing skills, which makes him an optimal future captain.
5 Tampa Bay Lightning - Victor Hedman
The big, buff and burly defenseman was originally drafted 2nd overall in 2009 and has not underachieved at any facet of the game. Since entering into the NHL in the 2009-10 season, he has helped strengthen and solidify Tampa's back-end. The 6'6 Swedish defenseman uses his entire physique to dominate opponents and weave his way into the offensive zone. His superb acceleration enables him to situate himself in dangerous spots.
The high-scoring defenseman's best season in terms of offensive production came in 2013-14 when he amassed 55 points. His immaculate puck moving skills are way beyond his years, which helps the Lightning play a fast-paced style of hockey. Hedman's pristine passing game and pin-point slapper also contribute to the Lightning's overall offense. As the star no.1 defenseman in Tampa, he would definitely lead by example as future captain.
4 Toronto Maple Leafs - Auston Matthews
I'm sure this does not come as a major nor shocking surprise. Matthews is the next major superstar, along with Connor McDavid, and carries the majority of the weight of the Maple Leafs' future. In his first NHL game, he set the record for most goals scored in an NHL debut with four goals. It was quite the impressive spectacle to say the least. The 2016 1st overall pick started out on the right foot and has since proved his on-ice dominance.
Often labeled as a generational talent, the dynamic 19-year-old centerman has a particular knack for scoring goals and using his maturity to cash in on opportunities with the puck. Despite bearing the weight of a first overall pick, Matthews will undoubtedly live up to the daunting expectations and will only exponentially improve from here on out.
3 Vancouver Canucks - Bo Horvat
As a Vancouver Canucks fan, there isn't much to be excited about at this point. With the Sedins aging quickly and no one to sufficiently replace them, there isn't much going for them at the moment. Luckily, Bo Horvat has been steadily improving and is slowly becoming the go-to guy in Vancouver. Originally selected ninth overall, Horvat is widely known as a complete, competitive two-way centerman who is reliable both offensively and defensively.
The two-time OHL champion with the London Knights has found considerable success in Vancouver. Since his rookie season, he improved his offensive production from 25 points to 40 points. The 21-year-old centerman is dependable in almost every situation and competes with extreme fervor every shift. With a rapidly aging core in Vancouver, Horvat is destined to inherit the captaincy from Henrik Sedin in the near future.
2 Washington Capitals - John Carlson
The star-studded defenseman has been the backbone of the Capitals' back-end for a long time now. He is a scoring defenseman who is also proficient at defending his own zone. The 26-year-old has translated outstandingly well since getting drafted 27th overall by the Washington Capitals in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He has incredible hockey vision and IQ, and is not afraid to make that first pass out of the defensive zone.
Carlson, a World Junior champion in 2010, is reliable on both ends of the ice and is developing into a sturdy no.1 defenseman in Washington. Often acting as the quarterback of the Capitals' power-play, Carlson is extremely calm with the puck and has a hard-nosed shot. The 2-time Calder Cup champion has progressed tremendously well since entering the big leagues, and should be strongly considered for the captaincy in Washington.
1 Winnipeg Jets - Mark Scheifele
As good as the recent 2nd overall pick, Patrik Laine, may be, Mark Scheifele's sudden emergence into stardom and offensive supremacy should not go unnoticed. Originally drafted seventh overall by the Winnipeg Jets in 2011, he has suddenly ignited his inner offensive firepower and fired on all cylinders. The Ontario native has been thriving alongside fellow teammate Patrik Laine and have helped regain the Jets' pursuit towards making the playoffs.
Scheifele, a recent World Championships champion with Canada, has been lighting the lamps up in Winnipeg for some time now, and is finally receiving the recognition he deserves. He is currently in contention for the league lead in points and is not showing any signs of slowing down. The 23-year-old centerman is only in the beginning stages of his offensive dominance, so a captaincy for Scheifele could well be imminent in Winnipeg.
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