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Building the NHL’s ‘Ultimate Team’ so far

Ultimate Team Jumpy News via Flickr

NHL

As we approach the new year, the NHL’s true superstars have finally emerged. It has been a crazy season so far. Goals have sky rocketed, young newcomers have made their claims, and the ole ‘Broad Street Bullies’ seem to have inspired bench clearing brawls and explosive hits. There has surely been some surprises, and several elite players of the past have failed to shine. The All-Star game is approaching, and four teams will face off to prove their skills. However, say there was one single ‘ultimate team’ built off recent performance, there may be some superstars left of the list. Check the 20-man roster below and see if you agree:

Surprises

Crosby v. McDavid

Sidney Crosby Penguins photo

Photo by brunkfordbraun

Most notable when looking at this lineup is Crosby’s name above McDavid’s. It has been the debate ever since McDavid secured the scoring title for the 2016-17 season.

Over the summer, Connor McDavid was awarded the Hart Trophy as the league’s best player. Six months have passed, and McDavid’s Oilers are tied for the third worst record in the NHL.

Sidney Crosby himself did not get off to a great start. In the first month of hockey, he only posted 11 points (5G, 6A). Yet, in his last seven games, Crosby has notched 13 points (6G, 7A). This dramatic turn in production weighs heavily on the tough away schedule the Penguins faced throughout October and early November. With the schedule evening out, Crosby is getting back to his old ways.

As a whole, Crosby has 29 points (12G, 17A) through 28 games, just a bit over a point per game. This is familiar territory for the Penguin’s captain, and when he’s in his element, Crosby remains the world’s best.

McDavid and Crosby’s game are quite different. They surely share the similar talents needed to be considered elite, but their playing styles are evidently different. McDavid is the best one-on-one attacker in the game, no doubt. His speed, stick skills, and creativity make him almost impossible to fend off.

Crosby, however, is a better all around player. His defensive awareness, strength, and most notably his ability to make unbelievable passes puts him above McDavid.

McDavid will surely one day surpass Crosby as the world’s best, but with the Oilers struggling, the NHL’s “ultimate team” would feature Crosby as the first line center, not McDavid.

Ovechkin On the Fourth Line

If you are talking about McDavid and Crosby, you have to include Alex Ovechkin, right? Not anymore. Yet, it is worth noting why he would be on the cusp of even making the ‘ultimate team’. Ovechkin’s name has been circulating a lot this season. Why? Because he’s been scoring… a lot.

Through 28 games played he’s put up an even 28 points (20G, 8A). On three different occasions he’s scored a hat trick, two of which came in the first two games of the season.

However, what scares me about his numbers comes from the assist column. Only one other player in the top 50 in points has below 10 assists, being Jason Zucker who sits in 49th. Alex Ovechkin sits at 18th.

There’s no denying he’s the best scorer in hockey, but how can someone with that talent reward his fellow teammates so little? The Capitals have played poorly to start, and they need Ovechkin to produce in areas other than the goal column. Until then, Ovechkin would sit on my “ultimate team’s” fourth line.

Snubs

John Tavares

Throughout his career, John Tavares’ talent has been overshadowed by his team’s subpar performance. Tavares is undoubtedly a top center in the league, and he’s a huge reason for the Islanders’ early season success. However, with guys like Crosby, McDavid, Stamkos, and Scheifele all posting elite numbers so far, it’s hard to picture Tavares as a part of the “ultimate team.”

He still deserves more credit than he gets:

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Auston Matthews

Another center that is snubbed from the “ultimate team” is Auston Matthews. Toronto’s superstar forward has had a great season, posting 26 points (13G, 13A) in just 24 games played. It’s pretty clear by now Matthews will never surmount the McDavid comparison, but he is surely elite.

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Patrick Laine

Laine is one of the NHL’s most exciting players on one of the leagues’ most exciting team, the Winnipeg Jets. The Finnish winger has not shown his absolute best so far, scoring 21 points (13G, 8A) in 27 games played. Yet, Laine is a guy who wants to be the best. He wasn’t happy when he was drafted 2nd overall in the 2016 draft behind Matthews, because he’s sure of his talent. If Laine starts scoring more, he will surely be included in the All-Star game in January.

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