The NHL's star players always get the most attention and dominate the headlines. It still takes more than them to make a team successful. This is about the players that are not the superstars. We continue to get you ready for the 2020-21 NHL season by taking a look here at one under the radar player for every NHL team.
The Ducks are stuck at a crossroads between needing to rebuild but not wanting to fully commit to a rebuild, and that is never a good place to be in. Still, they have some promising young players and Steel is at the top of that list. His 2019-20 season produced some mixed results, but he did some promise and the potential is still there for a breakout this season. The Ducks need it.
A fifth-round pick in 2015 that always had to overcome the "undersized" label, Garland has worked his way to the NHL and become one of the top offensive players in the Coyotes lineup. He scored a team-leading 22 goals in 68 games this season while averaging just 14 minutes of ice-time per game. Given his ability to drive play and finish, it is not a stretch to think that 30 goals could be on the horizon for him with the right role and usage.
When the Bruins had three consecutive first-round picks in the middle of the 2015 NHL draft they passed on some impressive talent, most notably Mathew Barzal and Kyle Connor. Even though they missed on those two stars, they did still manage to at least find a very good top-six winger in DeBrusk that can consistently give them 20-25 goals every year. The Bruins have done a solid job building their forward depth over the past couple of years, and DeBrusk is a big part of that.
The Sabres' lack of success, as well as the fact that Reinhart was a No. 2 overall pick that has not become a franchise-changing superstar, makes it easy to forget about him if you are not a regular observer of the Sabres. But he has still become an important player in Buffalo and is going to consistently put 25 goals and 50 points on the board. Entering his age 25 season this year he should be at his offensive peak. He and Jack Eichel have been two of the very few bright spots in Buffalo in recent years.
Andersson has taken on an increasingly larger role on Calgary's defense the past few years, and he could take on an even bigger role this season following the departure of T.J Brodie in free agency to the Toronto Maple Leafs. His box score numbers do not really jump off the page (five goals, 22 total points in 70 games) but he has solid underlying numbers and should be a strong second-pairing defender.
The Hurricanes have one of the league's best defenses led by Dougie Hamilton and Jaccob Slavin. But do not sleep on Pesce. The 26-year-old has been a mainstay on Carolina's defense for the past five years and one of the better defensive players in the league. The Hurricanes are annually one of the best shot-suppression teams in the league, and Pesce is a significant part of that.
This is going to be a long year for the Blackhawks as their rebuild gets underway. They have no proven goalie, two young forwards that could be part of the future (Kirby Dach and Alex Nylander) could miss the entire season, Jonathan Toews is not ready at the start, and the defense is thin. Not a lot of positives. The one positive the defense might have is Connor Murphy, who has been a solid defender since arriving in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes a few years ago. Injuries have slowed him down a bit the past two years, but when healthy he is one of the few bright spots on an otherwise dim defense.
The Avalanche have one of the best rosters in the entire league on paper and should be Stanley Cup favorites for years to come. Everybody knows about the All-Star forwards, but the defense is every bit as sensational and a huge part of their success. Cale Makar, Sam Girard, Erik Johnson, and Devon Toews are going to lead that unit (with another potential star, Bowen Byram, on the way in the near future) but do not overlook Graves' contributions. He had a very strong 2019-20 season that saw him finish 26 points in 69 games while also finishing as a league-best plus-40 on the season.
The Blue Jackets recently committed to Bjorkstrand long-term with a significant multi-year contract so they clearly know how good he is. But do you? He is coming off back-to-back 20-goal seasons, including a 2019-20 performance that saw him finish with a team-leading 21 goals in only 45 games. He may not be a huge playmaker, but he is a finisher on a team that needs as many as it can find.
Not only is Gurianov under the radar outside of Dallas, but he has also been under the radar on his own team. Even though he has typically plays under 14 minutes per game, Gurianov still finished the 2019-20 season as the Stars' leading goal scorer in the regular season and playoffs and was also one of the most efficient goal scorers (per minute played) in the entire NHL. When he is on the ice, good things happen for the Stars. He needs to be on the ice more.
Fabbri looked like he was on his way to becoming a key contributor for the St. Louis Blues until a series of injuries completely sidetracked his career. The Red Wings picked him up for next to nothing and so far have been rewarded with a potential top-six winger that could be a part of their long-term future. He was a bright spot during an otherwise dismal 2019-20 season and should be again this season.
The No. 22 overall pick in 2017, Yamamoto is going to be a significant player for the Oilers this season and beyond. We know the team has two MVPs at the top of the lineup, but they can only take the Oilers so far on their own. They need help around them and Yamamoto is a potentially significant piece that can provide that. He showed flashes of top-line potential this past season when he finished with 26 points in 27 games. You probably should not expect point-per-game production from him all the time, but his ability and potential, as well as the fact he is still on an entry-level contract, makes him a potentially significant piece of the Oilers roster.
Connolly never became the star player that you might expect from a No. 6 overall pick, but he has still pieced together a really good career for himself as a middle-six forward. He is going to play a solid two-way game, he is going to score 15-20 goals, and he is going to be a strong complementary piece for any team he plays for with his ability to play throughout the lineup.
Originally a seventh-round draft pick in 2015, Roy has worked his way up through the Kings' system to become a key contributor on their defense. His 2019-20 season was strong enough to earn him votes for the Calder Trophy as the league's Rookie Of The Year. His defensive play and ability to drive possession should make him a staple on the team's defense for the foreseeable future.
He was just named the next captain of the Wild this offseason (and signed a significant long-term contract extension within the past year) but few people outside of Minnesota realize just how good he is. Spurgeon is one of the league's best defensive defenseman and packs a surprising offensive punch to the Wild's blue line. He may not ever be in the Norris discussion, but he is a bonafide top-pairing defender and one that deserves far more recognition than he tends to receive from the hockey world.
He will not be under the radar in a few months if he ends up reaching the unrestricted free agent market. Danault is one of the league's best defensive forwards, finishing in the top-seven of the Selke Trophy voting in each year, and has also become a 50-point producer offensively. Put those elements together and you have one heck of a two-way forward and one that the Canadiens should do everything they can to keep.
The Predators have been one of the league's best teams when it comes to producing defensemen and Ekholm is a key part of their current defense core. Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis tend to get most of the headlines on the Nashville blue line, but Ekholm is right there with them and helps form one of the best top-threes in the league. His ability to defend and contribute north of 30 points makes him an extremely valuable blueliner, especially with a salary cap hit of just $3.75 million per season.
He is not under the radar of Devils fans, but he might be unknown to the rest of the league. Blackwood has played parts of two seasons for the Devils and has already shown signs of being the long-term answer in goal. His .916 save percentage through his first 70 career games puts him in the top half of the league, while he is still only 24 years old. If the Corey Crawford signing works out as hoped the Devils could have an outstanding goaltending duo over the next two years.
Do not expect a lot of offense from him, but he is the glue that helps keep the Islanders' defense together. When he was sidelined during the 2019-20 season there was a noticeable drop in the team's performance, and his return just in time for the playoffs helped drive them to the Eastern Conference Final. One of the more underrated and important defensive players in the league and a significant part of the way the Islanders play.
He is going to get lost in the shadows of Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, and the two recent top-two picks, but all Buchnevich does is make an impact whenever he gets a chance. He has probably deserved a bigger role for a couple of seasons now and could have 25-30 goal potential if he ever got the minutes that could get him there.
He is not going to be one of the Senators' cornerstone players in the rebuild, but he is one of their better veteran players. He finished the 2019-20 season, his first with the team, just one point shy of the team scoring lead, and could be an attractive trade chip for the team to use to continue gathering long-term assets.
The Flyers' first-round pick (No. 14 overall) from 2018, Farabee had an extremely promising rookie season as a 19-year-old. He has the skill to take a big step forward this season and should be a huge part of the Flyers' long-term outlook.
Before the 2019-20 season, the Penguins traded a sixth-round pick to the Edmonton Oilers for Marino. At the time, nobody really paid much attention to it because nobody really had any expectations for him to make an immediate impact. Then he went out and almost instantly became one of the Penguins' best defenders, one of the best defensive players in the league, and a contender for the Rookie Of The Year Award. He signed a six-year contract extension worth $4 million per season just before the start of the 2020-21 season.
Labanc's overall production was probably viewed as a small disappointment during the 2019-20 season, but it was mostly due to a drop in his assist numbers. His goal scoring and ability to drive possession remained strong, and with a little better shooting luck from his teammates, this season could have a strong bounce-back performance. He is a big part of the Sharks' future.
Thomas is the Blues' best up-and-coming player and could be on the verge of a breakout season. He is already one of their best playmakers and has top-line ability. He does not turn 22 until later this season and still has plenty of room to improve. The Blues are already a deep team, and if Thomas reaches his potential they have just one more impact player to count on.
Tampa Bay's pipeline of talent just keeps producing impact players, and Cirelli is one of the most recent. Also one of the most important. In just two years he has already become one of the best defensive forwards in hockey (finishing 11th and fourth in Selke Trophy voting respectively), while also looking like a potential 20-goal, 50-point scorer. With Tampa Bay mired in a salary-cap crunch all offseason somebody should have tried to sign him to an offer sheet as a restricted free agent but nobody ever did.
Hyman has been a big part of the Maple Leafs' offense the past three years and been a strong secondary scoring option. He has scored at least 20 goals in each of the past two seasons (and 15 goals in each of the past three seasons) and did so this past year in only 51 games (and only 71 the year before). Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares are the superstars in Toronto, but Hyman has quietly been right there with them in terms of goal production.
Is it strange to see a guy that led the team in goals and points a year ago is under the radar? Maybe, but it is also probably accurate in this case. All of the focus in Vancouver is on the young core of Elias Pettersson, Brock Boeser, Bo Horvat, and Quinn Hughes. There is also the fact the Canucks' decision to trade a first-round pick for Miller was seen as a high price given where the Canucks were in their development. But it ended up working out brilliantly for the Canucks as Miller has become one of their best players.
He should not be under the radar given how good he has been, but he still sort of is across the league. Now he will be playing in the shadow of a top free-agent acquisition in Alex Pietrangelo. Theodore has been one of the better defensemen in the league over the past two years and finally started to get a little more recognition in the playoffs. He impacts the game in all three zones and is a legit top-pairing defender.
Eller is one of the best third-line centers in the NHL and a perfect complement to the two-headed monster of Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov. His presence gives the Capitals one of the best center trios in the league. He drives possession, can play a strong all-around game, and can chip in 15 goals and 40 points from the third line, all for a pretty fair price against the salary cap.
Pionk was the key piece the Jets received from the New York Rangers for Jacob Trouba two years ago, and it actually ended up working out very well for the Jets. While Trouba struggled through his first year in New York with a huge contract, Pionk was the better player in Winnipeg and is one of the few bright spots on an undermanned and relatively unproven defense.