With Nikita Kucherov running away with the Hart Trophy, I thought it would be more intriguing to look at a few names that maybe don’t reach the mainstream audience. Check out the five top overlooked players during this NHL season.

5. Brett Pesce (Carolina Hurricanes – Defensemen)

No, Brett Peace won’t be the player applying the big hit, scoring the flashy goal or even leading a power play. But Pesce does everything he preaches with precision. Sitting at No. 3 in the NHL with a +33 +/- rating, Pesce has led a line of two righties to success night in and night out. His line partner, Justin Faulk, often fails to complete his defensive duties, leaving Pesce to clean up mistake after mistake. Pesce is probably Carolina’s most compelling trade option for GMs around the league confident in taking a right handed D-man from Carolina, but outside those on a balanced film diet, Pesce is just another solid defensemen.

4. Tyson Barrie (Colorado Avalanche – Defensemen)

When thinking Colorado Avalanche, the last team in the West to clinch a playoff berth, names like Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, or captain Gabriel Landeskog strike conversation. Although the blue-line for the Avs can be an afterthought, Tyson Barrie is a flourishing defensemen on a team looking dangerous at the right time. His 59 points (14 goals, 45 assists) comfortably leads his team’s blue-line and ranks No. 6 in the entire NHL. Barrie is probably Colorado’s best player minus the team’s famous first line and will need to shine if the Avalanche fancy an upset.

3. Brian Dumoulin (Pittsburgh Penguins – Defensemen)

As the what seemed to be a minor piece in the Jordan Staal trade with Carolina in 2012, Brian Dumoulin has made a name for himself as a shutdown defensemen in the NHL. He has played a key role in Pittsburgh’s last two Stanley Cup runs alongside Kris Letang. With Letang and several other Penguin D-liners out for a significant portion of the season, Brian Dumoulin has kept the Penguins in playoff contention by leading and securing their D-core. Dumoulin sits 5th in the NHL with a +30 rating.

2. Tomas Hertl (San Jose Sharks – Forward)

Although up-and-down in his early progression with San Jose, Tomas Hertl is connecting with the star potential Sharks fans were hoping for. The only problem is his massive leap from last year has gone generally unnoticed. The Sharks are a small market team on the west coast, hence less people aren’t awake to notice him. Hertl will need more goals like this against the Rangers to gain the love he deserves. Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson are all bigger names than Hertl on the same team, yet if San Jose wants to finally make a deep playoff run, it will require their young star to shine.

1. Jacob Slavin (Carolina Hurricanes – Defensemen)

For years, every member of the Carolina Hurricanes organization — the fans, players, media, and coaches — have attempted to get Slavin’s name in the limelight, amongst the Karlsson Burns, and Giordano’s of the league. The one issue is…they’re the Carolina Hurricanes: a young team getting a taste of playoff hockey for the first time in ten seasons. Slavin is neither on Twitter nor TV, but instead squares off against the opposing teams best pair each and every night. Slavin has and always will lead the Hurricanes in ice-time, but his true value cannot be seen on a stat-sheet.

He is the perfect defensive defensemen, yet has the offensive attributes to one day be a 50-60 point contributor. I’d be surprised if Slavin didn’t just save another goal in desperation while this was being written. Since the Hurricanes clinched, Slavin will finally get the opportunity to rise to the stardom he deserves.

-Shane Simmons


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