ESPN’s Top 25 under 25: Central Division

ESPN writer Neil Greenberg came out with his Top 25 under 25 players for the NHL this week, including 6 players from the Central Division.  The Chicago Blackhawks had two players included in this list, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.  Toews earned the number one spot in this list, while Kane came in at sixth.  The St. Louis Blues had four players on the list, Alex Pietrangelo, David Perron, Kevin Shattenkirk and Patrik Berglund, ranking 11, 14, 20 and 22 respectively.  We will give our thoughts on these rankings, including the reasoning behind them and whether we think the ranking is justified or not.

Jonathan Toews, #1:

At first glance, some people are probably astounded to find that Jonathan Toews is even under 25, but he will turn 24 this season, signaling that some of his best years are still ahead of him.  It is very hard to argue with the players on this list that Toews is not the best.  Although some will argue that Stephen Stamkos may be better than Toews, Stamkos is simply not as complete as Toews.  Toews led the league in face-off percentage, with a staggering 59.4 percentage (min. 1000 faceoffs).  The Captain of the Hawks is no slouch offensively either, producing 57 points in 59 games before a concussion derailed his season.  Toews eats time on the Penalty Kill as well, showing that Number 19 is truly a complete player that deserves the number one ranking on the list.

Thoughts on the Ranking: Just Right

Patrick Kane, #6:

Kane was expected to have another great year in the past NHL season, but did not live up to these lofty expectations.  He produced 66 points in 82 games, although not terrible by most standards, is not the point production that the Blackhawks expected from one of their best offensive players.  Kane is not necessarily known for his defensive skills but he did improve in his own zone over the past season.  Many will point to his off-the-ice troubles towards why he is not progressing and possibly a reason to lower him in the rankings.  However, Kane is still only 24 and is still developing as both a person and player, but definitely needs to mature quickly.

Thoughts on the Ranking: Just Right

March 17, 2012; Tampa FL, USA; St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (27) skates with the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Alex Pietrangelo, #11:

Pietrangelo found himself with a much bigger role on the Blues’ blue line and definitely impressed the rest of the NHL with his performance.  His 11th ranking shows that he is one of the best two-way defenseman in the league, albeit at only 23 years of age.  He finished in the top 10 for defenseman in both goals and assists, proving that the Blues can rely on him to man the point.  I think Pietrangelo could be ranked a little higher, but it is hard to argue with the two defenseman in front of him being Drew Doughty and Eric Karlsson.

Thoughts on the Ranking: Maybe one spot too low, No.10 Brad Marchand

David Perron, #14:

Perron is finally healthy and had a good year that showed why the Blues desperately needed him back on the ice after missing a combined 97 games with a concussion.  In 57 games, he tallied 42 points, while being the second leading goal-scorer on the Blues behind David Backes.  Look for Perron to have a breakout year in St. Louis and become a very prominent name in hockey households.

Thoughts on the Ranking: Just Right given recent injury

Kevin Shattenkirk, #20:

Shattenkirk had a good year for the Blues last year, providing 43 points from the blue line.  He is a good offensive threat that played better in his own zone this year, definitely contributing towards a dominant Blues defense.  He is positioned in the rankings below players like Milan Lucic, Sam Gagner and Evander Kane.  Although I do not believe he is better than Evander Kane, Milan Lucic and Sam Gagner do not deserve the spots given to them in the rankings.

Thoughts on the Ranking: 2 spots too low

Patrik Berglund, #22:

Although not as a particularly flashy player, Berglund is as consistent as they come.  The Blues have relied on and will continue to rely on Berglund’s consistency on the ice to continue to push them towards their ultimate goal of hoisting the Stanley Cup.  Berglund played on both the power play and penalty kill, one of the few Blues forwards that registered significant time on both special teams consistently.

Thoughts on the Ranking: Just Right

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Topics: Alex Pietrangelo, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, St. Louis Blues

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