Ranking the Top 10 NHL players ahead of 2023-24 season

Every season, hockey fans debate, who are the best players in the game today? In a recent interview with NHL.com, Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby named Connor McDavid as the best player in hockey.

So, in preparation for the upcoming season, we decided to piece together our top ten list of the best NHL players. After crunching the numbers and evaluating everyone’s team situation, this is the list we came up with. Whether you agree or disagree, don’t be afraid to leave us a comment on social media with your selections.¬†

Related: Hockey’s Mount Rushmore

Top 10 NHL Players for 2023-24

sidney crosby alex ovechkin
Feb 23, 2020; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) shakes hands with Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) after participating in a ceremonial puck drop with former Capital Joel Ward (M) prior to Black History Game at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

10. Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins)

As we begin the list of best players in the NHL today, it wouldn’t feel complete without including one of the game’s greatest, Crosby. Even though he is 36 now, the three-time Stanley Cup champion had his best season in five years with 93 points, his third-best total in a decade. Ultimately, Crosby is one of the most respected and admired skaters in the league and will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when he hangs them up. Historically, many people never thought someone would ever challenge Mario Lemieux’s franchise totals. Still, statistically speaking, if he plays a few more years, he could become the Pittsburgh Penguins’ top scorer.   

9. Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay Lightning)

Tampa Bay Lightning fans must still laugh that Nikita Kucherov fell into their laps as a second-round pick (58th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Since making his debut in 2013-14, he’s been to four Stanley Cup Finals, won two championships, collected over 100 points in three seasons, and never scored under 25 goals in a single season outside of his rookie campaign. Besides collecting the seventh most points over the previous decade, Kucherov will end up in the Hall of Fame upon retirement, and he’s to think he just turned 30 and has another decade of pro hockey ahead of him. 

8. Mitch Marner (Toronto Maple Leafs)

Since joining the Toronto Maple Leafs at the start of the 2016-17 season, Mitch Marner has collected the fourth most assists in the NHL. Additionally, he’s been on the cusp of scoring 100 points for the previous two seasons, collecting 97 and 99 points respectively. Considering he’s a leader in Toronto’s high-octane offense, it’s no surprise that Marner is a catalyst for one of the best regular season teams in the league, still searching for postseason success that has eluded them since 1967. 

7. David Pastrnak (Boston Bruins)

There will be much debate with David Pastrnak making this list and ranking so high. However, he came within four goals of winning his first Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy in 2022-23 with 61 goals and is poised to challenge for the award again this year. As one of the most lethal snipers in the league, he’ll be on a mission to surpass his career year of 113 points during the Boston Bruins Centennial Season, despite Patrice Bergeron not being his linemate anymore. 

6. Cale Makar (Colorado Avalanche)

After 238 games in the NHL, Cale Makar has won the Calder Trophy, Norris Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy, and the Stanley Cup. Additionally, with 246 points, he’s earned a career points-per-game average of 1.03, unheard of statistics for a defenseman in today’s game. Unfortunately, as one of the game’s elite players, he’s not immune to injuries, which has limited his opportunities to skate, with just a career-high 77 games in 2021-22. However, that was also the campaign in which he netted 28 goals, the third-highest total for a defender in the salary cap era.  

5. Matthew Tkachuk (Florida Panthers)

Although this ranking will hurt the Calgary Flames’ fans out there, there’s no denying the immediate impact Matthew Tkachuk had with the Florida Panthers in 2022-23. After a blockbuster trade in the summer of 2022, the scrappy forward led the Panthers to the Stanley Cup Final, singlehandedly ending the Carolina Hurricanes season with three game-winners in the Eastern Conference Final, with two coming in overtime. Although he is still recovering from a significant injury sustained in the Final, the Panthers will need to continue to tally over 100 points if they wish to stay competitive. 

4. Nathan MacKinnon (Colorado Avalanche)

As a former first-overall pick, Nathan MacKinnon remains one of the most dangerous skaters in the league. Although minor injuries have kept him out of action over the past four seasons, he’s still a five-time 20-goal scorer, setting a career-high with 42 lamplighters in 2022-23. Despite a modest 88 points in 2021-22, he helped the Colorado Avalanche win their third Stanley Cup that spring. Interestingly, MacKinnon hasn’t been a minus player for six seasons, finishing last year with a plus-29 rating. 

3. Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs)

Until the 2022-23 season, there was an ongoing argument that Auston Matthews was the best player in the league, becoming the first player in a decade to score more than 60 goals in a season. Ultimately, his historic season led to many accolades, including the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Awards. But Matthews has yet to lead the Toronto Maple Leafs past the second round in the playoffs, a significant hurdle separating him from becoming one of the best players ever to play the game. 

2. Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers)

Realistically, if Leon Draisaitl didn’t have McDavid on his line, there’s a solid argument that he would be the best player in the NHL today. However, the one-time Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy winner is one of just a handful of players to continuously rack up over 100 points a season in the salary cap era. Ultimately, a Stanley Cup championship is the only thing missing from this future Hall of Famer’s resume.   

1. Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers)

There is no denying McDavid’s designation as the best player in the NHL today. After becoming just the sixth player to score over 150 points during the regular season, finishing with 153, he’s on a different level than everyone else in the league. Statistically, if McDavid repeats his performance from 2023-24, he’ll collect his 1,000th point in roughly 650 games.