Over the last 20 years, the NHL completely changed eras. The league was on the cusp of really making waves on a national level. The New York Rangers Stanley Cup victory, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux’s superstardom, and a young core of exciting players had the league set up for success in the 21st century.
Now, a generation of players has gone by and the next generation of players is already upon us. There is a clear divide in star power this century. While players who fall away in the realms of history like Kevin Stevens and Joe Juneau could score 100 points in the 90s, now that number is much harder to hit.
So, finding the best players of the 21st century is much more than just looking at the stats. The increased inception of advanced analytics has changed the way we look at the game of hockey. Those who play a chaotic game where the defense is suspect at best don’t come off as well as they did in previous generations. So, when looking at everything, who are the best players of the 21st century?
Editor’s Note: Updated for the 2022/2023 NHL season
30 best NHL players of the 21st century: 30. The Sedin Twins
Ironically, the Sedins would probably be numbers 30 and 31 on this list, so might as well just make them share the first spot on the list. They are the most beloved members of the “Canucks Army.” They both played more than 1,300 games, they both scored more than 1,000 points, and they were both insane power-play scorers (Henrik Sedin had 369 power-play points. Daniel Sedin had 367). These two were prolific in their dominance on the ice.
They were taken second and third overall at the 1999 NHL Draft after a truly masterful performance by then-general manager Brian Burke. It took a total of three trades to get the second-overall pick necessary to take both Sedins (they already had the third-overall pick). The Canucks finally had their centerpiece after failing to build off its run to the 1994 Stanley Cup Final.
The Sedins won back-to-back Art Ross Trophies (Henrik in 2010, Daniel in 2011). Henrik won the Hart Trophy in his 112-point season. They made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011 and won a gold medal with Sweden in 2006.
They played 17 seasons together, and they were productive until the end. Henrik had 13 straight seasons where he hit 50+ points. Daniel dealt with more injuries, but he was still a big scorer through his last season. They will go down as underrated, but the Sedins had a big impact on hockey in Vancouver in the 21st century.