NHL teams tend to overrate and underrate players, misplacing them among the remainder of the league. This is how players like Dan Girardi of the New York Rangers are gifted mega-contracts, but Justin Schultz of the Pittsburgh Penguins struggled to find a contract that matched his value this off-season. When push comes to shove, judging NHL talent is difficult. For example, Dan Girardi used to be an underrated member of the Rangers' blue line. Over time, however, teams began to pay closer attention to him, respecting his overall game to the point that he was considered a top pair defenseman in the NHL. Girardi's game worsened with passing time though, and eventually the defenseman became so much worse that the perception of him demanded to be changed. Teams did not understand that though, so Girardi is now an overrated player. It's a complicated process to rate any player, as players abilities are constantly changing and what constitutes a successful player is constantly changing.
That doesn't stop pundits from ranking players, nor does it stop teams from paying players large sums of money. Sometimes the deals work out, sometimes they are obvious mistakes from the start, and sometimes the player appears to be hosed from the moment the paycheck is signed. Regardless, in today's NHL there are plenty of players that are overrated, and plenty of players that are underrated. Let's take a look at players that fit into each category considering their current standing in today's NHL, rather than the past like many teams consider.
18 Overrated - Milan Lucic
The Edmonton Oilers signed Milan Lucic to a mega-contract this off-season, signing him away from their division rivals, the Los Angeles Kings. The Vancouver Canucks were also interested in signing the gritty forward in the off-season, but Lucic decided to come to Edmonton to play for his then-former General Manager Peter Chiarelli and to play with Connor McDavid. We can't blame him, as who wouldn't want to play with McDavid? That being said, Lucic was paid like a superstar, when in reality he is simply a strong player that can put the puck in the net when he's given the opportunities. At best he is an All-Star, but that should not be expected of him. Edmonton certainly expected that of him.
17 Underrated - Roberto Luongo
Despite being one of the top goaltenders in today's NHL and being one of the most successful netminders in recent NHL history, Roberto Luongo's name does not often come up when discussing the elite goalies of the NHL. Perhaps it's because Luongo does not own a Stanley Cup ring, or maybe it's because Luongo plays for the Florida Panthers, a team that is rarely in the spotlight. Regardless, Luongo's statistics stack up with the best of the best, and his career has been outstanding, despite often playing for weak defenses in front of him. Luongo has helped carry this Florida Panthers team to the playoff hunt despite plenty of players failing to hold up their ends of the deal. Luongo is one of the best goalies in the NHL.
16 Overrated - Chris Kunitz
Without Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz is nothing. Kunitz made the 2014 Olympic squad for Canada-the best hockey country in the entire world-despite having relatively zero upside when playing away from Sidney Crosby. Kunitz has had a rough season thus far, and it is no coincidence he has done so while playing away from Crosby a bit more. Additionally, Conor Sheary has had a career year despite carrying little glamour with his name, as guess who he is playing with? Sidney Crosby. Sidney Crosby can make a player look vastly talented, and that has been the case when it comes to Chris Kunitz. All things considered, Kunitz is a fine bottom six player that has been treated like a top line winger thanks to Crosby.
15 Underrated - Ryan McDonagh
The New York Rangers defense is having an awful season, and Ryan McDonagh is not only the top defenseman on the team, but also the captain as well. With that, you may be led to believe that McDonagh is a problem, not a solution. Think again. McDonagh has posted 30 points including 28 assists (with a career low shooting percentage to add to the bad luck) despite playing the majority of his minutes with Dan Girardi, one of the worst defensemen in the entire National Hockey League. McDonagh helps keep pucks out of the net, something none of the other Rangers defensemen are truly capable of doing at this point in their respective careers. McDonagh deserves credit for helping to keep the Rangers afloat this year.
14 Overrated - Andrew Ladd
Andrew Ladd has been horrific thus far in his New York Islanders career, and that should have been predictable. Ladd struggled in his stint with the Chicago Blackhawks after being traded by the Winnipeg Jets mid-season, and he has struggled even worse this season with the Islanders. Ladd has been booed since what seems like the opening skate of the first game, as he has struggled to make plays, and has been tasked with replacing fan favorites Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo as well. Even worse, Ladd has struggled playing alongside John Tavares, who must be looked at as a Sidney Crosby-like player that makes players around him better. If Ladd can't succeed there, the perception of him being a valuable player must change.
13 Underrated - Blake Wheeler
The player that took over as captain of the Winnipeg Jets when Andrew Ladd was traded is one of the most underrated players in today's National Hockey League. Despite being an All-Star last season, Blake Wheeler remains an incredibly underrated player by any measurement. Wheeler puts up numbers with the best of the best, and even plays in a market that appreciates their hockey. With all of that, however, we doubt you have ever heard the argument that Wheeler is among the NHL's elite point scorers, and that's because Wheeler's reputation around the NHL does not match his true value to his team. Wheeler makes the Jets' offense roll, and his play this season has helped keep Winnipeg in the playoff hunt, rather than at the bottom of the standings once again.
12 Overrated - Jonathan Quick
Despite not playing in more than one game this season, Jonathan Quick has been proven to be an overrated goaltender this season. Quick's spot as one of the nominations for the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender in the National Hockey League last awards season raised eyebrows, and Peter Budaj's success in net for the Los Angeles Kings this season should only further the discussion around Quick being an overrated player. Quick has not put up amazing numbers in any recent season, and his success has largely stemmed from the system he plays in. Quick's struggles in the World Cup of Hockey this past off-season can further the point that outside of the Kings' system, Quick is just another goaltender that can play decent hockey.
11 Underrated - Tyler Toffoli
On the other end for the Los Angeles Kings, another injured player has had his worth proven by this trying season for the club. As the Kings fight for playoff positioning in a season they were expected to easily get a spot, it's been shown how valuable Tyler Toffoli is to the Los Angeles Kings' roster. Sure, a player with only 20 points in 34 games does not scream value, but the Kings have had an impossible time finding the back of the net this season, and Toffoli's absence has been a large part of that. Since returning from injury, Toffoli has helped spark the offense to wake back up, and his loss was much more troubling to the Kings than the loss of Quick.
10 Overrated - Tomas Plekanec
Tomas Plekanec has been given every opportunity by the Montreal Canadiens to succeed, but the Canadiens centerman just cannot rack up the points like the team would like him to. Plekanec is a fine defensive player and represents the Canadiens organization well, but the Canadiens may run into roadblocks if their center cannot pick up his play. Plekanec has only 23 points in 51 games this season, putrid numbers for someone who is supposed to be an important part of the offense. While the Canadiens have succeeded mightily this season, Plekanec has not done his part to be considered part of the success story. Other players have picked up the slack in his absence, but his absence has proven his reputation as a top six forward is off.
9 Underrated - Jaromir Jagr
Any time a player is over the age of 40 and still producing in the NHL, that player deserves all of the credit in the world. Not many people speak about Jagr as a top offensive threat anymore, but the oldest player in the National Hockey league has been one of the keys in keeping the Florida Panthers alive. It's funny, actually, the two players doing some of the most work to keep the Panthers alive are old, in a state where the elderly are some of the most common residents. Jagr makes this list as appreciation for his success despite his high age, and we hope that the Czech-born winger never leaves the NHL. He's truly an amazing player and deserves to always be appreciated.
7 Overrated - James Neal
James Neal is not overrated if the rating system is based on the ability to make completely unnecessary dirty plays, but alas it is not, so Neal is overrated. The Predators forward has scored 17 goals this season, an impressive number considering he has played in 43 games. Still, his 7 assists and -9 rating do not lend themselves to his being a part of the solution in Nashville. Considering he was traded for the Pittsburgh Penguins' Stanley Cup Champion Patrick Hornqvist, Neal should have far more expected of him than the average skater. Neal must step it up and produce more for the Predators, as he is paid kindly, his role is enormous, and the Predators need every point they could get in the playoff race.
6 Underrated - Viktor Arvidsson
Viktor Arvidsson may ring a bell to you because of his overtime winning goal against the San Jose Sharks in last year's Western Conference Finals. Arvidsson sniped a tremendous backhander past Martin Jones to give the Predators a huge win, and for a while his name was the talk of the nation. However Arvidsson's fanfare subsided as all fanfares tend to do, but it is now time to give the Swedish forward credit once again. Arvidsson has put up 32 points in 50 games for the Predators despite going into the season playing a bottom six role, and not being considered one of the top forwards on a deep Predators team. He has picked up his play when the Predators needed him to most, a welcomed change from the norm this year for Nashville.
5 Overrated - Semyon Varlamov
When Semyon Varlamov led the Washington Capitals to a comeback from a 3-1 deficit to the New York Rangers in the 2009 NHL playoffs, the popular opinion was that he would be the goaltender of the Capitals' future. Now nearly 8 years later, Varlamov is the starting goaltender for the Colorado Avalanche, who sit dead last in the National Hockey League by a wide margin. Varlamov won only six games this year before getting injured, and has a .898 save percentage to go along with that ghastly number. At 28 years old it can be looked at as a down season or he can be looked at as a re-vamp project, but overall Varlamov does not deserve credit as a starting goalie anymore.
4 Underrated - Max Pacioretty
Max Pacioretty is the best American scorer in the NHL today, despite Patrick Kane hailing from the same nation. Pacioretty, the captain of the Montreal Canadiens, has dominated throughout the year. Pacioretty is one of the sole challengers for the Rocket Richard, but likely will fall short because Sidney Crosby is, well, Sidney Crosby. Anyway, Pacioretty has single-handedly picked up the Canadiens offense when it struggled at various points throughout this season, and we cannot help but wonder where the Canadiens would be without their captain. Additionally, Pacioretty is the captain in the most challenging market in the entire NHL, yet he is still putting up points with the best of the best and leading the team to victories as well. Give the guy some credit!
2 Overrated - Jarome Iginla
Of course not every elder statesmen in the National Hockey League deserves all of the credit in the world, and one player that is far worse than he is given credit for is Jarome Iginla. Iginla has not yet reached the ten goal mark on the season despite being paid over $5 Million by the league worst Colorado Avalanche. If you are noticing a trend, the Avalanche's struggles this season have come largely due to their top guns failing to perform throughout the year. Iginla has not only not been an exception, but he has been the worst guilty party of them all. Some playoff contender will acquire Iginla because of his name value, but the former superstar is toast, and this year has proven that.
1 Underrated - Vincent Trocheck
One last Florida Panther to cap off the list. Vincent Trocheck surprised some by making the U-23 North America roster in this year's World Cup of Hockey, but also surprised many by playing so well in the tournament. Now in what has largely been a lost year for the Florida Panthers, Trocheck has put up terrific numbers, serving as one of the most valuable players in the entire National Hockey League. Trocheck was selected as the Panthers All-Star Game representative over better known players such as Aaron Ekblad, and he is finally starting to get some recognition as one of the top young talents in the NHL. Still, we bet many of you haven't heard of him, so that must change considering his talent.