I have been watching hockey longer than I can remember. I am 19-years-old and a first-year university student. I was watching hockey before I stepped foot in a classroom. I have seen a good amount of different players through my 14 plus years of watching hockey. Here is a list of my favourite players I have seen play.
I put Pavel Datsyuk on the list because he has the silkiest hands I have ever seen. I
used to watch Datsyuk highlight reels on Youtube just so I could practice some of his moves. His backhand pull back deke (The Datsyukian) was my go to move when my team did shootout drills. I will never forget when he pulled that move on Tomas Vokoun. I wish he didn't leave the NHL because he definitely had some good hockey left in him. Datsyuk will be in the Hall of Fame one day.
Malkin is one of the best players I have ever seen touch the ice. The 6 ft 3 in Russian centre is an absolute tank on the ice. A guy that big shouldn’t have the set of hands and skills that Geno has. He dominated the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, winning the cup and the Conn Smythe award. There is one goal he scored where he did a spin-o-rama and roofed a backhand shot into the top corner of the net. Pittsburgh is lucky to have two generational players in Malkin and Crosby down the middle of the ice. It is weird to describe Malkin's popularity because he is one of the best and most known players in the league but I also think people severely underrate his skills. His teammate Sidney Crosby has been one of the greatest players in the game, so I think a lot of the spotlight is on Crosby. Malkin is such an exciting player to watch and I would love to have him on my team. When Geno is coming down the ice, watch out.
McDavid has only been in the league since 2015, but in the few years I’ve watched him play, I am always seeing something new. In the World Juniors, McDavid made the top junior players in the world look like pylons. In the NHL, he has made the best defenceman in the world look like they aren’t professional athletes. He has a special ability to generate scoring opportunities out of nothing and he is the fastest player I have ever seen. I was in attendance at the 2015 NHL draft. I stood outside the players lounge for hours waiting to see if McDavid would come out. Unfortunately for me, he didn't, but I did meet Mitch Marner.
Barkov is the captain of my hometown Florida Panthers. The big Finn is already one of the best two-way-centres in the NHL. I love how he can take two strides in the neutral zone and already be behind the other teams defenders. Barkov is one of the cleanest players in the league, never getting more than 16 penalty minutes in a season. He is just as good defensively as he is offensively and he has some of the smoothest hands in hockey. Barkov has scored some crazy goals in his young career. My favourite is when he went between the legs on Carey Price in a game against Montreal last season. His penalty-shot ability is unbelievable; one handed shots and back hand dekes have been his specialties. I am excited to see what he will do in the future. He is a legit star and I believe one day he will lead Florida to a Stanley Cup.
Welcome to the Crosby show Canada. Sid The Kid is now one of the greatest hockey players to ever touch the ice. I grew up in the Crosby Ovechkin era of hockey. When Crosby skated with the puck he could walk a defender with minimal moves. As a hockey nerd, I admired how powerful he was with his skating. Crosby isn’t the biggest hockey player, but he is definitely one of the strongest. Nobody could get him off the puck and if they somehow did, he would turn around and steal it in a flash. Crosby had the Golden Goal in the olympics for Canada, which is one of my favourite hockey moments ever. He was a part of multiple Canadian Gold Medal teams and won the Stanley Cup three times. I could never hate Sidney Crosby because he plays the game the right way. I still believe Sid is the best player in the game.
Carey Price has been by far my favourite goalie to watch. I grew up rooting for the Habs because my grandparents lived in Montreal. I remember when Montreal traded Jaroslav Halak instead of Price when Halak was playing better. Lots of people in Montreal believed that was the wrong decision, but Price quickly proved his doubters wrong. In 2015, Price won seven awards including the Vezina Trophy (Best Goaltender NHL) the Hart Trophy (NHL MVP) the Ted Lindsay Award (NHLPA MVP) the William M. Jennings Trophy (Fewest Goals Allowed) and NHL First All-Star Team. He won a Gold Medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi as the starting goaltender for Canada. Some of the saves he has made in his career are jaw-dropping. When Carey flashed the leather with a big glove save, the Centre Bell in Montreal would erupt. If I could pick one player to win the Stanley Cup, it would be Carey Price.
My love for PK Subban started before he put on the Montreal Canadiens jersey. In the 2009 World Juniors, he was easily my favourite player. I played defence and Subban was a flashy defender. He had such confidence skating with the puck. Subban would make a flashy move at the blue line like a spin-o-rama and feed his teammate with a beautiful pass. My favourite PK moment is when he steamrolled Brad Marchand at full speed in the open ice. My entire hockey career I have wanted to hit someone the way Subban hit Marchand. When PK would walk into a slapshot or fire a one-timer into the top corner I would jump out of my seat. I was so happy when he made the 2014 Olympic team. When he was traded to Nashville I was extremely upset. Montreal traded away my favourite player. It hit me that I would not see Subban in a Habs jersey again. I still hope that he ends up in Montreal one more time because he made that city erupt every time he touched the puck.
When I look at the best American hockey players to play the game, I have Patrick Kane at the top. He just reached the 1,000 point mark in his career. The three-time Stanley Cup champion is such a crafty player. When you think of the hands team, Datsyuk is number one, Kaner is number two. He has a swagger to him on the ice. I have watched his shootout clips on Youtube so many times. I love skill players like Kane because they are fun to watch. When you think of hockey beauties, Patty Kane is one of the best. I will never forget the NHL All-Star Skills Competition when he wore a cape and then shot a “fake” puck into pieces. When he scored the game winning goal in the Stanley Cup finals, he did what every hockey player would have done in that situation, he cellyed hard.
Ovi is the best pure goal scorer I have seen. The second the puck hits his blade, its destined for the back of the net. Ovechkin scored one of the craziest goals in NHL history when he walked the Arizona Coyotes defence then scored a one-handed goal on his back. I was rooting for him in the Stanley Cup Finals against Vegas because there wasn’t a more deserving player than Ovi to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup. I don’t root for teams that aren’t mine but I do root for players. I really hope Ovechkin can break Gretzky’s goal record. He has the best one-timer in hockey. When Ovechkin is in his spot on the powerplay and the puck finds its way to him, it is almost automatic that the puck is finding the twine. My favourite Alex Ovechkin moment is when I had a hockey tournament in Washington, D.C. and he took a moment out of his day to watch us play for a few minutes. Watching Crosby and Ovechkin battle it out in the playoffs for years is some of the best hockey I have ever seen.
This list was in no particular order, however, Alexei Kovalev is definitely my favourite player I have watched in the NHL. Kovalev played for the Montreal Canadiens when I was younger. I was just getting into hockey then so I didn’t know as much about the game as I do now. Yet, I knew Kovalev was a special player. He had such a gift with the puck. Go on Youtube and watch the clips where he would skate circles around the other team before he fired the puck on net. He used to wear the white Reebok skates and he used the yellow AK-27 custom Warrior stick. I always wanted to have both the skates and the stick so I could be just like Kovalev. My dad got me the Alex Kovalev training video, it came with a AK-27 puck and poster with it. I loved watching that video because it showed me how I could be like Kovalev. When the NHL All-Star Game was in Montreal he put on a show scoring two goals in regulation and one in the shootout in front of his hometown crowd. I don’t get starstruck often but if I saw Alexei Kovalev in public, I would get very excited.