10. Rick Nash (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Rick began his NHL career with Columbus the season immediately following his draft and was nominated for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year. In his second NHL season, Nash scored a career-high 41 goals to tie with Jarome Iginla and Ilya Kovalchuk for the Rocket Richard Trophy as league goal-scoring champion. Nash is also a four-time NHL All-Star and has been awarded the NHL foundation player award in 2009 for his work in the community.
Few would disagree that Rick is one of the 10 best players in the world. He has already established himself as a prototypical power forward. He reads the ice well at both ends, and doesn’t hesitate to make the sacrifices it takes to play winning hockey. He has velvety hands, a long reach, and a swift and accurate shot—all of which come in handy when he plants himself in front of the net.
Why he’s so important: He is the face of the Columbus Blue Jackets, as well as the Blue Jackets first drafted star. He is Columbus’ only legit goal scorer and game changer. He is signed through the 2017-2018 season with an annual income of 7.8 million which will take effect in 2010-2011. This is by far the longest and highest paying contract on the Blue Jackets roster, making Rick their most valuable player on the ice and financially.
9. John Tavares (New York Islanders)
Considered by many to be the most talented player in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, John Tavares has been touted as a future superstar now since his early teen years.
Tavares began his major junior career during the 2005-06 season with the Oshawa Generals. Over the next several years Tavares would take the OHL and the hockey world by storm. Showing he could play in the OHL immediately, even at his young age, Tavares scored 10 goals in his first 9 games. He finished his rookie season with 45 goals and 77 points in 65 games. He was named to the OHL All-Rookie Team, was named the OHL’s Rookie of the Year as well as the CHL Rookie of the Year.
As a 16 year old the following season, John broke Wayne Gretzky’s goal scoring record when he tallied 72 goals. He finished his OHL career with 215 goals, 433 points in 247 games.
His playing style has been compared to Mike Bossy, Gordie Howe and Wayne Gretzky; some pretty good company. He doesnt have blinding speed, but he compensates for that with great hands, tremendous vision and a desire to always improve. While he won’t go through to many people at 6 feet 195 pounds, he is not afraid to fight through the checking.
Why he’s so important: Tavares is projected to be a superstar, and the Islanders are in need of one more than any other franchise in the NHL. He will help bring in more fans, a team usually in the bottom three of NHL attendance figures every year. He helps the franchise gain back respect and attention from the league they have lost over the years. He will instantly make the Islanders better.
8. Jarome Iginla (Calgary Flames)
Iginla was selected 11th overall by the Dallas Stars in the 1995 NHL entry draft, but was later traded to Calgary and has played his entire professional career with the Flames. He led the NHL in goals and points in 01-02, and won the Lester B. Pearson award as its most valuable player as voted by the players. In 03-04, Iginla led the league in goals for the second time and captained the Flames to the Stanley Cup Finals, leading the league in playoff scoring. Iginla scored 50 goals in a season for a second time in 07-08. Known for his polite and generous nature, Iginla participates in numerous community events, and donates $2,000 to charity for each goal he scores.
Jarome is a five-time NHL All-Star, he is the Flames’ all-time leader in goals, points, and games played. Named the Flames captain at the start of the 03-04 season, Iginla has been called the first black captain in NHL history.
Why he’s so important: Jarome is the engine and key to the Calgary Flame success, and it has been that way for years now. He is a iron man who rarely misses games. He scores about 15-20% of the Flames goals each season. He is one of the best leaders in the NHL, and without him, the Flames may have fallen apart and hit rock bottom several years ago like many have predicted but has yet to happen after their Stanley Cup run in 2004.
7. Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers)
Joining the Rangers as a starter in the 05-06 season, Lundqvist became the first Rangers rookie to post 20 wins in a season since Mike Richter recorded 21 in 90-91. Finishing the season with 30 wins, Lundqvist broke the Rangers rookie goaltending record of 29 wins, previously held by Jim Henry (1941-42) and Johnny Bower (1953-54). Lundqvist was among the league leaders in several categories: fifth in goals against average (2.24), fourth in save percentage (.922), 11th in wins (30), and tied for 16th in shutouts with two.
Henrik had been nominated for the Vezina Trophy in his first three seasons in the NHL with the Rangers, finishing third all three times. His dominating play during his rookie season resulted in the NY media and Rangers fans giving him the nickname “King Henrik”.
Why he’s so important: For the most part, Henrik is the reason the Rangers make the playoffs year in and year out. He plays at least 70 games a season, and keeps the Rangers in games they have no business being in. He is arguably the most reliable and consistent goaltender in the NHL, and considered by some to be the best overall. I’m positive the Rangers would be average at best if they did not have King Henrik in net.
6. Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks)
Luongo was drafted in the first round, 4th overall in the 1997 NHL-Entry draft by the New York Islanders. Before being traded to the Canucks, Luongo spent most of his career in Florida after being traded from the Islanders.
In 02-03 with the Panthers, Luongo faced over 2,000 shots while maintaining a .918 save percentage. The following year in 03-04 he placed second in voting for the Vezina Trophy after facing the most shots in a single season by an NHL goaltender (2,475). Despite seeing unprecedented amounts of rubber Luongo posted a 2.43 GAA and a .931 save percentage, which was first among goalies with 50-plus starts (Luongo had 72). Not surprisingly, Luongo also set an NHL record for most saves in a single season with 2,303 while picking up 7 shutouts, good enough for fifth in the league. Ultimately, Luongo lost out to Martin Brodeur for the league’s top goalie.
Due to his solid play with the Vancouver Canucks in the 2006-2007 regular season, Luongo made the NHL All-Star team as the Western Conference’s starter as voted on by the fans. Luongo was named best goaltender of the all star skills competition in Dallas. It was his second All-Star appearance, and first as a starter. He led the Canucks to their first playoff appearance since the 2003-2004 campaign, and the first post-season of his own career.
In 2008, Roberto Luongo was named the Vancouver Canucks Captain. He would become the first goalie as Captain since Bill Durnan in 1947-48.
Why he’s so important: Similar in a way to Henrik Lundqvist, a lot of the Canucks success rides on the back of Luongo because he is so dominant in net. He has much more responsibility than your average goaltender now that he is Captain of the team. A few days ago, the Canucks committed a 12 year contract to Roberto that will keep him in Vancouver until he is 42 years old. Roberto Luongo is the Canucks. Bottom line.