NHL History: 30 best players in the 21st century (Updated 2023)

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Steven Stamkos
Steven Stamkos (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

30 best NHL players of the 21st century: 14. Steven Stamkos

Steven Stamkos showed his importance during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Stanley Cup Finals run. He only played in one game due to injuries, but that one game might have been the most important of the return-to-play tournament. Stamkos scored in his only game before he had to leave again, but he did enough to put his name on the Stanley Cup.

It was fitting since Stamkos had been one of the best players in the league for a long time. He played fine during his first season after he was taken first overall in the 2008 NHL Draft, but he went off in his sophomore season. He put up 90+ points in three straight seasons from 2009 to 2012. Then, in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, he had 57 points in 48 games. He led the league that season with 19 even-strength goals.

Stamkos is averaging over a point per game over his career, and he should break 900 points next season. He loses a lot of luster because he’s been on an incredible team for a long time. He was second in Hart Trophy voting once and never made it past the top five after that. It shows the flaws in the voting system since Stamkos is one of the best in the business.

Stamkos is the Lightning captain, and he’s led this team to greatness multiple times. Obviously, he’s right on the cusp of being one of the best in the game, but over time, he’s had an incredible career.