Blackhawks News

The Central Division’s Top Five Underrated Players

By Skylar Peters
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Oct 9, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Winnipeg Jets center Bryan Little (18) celebrates with right wing Michael Frolik (67) and left wing Andrew Ladd (16) after scoring a goal in the first period against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

#2: Tyson Barrie

Though his time in the NHL ranks has been short, Tyson Barrie has delivered the goods for the Colorado Avalanche defensively, and his offensive touch is a huge bonus for the club. With 107 NHL games to his credit, (the lowest total on our list), Barrie certainly has tons of upside at only age 23. His 38 points and +17 rating last season were a huge surprise, albeit a pleasant one for Avalanche fans, and Barrie played a big role in the Avs’ Central Division championship. Playing upwards of 26 minutes a night during the playoffs last season, the Avalanche certainly saw the value in the defenseman, and signed him to a one-way contract over the summer. If Barrie keeps up this pace, the rest of the league will soon recognize the value, too.

#1: Bryan Little

Although Bryan Little is a center on the Winnipeg Jets’ top line, he is still disregarded by many as one of the league’s best pivots, although his stats continue to show otherwise. His 47.8% rate in the faceoff circle last season was backed by 64 points, trailing only captain Andrew Ladd, and a +8 rating, good for third on the Jets. Little plays on both the Jets’ penalty-kill and power-play units, meaning big ice-time for the forward. His even 20 minutes/game average was the most by a Jets’ forward, and ranked him 10th league-wide in that category, while playing in all 82 games, something that only four of the players before him did as well. Little makes a contribution to the Jets every night, win or loss, and never takes a shift off. He could easily slot in as a second-line center on some of the elite teams in the league, and if the Jets don’t improve this season, who knows; maybe he will be by this time next year.

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