There are few honors in sports as big as wearing the captain’s “C” on your chest. Players around the National Hockey League strive for this tremendous honor and most will never have the chance to call themselves the captain of their team. The captain of a team is not always the team’s player, but the teams most effective leader; the player that sums up what the organization is all about. Being a captain in the NHL encompasses many things, talent, leadership and composure are some qualities just to name a few.
The current landscape in the NHL presents us with the opportune time to analyze some of the best players in the league, many of who also are the captains of their teams. The game has seen a great influx of young talented players who are loaded with speed and goal scoring talents, making the game of hockey as exciting as ever. Teenager Connor McDavid took the league by storm last season with his jaw-dropping speed and excellent puck handling skills. Veterans Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are now as good as ever and have their teams playing some of the best hockey in their careers. This list is loaded with talent.
Quick note: The Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs currently do not have a captain, so they were not included on this list.
28. Andy Greene, New Jersey Devils
A once undrafted free agent, defenseman Andy Greene has made quite the journey to become captain of the New Jersey Devils. Greene opens the list of NHL captains ranking low on the list because of his lack of offensive productive over his career. Greene is no doubt a very effective and efficient defenseman in the league, however, his major flaw has been his inability to produce on both side of the ice. His career high in goals is eight and his career high in points is just 37. In nearly 650 career games, Greene has totaled just 35 goals. The American-born Greene is a rock solid player, but nowhere near the best captain in the league.
27. Florida Panthers, Derek MacKenzie
The 35-year-old centerman Derek MacKenzie is one of the newest captains on the list. MacKenzie was appointed to lead the young and talented Florida Panthers on October 9th of this year. The move was met with much criticism as many had expected one of the all-time greats, Jaromír Jágr, to be named captain. The brass of the organization stated that MacKenzie is the locker room leader they have been looking for. His presence both on and off the ice is the kind of leadership they are looking for. MacKenzie is not much of threat from an offensive standpoint, as he has never scored more than 10 goals in a season. The Panthers are a team that is quickly on the rise, and the newly appointed MacKenzie is the man they want leading the charge… for some reason.
26. Brian Gionta, Buffalo Sabres
The very best days of Brian Gionta’s career are far behind him. The once very talented winger scored nearly 50 goals in 2005-2006. His years with New Jersey and Montreal saw him be a much more effective offensive player, however Gionta is still playing productive hockey at the age of 37. Gionta is the captain of a Buffalo team that has been stuck in the bottom of the league for quite some time. The Sabers are stockpiling some young talent that should help them get back to respectability in the league. Gionta’s days as captain are probably numbered as the young talent of Buffalo is soon to take over the head of this team in addition to his contract expiring at the end of the season.
25. Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets
At just 28-years-old, the jury is still out on the career of Nick Foligno. After the 2014-15 season, the Columbus Blue Jackets thought they may have had one of the next developing stars in the league. In 79 games, Foligno scored 31 goals, tallied 42 assists and finished the year with 73 total points. The breakout season earned him an appearance as an NHL all-star for the first time in his career as well as a tie for the 10th most points in the league. After the promising year, Foligno followed up with a very disappointing season the next year, tallied just 12 goals. This year will be a big year in the career of the Columbus captain who hopes to rebound from the down year.
24. Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens
One of the best American born players in the league, Montreal’s young stud Max Pacioretty comes in at number 24 on the list. Paciortetty is a rare mix of a great goal scorer and a solid defensive player. His work on both ends of the ice makes him one of the league’s best talents each year. Pacioretty can score with the best of them, tallying 39, 37 and 30 goals in his past three seasons. Pacioretty was another name that garnered some national attention after playing in the Olympics with Team U.S.A. The two-time all-star needs to work a little bit on his passing in order to truly become elite, but the 27-year-old Pacioretty should be at the helm of the Canadiens team for quite some time.
23. Mike Fisher, Nashville Predators
The 36-year-old Fisher has been the captain of Nashville since the start of the season. Fisher’s career is no doubt on the downswing but he still is a productive forward who led some very talented Nashville teams. Fisher earns most of his merit for his ability as a defensive forward. Fisher has nine times earn votes for the Selke award, which is given to the league’s best defensive forward. Part of his strong defensive minded game is his ability to kill penalties. Fisher has excelled in that facet of the game. Once a consistent 20 goal scorer every year, Fisher has lost a bit on offense but still can be a nice contributor on that side of the ice. The newly acquired P.K. Subban looks to be the odds-on favorite to take over the captaincy once Fisher’s reign is complete.
22. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
The Oilers have been lucky enough to win the rights to several first overall picks in the past several seasons. A couple of those have not lived up to the hype, but their most recent number one selection, Connor McDavid looks like he is the real deal. Before a collarbone injury cost him most the year last season, McDavid was tearing up the league. McDavid finished the year with 48 points in 45 games and probably would have won the Calder trophy if it had not been for the injury. McDavid is just 19-years-old and he is already one of the best skaters in the league. The Oilers have their star of the future and probably one of the best players in the league for the next 15 years.
21. Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
The former first-round draft pick of the Phoenix Coyotes, right-winger Blake Wheeler has now become one of the most valuable assets for the Winnipeg Jets. In the past three seasons, Wheeler has been an incredibly consistent goal scorer for the Jets. Wheeler has tallied 28, 26 and 26 goals in the past three seasons. Wheeler has really started to hit his stride as a complete offensive hockey player in the past seasons. Wheeler finished sixth in the league in points last season with just under 80, and finished fifth in the league in assists with over 50. Wheeler finished the year just under 1 point per page. The 30-year-old Wheeler should be a prime player for the Jets for the next several seasons.
20. Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers
One of the younger captains on the list, McDonagh has truly developed into one of the better defensemen in the NHL. The American born McDonagh is just 27-years-old and already has quite the track record to his name. The Rangers captain is already a great player and has already finished in the top 15 of Norris Trophy voting four times in his young career. McDonagh made his mark on a national stage as well, serving as one of the best defensemen on Team U.S.A. McDonagh has never finished with a +/- ratio of less than + 11; his career high in that category is 26. He’s also logged a ton of ice time, averaging nearly 25 minutes per game on the ice. The Rangers have found their new captain and should be their leader for the foreseeable future.
19. Mark Giordano, Calgary Flames
One of the more offensively talented defensemen in the league, Giordano has served as the captain of the Flames since 2012-2013. At the age of 33, Giordano is recently producing some of the better seasons of his career. Giordano totaled a career-high 21 goals last season, which earned him a trip to his first all-star game. He paired his goal total with 35 assists giving him 56 points, a very nice total for a defenseman. However, it is clear the Giordano earned the captaincy of Calgary because of his strong leadership skills, which have often been praised in the media reports about Giordano. Like Andy Greene, Giordano was an undrafted player who then signed with the Flames. He has spent his entire career with Calgary.
18. Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
Once one of the most productive players in the league, Henrik Sedin has recently been unable to reacquire the same level of play that made him a star. Sedin’s downfall has partially been attributed to the lack of talent that has surrounded him in the past few seasons. Sedin and the Canucks were once blessed with arguably the most talented roster in the league, however, after serval key departures and trades, Vancouver’s roster doesn’t pack the same punch it once did. Sedin is still a great passer and still one of the best in the league at providing scoring chances for his linemates, but he is not finding the back of the net like he once could. After scoring 29 goals in a season that saw him amass 112 points, Sedin has failed to reach 20 since.
17. Mikko Koivu, Minnesota Wild
Similar to that of Fisher, Koivu earns his money as a player that can play strong hockey on both ends of the ice. Following a huge offseason of signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the Minnesota Wild had huge expectations for their franchise. While the Parise, Suter, Koivu era has earned them several trips to the postseason, they have failed to advance deep in the playoffs in any of those trips. Koivu has never been an elite goal scorer or a point producer, but he can contribute in many areas of the game when he is on the ice. Once a 20 or more goal scorer and a 65-70 points kind of guy, Koivu is now more in the 50-60 range and won’t probably approach his previous marks of over 20 goals and close to 70 points again.
16. Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
At just 23-years-old, Landeskog has already compiled some very impressive seasons for his young age. The Colorado Avalanche used the second overall pick in the 2011 NHL draft to land the highly-talented Swedish-born player. Landeskog busted onto the scene that same year, winning the Clader Trophy after scoring over 20 goals and racking up over 50 points. Landeskog probably had his best season when Colorado took the Western conference by storm in 2013. The Avalanche led the conference in points with 112 that year. Landeskog scored 26 goals while dishing out 39 assists for a total of 65 points, the highest total of his career. At a young age, Landeskog still has a lot of room to grow as a player, but he is and will continue to be a star in the league.
15. Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
The second straight Swedish born player on the list, the 36-year-old Zetterberg has also seen better days in his career. Zetterberg and the Red Wings were once (and maybe still considered by some) hockey’s model franchise. Detroit has been eliminated from the playoffs in the first round each of the last three seasons and have not won a Stanley Cup since the 2007-08 season. Zetterberg was once of the game’s elite players. A top-notch goal scorer and excellent defender in his prime, Zetterberg was a crucial part of Detroit’s success. However, in the last four season Zetterberg’s goal totals are as followed: 13. 17, 16, 11. Last season he finished with the worst +/- mark of his career with a -15.
14. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins
The 39-year-old Chara was once one of the top defensemen in the league. His unmatched size, killer slap shot and dominant presence made him one of the most feared players in the league. However, in a league that now more than ever places an emphasis on speed, players like Chara are becoming less effective. Chara is still a rock-solid defenseman but the days of him being a sure fire all-star every season are probably behind him. His career numbers should never be discredited. Chara has played his way to six all-star games, a Norris Trophy and a Stanley Cup championship in 2011. When he decides to hang us his skates, Chara will probably be headed to the Hockey Hall of Fame after a great career.
13. Shane Doan, Arizona Coyotes
Although he’s one of the oldest players still in the league, Shane Doan showcased to fans around the league last year that can still play the game at a high level. Doan is one of the longest serving captains in the league and the Coyotes will miss his leadership and talent once he decides to retire. Doan finished last season with 28 goals, one of the highest totals of his career. After 20 seasons in the league, Doan has twice been named an all-star, scored nearly 400 goals and accumulated nearly 1000 points. At the age of 40, his career is probably nearing an end and the Coyotes organization will not be the same without him. Doan ranks sixth among active players in total goals.
12. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
The long tenured captain of the Anaheim Ducks, Ryan Getzlaf, is the rare combination of a player who can be physical and score goals. Getzlaf has been in the league for quite some time and he has made a name for himself throughout his career. The 2007 Stanley Cup Champion is a three-time all-star who is a great two-way hockey player. Getzlaf can skate, score and hit; something not many players can do. However, similar to Chara, his lack of speed is what prevents him from being higher on the list. Getzlaf has led the Ducks into some deep playoffs and will probably have a few more in him before his days are over. His days of 30 plus goals are probably in the rear-view mirror though.
11. Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues
With the departure of David Backes, the St. Louis Blues now have a new captain. The man wearing the “C” for the Blues now is defensemen Alex Pietrangelo. The 26-year-old is one of the many young talented players that the Blues have on their roster. Pietrangelo is the full package at the blue line. His skating ability is excellent and he can control the puck as well as any defensemen in the league. He seems to be getting even better with each passing season. He’s even began to develop a sense for strong offensive play. His strong work on the blue line is a big part of what has made St. Louis a great regular season team for the past several seasons. They had one of their better playoff runs last season, but they have still yet to reach the cup.
10. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
The 28-year-old captain of the Philadelphia Flyers is a great all-around player. Giroux was once considered to be one of the best players in the league. During the 2011 season Giroux was phenomenal. His 93 points were one of the highest totals in the league and his 65 assists showcased his abilities as one of the best passers in the league. Giroux is still putting up points at a high level, but not quite the same elite production he once was. He has reached the Stanley Cup once in his career, but other than that, the Flyers playoff track record is less than desirable. The Flyers have a couple of young stars, let’s see what else they can do in the future.
9. Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks had one of their best seasons in recent memory last year, reaching the Stanley Cup finals. The Sharks fell short against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but still a great year nonetheless. Pavelski is a star offensively in this league and the world finally got to see that last year with the deep playoff run. Pavelski has scored at least 37 goals in each of the past three seasons. Pavelski was even better in the playoffs last year for the sharks with 23 points in 24 games. The American born center is a stud and at the age of 32 he probably still has some great years left in the tank. The Sharks do have a bit of an older roster, but Pavelski is still in his prime.
8. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
Arguably the best defensemen in the league, Erik Karlsson is a stud. The 26-year-old Karlsson has already won the Norris Trophy twice in just seven seasons. His awards don’t stop there, he’s a two-time all-star and has finished in the top ten of Hart Trophy voting three times already in his career. What separates Karlsson from other defensemen is his offensive talent. Few other blue liners in the NHL can score 20 goals and totaled nearly 80 points. Karlsson has floated around the marks almost every season in his young career. The argument can be made he’s one of the best skaters in the league, pair it with his ability to handle the puck in both zones and Karlsson is one of the top players in the league.
7. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
One of the newer captain on the list, Anze Kopitar took over as the new captain of the Kings, replacing Dustin Brown. Kopitar is just 29 years of age and already has built a career filled with accolades. Kopitar is already a two-time Stanley Cup champion and has scored more than 70 points seven times his career. Kopitar can play both ends of the ice as well as any other player in the league. He’s been a finalist for the Selke award (best defensive forward) in each of the past three seasons. His +34 rating last year earned him the award for the first time in his career. He’s already been a three-time all-star. The Kings have their franchise player and captain for the foreseeable future.
6. John Tavares, New York Islanders
The second straight first overall pick, Tavares is the captain of the on-the-rise Islanders. The Islanders have reached the playoffs in the past three seasons in large part due to the stellar play of their captain Tavares. Tavares is a three-time all-star and has been in the discussion for the Hart Trophy in each of the past several seasons. Two seasons ago, Tavares was second in the league in scoring with 86 points. He netted 38 goals and 38 assists and finished only behind Jamie Benn in total points. Tavares is an all-around player who can do just about anything on the ice. He has a great shot, he’s tough, he can pass with the best of them and he can be physical when needed. A great overall player.
5. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars
Over the past three seasons, few players in the NHL have found the back of the net like Jamie Benn. Benn has scored 34, 35, and 41 goals in those seasons. His 89 points last season earned him the second most in the league. Benn, paired with fellow offensive stud Tyler Seguin have given the Dallas Stars one of the most formidable attacks in the league. Benn and Seguin have propelled the Stars to one of the best teams in the league as well. They have earned a couple of playoffs appearances and they have made a little bit of noise when there. Benn’s ability to handle the puck with precision and quickness, paired with his ability to score from almost anywhere in the offensive zone makes him a nightmare for defenders.
4. Alexander Oveckhin, Washington Capitals
Simply put, Alexander Oveckhin is one of the best goal scorers of our generation. The numbers are insane through his career, so let’s just go over them briefly. Over 500 career goals in less than 900 career games. 50 goals or more in each of the past three seasons (51, 53, 50 respectively), 50 or more four other times in his career, including a year with an insane 65 goals. From an offensive perspective, Oveckhin is just about as good as it gets. He’s an elite goal scorer and an elite skater, who can also throw his body around with the best of them. Oveckhin’s lethal wrist shot is other worldly and he can score from the most obscure angles on the ice. This guy is a true goal scorer in every sense of the word. The factor that has always plagued Ovi is his perceived lack of defensive play and inability to reach the Stanley Cup final.
3. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning
The younger, Canadian version of Oveckhin is the next entry on the list. At just 26-years-old, Stamkos has already amassed over 300 goals. Let that sink in for a second. What an incredible start to the career of the former number one overall pick. Stamkos has netted 60, 51, 45 and 43 goals in his best seasons in the league and has three times eclipsed more than 90 points in a season. His one-timer is possibly the best in the league and he can blow wrist shots pass any goalie in the league. Stamkos has already once made it to the Stanley cup finals and his young and talented Lightning team are only on the rise. They should be in competition to make the cup every season and Stamkos is the man leading this team.
2. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
It’s hard to put into words everything that Jonathan Toews has accomplished in his career already, but let’s do our best to sum it all up. Three Stanley Cup Championships, three all-star games, two Olympic gold medals, a Selke trophy, a Conn Smythe and a career +/- ratio of 189. But, the numbers don’t say it all with Toews. Toews is perhaps the best leader in the NHL as evident by his career success of high level postseason performances and history of winning. Leadership is something that is hard to quantify, but you can just see how great of leader Toews is based on the continued and prolonged success of the Blackhawks. Toews and the Blackhawks are loaded with talent and they are a threat to win the Cup each season. He’s just 28-years-old so there’s no telling what Toews will have when it’s all said and done. Could he be the next Chicago athlete to win six championships? Time will tell.
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
There is little to no doubt that Sidney Crosby is the most talented player in the NHL. Crosby is an elite talent and you be hard pressed to find a better overall player in the NHL. Crosby’s career numbers are insane to say the least. Sid has five times scored more than 100 points in a season, seven times has scored more than 30 goals in a season and has four times dished out more than 60 assists in a season. Crosby is phenomenal with and without the puck on his stick and when he has it, he’s a must-see attraction. The only thing that has slowed down Sidney Crosby is injuries. Crosby has struggled with some tough injuries throughout his career and those have hurt some of his counting numbers in some seasons. Sid the kid won his second Stanley Cup last season and he was better than ever in the playoffs winning his first Conn Smythe.
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