Power Rankings: Top Entry-Level Players


Another week, another NBC Sports EDGE Power Rankings to break down.

This week, I’ve ranked the best players on entry-level contracts (one per team). Players on those types of contracts have become so valuable in a cap world. The more good players you have on affordable deals, the better your team probably is.

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There’s a nice blend of forwards and defensemen on my list, but only one goaltender made it and it’s probably not the one you think.

The players are ranked based on what they’ve done in previous seasons, but mainly on what they’ve accomplished in 2021.

Don’t forget, for everything NHL, check out NBC Sports EDGE‘s Player News, and follow @NBCSEdgeHK and @JoeyAlfieri on Twitter.

Here we go:

1 – Cale Makar – D – Colorado Avalanche:

Makar is just 22 years old and he’s only in his second season, but he’s already become of the best defenders in the NHL. He put up an incredible 50 points in 57 games last year and he’s somehow increased his points-per-game this year. He’s sidelined with an upper-body injury right now, but he still has 14 points in 15 outings in 2021. When he’s on the ice, the Avs control 60.56 percent of the shot attempts, 62.5 percent of the goals for, 62.29 percent of the xGF%, and 60 percent of the high-danger chances, per Natural Stat Trick.

2 – Kirill Kaprizov – F – Minnesota Wild:

Kaprizov entered the season with a lot of hype and he’s lived up to it so far. The 23-year-old is currently riding a five-game point streak and he’s accumulated eight points during that stretch. The Russian winger is a special talent and he’s going to put up a lot of points over the next few years. When he’s on the ice, the Wild score 64 percent of the goals.

3 – Quinn Hughes – D – Vancouver Canucks

Hughes has put up impressive numbers this season, but his defensive game has suffered. He loses battles in his own end and he gets lost in coverage at times. The fact that he has 21 points in 24 games makes it a little easier for the Canucks to put up with his defensive miscues. His game needs some work, but he’s one of the most talented defensemen in the league.

4 – Adam Fox – D – New York Rangers:

Fox had a stellar rookie year last season, as he accumulated 42 points in 70 games for New York. His points-per-game has dipped a little bit this year, but he still has a solid 10 points in 19 contests. Fox also plays very heavy minutes for the Rangers. He’s averaging 24:53 of ice time and he played over 30 minutes in a game against the Flyers on Feb. 18. He’s the real deal.

5 – Joel Farabee – F – Philadelphia Flyers:

Had we asked you who the Flyers’ most valuable player on an entry-level deal was before the season, you probably would’ve said Carter Hart. But 2021 has proven to be the year of Farabee. The 21-year-old already has 17 points in 18 games and it looks like he’s nearly ready to become an NHL star. Only James van Riemsdyk has more goals and points for Philadelphia this year.

6 – Andrei Svechnikov – F – Carolina Hurricanes:

The Hurricanes sniper scored an impressive 24 goals in 68 games last year and he’s up to seven in 20 outings this season. When the 20-year-old is on the ice, Carolina has 52.85 percent of the shot attempts, 56 percent of the goals for and over 57 percent of the high-danger chances. The scary thing is that he can be even better. Don’t be surprised if Svechnikov scores 40 goals in the NHL one day.

7 – Brady Tkachuk – F – Ottawa Senators:

Tkachuk is already one of the great power forwards/agitators in the NHL. The 21-year-old has nine goals and seven assists in 23 games this season and he seems to be involved in every post-whistle scrum on the ice. Tkachuk is an important part of Ottawa’s rebuild and he’s going to be wreaking havoc on the opposition for many years.

8 – Jordan Kyrou – F – St. Louis Blues:

The 22-year-old has put together a really strong season so far, as he’s scored seven goals and 18 points in 21 contests. He’s become an important part of the Blues’ forward group. Only David Perron and Ryan O’Reilly have accumulated more points than him this season.

9 – Nick Suzuki – F – Montreal Canadiens:

Suzuki opened the year with a seven-game point streak and he had 11 points in his first 10 outings. Things have quieted down considerably since then, as he’s picked up just three points in his last 10. The Habs need their young center to play like a first-liner if they’re going to get their season back on the rails. The 21-year-old is third on the team in scoring.

10 – Miro Heiskanen – D – Dallas Stars:

The Stars have struggled pretty badly over the last few weeks and everyone’s numbers have suffered as a result. The 21-year-old has put up nine assists in 16 games while logging 23:31 of ice time on average. Compared to last year, all of his advanced metrics have dropped in 2021. He’s still one of the great young defensemen in the league. Expect him to be much higher on this list by the end of the current campaign.

11 – Ty Smith – D – New Jersey Devils:

I could’ve easily gone with Jack Hughes here, but Smith deserves to be in this spot. The 20-year-old has nine points in 17 games and he has a plus-6 rating, which is tied for tops on the team. Smith is averaging 19:18 of ice time, but he’s played over 20 minutes in seven of his last eight outings.

12 – Max Comtois – F – Anaheim Ducks:

Comtois is the only player on the Ducks roster that has a point total above nine (he has 12) and he’s also the only one with more than four goals (he’s up to eight). The 22-year-old has arguably been Anaheim’s best skater in 2021. He has a bright future ahead of him.

13 – John Marino – D – Pittsburgh Penguins:

Marino doesn’t put up big offensive numbers, but he’s become one of Pittsburgh’s more reliable defenders in a short amount of time. He has three assists and a plus-3 rating in 20 games and he plays over 23 minutes per night. Marino is playing more this year than he did last year, but his offensive numbers have come down quite a bit so far.

14 – Noah Dobson – D – New York Islanders:

The 21-year-old is averaging almost 17 minutes of ice time in 2021 which is almost four minutes more than he average in the 34 games he played in 2019-20. Dobson has accumulated one goal and seven assists in 21 games. There’s still plenty of room for his game to grow.

15 – Adam Boqvist – D – Chicago Blackhawks:

Boqvist missed a good portion of the season because he was on the Covid-19 list, but he’s been solid whenever he’s been in the Hawks lineup. The 20-year-old has one goal and six assists in just 11 games this season he’s coming off a two-assist performance against Detroit. He’s averaging 15:45 of ice time this season, but he played over 19 minutes against the Wings.

16 – Nicolas Hague – D – Vegas Golden Knights:

Hague has scored one goal and four assists in 14 games this season and he’s played an average of 16:21 on the Golden Knights’ blue line. When he’s on the ice, Vegas scores over 68 percent of the goals and they have almost 55 percent of the high-danger chances. The 22-year-old continues to improve more and more every year.

17 – Kailer Yamamoto – F – Edmonton Oilers

The 22-year-old diminutive forward got off to a nice start this season, as he picked up six points in his first seven contests. But Yamamoto has scored just one goal in his last 12 games and he’s picked up just three points in his last 11 outings. Edmonton is playing much better as of late, but they could use some more depth scoring.

18 – Rasmus Dahlin – D – Buffalo Sabres:

The Sabres have drafted a lot of high-end talent, but it hasn’t resulted in them having much success. Dahlin is a talented defender that has made an impact in the NHL at a young age. The 20-year-old has one goal and seven assists in 19 games this season and he has an eye-popping minus-17 rating. He has all the upside in the world though. If Buffalo is going to make the playoffs again one day, it’ll be because Jack Eichel and Dahlin carry them there.

19 – Dante Fabbro – D – Nashville Predators:

There aren’t many positives on the Predators roster, but Fabbro is one of them. He has seven points in 21 games and he’s playing almost 19 minutes per night. His CF% iss at 52.04 percent, his FF% is 54 percent and his xG% is 52.40 percent. The 22-year-old should continue seeing his minutes increase in 2021.

20 – Juuso Valimaki – D – Calgary Flames:

The 22-year-old missed all of last season with a torn ACL, but he’s found a way to come back strong in 2021. He scored his first goal of the season against the Senators on Saturday night and he’s been relied upon quite a bit. Valimaki has seven points in 22 games this year and he’s averaging a little more than 16 minutes of ice time. When he’s on the ice, the Flames control 51 percent of the shot attempts, 52 percent of the XGF and 51.82 percent of the high-danger chances. Those are decent numbers for a young player coming off a serious injury.

21 – Filip Hronek – D – Detroit Red Wings:

Hronek has been one of the few bright-ish spots on the rebuilding Red Wings. The 23-year-old has no goals and 10 assists in 24 games and he’s playing 23:48 of ice time per game. Hronek has just one point in his last eight outings, which isn’t ideal. He’s the youngest and most important defender on the roster right now.

22 – Mikey Anderson – D – Los Angeles Kings:

The 21-year-old has already made the leap to the NHL, which is impressive for a player who was selected in the fourth round. Anderson played over 25 minutes for the first time in his career on Saturday against Minnesota and he’s averaging 21:37 per game. His advanced numbers don’t jump off the page and his four assists in 18 outings aren’t terrible for a player of his age.

23 – Ilya Samsonov – G – Washington Capitals

Had he not been forced to quarantine for so long, there’s no doubt that the Caps goaltender would’ve been higher on this list. Samsonov spent a good chunk of this season on the Covid-19 list, but he was back between the pipes for Washington on Sunday. He managed to come away with a win over the New Jersey Devils in which he allowed two goals on 21 shots. This was his first NHL game since Jan. 17. He owns a 2-0-1 record with a 2.92 goals-against-average and a .878 save percentage.

24 – Mario Ferraro – D – San Jose Sharks:

Ferraro’s numbers aren’t flashy (he has six assists in 18 games), but the Sharks are trusting him to play big minutes. The 22-year-old has played as many as 27 minutes in a game and he’s averaging 23:01. When he’s on the ice, the Sharks control almost 55 percent of the high-danger scoring chances.

25 – Eetu Luostarinen – F – Florida Panthers:

The Panthers forward opened the season with a two-point night, but he’s picked up five more points the rest of the way. The 22-year-old has two goals and seven points in 20 outings as a Panther. He’s averaging less than one shot per game, so it’s important for him to get that number up.

26 – Alexandre Texier – F – Columbus Blue Jackets:

Texier started the season with seven points in his first eight games, but he’s failed to pick up a single point in his last eight. The 21-year-old’s numbers, both traditional and advanced, don’t jump off the page, but he’s a young guy that will continue to improve under head coach John Tortorella. The Blue Jackets aren’t very deep, so he should be able to get on the ice enough in 2021.

27 – Cal Foote – D – Tampa Bay Lightning:

The 22-year-old has played in 12 games and he’s picked up one goal while accumulating a plus-7 rating in 2021. He’s averaging just 10:38 of ice time in his rookie season, which isn’t surprising considering he’s playing on the deepest team in the NHL.

28 – Barrett Hayton – F – Arizona Coyotes:

The fifth overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft isn’t actually on the Coyotes roster right now (he’s in the minors). The 20-year-old has two goals and one assist in 14 games with Arizona and although he’s talented, he doesn’t appear to be ready for be an impact player at the NHL level yet. His ceiling is still really high.

29 – Jack Studnicka – F – Boston Bruins:

The Bruins don’t have many players on entry-level deals, but Studnicka has found a way to make a small impact on the roster. He has one goal and two assists in 10 contests in 2021. Since sitting out four games with an injury, he’s picked up two helpers in four outings.

30 – Mikko Lehtonen – D – Toronto Maple Leafs:

Lehtonen has been a healthy scratch a few times for a Toronto team that has received modest contributions from players on entry-level contracts. The 27-year-old has picked up three assists in nine contests in 2021. He’s averaging just 11:52 of ice time this year.

31 – Kristian Vesalainen – F – Winnipeg Jets:

The Jets’ current roster doesn’t have any entry-level contracts on it, but Vesalainen has played for Winnipeg a bit this year. His contributions have been modest, as he has one assist in eight contests. The 21-year-old is on the team’s Taxi Squad right now.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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