10 NHL Players You Should Know

Forget the all-stars, these under-the-radar guys are the ones you should be tuning in for.
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Forget the all-stars, these under-the-radar guys are the ones you should be tuning in for.
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The NHL recently hosted its annual All-Star Game—or at least we think they did—where the marquee names (well, the ones who weren’t concussed or suspended anyway) came out to entertain the crowds with a lot of no-contact frivolity.

It’s all well and good, but now that we’re getting into the stretch run before the playoffs, here are some of the guys who don’t get nearly enough ink, but whose feats on and off the ice should have you paying closer attention to Canada’s pastime.

10. David Backes – St. Louis Blues

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The Blues’ U.S.-born power forward earned the nickname (and the T-shirt)“Inglorious Backes” after admitting, in no uncertain terms, that he “hated” Team Canada prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics (and, by extension, all Canadians, maple syrup, the Queen, the logging industry, and Bryan Adams).  In fact, he couldn’t even wait for the Vancouver games to start – he actually pointedly went out and fought several of Team Canada’s biggest stars in league games leading up the Olympics. He’s not only skilled, but he plays the game with a nice, nasty edge.  Plus, the Blues just happen to be Don Draper’s favorite team:

9. Ryan Kesler – Vancouver Canucks

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Not only is Kesler the kind of two-way player every team desires (meaning he can score and play gritty), he has also become a viral Internet celebrity for introducing the concept of “Kes-lurking” to his teammate’s post-game interviews:

And given the prank-happy nature of hockey players, the fact Kesler once posed nude for ESPN Magazine proves there is no limit to the amount of fucks he doesn’t give.

8. Pavel Datsyuk – Detroit Red Wings

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Hockey fans will no doubt be put off by Pavel’s inclusion, because they know how awesome he is. But in the larger scheme of things, he’s the rare case of a virtually anonymous superstar. Who else is so crafty he’s earned his own adjective: A “Datsyukian” deke:

Also, Datsyuk is the greatest interview of all time thanks to his steadfast refusal to learn English despite living in Detroit for 11 seasons:

7. P.K. Subban – Montreal Canadians

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For a sport that can all too quickly devolve into “aw shucks”/”good bunch of guys” cliché humility, you’ve got to celebrate the dudes who have real stones.  Subban got his first taste of NHL action in the heat of the playoffs, and was so bold and liberal with his devastating hits that the old guard started clutching their pearls about his “lack of respect.”

Think Subban felt shame? Hell no, he was too busy working on his post-win celebration with teammate Carey Price:

6. Dustin Penner – Los Angeles Kings

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The complaint that has dogged Penner for years is that he’s a talented guy with commitment issues – which he demonstrated this year by showing up for the Kings’ training camp in Peter Griffin shape. You’d think this would send the guy straight to a low-carb diet and a steady date with the exercise bike? Nope. Penner recently had to sit out a game because he threw his back out…eating pancakes. What are you talking about, L.A.? This guy seems pretty committed to us (and he’s gota sense of humor about it).



5. Mike Babcock – Detroit Red Wings

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We have to step outside the box and call out a coach for this one, because Babcock is probably the closest thing to Slapshot’s Reggie Dunlop the NHL has. Not only is he one of the few coaches who’ll openly dismiss coattail-tugging gadfly Pierre McGuire (and really, more should), he once quipped, following a 7-2 drubbing at the hands of Montreal, that he “wasn’t going to watch any tapes [of the game]. I’m going to get a drink.” Cheers, Mike.



4. Jonathan Quick – Los Angeles Kings

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Not only does Quick have a Babcockian patience for reporters, he’s also one of the best goaltenders in the league…but not so’s you’d notice. Playing in the hockey hotbed of Southern California means he gets precious little ink. That won’t change unless he gets traded to an NBC-friendly team (fun fact: According to NBC, the NHL consists of New York, Boston, Pittsburgh, Detroit and THAT’S IT) or leads the Kings to the Cup. But even then, he’d probably have to quickie-marry a Kardashian to ensure coverage. Which is unfair for a guy who can stop pucks with his mind.



3. Milan Lucic – Boston Bruins

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Back in the day, Beantown fans worshipped at the feet of Cam “Sea Bass” Neely because he could score, hit, punch and generally decimate everything in his path. It took a while for his heir apparent to emerge, but it has in the form of Lucic (pronounced Loo-cheech, which explains all the Southies shouting “Looch is a MonstAH” from the upper decks).  How powerful is Milan? He once brazenly steam-rolled All-Star goalie Ryan Miller and the incident so emasculated the Buffalo Sabres—who basically failed to take Lucic to task for violating the unspoken “don’t touch our goalie” rule—that that one hit instantly sent their entire season into a tailspin from which they have yet to recover.



2. Cal Clutterbuck – Minnesota Wild

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First of all, you have to love a dude who sports a look that would make him right at homebare-knuckle brawling in the 1920s. Secondly, we’ve done some independent research and we’ve found that “Cal Clutterbuck” is the single most hockey name ever conceived by man. Cal doesn’t leave the ice unless he’s hit everyone on the other team at least once every shift, and he can also score overtime winners flat on his belly after playing a carom off his own face.

1. Ilya Bryzgalov – Philadelphia Flyers

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Where to begin? If you missed HBO’s “24/7 – Road to the Winter Classic” this year, you missed the grand unveiling of hockey’s most entertaining fruitcake. He’s like a Frankenstein monster made out of this list: Take some Datsyukian broken Enlglsh, a heaping dose of Kesler-ian not-giving-a-fuckness, a bit of Quick-like skill in the crease and then marinate it all in a vat of WTF and you have “Bryz.” From histhoughts on the universe:

To his opinions about thehotness of dogs:

To his overall philosophy on the game itself:

Bryz is a one-man show worth watching. Follow him on Twitter, too (sample tweet: “bryzgoalie30: i saw man today in park. he dressed in women clothes and high hills.”) You won’t regret it. Why you heff to be mad?