30 best NHL players of the 21st century: 21. John Tavares
John Tavares is a very hard player to peg. He was an absolute superstar when he was with the New York Islanders. Then, he marked himself as public enemy number one by signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Islanders became world beaters and the Maple Leafs haven’t won a playoff series since the signing. That still doesn’t take away from the fact that Tavares is one of the best players in the league.
The number-one overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft has at least 60 points in every season that wasn’t shortened by a lockout. Tavares is a player who might be considered underrated when it comes to his career as a whole.
He was a Hart Trophy finalist twice, but he never got better than third in the voting. He’s never made it past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He really needs that marquee playoff performance to make it higher on this list.
Still, he is an offensive center who’s incredible at even strength. He doesn’t need the power play to inflate his point totals. He has led the league in even-strength goals twice, including a ridiculous 37 in his first year in Toronto. Tavares might be a player many consider unlikeable after his move to Toronto, but nobody can deny how good he is.
If he can help Toronto lift the first Stanley Cup in multiple generations, then he could rocket up this list, but it’s impossible to put him in the top 20 as currently constructed. He’s just outside because his career seems to always be on the cusp of greatness. Now, he just needs to put it over the top before he leaves his prime.