NHL.com asked 61 of the League’s top players for their opinions at the NHL European and North American Player Media Tours on topics surrounding the game and its players. The second installment of a series that will run each Friday for the next several weeks focuses on who the 61 players say are their favorite players to watch in the NHL today.
Connor McDavid leads a group of three players who significantly move the needle when it comes to the viewing habits of their peers.
The Edmonton Oilers center, who led the NHL in scoring in each of the past two seasons, received 18 votes from a panel of 61 players asked who was their favorite current NHL player to watch.
[RELATED: NHL.com players poll: Hart Trophy winner]
“It’s a lot of fun because [McDavid] always brings something that other players don’t have,” Anaheim Ducks forward Rickard Rakell said.
McDavid, 21, had 108 points (41 goals, 67 assists) in 2017-18 and has 269 points (92 goals, 177 assists) in 216 NHL games.
Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane received 15 votes, and Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby got eight.
Crosby had trouble choosing between McDavid, voted by his fellow players as winner of the Ted Lindsay Award for most outstanding player in each of the past two seasons, and 23-year-old Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon, a finalist for the Hart Trophy after scoring 97 points (38 goals, 59 assists) in 2017-18.
“Just their ability to create a play on their own, whether off the rush or just setting up a play,” Crosby said. “Those two guys probably need the least amount of space to actually create something.”
MacKinnon received two votes.
Kane, 27, was praised by many for his ability to handle the puck in traffic at full speed. It’s a skill set that has helped him score 27 goals last season and 321 in an NHL career that began in 2007-08.
“He’s just so smooth,” Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn said. “You always want to be someone you’re not. I’m the power forward-type and he’s the small, skilled guy. Kind of the opposite.”
Andre Burakovsky, a forward with the Washington Capitals, is as skilled as they come but is also drawn to Kane.
“He’s just got incredible hands and he always does something that’s sticks out,” Burakovsky said. “Before I came to the League, I always loved to watch him play.”
Kane named Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews as the player he most likes to watch. Matthews got off to a fast start this season with 16 points (10 goals, six assists) in his first seven games.
“He’s so big and physical and just so naturally gifted, his hands and shot,” Kane said. “Really fun to watch, especially up close and personal when I’ve skated with him. It’s pretty impressive.”
There remains much interest in what Crosby can do on the ice, even as he starts his 14th NHL season at age 31. Crosby had 89 points (29 goals, 60 assists) last season and has 1,126 points (414 goals, 712 assists) in 872 NHL games.
“[It’s] how hard he works, how strong he is on the puck,” Detroit Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “All the small things.”
The remaining 20 votes were split among 15 players. San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson received three votes. MacKinnon, Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman, Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin and Columbus Blue Jackets forward Artemi Panarin, each with two votes, were the only others to receive more than one.
Favorite player to watch voting (61 total votes)
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers, 18; Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks, 15; Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins, 8; Erik Karlsson, San Jose Sharks, 3; Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning, 2; Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche 2; Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals, 2; Artemi Panarin, Columbus Blue Jackets, 2; Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes, 1; Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers, 1; Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders, 1; Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars, 1; Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators, 1; Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames, 1; Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings, 1; Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs, 1; Roman Josi, Nashville Predators, 1.