NHL Power Rankings: Every Team’s MVP Edition

The SN hockey writer is sure there were plenty of discussions in the Leafs organisation on whether participating in the All Star Game would be the best thing for their star rookie, but given the maturity he's shown, any concerns were easily allayed.

More than any other team sport, hockey is a group effort.

But singling out individuals for their successes and failures is much more enjoyable than sharing blame or credit. It’s why the National Hockey League keeps inventing new individual awards.

As the NHL bolts across the halfway mark of the 2016-17 season this week, we’ve decided to hand out 30 imaginary trophies, one for the most valuable player on each team. I wore a tux while I wrote this.

It’s the NHL Power Rankings: Every Team’s MVP Edition. As always, the teams are ranked in order of strength right now. The write-ups focus on the individual most responsible for his club’s wins this season.

Rank Team

A smorgasbord of stellar performances to select from here (John Tortorella, Nick Foligno, Zach Werenski, Cam Atkinson), but the most important player on the ice is at the back. Sergei Bobrovsky — the only goalie Torts trusts — leads all with 26 wins.

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Braden Holtby, and, yes, we’re aware who plays forward on this team. The No. 1 goalie ranks top-three in save percentage (.931) and shutouts (five), a steadying presence on Barry Trotz’s scary-good contender.

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One of our favourite stories of the first half of 2016-17 is Sidney Crosby, goal scorer. The ever-dangerous Penguins have three of their elite forwards among the NHL’s top-10 scorers, but Sid’s run at the Rocket Richard Trophy (26 goals so far) has us enthralled.

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So much goodness to choose from, especially up front, with Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane both heading toward 80-point seasons. But we’re going with do-everything Duncan Keith with his 26 minutes a night, 31 points and plus-10 rating.

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Devan Dubnyk leads the NHL is save percentage, shutouts and goals-against average. The Vezina is his to lose.

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With their crazy balanced scoring — five Rangers have 30 or 31 points; nine have between 20 and 31 — New York’s MVP comes from its blue line. Ryan McDonagh leads the team with 23 assists and plays five-and-a-half more minutes than anyone else every night.

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Plenty to choose from here, with Shea Weber thrusting himself into the Norris conversation (again), Max Pacioretty continuing to pile up points, and Alexander Radulov driving the emotion of the Atlantic Division leaders. But Carey Price is still Carey Price.

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“Brent Burns is the best player in the world.” —Joe Thornton

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Ryan Kesler, over Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Cam Fowler. The No. 2(?) centre remains one of the best face-off men in the league and kills penalties better than most forwards, plus he leads Randy’s rascals with 35 points.

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Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak are having fantastic years, but we’ve seen what happens to the Bruins when all-world goaltender Tuukka Rask is out of the lineup, and we don’t like what we see.

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Auston Powers, who, as predicted, became an elite centreman by Christmas. He holds onto the puck like his stick is magnetized and is able to both create offence and finish chances. Yeah, baby.

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Erik Karlsson, forever. The dynamic defenceman leads all Sens in points (32), ice time (27:06), holds a positive rating on a minus team, and ranks third league-wide in blocked shots.

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The Blues have a cadre of excellent defencemen and a solid goaltender, but we gotta go with Vladimir Tarasenko, who’s on pace for his second straight 40-goal campaign.

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You know who’s not to blame for the Kings’ 21st-ranked offence? An inspired Jeff Carter and his 22 goals — the most by anyone in the Western Conference.

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Some great young options on defence, and Jeff Skinner sets the pace up front, but we need to eat some crow here. We questioned the Hurricanes’ re-signing of Cam Ward, but the goalie has secured 16 of their 19 wins and his .915 save percentage is his best in five years.

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A month ago, we would’ve given the award to bacon-saver Chad Johnson without blinking. Now we’re siding with centre Mikael Backlund, who leads the club in goals and points while still drawing the tough checking assignments.

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Despite young Patrik Laine being this team’s all-star, we’re casting our team MVP vote for centre Mark Scheifele, who has just as many points (37) in fewer games and plays a more important position with a better 200-foot game.

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All-Star vote-in captain P.K. Subban is the people’s champ, but Roman Josi is the Predators’ best defenceman and team MVP.

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Ryan O’Reilly, over Kyle Okposo, Rasmus Ristolainen and Jack Eichel. The centre leads the Sabres in points per game (0.8) and is somehow a plus-4 player on a minus-17 team. Also: how’s Colorado doing since he left?

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Bo Horvat, who leads all Canucks in goals and points, and has become a beast in the face-off circle. It’s true: a Sedin is not Vancouver’s most important player.

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Top centre Aleksander Barkov skates almost 20 minutes a night, produces the most offensively, and is strong at both ends of the ice.

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Top scorer Nikita Kucherov is enjoying another strong season, but we gotta side with Victor Hedman, who’s tied for 15th overall in scoring despite playing defence. As flawed as Tampa’s blue line has been, imagine where it’d be without Hedman taking 28 shifts a game.

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Though he ranks just third in team scoring, behind Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds is the heart of this team. Love that he leads all Flyers in goals (17) and penalty minutes (67), and it’s not that close on either front.

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John Tavares, in a landslide — even though he’s having a down year by his standards.

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With captain Jamie Benn having an off year (by Benn standards), Tyler Seguin continues to thrive at a point-per-game pace for a struggling team.

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Captain Henrik Zetterberg, who should’ve been the Wings’ All-Star Game selection. Z leads all Wings in scoring (28 points) and is Detroit’s most complete player. Problem is, at age 36, someone should’ve taken the mantle from him already.

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Taylor Hall, in part because he’s the offence-starved Devils’ most dangerous weapon (0.78 points per game) and in part because star goalie Cory Schneider has had a so-so first half.

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The Coyotes still don’t have a 10-goal scorer. Goalie Mike Smith is having a solid bounce-back season, but he’s only played a little over half the games. So we’ll go with No. 1 d-man Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who must be getting antsy for this rebuild to pick up steam.

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No. 1 blue liner Tyson Barrie, who leads this disgruntled lot in assists and ice time.

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