Top Tiers; NHL
Hockey is an ever-changing sport. This year’s draft, off-season trades, and free agency deals are a perfect example of the unpredictable changes that can shock and awe. Arguably, Gordie Howe is the greatest player of all time, having played over 1,000 NHL games across 26 seasons. Also, arguably, I believe the next legend in hockey, maybe with the potential to be better than Mr. Hockey himself, is playing in the league as we speak. I’m going to run through the top-five players in the top three tiers based on nothing but my moderately educated opinion.
Quinn Hughes (Vancouver Canucks), Carter Hart (Philadelphia Flyers), Elias Petterson (Vancouver Canucks), Andrei Svechnikov (Carolina Hurricanes), Mitch Marner (Toronto Maple Leaves)
These players are still relatively new in the league, maybe not rookies but still very young. These boys may not be household names across the NHL, but their teams and fans know them. Quinn Hughes was up for the Calder Memorial Trophy this year, and Elias Petterson won it last year. Mitch Marner just signed a massive extension with the Leaves but still has lots of room to improve as a player.
Mathew Bazal (New York Islanders), Cale Makar (Col. Avalanche), Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars), Tyler Seguin (Dallas Stars), Brock Boeser (Vancouver Canucks)
Aside from Makar, these are the players that have been in the league a few years and have really established a sort of dominance on the ice. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin obviously earned a trip to the Stanley Cup playoffs with the Stars.
Cale Makar not only won the Calder Trophy but also played on a line with Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan Mackinnon, which is going to allow him to really thrive in the game. Mathew Barzal is one of the fastest skaters in the league and has the most hazel eyes- I mean – a unique puck handling ability. This unique stance with the puck has resulted in him being a top scorer in the league in the regular and postseason.
Brock Boeser is a 6’1, 208-pound right wing for the Vancouver Canucks. He plays alongside Quinn Hughes and Elias Petterson. Though the Canucks franchise has a less than extensive playoff history, I think his size alone will add to their dominance on the ice.
Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks), Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks), Nathan Mackinnon (Col. Avalanche), Gabriel Landeskog (Col. Avalanche), Andrei Vasalevski (Tampa Bay)
These players have been in the league for a while and have made the best of rough times, plagued by everything from devastating playoff losses to last-place finishes. Throw in a surprising Stanley Cup Championship, these boys still look marvelous.
When it comes right down to it, Kane and Toews are veteran players. They’re both in their 30s and have been in the league since ‘06 and ‘07. But when it comes to strength and ability, they both seem to have more than a few years left. Nathan Mackinnon doesn’t seem to feel weakness. He gets bigger and stronger with every game. Gabriel Landeskog is the same. He gets better every game, and he’s not afraid of a little tussle resulting in penalty time.
Howe made his debut in the 1946-47 season with the Detroit Red Wings and quickly established himself as a strong goalscorer and gifted playmaker. NHL Scouts began looking for players that played with comparable strength, speed, and agility. He broke records in and out of his career that he still holds today.
In 1970-71, Howe retired after playing 25 seasons and 1,767 games with the Red Wings. His 801 goals, 1,049 assists, and 1,850 total points were the highest in the league for several years until Wayne Gretzky broke them. He was offered a position as the New York Islanders’ first head coach, but he declined. Howe earned the Hart Memorial Trophy six times, named an All-Star 12 times, and the Second All-Star Team eight times.
To compare these players to Gordie Howe right now might get you some interesting looks, but I really don’t think it will turn out to be a far stretch in the coming years.