Saw this over on the Trib’s Rob Rossi’s Chipped Ice Blog (always a recommended read) last night and plenty of Penguins are getting early league wide recognition.
Highly respected national writer Kevin Allen of the USA Today released the first installment of USA TODAY’s NHL power rankings.
Rankings centered around “team rankings” and player rankings — “Most Valuable Player”, “Top Goaltender”, “Top Defenseman” and “Top Rookie”.
The power rankings were voted on by six USA TODAY staffers — Kevin Allen, Mike Brehm, Gary Graves, Mark Hayes, Chad Leistikow and Brad Windsor — plus USATODAY.com columnist Justin Bourne, Windsor (Ontario) Star columnist Bob Duff, Versus analyst Darren Eliot, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Rob Rossi, Detroit Free Press reporter Helene St. James and Greg Wyshynski, editor of Yahoo! Sports’ Puck Daddy blog. First-place teams get 30 points down to one point for a 30th-place team. First-place players get five points down to one point for fifth place. The points are the total of all votes.
The Penguins were represented in every category, with Sidney Crosby ranked third in Most Valuable Player rankings, Kris Letang 2nd in Top Defensemen rankings, Brent Johnson 3rd in Top Goaltender rankings and Mark Letestu earning the No. 1 Top Rookie ranking.
What caught my eye with the rankings is the early recognition for Kris Letang, who has been regarded by observers as the Penguins most complete defenseman and is progressing into a dominant defensive defenseman.
If Letang shows consistency at the offense end, he could surprisingly stay in the Norris Trophy mix all season.
The high recognition of Crosby, Johnson and Letestu is no surprise but Letang being regarded as one of the top defensemen in the league through the first month is significant.
Here are the USA Today’s Playing Rankings
Most Valuable Player ranking:
1. Steven Stamkos (11) Tampa Bay Lightning
2. Marian Hossa (1) Chicago Blackhawks
3. Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins
4. Daniel Sedin Vancouver Canucks
5. Henrik Zetterberg Detroit Red Wings
Others receiving votes: Brad Richards, Dallas, 10; Patrick Sharp, Chicago, 9; Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis, 7; John Tavares, N.Y. Islanders, 3; Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit, 2; Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles, 2; Tim Thomas, Boston, 1; Kari Lehtonen, Dallas, 1
Top goaltender ranking:
1. Tim Thomas (6) Boston Bruins
2. Jaroslav Halak (4) St. Louis Blues
3. Brent Johnson Pittsburgh Penguins
4. Kari Lehtonen (1) Dallas Stars
5. Jonathan Quick (1) Los Angeles Kings
Others receiving votes: Pekka Rinne, Nashville, 7; Jimmy Howard, Detroit, 7; Tomas Vokoun, Florida, 6; Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix, 4; Ryan Miller, Buffalo, 3; Miikka Kiprusoff, Calgary, 2; Michal Neuvirth, Washington, 2; Antero Niittymaki, San Jose, 2
Top defenseman ranking
1. Nicklas Lidstrom (9) Detroit Red Wings
2. Kris Letang (2) Pittsburgh Penguins
3. John-Michael Liles Colorado Avalanche
4. Shea Weber Nashville Predatos
5. Zdeno Chara (1) Boston Bruins
Others receiving votes: Alex Goligoski, Pittsburgh, 8; Duncan Keith, Chicago, 8; Stephane Robidas, Dallas, 7; Paul Martin, Pittsburgh, 7; Tobias Enstrom, Atlanta, 3; Ryan Whitney, Edmonton, 3; James Wisniewski, N.Y. Islanders, 3; Dan Boyle, San Jose, 2; Joni Pitkanen, Carolina, 2; Steve Montador, Buffalo, 2; John Carlson, Washington, 2; 4 players with 1
Top rookie ranking
1. Mark Letetsu (3) Pittsburgh Penguins
2. John Carlson (5) Washington Capitals
3. Tyler Ennis (2) Buffalo Sabres
4. Michal Neuvirth (1) Washington Capitals
5. Derek Stepan New York Rangers