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

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Zdeno Chara
Zdeno Chara (33): (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) /

30 best NHL players of the 21st century: 25. Zdeno Chara

Another player who has a seemingly endless rope for continuing his career, Zdeno Chara is abjectly one of the best defensemen in league history. He doesn’t have the scoring ability of Scott Niedermayer or the shutdown ability of Niklas Lindstrom, but he put together enough tools in a 6’9 frame to become one of the most feared competitors in an era when that fear was waning.

Chara started this century with the New York Islanders before quickly moving to the Ottawa Senators. It was one of the most infamous trades in NHL history. Alexei Yashin went to Long Island, and he never really fit in. Meanwhile, Chara went to Ottawa with the Islanders’ first-round pick (who would eventually become Jason Spezza).

Chara was very good in Ottawa, making two All-Star teams, but he didn’t really hit his stride until he signed as a free agent with the Boston Bruins. Once Claude Julien took over behind the bench in Chara’s second year with the team, he became a superstar.

The massive defenseman changed his style slightly, and it turned into the best move for his career. He doesn’t play like a player who’s a foot taller than some on the ice. He shuts the other team down in so many ways.

His toughness was second to none in Boston sports. People actually compare him to another Boston legend in Rocky Marciano. He helped the Bruins lift the Stanley Cup in 2011, the first championship to come to Boston since the days of Bobby Orr. Chara is now playing for the Washington Capitals in one of the more surprising moves of the offseason, but he will always be a Boston legend.