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

NHL logo (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NHL logo (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
25 of 30
Pavel Datsyuk
Pavel Datsyuk (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

30 best NHL players of the 21st century: 6. Pavel Datsyuk

Pavel Datsyuk is a player that’s still playing at a high level, but he’s not in the NHL so those numbers don’t count. What does count is his 14 years of dominance with the Detroit Red Wings. He could be considered the best two-way center during this era. He has three Selke Trophies to his name and three other seasons where he was a finalist.

He was able to put players on their butts with moves that would make an AND1 mixtape (if that reference is too young for you, Google it. You won’t regret it). Datsyuk’s ability to deke players with the puck on his stick made him unstoppable. There was a reason people would call him the “Magic Man.”

Datsyuk also won the Lady Bing Trophy four times. Not sure what that means for his legacy, but it shows he was incredibly liked as a player during his career.

His 2007-08 season was one of the best when combining his regular season and playoffs. He had 97 points in the regular season for a dominant Detroit team. He was the best player on a team that won the President’s Trophy. In the playoffs, he put up 23 points in 22 games. He and Henrik Zetterberg were dominant and pushed the Wings to wins in all series without facing a Game 7.

Datsyuk is a late bloomer who didn’t become a great NHL player until he turned 26 years old. He continued his dominance well into his 30s until he left a floundering Red Wings team to go play in Russia.