2023 NHL Player Power Rankings
The NHL is a young man's league right now, with the very best players in the league all seemingly 25 years old and younger. That's probably no surprise to NHL fans who know the oldest Hart Trophy winner since World War II was Gordie Howe at 34 years old in 1963, and the oldest Hart Trophy winner since expansion was Dominik Hasek at 33 years old in 1998.
The point is the NHL has talent in spades right now, with arguably the top five players in the league all in their prime and all on teams legitimately in the hunt for the Stanley Cup championship.
Here's a look a the Top 10 players currently in the NHL as our calendars get ready to turn over from 2022 into 2023.
10. Sidney Crosby
Born: Aug. 7, 1987 (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)
Career: Pittsburgh Penguins (2005-present)
Career highlights: Three-time Stanley Cup champion (2009, 2016, 2017), two-time Hart Trophy winner (2007, 2014), eight-time NHL All-Star (2007-09, 2011, 2015, 2017-19), two-time Ross Trophy winner (2007, 2014), NHL All-Rookie Team (2006), two-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner (2016, 2017), NHL All-Star MVP (2019)
Bottom line: As Sidney Crosby enters the twilight of his career, he's still serving players a decade or more younger than him and still one of the NHL's best players.
The oldest player on this list by almost five years, Crosby is already minted as one of the NHL's greatest players of all time and can only burgeon his legacy in the coming years. You know what would be cool? While individual awards may be slightly out of his grasp at this point, a fourth Stanley Cup title to cap off his career would be a fitting final chapter ... although the Penguins haven't made it past the first round since the last time they won the Stanley Cup in 2017.
9. Kirill Kaprizov
Born: April 26, 1997 (Novokuznetsk, Russia)
Position: Left Wing
Career: Minnesota Wild (2020-present)
Career highlights: Calder Trophy winner (2021), NHL All-Rookie Team (2021), NHL All-Star (2022)
Bottom line: The Minnesota Wild have an absolute gem in Russian left winger Kirill Kaprizov, who was named NHL Rookie of the Year in 2021 and almost won the NHL Most Valuable Player award last season after he broke out with 47 goals and 108 points.
"Dolla Dolla Bill" already had an Olympic gold medal before he ever played in the NHL and was part of some political intrigue before this season started. Wild general manager Bill Guerin had asked his star not to return to Russia in the offseason, but Kaprizov ignored the advice and almost paid a heavy price — he came home during wartime and was wanted for allegedly obtaining a false military ID to avoid service. He tried to return to the U.S. twice, through Dubai and the Caribbean, but was sent back to Russia twice before finally finding a way back to the U.S. via Turkey. Scary stuff.
8. Nikita Kucherov
Born: June 17, 1993 (Maykop, Russia)
Position: Right Wing
Career: Tampa Bay Lightning (2013-present)
Career highlights: Two-time Stanley Cup champion (2020, 2021), three-time NHL All-Star (2017-19), Hart Trophy winner (2019), two-time Stanley Cup champion (2020, 2021)
Bottom line: Nikita Kucherov is one of three Tampa Bay Lightning players to make this list — fitting as the Lightning have been to the Stanley Cup each of the last three seasons, winning back-to-back championships in 2020 and 2021.
Few players in the NHL have the type of resume that can stack up against Kucherov's — he was named NHL Most Valuable Player in 2019, and his 128 points that season are the most scored by a Russian player in a single season in NHL history. While Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy have been the marquee names for the Lightning in their recent run of success, it's Kucherov who owns the franchise playoff records for points, goals and assists.
7. Andrei Vasilevskiy
Born: July 25, 1994 (Tyumen, Russia)
Career: Tampa Bay Lightning (2014-present)
Career highlights: Two-time Stanley Cup champion (2020, 2021), four-time NHL All-Star (2018-20, 2022), Vezina Trophy winner (2019), Conn Smythe Trophy winner (2021)
Bottom line: It's not hard to see what people are saying when they talk about New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin coming up quick on the heels of Tampa Bay Lightning star Andrei Vasilevskiy as the league's top netkeeper … but he's not quite there yet.
Vasilevskiy is still the top goaltender after having led the Lightning to three consecutive appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals, winning back-to-back championships in 2020 and 2021 and being named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 2021.
The Russian-born Vasilevskiy also has a Vezina Trophy, which he won in 2019, and is probably just one or two more good seasons from putting his name alongside the very best goaltenders in NHL history … if he isn't there already.
6. Leon Draisaitl
Born: Oct. 27, 1995 (Cologne, Germany)
Career: Edmonton Oilers (2014-present)
Career highlights: Hart Trophy winner (2020), Art Ross Trophy winner (2020), three-time NHL All-Star (2019, 2020, 2022), Ted Lindsay Award winner (2020)
Bottom line: The Edmonton Oilers have two of the top players in the NHL — and two NHL Most Valuable Player winners — with Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. Now they just need to bring home a Stanley Cup.
Draisaitl is probably the toughest player in the NHL right now, as he played through a tremendous amount of pain last season in helping guide the Oilers to the Western Conference Final. He's also shown that he's more than a 100-point scorer.
Selflessly, he understands his role next to McDavid and has become the NHL's dominant defensive center in the last few years. The Oilers are contenders now — thanks in large part to Draisaitl.
5. Nathan MacKinnon
Born: Sept. 1, 1995 (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)
Career: Colorado Avalanche (2013-present)
Career highlights: Stanley Cup champion (2022), five-time NHL All-Star (2017-20, 2022), NHL All-Rookie Team (2014), Calder Trophy winner (2014), Lady Byng Trophy winner (2020)
Bottom line: Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon found the Robin to his Batman (or is it the other way around?) paired with defenseman Cale Makar, as the two teamed up to lead the franchise to the Stanley Cup in 2022.
While it may have taken a little longer for MacKinnon, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, to come into his own, he's finally there. It seems like the big frustration for Avalanche fans was that MacKinnon only seemed to come alive in the postseason — he's kind of the NHL's version of Kawhi Leonard.
4. Victor Hedman
Born: Dec. 18, 1990 (Omskoldsvik, Sweden)
Career: Tampa Bay Lightning (2009-present)
Career highlights: Two-time Stanley Cup champion (2020, 2021), Conn Smythe Trophy winner (2020), Norris Trophy winner (2019), four-time NHL All-Star (2017, 2018, 2020, 2022)
Bottom line: Victor Hedman has become a superstar over the last three seasons for the Tampa Bay Lightning, making two All-Star teams and winning two Stanley Cup titles and a Conn Smythe Trophy in 2020.
Hedman has secured his place as one of the best NHL defensemen of the last 20 years and is already a five-time Norris Trophy finalist, winning the award in 2019.
3. Cale Makar
Born: Oct. 30, 1998 (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)
Career: Colorado Avalanche (2018-present)
Career highlights: Stanley Cup champion (2022), Calder Trophy winner (2020), NHL All-Rookie Team (2020), NHL All-Star (2022), Conn Smythe Trophy winner (2022), three-time Ted Lindsay Award winner (2017, 2018, 2021), Norris Trophy winner (2022)
Bottom line: It's been over 20 years since a defenseman was named NHL Most Valuable Player, and Colorado Avalanche star Cale Makar has the potential to end that streak.
Makar already has a Norris Trophy in his cabinet as the NHL's top defenseman, which he won last season as he led Colorado to a Stanley Cup at just 22 years old and also brought home the Conn Smythe Trophy as the NHL postseason MVP. If we're picking a personal favorite off this list, it's Makar.
2. Auston Matthews
Born: Sept. 17, 1997 (San Ramon, California)
Career: Toronto Maple Leafs (2016-present)
Career highlights: Five-time NHL All-Star (2017-20, 2022), Hart Trophy winner (2022), Calder Trophy winner (2017), NHL All-Rooke Team (2017), Ted Lindsay Award winner (2021)
Bottom line: The only American player to make the list is California native Auston Matthews, who became just the ninth player in the last four decades to score 60 goals in a single season last year and won his first NHL Most Valuable Player award as a result.
Matthews, like fellow 25-year-old Connor McDavid (stay tuned), is in his prime, and it's such an interesting time to be an NHL fan because they are such different players. At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Matthews seems like an offseason-workout regime away from being the size of an NFL linebacker or tight end. Dude can really do it all on the ice.
1. Connor McDavid
Born: Jan. 13, 1997 (Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada)
Career: Edmonton Oilers (2015-present)
Career highlights: Two-time Hart Trophy winner (2017, 2021), five-time NHL All-star (2017-20, 2022), four-time Art Ross Trophy winner (2017, 2018, 2021, 2022), three-time NHL Fastest Skater Award winner
Bottom line: As we just said, McDavid is also in the middle of his prime right now — a dominant player who is only 25 years old and has already been named NHL Most Valuable Player twice, including as the only unanimous winner in league history alongside former Edmonton Oiler Wayne Gretzky.
McDavid had somewhat of a breakthrough during the 2022 NHL Playoffs as the Oilers advanced past the second round for just the second time in his career, making it to the Western Conference Final. McDavid also became the first player in 20 years to lead the NHL in playoff scoring without making the finals.
McDavid's next contract will be an interesting study in NHL economics — he signed the richest contract in NHL history with an eight-year, $100 million extension in 2017 and will only be 28 years old when the deal runs out.