We can break down NHL players’ skills all we want—oh, and we do—but it’s always interesting to get the perspective of those actually on the ice.
The NHLPA unveiled its player poll for the 2017-18 season on Wednesday, and while many of the findings are as predicted — surprise, surprise, Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid rank atop several categories as voted by their peers — there are plenty of interesting findings, too, giving us a little more insight into what it would be like to play against some of these guys.
More than 500 NHLers were surveyed between the pre-season and January 2018, with a total of 20 questions being asked on topics from players’ skills, toughness, favourite rinks, coaches and more.
A whopping 81 per cent of players pointed to Connor McDavid as the league’s fastest skater, and 48.6 per cent also voted him the player they’d most like to start a franchise with, followed by Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews. Crosby is still considered the most difficult skater to play against (29.9 per cent, compared to McDavid’s 23.7 per cent), and was also voted best role model, with 33 per cent of votes.
Crosby factored prominently into results of eight poll questions, including being voted top among his peers for being a team player (16.9 per cent) and — now this one’s pretty cool — he got 43.7 per cent of votes as the No. 1 player to have on your side when you just need to win one game (McDavid was second, with 15.3 per cent, and Carey Price was third with 9.7 per cent). Crosby’s peers also believe The Kid is most likely to make a great coach someday, with 5.7 per cent voting him into the top spot. (It’s interesting to note here who came after Coach Crosby in that category: Derek Stepan, Jason Spezza and Matt Cullen are tied for second in voting with 4.5 per cent, with Jonathan Toews’ 3.6 per cent not far behind.)
McDavid isn’t the only Oiler on this list — teammate Milan Lucic was voted the second toughest player in the league with 14.8 per cent. Vegas’ newest Golden Knight, Ryan Reaves, cleaned up that competition with 44.7 per cent in that category. Maple Leafs forward Matt Martin also got a small sliver of that tough-guy pie, sitting fifth in the category with 2.7 per cent of votes.
The Maple Leafs also showed up in the coaching category, with 7.5 per cent of voters wanting to play for Mike Babcock and 8.3 per cent naming D.J. Smith as the current assistant most deserving of a head coaching gig.
Ottawa Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson was voted the toughest defenceman to face (22.1 per cent), while his peers also named him in the top-five of players they’d most like to start a franchise with, as well as the player they’d most like to have in a must-win one-game scenario.
Carey Price factored in prominently to the poll, with 41 per cent of skaters naming him the toughest goalie to face, and is already tied with Ken Dryden in the all-time best conversation with three per cent of the votes there behind Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur and Dominik Hasek. Fellow Canadien Shea Weber appeared in several responses including “most difficult player to play against” (4.1 per cent), best role model (3.1 per cent) and most difficult defenceman to play against (19.4 percent — not far behind Karlsson and Drew Doughty).
And it’s no surprise that their home, the Bell Centre, was voted players’ favourite rink to play in (24.8 per cent) and best ice surface (28 per cent) while Habs fan ranked third for the league’s best supporters (18.8 per cent).
The Calgary Flames, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets were not represented in the top five of any category.
Click here for the full results of the poll.