When players first put on our favorite team's sweater, our imagination runs wild. The optimist in us dreams of glory and championships. We imagine the player staying in our city and adorning our colors and crest for their entire career. We wear their jersey to games and show our love and pride. When we play hockey in the street or on ice, the jersey and player symbolize the effort and talent we wish to display. When they retire, the player becomes synonymous with our city, that specific time of our life, and joins our list of heroes. We can't wait untill their names and numbers hang in the rafters to always remind us of the excitement and glory we witnessed. We may have drafted or traded for the player, but what they do for us, makes them ours.
But sometimes the pessimist in us forms an early conclusion. It can be cemented in one game, one playoff series, the team they played on before, or even by their number or position. We demand they are traded, we are sure there are better options, and if we are right, we congratulate our arm chair predictions. What were we thinking in trading a young, buried player for this "bum." What were we thinking in signing last year's Vezina Trophy winner? But if we're wrong, our lapses of memory becomes convenient and we celebrate that player as if he was meant for us and will always be ours!
Most of us identify with a player immediately. We buy their jersey as the optimist takes over. Sometimes we're lucky, and the player spends their entire career on our team and our jersey becomes a badge of honor and respect. Other times, the player never fits, is traded, and we contemplate replacing the name and number with our next hero. But fear the unknown and the seamstress no more, buy the following players' jersey, and no matter if they win a cup, you can wear their name and number forever.
15 Duncan Keith
The 54th overall pick in the 2002 draft by the Blackhawks will remain a "hawk" forever. He's won the Norris Trophy twice, the Conn Smythe, and three Stanley Cups. He's even been on "Chicago Fire," and once a player is showcased on a city's TV show, it's a foregone conclusion he'll never leave. He's also signed to a long term contract and hasn't show any indication he's over his prime at 33 years old. He and the Blackhawks will be among the Cup favorites for years, so he's not going anywhere. And think about it, where would he go? He's a central piece in a dynasty that made Chicago hockey relevant again, and he'll be good enough years from now to work with younger players and help them succeed. And do you really think he'd return home to Winnipeg in five years to play for his hometown Jets?
14 Jonathan Toews
His career started off with a bang as he scored on his first shot in his first game in 2007 vs. the Sharks. Since then, he's become the Blackhawks captain and also won three Stanley Cups. Though he doesn't score like Patrick Kane (who won't be a lifer because of his consistent legal problems), Toews is an offensive force and dominant playoff performer. He also has a mural painted on the Eisenhower Expressway in Chicago. A player with a mural or street named after him doesn't leave. The one possible bump in his road to owning Chicago forever is, like Keith, he is from Winnipeg. Winnipeg has named a lake after him and I'd bet, if the Jets get really good, they'd love to bring Keith and Toews home for a swan song. But that won't happen and these two will retire as Blackhawks. They may one day return to the Peg, but only after they skate off into the sunset to go fishing.
13 Ryan Suter
Suter jumped into the NHL with the Nashville Predators and in a matter of years was the ultimate work horse and arguably the best offensive and defensive defenseman in the league. When he became a free agent, not a team didn't make a pitch. However, Suter made it clear he wanted to be close to his home in Wisconsin and his wife, Becky's home in Minnesota. And yeah, it sure didn't hurt that the Wild offered him a 13-year contract worth $98 million. Ever since joining the Wild, he's continued his steady, solid game and helped the Wild form one of the best defenses in the league. The fans adore him, he's settled, he'll be 40 when his contract expires, and even if the Wild falter, he ain't going anywhere.
12 Brent Burns
If the Wild never win a cup, a case could be made that it's due to the curse of trading Brent Burns. Burns still wears a wild man's, Minnesota winter beard beard as if he still lives there. He loves animals, the outdoors, our veterans, and seemed destined to wear the red, green, and white forever. I wonder how many fans shelled out the money to buy his jersey and then cursed when the Wild sent him to San Jose. His game has flourished even more, he's got perhaps the best shot of all defensemen, and he is a fan favorite. He's now got a family and a cult like following in San Jose, and when Thornton and Marleau hang'em up or just leave San Jose, Burns will keep the Sharks relevant. His contract will carry him until he's 40, and he's already the Sharks all time leader in goals and assists for a defenseman.
11 Wayne Simmonds
You probably have to go back to Eric Lindros or Rick Tocchet to find a player that defines what it means to be a Flyer more than "Simmer." Fans fell in love with him the moment he arrived from the Kings, and he will be a Flyer forever. He brings tenacity, fighting, goal scoring, and leadership on the ice, and his personality, smile, and work ethic has endeared him to Flyer fans. His love for the game, teammates, and the culture of hockey in Philadelphia is contagious. He's played every role on the team, is a power play machine, and has even been asked to play shorthanded where he has two goals. "The Wayne Train" is also involved in numerous charities and The Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation. You can feel free to buy his jersey and even jump the gun to add a "C."
10 Erik Karlsson
If the Senators kept Chris Neil for 15 years and don't keep Karlsson for his entire career, they deserve to lose their franchise. In four years, he's become the captain, won the Norris two times, and has been an All Star twice. He is simply the most dynamic offensive defenseman in the game, he's good defensively, and gave the team a hometown discount with his last contract. He can kill another team at any point in the game, and is the rare defenseman who can score in the shootout. Few teams have been blessed to have such a quiet, confident leader who shows up every game on a mission to win. Currently, he ranks in the Sens top 10 in their history in goals, 3rd in assists, and 4th in points. By the time he's done, he'll be number 1 in every category. Ottawa will keep him forever and ever.
9 Ryan Getzlaf
First, he's signed for another four years at $8 million per year which makes the soon to be 32 year old not the easiest player to trade. But beyond that, he's really become a fan favorite and a player that has set an identity as what it means to play like a Duck. He's won one cup, and just when it seems he's lost a step, he comes back with a purpose. He's already in the top 5 of the Ducks all time career records in points, goals, assists, and games played. The Ducks seem to be nearing the end of their championship window, but Getzlaf should be a lifer in Anaheim. Please Ducks, don't ever let Getzlaf leave town, like you did with Kariya and Selanne.
8 Jamie Benn
Jamie Benn was drafted by Dallas in 2007, and since then he's become the captain and a dominating power forward. He's a two time all star, won the Art Ross, but won over the fans with his aggressive, battling mentality. He can rip a 10 foot wrist shot into the net, fearlessly crash the net for rebounds or screens, and stand up for his teammates. With a team history that goes back to the Minnesota days, Benn has just jumped into the top 10 in goals for the franchise. At 27 years old, he could conceivably check into the top 5 of every category in the Dallas Stars record book. There's no way they can ever let him leave town. The franchise starts with him.
7 Sergei Bobrovsky
The 28-year-old goalie from Russia is generously listed at 6'2" and 180 pounds, but you could walk right by him and never know. The quiet, shy, unassuming goaltender lets his game speak on the ice. He doesn't depend on gargantuan pads like most goalies, but is incredibly cool, quick, and never distracted. In just four years, he ranks #1 in the Blue Jackets record books in wins, goals against average, save percentage, and is tied in shutouts. He's a three time all star, won the Vezina, and is now carrying his team into the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Furthermore, he seems to have shaken off his history of injuries and is a front runner for this year's Vezina too. Go ahead and buy jersey #72, make sure you spell his last name correctly, and take a road trip to a Flyers game to witness grown men cry.
6 Johnny Gaudreau
So is the life of a hockey player who grows up in New Jersey and finds his way to the Calgary Flames. Every team missed drafting the skilled, passionate, and explosive player. The diminutive, 23-year-old forward isn't close to cracking any of the Flames' records, yet, but he's got the skill, work ethic, loyalty, and down to earth qualities to be a fixture in Alberta forever. His team is young, up and coming, and seems destined to reunite the Battle of Alberta for the next 10 years. His statistics have improved each year, but most importantly, he's making a home there as an adopted son. He and teammate Matt Stajan participate in "Haylen's Shop," run by 6-year-old Haylen Astalos, who raises money for the Ronald McDonald House by selling ice cream and hot chocolate. At "Pizza 73," for every "Johnny Hockey Hat Trick Special" sold, Gaudreau donates money to the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation. Furthermore, he's helped victims of the Fort McMurray wildfires.
5 Joe Pavelski
The 205th pick of the Sharks in the 2003 draft will retire a Shark and have his #8 jersey retired. Over his 10 year career, he has been a consistent 25-30 goal scorer, a power play weapon, and a goal scorer while shorthanded. The American born player, although not known for his physicality, is a clutch regular season and playoff performer. A young 32, he's already in the top 3 of the teams all time record book in goals, assists, points, and 4th in games played, power play goals, and game winning goals. Did you get all that? With elder statesman Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau in the twilight of their career, Pavelski might be #1 in every offensive category and finally be their team Captain.
4 Auston Matthews
After scoring four goals in first game on October 12, 2016, vs Ottawa, including his 1st goal on his 1st shot, it's safe to say #34 isn't going anywhere. Seriously, he is on the Leafs where team president Brendan Shanahan, GM, Lou Lamoriello, and coach Mike Babcock, stay in one place with one mission forever. He is also surrounded by other young, super talented players at every position. Even more than Edmonton, the Leafs are better positioned to be the next dynasty. It's not that Matthews just has irony on his side because he's gone from that hockey hot bed in Arizona to play in Toronto, but it's his vision, his sneaky ability to steal the puck, and his wicked shot that will make him a Leaf to stay. You can even get a tattoo!
3 Craig Anderson
Though only a Sen for seven years, he's had a winning record every year, over 30 shutouts, and is already in the Senators record book. He's #2 in shutouts, 1st in wins, and 1st in save percentage. He deserves to retire a Sen, and hopefully will because he's another goaltender that doesn't use inflatable pads, leaves everything he has on the ice, and is a hardworking, classy athlete. He's also really broken through that shield that separates athletes and fans by the way he's handled his personal life. When his wife, Nicholle, was diagnosed with Nasopharyngeal Cancer, he took a leave of absence to care for his family. The Senators also handled the situation with class, and with it comes mutual respect, and Anderson will have a chance to also spend his post retirement life in Ottawa.
2 Sidney Crosby
The first grand prize of the initial team to officially tank, Crosby has evolved as a player and was worth every loss. The first pick in the 2005 draft, has in 12 years, won 2 cups, and is everywhere in the Penguins record book. He ranks in the top 3 in games played, goals, assists, points, has 5- 100 point seasons, never averaged less than a point per game, and he's only 29 years old. Think again if you think he's ever leaving Pittsburgh. Malkin, on the other hand, will get fed up playing second fiddle and will leave, with spite, to most likely somewhere in the Metropolitan. But as for Sid, he'll win a third Cup and eclipse Mario's two rings, retire in 2nd place in all the categories in their record books, and become part of the ownership group.
1 Connor McDavid
The Oilers continued their tanking ways which caused the NHL to change the rule that the first pick overall would go to the team with the worst record. Still, the Oilers struck gold and won the 1st pick in 2015, Connor McDavid. It is true the Oilers once made the most famous trade in NHL history by trading Wayne Gretzky, but that won't happen again. In just two years, McDavid has already established himself as the quickest, shiftiest player in the game. His passing and play making ability is only second to Sid, and the Oilers have created a lineup to ensure his protection. Though he needs to shoot more, and his offensive help is not as deep as other teams, McDavid is a generational talent that will spend 15-plus years in Edmonton.