Training camps are about to begin and the 2021-22 season is just one month away.
With that said, it’s time, once again, to rank the best players in the NHL.
As I’m sure many of you know, these rankings are 100 percent accurate, and any deviation from this list will see tomatoes get thrown at you.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have kicked off NHL Network’s Top 50 Players Right Now by having three of their players included in this countdown:
#46 - Kris Letang
Letang has always been an under-the-radar player when it comes to grabbing the attention of the national pundits. The Montreal native has registered 145 points in 181 games over the last three seasons. He is the heartbeat of the Penguins’ defense.
Fellow blue liners like Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, and Victor Hedman are just a few of the players who have taken Norris Trophy honors over the last 5-6 seasons. Letang, for all of his accomplishments, has never taken home the award given to the NHL’s best defenseman. Mark Giordano won the award in his age-35 season. Letang could do the same to silence the last of his critics by capturing the one piece of silverware that has eluded him throughout his 14-year career.
Does Letang make the occasional errant play or let his emotions sometimes get the better of him? You bet. But make no mistake. The Penguins are a worse team when Letang is not on the ice.
#42 - Jake Guentzel
Perhaps Sidney Crosby’s best-ever linemate, Jake Guentzel has become one of the league’s premier goalscorers. The 26-year-old has scored 121 goals in 299 career regular season games. He has scored at least 20 goals in every campaign dating back to the 2017-18 season. And, in 2018-19, Guentzel proved his play was no fluke by finishing that year with 40 goals and 76 points in 82 games. Had Guentzel played full, 82-game seasons over the last two years, he would have been on a 42-goal pace and a 33-goal pace in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Spare me with the “he’s too soft” comments. He puts the puck in the net like nobody else on the roster.
With both Crosby and Malkin on the shelf to begin the upcoming season, the Penguins will be looking for major contributions from Guentzel. History has shown that, so far, he’s been able to deliver the goods when called upon.
#33 - Evgeni Malkin
“Mr. 101,” as he has been playfully dubbed, Evgeni Malkin has gone through his Hall of Fame career playing second fiddle to his good buddy, Sidney Crosby.
While he could have likely gone anywhere in the world to become a team’s number one centerman, he chose to forge his own path in Pittsburgh, and the Penguins and their fans should be forever thankful that he played his chips the way he did.
Injuries have slowed him down in recent years, and he may not have the same, game-altering burst in his skates, but when Malkin is healthy and on the ice, he remains a constant threat, especially if he’s fed one-timers on the power-play. All you have to do is go back and watch what he and Kasperi Kapanen accomplished last year. There was definite chemistry between the two European forwards.
Sidney Crosby is noticeably absent through this countdown so far. One has to imagine he will make his appearance somewhere in the top ten. Even at 34, Crosby is still churning out world-class performances on a nightly basis.
To see if the Penguins have any other representatives on this list, numbers 11-20 are being counted down on Sunday, September 19th at 6pm EST, and the top ten will be listed off at 6pm EST on Sunday, September 26th.
What do you think? How accurate are these rankings? What other Pittsburgh players could end up on the countdown? Sound off down below.