The question I pose to all of you today is this: If you were a GM of a team and you could choose any player in the NHL to be the anchor of your franchise for the next 8-10 years, who would it be?
My Answer: If you are looking for 8-10 years and beyond, you have to be looking at a fairly young player. With that in mind I am going to target players born in 1980 or later. I also am looking for a player that has shown himself to be healthy and durable as well as being a good team player and leader, despite being young. So with that criteria in mind, here is my top 20 young franchise players.
- Henrik Lundqvist – Goalies are the most important position in hockey (maybe in all of sport) and Lundqvist is the best there is right now.
- Roberto Luongo - Despite a slow start to the season, Luongo is right there with Lundqvist.
- Sidney Crosby – Should be the most dominant player in the NHL for the next dozen years.
- Vincent Lecavalier – It took a few years but Lecavalier has finally figure out how to dominate in all aspects of the game.
- Alexander Ovechkin – He does everything and unlike many wingers he can do it on his own.
- Dion Phaneuf – He is already one of the top defensemen in the league and will only get better.
- Henrik Zetterberg - Plays a good all-round game. but this season we will find out if he is very very good or elite level.
- Eric Staal – Needs to repeat his 100 point season before I am sold on him as one of the elite players.
- Ilya Kovalchuk – As offensively gifted as anyone but could use improvement on his all round game.
- Dany Heatley – The best sniper in the league but needs a playmaking center like Spezza to achieve greatness. He may not be a player who can excel on his own.
- Rick DiPietro – Showing that the Islanders were smart in locking him up on a 15 year contract and proves the theory you can have some success without a star forward or defenseman but with an elite level goalie.
- Evgeni Malkin – He has had a great start to his career but how much has he benefited from playing with Crosby? Needs to refine his game to take himself to the next level.
- Jason Spezza – Would be higher but I would be concerned about his injury issues having missed 29 games over the past 2 seasons and 6 more already this year including back and groin problems that can become chronic.
- Ryan Getzlaf – Maybe not as gifted offensively as the players above him on this list but might play the best all round game.
- Anze Kopitar – Has good size and very good offensive skills but needs to round out his game a little.
- Brad Richards – He isn’t living up to his $7.8 million per year contract but still one of the better centers in the game.
- Carey Price – Despite very limited action in the NHL so far it looks like his junior and AHL success will translate to the NHL level.
Rick Nash – He is a power forward goal scorer like Jarome Iginla but has never put up 60 points yet. I’d love to see him play with a
gifted playmaking center.
- Ryan Whitney – Looked like he was on the verge of stardom last year (59 points) but has taken a step back this season.
- Kari Lehtonen - A star goalie in development but needs to get healthy and gain a bit more consistency in his game.
Just not enough experience to judge their long term success at the NHL level yet.
Have I missed anyone?
Update: I made a glaring omission by leaving Thomas Vanek off the list. He slipped my mind but he definitely deserves to be there. I’d probably place him between Spezza and Getzlaf but has the potential to be worthy of a higher spot.