Ranking the NHL's top 50 players for the 2022-23 season from Connor McDavid to Mark Stone

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We've finally made it, folks. The NHL regular is here, as the Sharks and Predators officially kicked the year with their NHL Global Series games last week. 

The regular season begins Tuesday in North America, as the stars of the league will soon be out in full force. This year is another one for current elite players to continue producing at a high level, in addition to new faces rising to the top. 

Last season saw the emergence of a number of players. Cale Makar's excellence put him in the conversation as a top-five player in the league. Igor Shesterkin took the goaltending world by storm, giving Andrei Vasilevskiy a run for the title of best goaltender. Others like Jonathan Huberdeau, Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau had career seasons, putting up over 100 points each. 

This season will be no different, as certain players are going to break out yet again. Before that happens, we take a look at all of the NHLers going into this season and figure out who is the best of the best. 

MORE: Ranking the league's best 23 players under 23

The Sporting News ranks the top 50 players in the league heading into the 2022-23 season. 

Top 50 players in the NHL for the 2022-23 season

1. Connor McDavid, C, Oilers

McDavid enters the 2022-23 season coming off his second consecutive Art Ross win and fourth in his career. He's aiming to secure 100 points for the third-straight year and the seventh time in his NHL tenure. McDavid is the best player on the planet right now and there's no surprise he tops this list. 

2. Auston Matthews, C, Maple Leafs

McDavid may be the best player, but the best goal scorer right now is Matthews. He's won back-to-back Rocket Richard Trophies, becoming the first player to score 60 goals in a single season since Steven Stamkos back in 2011-12. Matthews' lethal shot release makes him dangerous from everywhere on the ice. 

3. Nathan MacKinnon, C, Avalanche

Finally, MacKinnon is a Stanley Cup champion, as the 27-year-old helped lead the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup. Despite only skating in 65 games, MacKinnon put up 88 points for Colorado. He has the hands, he has the speed, he has the shot and he most definitely has the passion. MacKinnon is the complete package and one of the most exciting players to watch. 

4. Cale Makar, D, Avalanche

There's not much that needs to be argued when it comes to Makar and the top spot on this list. At just 23 years old, the Avalanche defenseman is a Stanley Cup champion, a Conn Smythe winner, a Norris recipient and Calder winner. He is one the best skaters in the NHL, which allows him to be an elite player in all three zones of the ice. It's going to be a treat watching the entirety of Makar's career. 

5. Leon Draisaitl, C, Oilers

While McDavid gets a good amount of the shine in Edmonton, he's got a really good center playing behind him in Draisaitl. McDavid sets up a ton of the plays that Draisaitl ends up finishing, especially on the power play. The German hit 50 goals for the second time in his career last season and tied his career-high in points with 110. He'd be the top-line center on almost any other team in the league. 

MORE: Ranking the NHL's top 20 centers for the 2022-23 season

6. Nikita Kucherov, RW, Lightning

Kucherov has the skills, the stats and the hardware to prove why he's at the top of our list — two Stanley Cups, a Hart Trophy, a Ted Lindsay and an Art Ross. In Tampa Bay's Cup wins in 2020 and 2021, Kucherov led the team in scoring in both postseasons. Injuries kept Kucherov out of the entire 2020-21 regular season and nearly half of last year's campaign, but Kucherov has shown that when fully healthy, he's a dangerous offensive weapon on the ice.

7. Sidney Crosby, C, Penguins

Don't be fooled, Crosby still has it. He may no longer be racking in the awards like he was in his prime, but he is still one of the best centers in the league. The Pittsburgh captain hit 84 points last year despite missing 13 games with injury. With the Penguins bringing back Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, Crosby and Co. are aiming to win another Cup with the core group. 

8. Victor Hedman, D, Lightning

Hedman was long considered the top defenseman in the league, but Makar's season last year moved him past the Swede. Still, the Lightning blue liner is one of the best in the business, owning a Norris Trophy win and being one of the three finalists for six consecutive seasons. His size makes him a pain to play against, especially along the wall, and he has excellent passing. Hedman is coming off a career year with new best marks in goals (20), assists (65) and points (85). 

9. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Capitals

Auston Matthews is slowly coming for the title of best goal scorer, but as long as Ovechkin is still in the league, he deserves that honor. Both his wrist shot and slap shot make him extremely dangerous from all over the ice. The 37-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down, hitting 50 goals last season for the ninth time in his career. The Great 8 has a real chance at catching Wayne Gretzky's career goal record, as Ovechkin needs 114 more goals to break the mark. 

10. Andrei Vasilevskiy, G, Lightning

While Rangers fans may say otherwise, the best goalie in the league is Vasilevskiy. No one has put up elite numbers on a consistent basis like the Russian, who at 28 years old already owns two Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe and a Vezina. He went 39-18-5 with a 2.49 GAA and .916 SV%. It marked the third season out of the last four he had a GAA under 2.50 and his sixth consecutive year with a SV% above .915. "The Big Cat" continues to bring it year after year for the Lightning. 

11. Roman Josi, D, Predators

Josi has been a point-producing machine on the Predators' blue line for quite some time. He led all defensemen last season with 96 points, just narrowly missing the 100-point mark, which has not been reached by a defenseman since Brian Leetch in 1992. Over the past three seasons, no blue liner has as many points as Josi. Some felt Josi was robbed of a second Norris Trophy last year, but don't be surprised to see him back in the conversation come springtime. 

12. Igor Shesterkin, G, Rangers

There's no denying that there was no one better in the crease for the entirety of last season than Shesterkin. The young Rangers netminder went 36-13-4 in 52 starts, leading the league in GAA (2.07) and save percentage (.935) on his way to his first Vezina win. He added six shutouts, which were good for third in the league, and his 36 wins ranked sixth. At just 26 years old, the Rangers have their goaltender of the future that will help them continue to be Cup contenders. 

13. Mitch Marner, RW, Maple Leafs

Don't let the Toronto fans or media fool you, Marner is a sensational talent. The 25-year-old has produced at over a point-per-game rate for the last five seasons, including setting a new career high in goals (35) and points (97) last season. Sure, there have been some poor playoff performances, but Marner is one of the best all-around wings in the game. 

14. Kirill Kaprizov, LW, Wild

Kaprizov has fit in sensationally with the Wild since coming over two years ago from Russia. The winger won the 2021 Calder Trophy and followed that up with a 108-point season last year. The Russian has given Minnesota the superstar it has been lacking for the last few seasons. He has almost single-handedly made the team one of the most exciting clubs to watch with his speed and puck possession ability. 

15. Aleksander Barkov, C, Panthers

It's been a couple of seasons now that Barkov has finally got the recognition he deserves. The 2021 Selke Trophy winner posted a career-high 39 goals last season, helping the Panthers to the best record in the regular season. The 27-year-old Finn is a premier two-way center that has been a big reason for Florida's emergence as a contender.

MORE: Ranking the NHL's top 20 defensemen for the 2022-23 season

16. Jonathan Huberdeau, LW, Flames

Huberdeau was already regarded as one of the best passers in the game, and then he added to that argument by dishing out a league-leading 85 assists last season. For a long time, the winger did not get the attention he deserved while stuck in Florida, but he seemingly broke out from the "underrated" category the last two seasons. Huberdeau was a part of the Matthew Tkachuk trade, so this will be his first season in Calgary. 

17. Mikko Rantanen, RW, Avalanche

On a team full of stars like Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar, Rantanen flies under the radar at times, but he has been a large part of the team's success that led to their Stanley Cup win. In the 2021-22 regular season, he set new career marks in goals with 36 and points with 92, then added 25 points in 20 postseason games. The Finn is a big, power forward who is difficult to knock off the puck and he pairs that with a sensational shot.

18. Artemi Panarin, LW, Rangers

Panarin was the Rangers' big free agent signing back in 2019 and has been as advertised in the Big Apple. The Russian put up 74 assists and 96 points last season, breaking his previous career-bests. He's a great weapon to have on the power play and played a key role in New York's run to the conference finals. He owns one of the highest contracts in the league and for the most part, has been worth every penny for the Rangers. 

19. Charlie McAvoy, D, Bruins

I'm a big believer that McAvoy is the most underrated defenseman in the league. There aren't many players who can excel in breaking the puck out of the zone and dominate in the transition game like McAvoy. Because of his responsibilities in his own zone, we don't see McAvoy put up the crazy offensive numbers like others on this list, although he is coming off a 56-point season in Boston. The 24-year-old is only going to get better. 

20. Adam Fox, D, Rangers

Another young defenseman who has taken the league by storm is Fox. At 24 years old, he already has a Norris Trophy after winning the honor in 2021. He's only been in the league for three years, but you won't find many defensemen who can skate or move the puck like Fox. He registered 74 points in 78 games last season, improving on his award-winning campaign the year before. For a Rangers team filled with young talent, Fox pops out the most in the group. 

21. Patrick Kane, RW, Blackhawks

While the Blackhawks have been plummeting, Kane continues to produce at a high level. He had 92 points last season, tying his career-best in assists with 66. The American is one of the best passers in the league and owns a pair of hands that produce some of the smoothest dekes. With Chicago at the very beginning of a rebuild and Kane on an expiring contract, it feels inevitable that Kane will be donning a different sweater by the end of the season. 

22. Brad Marchand, LW, Bruins

Marchand is part of an aging core in Boston, but he has shown no signs of stopping. The pesky winger had 80 points in 70 games last season for the Bruins, as he continues to be a thorn in opponents' side while producing on the score sheet. He's a strong, all-around player that can be utilized in all situations. Offseason hip surgery will keep Marchand out until at least November, but the Bruins hope that he doesn't skip a beat once he's healthy. 

23. Johnny Gaudreau, LW, Blue Jackets

Gaudreau's inconsistencies in Calgary stopped last season, as he broke out for 115 points, with 40 goals and 75 assists. Johnny Hockey, as he's called, has been a dominant player at times, but also goes quiet every so often. The Blue Jackets are hoping that the Gaudreau from last year is here to stay after they shocked the hockey world by signing the elusive winger in free agency last season. 

24. David Pastrnak, RW, Bruins

Pastrnak is one of the best pure goal scorers in the game. He was the co-winner of the Rocket Richard in 2020 along with Alex Ovechkin. When healthy, he's good for 35 to 45 goals in a season, owning a pair of slick mitts and an excellent shot. He has found a sweet spot on the power play, playing on his opposite side for a one-time option. Pastrnak's coming off a 40-goal, 77-point season last year. 

25. Patrice Bergeron, C, Bruins

Age is but a number for Bergeron. After potential retirement rumors swirled around the long-time Bruins center, Bergeron comes back to Boston on a one-year deal after winning his fifth Selke Trophy, passing Bob Gainey for the most all-time. He continues to be among the elite two-way forwards in the league. 

MORE: Ranking the NHL's top 10 goalies for the 2022-23 season

26. Steven Stamkos, C, Lightning

Stamkos had a career emergence last season, registering a career-high 106 points for Tampa Bay. It comes after two seasons where Stamkos was not producing at his typical high level and battling injuries. He still possesses one of the best one-timers in the league and is always a threat on the power play. 

27. Sebastian Aho, C, Hurricanes

Aho has climbed the ranks among the NHL's elite over the last couple of seasons. He has solidified himself as the top scorer on the Hurricanes and has been right around a point-per-game player for the previous four seasons, coming off an 81-point campaign. The Finn is a great all-around player who has a knack for making plays in the opponent's zone. 

28. Kris Letang, D, Penguins

He may be 35 years old, but Letang still has a lot left in the tank. The elite Pittsburgh defenseman is coming off a career year with 58 assists and 68 points. When healthy, he's a perennial 50-point scorer and has hit double digits in goals three out of the past four seasons with the exception being the shortened year in 2020-21. Letang plays in all situations for the Penguins and hasn't shown many signs of slowing down. 

29. Mika Zibanejad, C, Rangers

Rangers fans can thank the Senators every day that Zibanejad is on the New York roster. The 29-year-old Swede is coming off his best season yet with 81 points in as many games. He's great on the power play who also shoots at a high percentage. Zibanejad has also greatly improved in the faceoff dot, helping him become a center that can be trusted in all three zones. 

30. J.T. Miller, C, Canucks

Miller has always been a solid forward in the NHL, but he is coming off a sensational 2021-22 campaign, securing 99 points in 80 games. He's a great distributor of the puck, as his 67 assists ranked sixth in the NHL last year. Miller's ability to play both wing and center make him extremely valuable, and it's a big reason why the Canucks locked him up with an extension this summer.

31. Jake Guentzel, LW, Penguins

A lot of people remember Guentzel for his postseason success in 2017 and 2018, but he has been a consistent scoring wing for the team for a few seasons now. He hit 40 goals for the second time in his career last season, en route to posting a new career-high in points with 84. Guentzel has scored over a point per game for the last three consecutive seasons. 

32. Juuse Saros, G, Predators

In the age of teams looking for goaltenders to be over 6-2, Saros has defied those odds, as his 5-11 stature makes him one of the shorter goalies in the league. That hasn't stopped him from being elite in the crease, finishing last season with a record of 38-253 with a 2.64 GAA and .918 SV%. No goalie played in more games than the young Finnish goalie, who started in 67 contests for Nashville. At 27 years old, it feels like it's only a matter of time before Saros earns a Vezina after he finished third in voting last year. 

33. Matthew Tkachuk, RW, Panthers

One of the few true power forwards left in the league, Tkachuk brings a mix of skill and sandpaper to the lineup night in and night out. He exploded for 104 points last, including 42 goals. He elected not to re-sign with the Flames and was traded to the Panthers, giving them a bright star that has proven his abilities in the league. 

34. Jason Robertson, LW, Stars

Robertson only has two full seasons in the NHL, but he's already shown at a young age that he can be a point-per-game producer in the league. He had 79 points in 75 games last season, totaling 125 points in 128 contests so far in his career. Robertson remains one of the only unsigned RFAs ahead of the season, so there's a chance he is not in the opening night lineup, but Dallas should ink him to a new deal ASAP. 

35. John Carlson, D, Capitals

Carlson is no stranger to being discussed among the best of the defensemen in the NHL. His 71 points in 2021-22 marked the third time in the past four years that he finished with at least 70; the lone year he didn't was the 56-game season in 2020-21. The 32-year-old has been a steady presence on Washington's blue line for 13 seasons and has not displayed any regression in his game. 

MORE: Ranking the NHL top 20 wingers for the 2022-23 season

36. Brayden Point, C, Lightning

A lower-body injury kept from seeing another spectacular postseason performance from Point, but he's built quite a reputation for himself as a playoff phenom. After popping off for 92 points four years ago, he hasn't produced in the regular season quite the same — he had 58 points in 66 games last year. However, the 26-year-old can be relied upon in all situations, making him a top center in the league. 

37. Aaron Ekblad, D, Panthers

It's taken Ekblad a bit to become the top-tier defenseman he was projected to be when he was selected with the first overall pick in 2014, but he's finally here. The past two seasons have been huge for Ekblad, coming most recently off 57 points in 61 games last year. Injuries have unfortunately stopped the 26-year-old from playing a full season since 2018-19, but when he's healthy he's been the backbone on defense for Florida. 

38. Miro Heiskanen, D, Stars

Another highly underrated defenseman is Heiskanen. It's hard to stand out when you're on a Dallas team that isn't exactly known for entertaining hockey, but Heiskanen is one of the few exceptions. The 23-year-old is a smooth skater and handler of the puck, but he's been forced to play on the right side with the Stars when he's naturally a left defense. His numbers don't pop off — his career-high in points is 36 — but the Finn is due for a breakout season at some point soon. 

39. Elias Lindholm, C, Flames

There always seems to be one or two under-appreciated defensive forwards who eventually get the Selke love they deserve. This past season was Lindholm, who finished second behind Bergeron for the award. The Swede posted a career-high 42 goals and 80 points, centering arguably the best line in hockey last year with Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. It will be intriguing to see how he adapts without the two, but he's a strong, under-the-radar No. 1 center. 

40. Ryan O'Reilly, C, Blues

Speaking of excellent and underrated two-way centers, O'Reilly continues to be a sensational player down the middle for the Blues. He's great in the faceoff dots and in his own zone. O'Reilly has never been to load up the score sheet — his career-high in points is 77 and he's surpassed 70 points only once in a single season — but he brings everything to the table and is exactly the kind of player you need to win a Stanley Cup (2019, anyone?). 

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41. Chris Kreider, LW, Rangers

Kreider has always been known predominantly as a goal scorer, but not many expected him to pot 50 goals in a year. He did just that last season, setting a new career-high with 52, which was third behind Auston Matthews and Leon Draisaitl. It was the first time he had ever recorded more than 30 goals in a year, so the likelihood that he repeats is slim, but the 31-year-old proved that he has the ability to be one of the best scorers and power play weapons in the league.

42. Jack Eichel, C, Golden Knights

Injuries have forced Eichel to miss a good portion of the last two seasons, but now healthy, he is set for his first full season as a Golden Knight. With his size and finesse, he's got a ton of offensive skill. Given he is now on a better team with the best linemates he's had so far, the No. 2 pick from 2015 has a great situation in Vegas to become what many expected of him in Buffalo. 

43. Kyle Connor, LW, Jets

Connor has been the definition of consistency for the Jets since breaking into the league. In the last five seasons, he has scored over 30 goals every year minus the shortened 2020-21 season. He set a new career-high last season with 47 goals and 93 points. The Jets are looking to right the ship in Winnipeg, and Connor will be a big part of that process. 

44. Alex DeBrincat, RW, Senators

DeBrincat has sneakily been one of the NHL's most efficient goal scorers. He has at least 30 goals in three out of the last four years and twice has surpassed 40, including 41 last season. I'm still unsure as to why the Blackhawks decided to trade him, as the 24-year-old is the exact kind of player who they want to build around, but the Senators will be more than happy to insert him into their top-six forward group. 

45. Jacob Markstrom, G, Flames

The towering Markstrom (6-6) has become one of the best goalies in the league. The Flames goalie was the runner-up to Shesterkin for the Vezina, posting a 37-15-9 record with a 2.22 GAA and .922 SV%. He led the league in shutouts with nine. Markstrom has always been a good goalie, but the 2021-22 season was far and beyond Markstrom's best season yet. Now it's about showing that he can do it consistently. 

46. Filip Forsberg, LW, Predators

Forsberg picked a great year to break out for 84 points in 69 games, as it resulted in an eight-year, $68 million contract extension with the Predators. He's become Nashville's go-to offensive weapon, although his 18.9 shooting percentage will be hard to replicate. He's an excellent two-way player as well, and the Predators are hoping that the 28-year-old can continue to be an over a point-per-game player. 

47. Jack Hughes, C, Devils

The Devils gambled by giving Hughes a max extension after just two seasons in the NHL, but from everything we've seen from the young center, it may end up as a bargain. The No. 1 pick from 2019 had 56 points in 49 games before he was shut down for the season with a knee injury. The 21-year-old has sensational speed and hands, and it is going to quickly work his way up to an elite level in the NHL. 

48. Devon Toews, D, Avalanche

Some people like to claim that Toews' status as an elite defenseman is all due to playing alongside Makar. While that certainly helps, if you don't think Toews brings a ton to the table on his own, you are sorely mistaken. He's been a high-end, two-way defenseman since he entered into the league with the Islanders. While his offensive numbers take a bit of a dip playing with Makar, he still put up 56 points this past season. 

49. Jaccob Slavin, D, Hurricanes

In terms of players who are under-appreciated, Slavin takes the cake. He's one of the strongest two-way defenders in the game, and could make a legitimate argument for being the best defensive defenseman. He contributes offensively on occasion — he had 38 assists last season — but Slavin's best work is in his own zone. His lack of penalties plays a large factor into his success, and also resulted in a Lady Byng Trophy win in 2021. 

50. Mark Stone, RW, Golden Knights

One of the premiere two-way forwards in the game, Stone has been a treat to watch in Vegas. He has an uncanny ability to pick off passes and steal the puck away from opponents, resulting in him being a four-time Selke finalist. Injuries derailed his season last year, as the Vegas captain skated in just 37 contests, but the hope is Stone can get back to his elite form this season. 

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