This article was different than the others I have done so far and that is why I was interested in it. This article focuses on the best of the best from 12 NHL cities. There is a lot of parity in today’s NHL and not necessarily all the best players in the league are Canadian or American, but every city, country and state has enough talent to make up an NHL team. I tried to rank the teams in terms of elite talent and those at the bottom of my list either do not have a lot of players from the city or lack all star caliber players. Conversely, those at the very top of the list are loaded with elite talent and had plenty of players to choose from.
I put a premium on teams with elite defencemen and goaltending at the top of the list since I believe that those are the two key elements to winning a Stanley Cup. I also tried to pick forwards that offered a blend of youth and a veteran presence and those that have performed very well in their NHL careers or are future superstars in the league. The perfect blend of youth and veteran leadership was what I was looking for.
Researching for this article was a lot of fun since I learned which cities players came from and I also learned a little bit about the geography of certain states and provinces. All in all, this article offered me something new and different and brought back my days of when I used to play fantasy hockey and building a dream team which was always an enjoying experience.
12 Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks might be the winningest NHL team over the past decade, but when it comes to active hometown players, the state of Illinois is extremely lacking. At the top of the list in terms of career NHL points for forwards are Tommy Wingels, Mike Brown and Ryan Dzingel. On defence there is Connor Carrick and John Moore who are two depth defencemen even on a bad team.
In net it is a little bit better with former Blackhawk Craig Anderson being the pick of the crop who has 466 NHL games played to his credit.
11 Pittsburgh Penguins
There is exactly enough active players in the NHL from the city of Pittsburgh to make up a starting lineup. Philadelphia Flyers centre R.J Umberger, Columbus Blue Jackets winger Brandon Saad and Florida Panthers center Vincent Trocheck make up the forward group, with the Washington Capitals' Mike Weber and Vancouver Canucks' Matt Bartowski on defence and young Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson in net.
Saad had a breakthrough season and scored 31 goals this year for the Columbus Blue Jackets and John Gibson was an All Star this year for the Ducks.
10 Boston Bruins
There are 22 active NHL players from the state of Massachusetts, but only a couple of them are elite players. They are highlighted by Jack Eichel up front and Cory Schneider in net. They also have Charlie Coyle and Chris Kreider up front who are two very solid second line players and Keith Yandle and John Carlson on defence who are two very solid NHL puck moving, offensive defencemen. Eichel is having a very solid rookie year and if it was not for the likes of super rookie Artemi Panarin and Connor McDavid, he would be a front runner for the Calder Trophy.
9 Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres are on this list because they have the best player in the league this year in Patrick Kane. With 106 points during the regular season it was his best season in the NHL and he should win the Hart Trophy as league MVP. All of his skills came to the forefront this year and he was able to put everything together and have a breakout and highlight filled season. Joining Kane up front is current Sabre Marcus Foligno and his brother Nick of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The team is a little thin on defence with the Oilers' Adam Clendening and the Capitals rearguard Brooks Orpik who was born in California, but grew up in the Buffalo area. The team's weakest link would be in goal, where they'd rely on AHL netminder Tom McCollum of the Grand Rapids Griffins.
8 Calgary Flames
Calgary gets the edge over Boston because their elite young talent I believe is just a little bit better. Taylor Hall is a player that is ready to bust out and have a huge year in my opinion as soon as he gets out of Edmonton and William Nylander, who was born in Calgary when his father played for the Flames, has looked really good for the Maple Leafs in the games he has played this year. He has the ability to get goals and points in an instant and shows a keen sense for the game in the offensive zone that is rare to see.
Mason Raymond rounds out the forwards and Mike Green, the active leading points leader for players from Calgary and Braydon Coburn are the best Calgary offers in terms of defencemen. Chad Johnson is their goalie who had a nice year for the Buffalo Sabres.
7 Detroit Red Wings
The state of Michigan has the most active players of any team on this list so far, but there are a little thin on talent. However, the current Detroit Red Wings are led by speedster Dylan Larkin and Justin Abdelkader and Ryan Kesler has been a solid pro throughout his entire NHL career. On defence Jacob Trouba is a stud for the Winnipeg Jets and Andy Greene is very solid for the New Jersey Devils. In net we have Ryan Miller who plays for the struggling Vancouver Canucks and had a tough year with a 2.70 GAA, despite having a defence that was average at best.
6 Edmonton Oilers
The hometown Edmonton Oilers are an all star goalie from being a top three team on my list. As it stands Ben Scrivens is the only current NHL goalie from Edmonton. Up front Edmonton is loaded with future hall of famer Jarome Iginla, Montreal Canadiens dynamo Brendan Gallagher and of the Winnipeg Jets, Bryan Little. On defence there is Dion Phaneuf and Jay Bouwmeester. The talent on this team might not quite compare with some of the other teams on this list but I believe they have some of the intangibles that every team needs to be successful and win in the playoffs.
5 Minnesota Wild
This team is pretty loaded up front and on defence but like the Edmonton Oilers, they are lacking in goal. The forwards are stacked with speed and skill and are led by Zach Parise and St Louis Blues captain and pending free agent David Backes. Rounding out the forwards would be Kyle Okposo who puts up big time numbers playing alongside John Tavares and had 22 goals this past season. On defence there’s the monster Dustin Byfuglien and Justin Faulk who had a breakthrough season with the Carolina Hurricanes with 16 goals. Alex Stalock would mind the pipes who has actually been pretty decent in the NHL when given the chance, but only has 62 NHL games under his belt.
4 Montreal Canadiens
This team has a little bit of the old and a little bit of the new. The current leading scorer from Montreal is Vincent Lecavalier with 949 points and even though his career is coming to an end, he still has scored 10 goals for the Los Angeles Kings this year. Also up front is one of the best all round players in the game today, Patrice Bergeron who scored 30 goals for the second time in his career this year. He has also won two Olympic Gold Medals and a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins and is one of the most underrated players in the game today.
Rounding out the forwards from Montreal is Jonathan Huberdeau who has had a nice year for the Florida Panthers with 20 goals and 59 points. On defence there is Kris Letang who regained his All Star form this past season and Marc-Edouard Vlasic one of the best stay at home defencemen in the game today. This roster is rounded out with Roberto Luongo in net who has shown again this year that he is one of the best goalies in the league after a couple of down years.
3 Winnipeg Jets
Manitoba is nicely represented with Chicago Blackhawks and in this day and age winning means everything. Highlighting their roster are Captain Canada Jonathan Toews and Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith. Also up front are Patrick Sharp and Alexander Steen who is a solid contributor to the St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup hopes. Along with Keith on defence is Michael Stone of the Arizona Coyotes who quietly had a very nice year with 36 points. In net is James Reimer who since being traded to the San Jose Sharks has been playing very well with three shutouts.
2 Vancouver Canucks
The number two team on my list has arguably the best defence out of all the teams I have mentioned. Shea Weber is a perennial Norris Trophy candidate and Brent Seabrook had 49 points this year for the Chicago Blackhawks. If that is not imposing enough, there is last year's Hart Trophy and Vezina Trophy winner Carey Price backstopping this team. Up front you have last year's Art Ross Trophy winner Jamie Benn, Stanley Cup winner Andrew Ladd and former Boston Bruin Milan Lucic.
My other point of logic in putting the Canucks as high as they are on this list is that the playoffs are a grind and every player on this list knows how to win and plays the heavy kind of style that is needed in the run for the Stanley Cup.
1 Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto is home to some of the most talented players in the NHL, especially on defence with the likes of young stalwarts Drew Doughty, P.K. Subban and Alex Pietrangelo. They also have Brent Burns who led all defencemen in goals this past season and will be in the conversation for the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenceman and Mark Giordano who also scored 20 goals from the defence position. Up front, Ontario’s leading scorer among active players is Joe Thornton who has 1,341 career points including 82 this year in a renaissance season, multi-time 30 goal scorer Jason Spezza, former MVP Corey Perry, former 60 goal scorer Steven Stamkos, John Tavares and the list goes on and on. Brian Elliott and Cam Talbot make up the team's goaltending.
The one thing that stands out about this team from the other teams on my list is that one can easily make up 3-4 teams out of all the players from the Greater Toronto Area without a problem and be very happy, but with the other teams this is an impossibility. These teams also have all the intangibles to win in the playoffs. Size, speed, skill it really is a general manager's dream to make up a roster of players from Toronto.