Mario Lemieux (#66), Wayne Gretzky (#99), Bobby Orr (#4) and Gordie Howe (#9). When you envision these four men and the numbers they wore, what is the first thing you think of? Well it better be that they are clearly the most influential players to EVER graze the ice.
But I am not here to reminisce on people who are no longer active players in the NHL. I am here to discuss THIS YEARS players and the jersey numbers they currently wear. With about 700 players on the active NHL roster and only 98 numbers that can be used, clearly there is bound to be several numbers that are duplicated throughout the league. Today, I chose EVEN jersey numbers and I chose ONE player from each jersey number who I feel deserves credit for his play this year.
Keep in mind: The higher up the numbers go, the less likely you are to find an elite player currently active in the league. So don’t be surprised when you see names that you’ve never even heard of.
PART II (EVEN NUMBERS)
# 2- Duncan Keith- “No Teeth Duncan Keith” has proven to his Blackhawks once again that he is arguably their best defenseman, and has been for quite some time. With 20 points already this season, he is 12th amongst NHL defenseman.
# 4- Taylor Hall- Step aside Mr. Lacavalier. Young Taylor Hall deserves the “best number four” spot this year. The 2nd year NHL player has been a huge asset to the Edmonton Oilers in his 22 games played, as it shows with his 18 points and +1 rating.
# 6- Shea Weber- If it wasn’t for Nicklas Lidstrom being so valuable and so good for 21 years, Shea Weber would NO DOUBT be a Norris Trophy winner at least once. And he stuns once again this season as he ranks 5th in defenseman and racks up the second most points on the Nashville Predators with 21.
# 8- Teemu Selanne- I’m sure you ALL expected to see Alex Ovechkin as the “best number eight” in the league. Well dream on because this article is for people who care about the game and deserve it. Teemu Selanne is amongst the top 25 with 29 points in 29 games and he’s 41 years old! Alex Ovechkin is NOT even in the top 70. There should be NO argument.
# 10- Patrick Sharp-Along with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp is a key component to the Chicago Blackhawks stellar success thus far this season. The 2nd place Hawks just breached the 40 point mark, as Patrick Sharp is off to another outstanding start with 31 points in 30 games.
# 12- Patrick Marleau- Although Patrick Marleau hasn’t been quite himself this year, it doesn’t mean that he isn’t still an incredible teammate and of huge important to the San Jose Sharks. The all-time goal scorer for the Sharks has still produced at least 21 points in 28 games along with a +2 rating.
# 14- Tomas Fleischmann- Who cares about Brad Richards and is overpriced contract. Like I’ve been saying since the day the Florida Panthers picked him up, Tomas Fleischmann was the steal of the Free Agency market. With 30 points in 31 games and a +17, Fleischmann is on track to beat every record he’s ever set for himself.
# 16- Andrew Ladd- Although he has been absolutely useless for anyone who plays Fantasy Hockey, and for his team, the captain of the Winnipeg Jets is the only number 16 who was worth writing about. In 30 games played, he has tallied an unimpressive 14 points. Hope the guy becomes the above average player he once was…For his sake.
# 18- James Neal- James Neal has been one of the most surprising players in the NHL this year. With Crosby out for the first 20 games, Neal took over and kept Pittsburgh alive and at the top of the standings with his incredible leadership and scoring touch. The 24-year-old has tallied 17 goals putting him in the top 5 among elite NHL players in goals
# 20- Ryan Suter- With line mate Shea Weber signing a hefty contract over the summer, Ryan Suter felt the weight of the world on his shoulders. But apparently the pressure worked out for Suter as him and his dynamic sidekick have been an unreal defenseman pairing for the Predators as Suter is 3rd amongst all Predators with 20 points and a +11 rating.
# 22- Daniel Sedin- For a guy claiming that he “struggled” the first five weeks of the season, Daniel Sedin is once again strutting his skills to the top of the ratings. In 30 games, D. Sedin has tallied 34 points (12-22-34) and a +9 rating, proving once again that he is arguably one of the best players in the NHL. Are you surprised?
# 24- Ryan Callahan- The newest captain of the New York Rangers is mot certainly well deserving of the “C” that John Tortorella placed on his jersey over the summer. Ryan Callahan may not be the flashiest or most exciting player to watch, but he is the foundation and backbone of the only New York team that matters.
# 26- Thomas Vanek- Although he’s only tallied two points in his last five games, Thomas Vanek is far from slowing down. The 27-year-old Austrian native is amongst the top 20, averaging a point-per-game with 29 points in 29 games.
# 28- Claude Giroux- The ONLY thing that’s separating Claude Giroux from all the other players in the top 5 NHL rankings is that wretched orange jersey he wears. If he was playing for any other team, I’d give him a perfect 10 for the first 2 months played. The 23-year-old leads ALL players with an outstanding 39 points in 29 games. Unfortunately, the robot is currently sidelined with a concussion.
# 30- Tim Thomas- SHAVE YOUR MUSTACHE. Creep.
# 32- Kris Versteeg- So I WAS going to write about BOTH Kris Vertseeg AND Jonathan Quick, but since I am currently watching the Panther game and Versteeg scored his 2nd goal of the night, I decided to stick to just one. Not to mention Jonathan Quick has been terrible lately. The Florida Panthers have been dominating their opponents with a little help from the “Flash-mob” line, which includes player Kris Versteeg who has 33 points in 30 games. Quite impressive.
# 34- Miikka Kiprusoff- Although the Calgary Flames started off the year a little rocky, goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff finally made things right again. With 14 wins (3rd amongst goalies) the Flames are 2 wins away from breaching the top 8 spot in the Western Conference that they’ve been longing for.
#36- Jussi Jokinen- The Carolina Hurricanes are reaching their breaking point as they are in 28th place in the league, and without their best player Jeff Skinner. But Jussi Jokinen continues to play hard as he tallies 17 points in 28 games, making him the 3rd best Hurricane so far this season.
# 38- Vernon Fiddler- The Dallas Stars 3rd line has given their fans something to cheer about as they are quite the offensive threat to their opponents. This line consists of Eric Nystrom, Radek Dvorak and Vernon Fiddler. Although Fiddler has only tallied 11 points, he has been excellent on the penalty kill. Together, the boys of the 3rd line accumulated 22 points over the month of November.
# 40- Henrik Zetterberg- With only 20 points in the season thus far, Zetterberg is off to one of his worst career starts. (That’s pretty scary to think that 20 points in 29 games is “bad”). But don’t fret Wing’s fans, Henrik seems to be getting his groove back as he has posted 11 points in his last 10 games played.
# 42- Tyler Bozak- Is Bozak the real deal this season? Or is his success just the result of playing on one of the best lines in hockey? With 18 points in 27 games, Bozak is on track to have a career year.
# 44- Kimmo Timonen- The veteran of the Philadelphia Flyers continues to make an impact on the Broad Street Bullies even as one of the oldest players in the line-up (36-years-old). This four-time All-Star and Finnish Olympian leads all defenseman of the Flyers with 20 points and a +11 rating.
#46- David Krejci- While the Boston Bruins may be over their “Stanley Cup Hangover” it appears Krejci is taking a little longer to get back in the full swing of things. He may be the best number 46 in the league right now, but he is no where near the best on the highly talented Boston bruins.
#48- Danny Briere- Another season, another year older and Danny Briere continues to produce on the top team in the Eastern Conference. He has posted 6 points in his last 5 games and has the 4th most points on a skilled Flyers team with 24.
# 50- Corey Crawford- After his first season as the everyday starter, Crawford has found himself struggling somewhat in his role this season. Thankfully due to an overly talented scoring team, his .896 save percentage hasn’t seemed to affect the Blackhawks ability to shoot up to 2nd in the Western Conference. You might expect to see Ray Emery start taking some time away from Crawford going forward.
# 52- Jason Garrison- Two Words: SLAP SHOT
# 54- David Jones- All I can really tell you about David Jones is, he’s got 14 points in 31 games. Look at all the other number 54’s in the league. Who was I suppose to take? Adam McQuaid?
# 56- Teemu Hartikainen- WHO?
# 58- Kris Letang- The Penguins just haven’t been quite the same without defenseman Kris Letang being side-lined with a broken nose. Year after year his name is thrown around as a possible Norris Trophy candidate for his well-rounded defensive skills and offensive prowess.
# 60- Jose Theodore- Other than the blip against the New York Rangers Sunday night, Jose has had a very steady season. His surprisingly solid play has been a great help pushing the Panthers to the top spot in the Southeast division.
#62- Carl Hagelin- On November 25, 2011, Minor league player Carl Hagelin received a phone call from the New York Rangers to report to Manhattan, and play in his first NHL game. He recorded his first assist that day, as well as his first goal the following day. The Rangers have been impressed with the 23-year-old, as he has posted 6 points in 10 games and a +7 rating.
# 64- Jamie McGinn- After being quite the productive scorer in the AHL over the past few seasons, it seems as if young McGinn has finally found his offensive game with the San Jose Sharks. Although he isn’t awarded the proper ice-time he deserves, he has found a way to make the best out of his situation and has posted 10 points (7-3-10) in 28 games.
# 66- Mario Lemieux- In my opinion, he is the best player to EVER lace up a pair of ice skates.
#68- Jaromir Jagr-TRADER
# 72- Luke Adam- After a big first season in Portland of the American Hockey League, Buffalo’s prospect, a product of St John’s Newfoundland, was poised to crack the NHL lineup this season in camp. Not only has he made the team; he has contributed with 9 goals and 10 assists in 30 games.
# 74- John Carlson- Due to the absence of an injured Mike Green (and Alex Ovechkin’s skill), defenseman John Carlson has taken the reigns as one of the Capitals top players. Carlson has been a leader on the power play and has slowly gotten his offensive touch back. In 29 games, the 21-year-old has posted 20 points and a +5 rating, making him the fourth best player on his team.
# 76- P.K. Subban- Subban has been the only offensive threat on the Habs blue line this season, until they acquired Tomas Kaberle from the Carolina Hurricanes. As result of this trade, Subban may see his productivity increase.
# 78- Corey Tropp- If you don’t know who this Buffalo Sabre is yet, then here you go. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40gHYBf_xWA
# 80- Nikolai Antropov- Nik is likely one guy who hasn’t minded the shift from Atlanta to Winnipeg. Climate wise both Winnipeg and his hometown UST-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan are frigidly similar. The hulking 6’6” forward continues to produce and when he’s on his game can be almost impossible to shutdown.
# 82- Tomas Kopecky- Although he may not be the prettiest of skaters, forward Tomas Kopecky has been making a name for himself on the Florida Panthers 2nd line. He is a gritty player with a hard shot and isn’t afraid to get his nose dirty.
# 84- Mikhial Grabovski- Grabovski has been a solid and consistent player for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season. With a good team surrounding him, the Maple Leafs are currently 6th in the Eastern Conference standings. Due to a knee injury and missing a game due to the birth of his child, Mikhial has only played 24 games and posted 13 points.
# 86- Wojtek Wolski- Injuries this season have sidelined Wojtek for 20 games. There is no telling whether his 09-10’ season was a fluke or the norm since last year and the years’ prior were only slightly higher than mediocre.
# 88- Patrick Kane- It doesn’t matter whether he is moved to center or the wing, Patrick Kane will tackle whatever position is thrown his way. The small forward has pleased Blackhawk fans once again with his exciting play and flashy production, giving him 31 points in 30 games.
# 90- Marcus Johansson- After a terrible training camp, ex coach of the Washington Capitals, Bruce Boudreau, benched Johansson for the first game of the season against the Carolina Hurricanes. Since then Johansson has been a major help to a struggling Capitals team with 15 points in 28 games.
# 92- Gabriel Landeskog- The number two pick of the 2011 NHL entry draft has been producing good numbers for a rookie with 13 points so far in the season. Unfortunately, the draft’s first pick, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been stealing the spotlight with his unbelievable 32 points in 30 games.
# 94- Ryan Smyth- Smyth is finally back “home” with the Edmonton Oilers and I’m sure his teammates couldn’t be happier. The 35-year-old veteran has been bringing light to a struggling Oilers team with 26 points in 30 games, making him the 3rd best amongst his team.
#96- Charlie Conway