Every team has a player or players that, despite having a strong season, do not get the recognition they deserve. These are the less talked about players whose play has helped their team have success this season. Here are the top-10 underrated players of the 2021-22 season.
10) Craig Smith, Boston Bruins
Craig Smith has been a welcome addition to the Boston Bruins’ lineup the last two seasons as he has helped provide solid bottom-six scoring for the team. He has 29 even-strength points this season in 62 games and has helped them outscore the opposition 41-34 when he has been on the ice. Most importantly, he has shown he can play up and down the lineup having success in 178 minutes playing on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
As for Smith’s analytics, they are amongst the best on the Bruins. He has a 55.40% Corsi at even strength along with a 57.77% shots for percentage and a 55.20% high danger chances for percentage. Lastly, he isn’t afraid to play physically, as he has 80 hits this season. The 32-year-old has been a force in 2021-22 and the Bruins’ third line of Trent Frederic, Charlie Coyle and himself should cause havoc for the opposition once the postseason begins.
9) Ian Cole, Carolina Hurricanes
Ian Cole is having one of the best seasons of his career for the Hurricanes this year. The 33-year-old defenceman has 18 points this season and is less than 30 minutes of even-strength time on ice from passing 1,000 minutes for the season. He is a versatile defenceman who has shown he can play not just with a rotating cast of partners, but also on both sides of the ice as the left-shot defenceman has played over 200 minutes on the right side.
This season, Cole has a 56.74% Corsi while the Hurricanes have outscored opponents 43 to 33 at even strength. Lastly, he has thrown 93 hits while blocking 86 shots. Carolina has a very deep team, and the two-time Stanley Cup winner is a big reason why their defensive group is one of the best in the entire NHL.
8) Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Tampa Bay Lightning
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare centers one of, if not the best fourth line in the NHL, playing alongside Corey Perry and Patrick Maroon. His work shorthanded has Tampa as a top-10 penalty-killing team in the league, and at even strength, the Lightning have only allowed 17 total goals in the 770 minutes of ice time he has played this season. He has become a premier shut-down center in the league and is one of its best defensive forwards this season.
While Bellemare is known for his defensive play, the Lightning have done well in the offensive zone with him on the ice as well. Tampa has scored 35 goals at even strength, with him collecting 16 even strength points on the season. Lastly, he has been one of their best faceoff men all season, recording a 51.4% win percentage. If the Lightning have eyes on capturing a third straight Stanley Cup, he will play a key role in the process.