In the NHL today, there are franchises which continually scrape the bottom of the league standings. Not for lack of effort and talent, these teams have their own problems and reasons as to why they cannot be successful. Usually the teams situated at the bottom of the NHL's standings at the end of each year, have talented players who shine, despite the teams dismal performances. This is not only the case in the NHL. It happens in most sports leagues around the world. A star player, playing for a lower class team, performs well while the team does poorly. Its a situation a player, specifically in the NHL cannot escape.
The format of the NHL draft places the teams which finished at the bottom of the NHL the previous, season at the top of the draft board. This means the worst NHL teams get to select the best talent from the young prospect pool of that years draft class. With this, talented young players often find themselves playing for a bad team for the first few years of their career. Also, trades come into play. The NHL allows for players to be traded from team to team, so a good player, playing on a good team, could be traded to a bad team at any point in the season.
This is a list of, the top 15 current NHL players too good for their teams.
15 Erik Karlsson
Probably the best defenceman in hockey, Erik Karlsson puts up staggering numbers year in and year out. He has accumulated 65-plus points in four seasons so far in his seven year career, and has over scored 20 goals twice. Last season, he put up 82 points in the regular season, while his team Ottawa, finished 19th in the league.
Drew Doughty won his first Norris Trophy this past season mainly because voters felt he was simply due to win one, but Karlsson was the most dominant blue liner all season. Consider who Doughty plays with and consider who Karlsson plays with. Karlsson's defence partner will likely be Dion Phaneuf going into next season, so we'll see if Phaneuf will keep up with him.
Karlsson is not only one of the most dominant defensemen in the NHL, he is one of the most dominant players. Period.
14 Morgan Rielly
The Maple Leafs 5th overall pick in 2012 is slowly becoming a top young defenceman in the NHL. His point totals are slowly rising every year and his level of play increases with every game. He has 25-plus points in each of his three NHL seasons so far and has played over 70 games each year. Unfortunately, the Leafs haven't been a good team for a young up and coming player to gain experience, unless that experience is losing.
The Leafs have made the playoffs once in the past six-plus years, and when they did manage to grab a playoff spot, they managed to pull off one of the biggest single game collapses in NHL history.
The Leafs now have Auston Matthews coming to their roster along to give the franchise a spark, so we'll see if that turns into more wins for the Leafs. Rielly sure could use a blue chipper up front to whom he can distribute the puck.
13 Jeff Skinner
Jeff Skinner is perhaps the best skater in the NHL. It is well documented, he might not be the fastest player in the NHL, but his stride and skating ability are top class. In his career, Skinner has put up over 20 goals in four seasons and has scored 30-plus goals twice in his six year NHL career. When he is not plagued by injury, Skinner is a consistent goal scorer and point producer. His team however, Carolina, have not qualified for the playoffs in the past seven seasons and has often finished at the bottom of the NHL's standings.
Skinner has mostly played with a fading Eric Staal in the past few years and we'll see how he does now, as the Canes have gotten a little younger with players like Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho now joining the 'Canes for the 2016-17 season. Hopefully Carolina turns it around soon.
12 Matt Duchene
The Avalanche's Matt Duchene has been a consistent point scorer throughout his entire NHL career, yet he has only been to the playoffs once in his seven year career. He has scored 20-plus goals five times in his career and has put up over 55 points in five seasons as well. When not struggling with injury, Duchene is a top flight NHL player, playing for a less than satisfactory Colorado team which has failed to meet expectations since rebuilding.
Duchene has only been able to play in one playoff series once in his career, when the Avs shocked everyone by winning their division in the 2013-14 season. Unfortunately Duchene was hurt for most of their first round playoff series against Minnesota and the Avs lost in seven games. They have since plummeted back down the standings and are trying to rebound going into the 2016-17 season.
11 Seth Jones
Seth Jones has only been playing in the NHL for four seasons and he has scored 30+ points in each of his first four seasons. He is slowly growing to become a dominant NHL defenceman. His career started in Nashville where he joined them in the playoffs in his second season, and would have joined them in his third season, if not for a trade which sent him to Columbus. The Predators have been one of the top NHL teams in the Western Conference for the better part of the last decade, as they've consistently made it to the postseasons. Columbus on the other hand, has made the playoffs once in the past seven-plus seasons and has finished at the bottom of the NHL standings, consistently.
Jones was brought in to be the team's horse on the blue line for the long-term, but the Blue Jackets have many other holes to fill before they're an elite NHL team.
10 Dustin Byfuglien
From Stanley Cup champion, to relocated team leader, Dustin Byfuglien went from being on a dynasty team, to joining a growing team in the midst of relocation. Whether he is playing forward of defence, Byfuglien has been one of the most physically dominant players in the NHL, ever since he won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2009-10. Byfuglien joined the Thrashers in 2010-11, which relocated to Winnipeg and became the Jets the next season. Since moving to Winnipeg, the Jets have made the playoffs once and consistently finish at the bottom of the western conference standings.
Byfuglien had a chance to move on from Winnipeg this past season, as he was a pending UFA, but the Jets elected to re-up him, while shipping captain Andrew Ladd out of town. Byfuglien was re-signed to a five-year contract extension worth an annual cap hit of $7.6 million.
9 Oliver Ekman-Larsson
In the past three NHL seasons, Ekman-Larsson has established himself as one of the NHL's best defencemen. He has been consistent and slowly on his way to being labeled a star NHL defencemen. In each of the past three seasons, Ekman-Larsson has put up 40-plus points and 15-plus goals. He has spent his entire NHL career with the Coyotes and has joined his team in the playoffs, for only one season, in which they made the Western Conference Finals. However, in the past four seasons, the Coyotes have not made the playoffs and are consistently finishing at the bottom of their division.
They missed out on a potential lottery pick this year in getting homestate kid Auston Matthews, but they now have a couple of young potential stars in Anthony Duclair and Max Domi up front. Ekman-Larsson remains their best skater and they'll have to do a lot more to surround him with capable talent.
8 Ryan O'Reilly
Since his third NHL season, O'Reilly has put up at least 55 points every season, including two 60-plus point seasons. He started his NHL career in Colorado, before being traded to Buffalo. O'Reilly is a consistent point producer. However, he has only played in one postseason and Colorado and Buffalo have both finished in the bottom half of the NHL in the past four seasons. Specifically, Buffalo have been one of the worst NHL teams in the last three seasons.
O'Reilly will potentially find himself off this list in the near future, as the Sabres seem to be getting better every offseason. The team signed Kyle Okposo this offseason which will give O'Reilly a capable winger if the two are paired together. As Jack Eichel's game continues to improve, he will surpass O'Reilly on the depth chart, which will make O'Reilly's job easier in Buffalo.
7 Ryan Miller
Ryan Miller has always been a cornerstone of whatever team he is playing for, going back to his college days at Michigan State, where he won the Hobey Baker Award (Top Men's College Hockey Player). Miller started his career with Buffalo and became a star goalie during his time there. With the Sabres, he played in six postseasons. Then, like all teams in NHL, the team fell apart and the franchise was forced to rebuild and Miller was traded to the Blues. After his tenure in St. Louis didn't work out, he signed with the Vancouver Canucks. Since joining the Canucks, Miller has played in one postseason.
However, saying the Canucks played poorly this past season, is an understatement. The Canucks tanked and failed to make the playoffs, raising many questions about the team's future.
The team doesn't seem to know whether they want to rebuild or go for a playoff run, which leaves Miller in limbo.
6 Max Domi
With only one NHL season under his belt, Max Domi makes this list because of his enormous potential and his more than satisfactory performance during his first year with Coyotes. He played in all but one game and finished with 18 goals and 52 points. However, in the past four seasons, the Coyotes have failed to make the playoffs and are currently in the middle of rebuilding their team, and their franchise. The Coyotes are going to have John Chayka taking over as GM this season, at the age of 27. That's going to be interesting to see, as nobody has ever come close to being a GM at that age.
The future does look bright though. They have some young talent and the team is being patient with building around their young core. It's the right thing to do, considering they're a small hockey market.
5 Carey Price
The Montreal Canadiens have already made enormous waves this offseason. After a disastrous 2015-16 season which saw a 9-0 start crumble into a non-playoff season, the Canadiens sent shockwaves across the NHL, trading All-Star defenceman P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber. The Habs have also signed Alexander Radulov out of the KHL.
The Habs are looking to win the Stanley Cup in the next couple of years, as Price is still on a very manageable cap hit at $6.5 million despite being the best goalie in the NHL. Price won the Vezina and Hart Trophy in 2015 after carrying the Habs to a first place finish in the Atlantic Division. Without him, the team faded, showing just how much the team relies on him. With a healthy Price this season, the Habs should find themselves back in the playoffs.
4 Johnny Gaudreau
Johnny Hockey had an incredible first season in the NHL. He was an unexpected breakout player who put up 22-plus goals in his first NHL season as well as 64 points. In his second season, Gaudreau put up 30 goals and 78 points, and finished in the top 10 for points in the NHL this past season. The Flames, went from being in playoffs a year ago, to a bottom of the league finish this past season. Gaudreau led the team in all point categories including, point total and goal scoring.
Gaudreau is a young star and he's a big game player. Let's hope the Flames are able to rebound this coming season, as it would be great to see Gaudreau back in the playoffs. Glen Gulutzan is now taking over as head coach and his style should be a little less demanding than Bob Hartley's so perhaps that could benefit Gaudreau's offensive numbers.
3 Taylor Hall
While Taylor Hall was with Edmonton, the team was ridiculed for under-performing and Hall's ability as a player was questioned. The Oilers have been a lower class NHL team for the past 10 seasons, and continually finish at the bottom of the NHL's standings. Even while the Oilers as a team were bad, Hall was still showcased his talent and performed up to expectations. When not plagued with injury Hall has constantly put up points every season, scoring more than 20+ goals four times in his career including 2013-14 where he racked up 80 points.
Hall now finds himself in New Jersey, and that keeps him on this list. The Devils are mainly comprised of veterans looking for one last payday in their careers or young players that haven't quite developed yet. Hall instantly becomes their best skater so we'll see if he lives up to that role in New Jersey.
2 Jack Eichel
The up and coming superstar was drafted second overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2015 draft, and in his first NHL, he lived up to expectations. Eichel is labeled as America's Connor McDavid, a young prospect with loads of talent and high expectations. Eichel put up 50-plus points in his first NHL season and a long with that, scored 24 goals. The Sabres however, finished at the bottom of the NHL.
Eichel is going to lead a resurgence in Buffalo. It's crazy how overlooked Eichel seems to be. Many scouts said that had Eichel been in any other draft class since 2005, he would have been a first overall pick. The Sabres lost the lottery in 2015 but still landed themselves a great player. Let's see how long it takes for Buffalo to crawl out of the NHL's basement.
1 Connor McDavid
McDavid was the most sought after prospect in the 2015 NHL entry draft, there was no doubt in anyone's mind, he was going to be picked first. They called him a generational talent and compared him to Sidney Crosby. Due to injury, his first NHL season was cut short and he only played 45 games. However, in those 45 games McDavid racked up 16 goals and 48 points and played exceptionally well. The Oilers again, had a poor year. The team finished in the bottom 5 of the NHL standings and again did not meet expectations.
The team has now shaken things up this offseason, trading Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson and signing Milan Lucic. They also lucked out in the draft, landing Jesse Puljujärvi with the fourth overall pick. The Oilers will be a tougher team to play against this coming season and hopefully McDavid is the savior he was made out to be.
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