First-Quarter Report: Top 10 NHL Players By Position

You expect to see some of these players in the top 10 at their position. But there are a few surprises, too.
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Joe Pavelski

Joe Pavelski

The pandemic has wreaked havoc with several teams' schedules, but we're more or less at the quarter point of the 2020-21 NHL regular season. Players who have gotten off to a hot start are looking to parlay their performance into a season-long statement. Whether they can keep it going for the final three-quarters of the campaign is another question altogether.

Here are my offerings for the top 10 players by position so far. (All player positions are according to NHL.com).

CENTERS

1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton
2. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton
3. Auston Matthews, Toronto
4. Patrice Bergeron, Boston
5. Joe Pavelski, Dallas
6. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington
7. Mark Scheifele, Winnipeg
8. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles
9. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay
10. Tyler Toffoli, Montreal

There's nothing like a superstar No. 1 center, and the Oilers have two of them. We look forward to the "player judged most valuable to his team" debate later this season, especially if McDavid and Draisaitl continue to widen the gap between themselves and the rest of the NHL scoring race...Matthews will also have something to say in the Hart Trophy discussion if he can keep red-lighting at a near goal-a-game pace (and stealing pucks at will on the defensive side)...Toffoli is the big surprise so far, largely thanks to his scoring binge against Vancouver (eight goals in five games). Maybe the Canucks should've kept the NHL's second-leading goal-scorer?...There's some solid "grey power" representation, with Bergeron, Pavelski, Backstrom and Kopitar all aged 33 or older, and even Stamkos is 31...The NHL is loaded with elite pivots, to the point that Brayden Point, John Tavares, and, uh, Nathan MacKinnon – and many others – didn't crack the top 10. The case against MacKinnon: he has only two goals in 11 games.

RIGHT WINGERS

1. Mitch Marner, Toronto
2. Patrick Kane, Chicago
3. Mark Stone, Vegas
4. Mikko Rantanen, Colorado
5. Josh Anderson, Montreal
6. Brock Boeser, Vancouver
7. Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina
8. Tom Wilson, Washington
9. Conor Garland, Arizona
10. Bryan Rust, Pittsburgh

It's all about offense at the top (big surprise), with Marner vs. Kane for the No. 1 slot. We went with Marner because he's been slightly more productive and he's leading all NHL forwards in ice time at 23 minutes per game...Stone, to put it simply, is elite with and especially without the puck...Rantanen can hang with Marner and Kane – or at least in their general vicinity – when it comes to pure skill...Speaking of new Canadiens players vying for the NHL's overall goal lead, that Anderson-for-Max-Domi trade is looking a lot better for Montreal these days...Boeser and Svechnikov because wingers gotta score...Wilson has few peers when it comes to physicality and now he's bringing the offense, too...Garland continues to be one of the NHL's best-kept secrets...See you in the second quarter, David Pastrnak and Patrik Laine.

LEFT WINGERS

1. Brad Marchand, Boston
2. James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia
3. Nikolaj Ehlers, Winnipeg
4. Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida
5. Artemi Panarin, NY Rangers
6. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary
7. Alex DeBrincat, Chicago
8. Filip Forsberg, Nashville
9. David Perron, St. Louis
10. Alex Ovechkin, Washington

Marchand for MVP? Ultimately, probably not, but it's worth mentioning anyway...Collect your winnings if you had "van Riemsdyk breakout" on your bingo card...With nine goals in 14 games, Ehlers is going full Laine in Winnipeg...Huberdeau and Panarin should be secure in the top five on this list all season long...Gaudreau should be, too, but he's been up and down for the past couple years so we're waiting for more evidence that this is the real 'Johnny Hockey'...DeBrincat is bouncing back big-time after last year's drop-off...Besides country music, Forsberg is the best thing coming out of Nashville right now...Perron is the guy you always forget about and then he ends up with 25 goals and battling his way through the playoffs...Alex Ovechkin seems out of place at the bottom of this list instead of in his usual No. 1 position. He has been limited to nine games, but his 1.44 points-per-game average leads all left wingers and ranks fourth overall in the league.

DEFENSEMEN

1. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay
2. Cale Makar, Colorado
3. Charlie McAvoy, Boston
4. Jeff Petry, Montreal
5. Darnell Nurse, Edmonton
6. Shea Theodore, Vegas
7. John Klingberg, Dallas
8. Quinn Hughes, Vancouver
9. Morgan Rielly, Toronto
10. Justin Faulk, St. Louis

Hedman's at the peak of his powers, so the Norris Trophy is his to lose...Makar, the reigning Calder winner, might be the best bet to challenge Hedman this season...The Bruins handed the blueline over to McAvoy and he's rising to the occasion...Petry and Nurse are tied for the goal-scoring lead among NHL defensemen...Theodore still doesn't much recognition outside of Vegas. He should...Klingberg is outshining Miro Heiskanen on the Stars...Hughes leads all NHL D-men in points but his defensive play and, subsequently, his plus/minus leave a lot to be desired. A work of art in progress...Rielly keeps an even keel in all three zones, doing his best work in the offensive end...Faulk ranks among D-men leaders in goals, plus/minus, shots and ice time. No big deal.

GOALIES

1. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay
2. Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas
3. Philipp Grubauer, Colorado
4. Semyon Varlamov, NY Islanders
5. John Gibson, Anaheim
6. Kevin Lankinen, Chicago
7. Jacob Markstrom, Calgary
8. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg
9. Jordan Binnington, St. Louis
10. Jaroslav Halak, Boston

The loaded Lightning don't really need a Vezina winner in net, but they've got one anyway...Playoff bubble backup Fleury has the best GAA (1.38) and save percentage (.944) in the league...If it wasn't for Fleury, we'd be raving about Grubauer's numbers (1.61 GAA, .937 save percentage)...Varlamov and Gibson are tied for the NHL lead with three shutouts in 10 and 12 games, respectively...The Blackhawks needed goaltending help and turned to Lankinen in desperation. The undrafted 25-year-old Finnish native has come in and saved the day...Markstrom has settled in nicely in Calgary, Hellebuyck remains solid in Winnipeg and Binnington is back on form in St. Louis...Halak has only played five games, but he's 4-0-1 with a GAA (1.38) and save percentage (.938) that can't be denied.

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