Last Word on Hockey’s Top 50 Personalities of 2016: 10-1

This is the fifth installment of Last Word on Hockey’s Top 50 breaking down the top 50 personalities in the hockey world during 2016. They were picked based on skill, accomplishments, notoriety, or compelling narratives.

If you missed the first part, you can read it here. The second part can also be found here. The third part can be found here. The Fourth installment can be found here.

Last Word on Hockey’s Top 50 Personalities of 2016: 10-1

 10. Artemi Panarin

Artemi Panarin was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Chicago Blackhawks in April of 2015. He had spent his entire career in the KHL before coming to North America. As a 24-year old, Panarin was still considered a rookie by NHL standards. This was considered his first year of professional hockey in the NHL.

The North American game was easy for Panarin to pick up as he would play in all but two games, picking up 30 goals and 47 assists in the process. He would also put up two goals and five assists in five playoff games. Panarin would end the season winning the Calder Trophy for Rookie of the Year.

9. Mike Sullivan

Mike Sullivan has enjoyed quite the career so far. After having various coaching jobs with the Boston Bruins, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, and Vancouver Canucks, Sullivan found a home within the Penguins organization. He spent a few months of the 2015-16 season as head coach of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL.

Just five months after being hired, he was promoted to head coach of the Penguins in December upon the firing of then-head coach Mike Johnston. Sullivan enjoyed the promotion as he helped lead the Penguins to their fourth Stanley Cup. He became just the sixth head coach to win the Stanley Cup after being hired mid-season. He was also the third coach in franchise history to win the trophy following a mid-season coaching change.

8. Shea Weber

Shea Weber spent the first 11 years of his NHL career with the Nashville Predators after signing an entry level deal in 2004. He would become the fifth captain in Predators history during the 2010 season. He would then sign a 14-year deal in the 2012 offseason after the Philadelphia Flyers sent him an offer sheet that the Predators matched.

The longtime Predator highlighted the news in the 2016-2017 offseason as he was a part of a blockbuster trade that sent him to the Montreal Canadiens and P.K. Subban going the other way to the Predators. The early word on the trade gave the Predators the edge, but Weber has done his best to change that. Through 36 games, the defenseman has nine goals and 11 assists. A very solid return, especially including the type of leader Weber is.

7. P.K. Subban

P.K. Subban is well-known as one of the most charitable guys in the NHL. Before the 2015-16 season, he announced a donation of $10 million to the Montreal Children’s Hospital. The hospital called it the biggest donation by a sports figure in Canadian history. He was a beloved player in the Montreal area. All seemed well for Subban, and then it wasn’t.

On June 29, 2016 things would change, however. Subban would be traded to the Predators in exchange for Shea Weber. Many people questioned this move as no details about the trade had come up until after it took place. Reports of Subban not fitting in with the Canadiens immediately surfaced. So far Subban already bested his goal total from last season as he sits with seven goals and 10 assists through his 29 games. And despite the upper body injury he’s currently ailing from, he seems to be a fantastic fit in Nashville.

6. Phil Kessel

Phil Kessel has seen himself in the spotlight many times during his NHL career. He was a part of the trade between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs that saw Tyler Seguin drafted to the Bruins later on. Kessel would spend six year with the Maple Leafs where he was sometimes heavily criticized by the media.

He was later traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins in a blockbuster deal in the 2015-16 offseason. After having not won in the cup during his NHL career, he would enjoy that feat as the team would win the Stanley Cup in his first season with the Penguins. He lead the team in playoff scoring with 10 goals and 12 assists. He would bring the cup to the Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto that offseason. His second season with the Penguins has started off well as he finds himself with 11 goals and 25 assists in 37 games.

5. Matt Murray

Matt Murray has enjoyed success during his short professional career. In his first professional season with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2014-15 he set an AHL record for the longest shutout streak. He would break another AHL record for most shutouts in a season. He would then be named the league’s best goaltender and best rookie.

Murray saw himself recalled twice by the Penguins during the 2015-16 season. He would play the last nine games of the season before becoming heavily relied on during the team’s Stanley Cup run. His playoff debut would include him allowing just one goal against the New York Rangers. Murray then recorded his first playoff shutout just two days later. He was only replaced once by Marc-Andre Fleury in the 16 games it took the team to win the cup. He became the sixth rookie goaltender in the finals since 1976.

4. Bill Foley

Bill Foley became one of the most interesting men within the NHL as the league announced Las Vegas would be getting an NHL team starting in the 2017-2018 season. Foley had been accustomed to working behind the scenes before being behind the campaign to bring hockey to Las Vegas.

Foley would get his team on June 22, 2016 as Vegas was officially awarded an NHL franchise. The team was announced as a part of the NHL’s Pacific Division before the league’s awards ceremony. Foley would also begin to hire his staff just under a month later, as George McPhee was introduced as the team’s general manager. And lastly, Foley would get a team name as the Las Vegas Golden Knights were born on November 22nd.

3. Connor McDavid

Connor McDavid was drafted first overall by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2015 NHL Draft. Unsurprisingly, there was a lot of hype around the former Erie Otter. Unfortunately his first NHL season would see him miss 37 games due to a broken clavicle suffered on November 3rd. He would return to the lineup in February and would finish the season third in voting for the Calder Trophy.

He was later named the captain for the Edmonton Oilers for the 2016-17 season, becoming the youngest captain in NHL history. He would score his first NHL hat trick in a 5-2 win against the Dallas Stars on November 19th. McDavid has enjoyed quite the season as his 42 points find him tied for the league lead with Sidney Crosby. An amazing year in 2016, and 2017 doesn’t look any less promising.

2. Sidney Crosby

Sidney Crosby is known as one of the best players in the NHL. He has rightfully earned that title, beginning with his rookie season in 2005 when he burst on the scene with 102 points in his first year. Crosby would finish second in rookie of the year voting as Alex Ovechkin would take it, the beginning of a rivalry between the two.

He was given the captaincy by the team just two years after entering the league. His success has followed him since that first season. He has only scored lower than 60 points six times since 2005. Word came out during the 2015-16 season that Crosby had aged out of his prime scoring years. Things changed once Sullivan took over as coach. He outscored all players from December 12th through the end of the season. Crosby would become the ninth player to win two cups and two Olympic gold medals after defeating the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Final. He was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs. He now finds himself tied for first in the league in total points and first in goals.

1. John Scott

2016 saw many people make highlights, but the biggest of all would undoubtedly have to be John Scott. Primarily known as a fighter and fourth line grinder, Scott would become known to everyone during All-Star voting. The league had opened up the voting to include any player in the league. The fans ran with it as Scott found himself with the most votes and was named an All-Star Game captain for the Pacific Division.

The NHL almost didn’t let this happen. He was asked by the league and the Arizona Coyotes to bow out. He declined and was traded to the Montreal Canadiens and immediately sent to the AHL, where he would be ineligible for the game. The league made up for it however as he was eventually granted access to the game where he would go on to score two goals and become the MVP of the tournament. Of course, he was voted MVP by fans even though he wasn’t named a finalist for it.

There are a lot of memorable and captivating people in the NHL, but John Scott will forever be known as one of the most captivating people and stories to come out of 2016.

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