The 2021 National Hockey League regular season is set to begin on Wednesday (Jan. 13).
Hamilton has produced plenty of notable NHL talent like Dave Andreychuk, Marty McSorely, and Harry Howell.
Will any current NHLers from the area live up to the former?
Here are the Top 5 current NHL players from Hamilton:
5. Mark Jankowski, C, Pittsburgh Penguins
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Mark Jankowski gets a fresh start in 2021, slotted to centre the Pittsburgh Penguins’ third line behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Jankowski had a lot to live up to after being selected in the first round (21st overall) at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Calgary Flames. He was the highest selected Canadian high school player in draft history, having played for Stanstead College for two seasons leading to the draft.
Flames fans can be a demanding bunch and for many, Jankowski didn’t live up to the hype as a consistent top 6 forward who could produce at the NHL level. Instead, Jankowski played more of a checking role.
With expectations lower than they were in Calgary and the Penguins in need of a solid two-way centre behind their two future hall of famers, Jankowski should fit-in nicely in Pitt.
4. Ben Chariot, D, Montreal Canadiens
Ben Chariot is slotted to play a big role on the Canadiens blueline in 2021 after spending most of training camp beside captain Shea Weber on the top defense pairing. Despite not being selected until the 4th round (120th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft by the Atlanta Thrashers, Chariot, 29, has played more than 400 career NHL games.
After spending the first 8 seasons of his professional career within the Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets franchise, Chiarot left as a free agent following the 2018-19 season to sign a three-year, $10.5 million contract with the Montreal Canadiens on July 4, 2019.
3. Cam Talbot, G, Minnesota Wild
Cam Talbot signed a three-year deal worth $11-million to become the starting goaltender for the Minnesota Wild in 2021.
He has put together a nice career after going undrafted out of the University of Alabama-Huntsville nearly a decade ago.
Talbot, 33, started his career with the New York Rangers as a backup behind future hall of fame goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist before going to Edmonton. With the Oilers, Talbot recorded 42 wins during the 2016-17 season to break the franchise record previously held by the legendary Grant Fuhr.
Talbot then had a brief stint with the Flyers before signing with the Calgary Flames for one year. During the COVID-19 pandemic and the NHL’s return to play, Talbot backstopped the Flames to a 3-1 series win over the Winnipeg Jets including a game four shutout of the Jets.
Talbot will be pushed in Minnesota by backup Alex Stalock but the job is certainly Talbot’s to lose.
2. Darnell Nurse, D, Edmonton Oilers
With a lengthy playoff run on their minds, the Edmonton Oilers will rely heavily on 25-year-old Darnell Nurse in 2021.
The 6-foot-4 defenseman was selected by Edmonton, seventh overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He won a gold medal with the Canadian junior hockey team in 2015.
Nurse signed a two-year contract extension in 2020 that will pay him $11.2-million as the Oilers top blueliner. He averaged well over 23 minutes of ice per game over the last two season
1. Ryan Ellis, D, Nashville Predators
Also in contention for the best beard in hockey, Ryan Ellis earns the top spot among Hamiltonian NHLers thanks to a proven body of work that has spanned nearly 600 NHL regular season and playoff games.
Even more impressive, Ellis has been a champion of altruism in the Hamilton-area. Through his charity, the Elly4Kids Foundation, Ellis has donated more than nearly $200,000 towards building and renovating Hamilton playgrounds.
Ellis, 30, is a plus-113 (regular season) for his career and he’s producing at a near point-every-other-game rate from the blueline.
The Predators rewarded Ellis in 2018 with an eight-year, $50-million dollar contract extension.
Ellis will, again, be one-half of perhaps the best defensive duo in the game when he lines up beside Roman Josi on opening night.
Ellis is still the World Junior Championships’ all-time leading point-scorer for defencemen with 25. He won gold with Canada in 2009.