30 best NHL players of the 21st century: 29. Scott Niedermayer
The New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks great was a player whose best days came in the previous era, but he was still one of the best defensemen in the league at the turn of the century. He won three Stanley Cups after New Year’s Day 2000, including the first in franchise history for the Ducks. He was a part of two dominant Devils teams that made a run to the Cup thanks to dominant defenses and a star goaltender.
Sure, he got to play next to Scott Stevens for those first two Cups, but it was clear who was the star on that unit at that point. Stevens was getting older, and injuries were taking a toll. He was still great, but Niedermayer was the one in his prime.
Niedermayer made the All-Star team five times in his career, and four times it came in the 21st century. He won the Norris Trophy in his last year in New Jersey (a trophy that Stevens never won). He was averaging an insane 25 minutes per game as the Devils desperately held on to their Stanley Cup aspirations with an injured Stevens and Brian Rafalski.
He also won the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2007 when the Ducks won the Cup. During the playoffs, he usually got just a little bit better, especially if the team was on a roll. During the 2003 Cup run with the Devils, he helped finish off the Ducks with two assists in Game 7.
Niedermayer’s number is retired in the rafters of the Prudential Center and the Honda Center. He was incredibly important to both these franchises, and one could argue neither would have a Stanley Cup without him in this century.