These players deserve way more recognition
This top five is based on the last few seasons in the NHL (regular season and playoffs), including the start of the current season. This also takes into consideration my expectations for them for the remainder of the season, so it’s a subjective list.
Here are my top five most underrated players in the NHL:
#5 – Tage Thompson
The 2016 first-round pick had a rough start in the NHL, there is no denying it. Other than playing on a top 10 St. Louis Blues team his first year, Thompson had a tough time on the Buffalo Sabres, who were a bottom 10 team in the league. However, Thompson had an incredible season last year and has also had an amazing start to this season. The 25-year-old 6’6 winger is only getting started. Although he’s having success now, he was labelled a “bust” for years and that still follows him, so it’s reason enough to say he’s underrated.
#4 – Mason Marchment
The Dallas Stars’ winger went undrafted. He hasn’t had the easiest road to the NHL, but he made it and is now thriving at 27 years old after an impressive season with the Florida Panthers in 2021-22. Many players who don’t get drafted can be considered underrated if they even just get a full-time lineup spot in the NHL, because they simply won’t get as much attention. But to thrive to the level Marchment has after so much adversity is remarkable, and that’s why he cracked my top five list. I think he’ll be getting more recognition soon.
#3 – Adam Pelech
Pelech is half of the iconic New York Islanders’ top defensive pair with Ryan Pulock, and together, they are the best defensive defencemen duo in the NHL. Defensive defencemen in general are underrated, but Pelech is so good and his chemistry with Pulock is amazing, so he can’t not make the list. He simply doesn’t get enough appreciation, especially considering how big a part he plays in the Islanders’ incredible defensive play.
#2 – Valeri Nichushkin
So the Colorado Avalanche, huh? They’re a great team, they have a lot of skill, and a bunch of superstars that I obviously don’t have to name. Nichushkin, however, is their most underrated player. He played a big part in their season and Cup run last year, and is showing that he’s not planning on slowing down. After a disappointing 2018-19 season with the Stars, who bought out his contract, he signed a one-year deal with Colorado and was able to prove his worth. If he keeps putting up great numbers, he should be getting more love from fans and media pretty soon.
#1 – Jaccob Slavin
If there was an award for best defensive defenceman in the NHL, Slavin would be a finalist, if not the winner, until he retires. The Carolina Hurricanes’ defenceman is easily the best defensive defenceman in the league. Once again, it’s a pretty similar argument to the one for Pelech, as defensive defencemen don’t get the appreciation they deserve. But on top of that, Slavin plays in a small market, which oftentimes is enough on its own to make a highly skilled player underappreciated. So that makes him twice as underrated around the league.