Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 3/14/12
The postman delivered nirvana to my front door on Saturday in the form of two issues of THE HOCKEY NEWS. "Future Watch 2012" and "The NHLs Top 50 as Selected by the Players" are a must for any hockey fan. I look forward to these issues each year because theyre informative and stir debate. In the Top 50 issue, THN asks five players from each of the 30 teams to vote for the best players in the NHL, with the only rule being they couldnt pick a teammate. Three Red Wings made the Top 50 -- actually the Top 20. Pavel Datsyuk checked in at No. 2, captain Nick Lidstrom was the top rated defenseman at No. 7, and Henrik Zetterberg rounded out this terrific trio at No. 20. Datsyuk was second to Pittsburghs Sidney Crosby, who has played in only eight games during the past 13 months. THN points out that the voting was conducted over a couple of months dating back to last December. At that time, speculation was that Crosby's concussion problem was a thing of the past. Perhaps Crosby's finally healthy now. He will be back in the Penguins lineup on Thursday. Even with Crosby being No. 1, Datsyuk is the star of this issue. Hes the cover boy and the feature story leading into the Top 50 article. Datsyuk is labeled the best two-way player in the league. Players seem to be amazed at his almost uncanny ability to steal the puck and never give it back. Former teammate Mathieu Schneider perhaps sums up Datsyuk as a player better than anybody, telling THN: He doesnt look like a big man, but he plays like one," he said. "Not only is he shifty, but if you do manage to get a piece of him, hes solid. Its just uncanny, his sense of where opponents are around him. If he feels pressure on one side, he automatically spins in the opposite direction. There arent many people Ive ever seen in this game try and do some of the things he tries. One of Pavels greatest gifts has been knowing when to pass the puck and when to hang onto it. Lidstroms ranking might seem a bit low, but as already stated, he ranks highest amongst defenseman. Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, at No. 10, finished three spots below Lidstrom. Consistency, longevity, skill and intelligence make Lidstrom what THN calls, arguably the second-greatest defenseman and second-greatest Red Wings player of all time. Zetterberg was cited for his versatility, hockey sense and having perhaps the leagues best beard (seriously). A lot of people would agree that Datsyuk is the best player in the league right now, and Zetterberg isnt that far behind, St. Louis goalie Brian Elliot told THN. Out of the Top 50, there are 18 centers, 12 right wings, eight defenseman, seven goalies and five left wings. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, believed to be Detroits top targets in this years unrestricted free-agent class, each made the Top 50. Left wing Parise is slotted in at No. 29, and defenseman Suter came in at No. 34. Future Watch is an issue for geeks and non-geeks alike. Every team's prospects are graded, and each organization is ranked 1-30 on its drafting prowess. The issue also rates the Top 50 prospects in the NHL and the Top 10 prospects of each team. The ratings and rankings are based on the opinions of NHL GMs and scouts from all 30 teams. The Top 50 prospects list was compiled by a panel made up of 14 NHL scouts and general managers. Detroit had three prospects rated in the Top 50, with Brendan Smith being the top-rated Detroit prospect at No. 16. Swedish center Calle Jarnkrok was next at No. 32, closely followed by countryman Gustav Nyquist at No. 34. Rounding out the rest of the Red Wings' 10 top prospects, according to THN, are: left wing Tomas Tatar, Notre Dame center Riley Sheahan, right wing Tomas Jurco, goalie Petr Mrazek, right wing sniper Teemu Pulkkinen, defenseman Ryan Sproul and defenseman Xavier Ouellet. As an organization, the Wings were ranked 21st on drafting, and their prospects overall received a C grade.
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