Survey: Players tell us who tops their lists

Updated: January 26, 2007, 1:47 PM ET
ESPN.com

Media and fans always have their say on NHL players. So, in the spirit of All-Star week, we took it to the players. We contacted all 30 teams and asked them the following questions. The only stipulation: Players could not use anyone from their teams for their answers. We heard from 141 players, or roughly 20 percent of active players. Here's what they told us:

QUESTION 1: WHO IS THE BEST NATURAL SCORER IN THE NHL?
Ovechkin
Ovechkin
• TOP VOTE-GETTER: Alexander Ovechkin (56%).
• More on Ovechkin | Statistics | Capitals page
• Ovechkin burst onto the NHL scene in 2005-06 as part of one of the most talented rookie classes in history. Sports is in this forward's blood -- his mother won two Olympic golds playing hoops for the Soviet Union and his father was a pro soccer player. Ovechkin is known for his physical play and soft hands and he's difficult to knock off the puck.
• OTHER MENTIONS: Ilya Kovalchuk, Thrashers (14%); Jaromir Jagr, Rangers (8%); Marian Hossa, Thrashers (7%); Joe Sakic, Avs (4%); Teemu Selanne, Ducks (3%); Brendan Shanahan, Rangers (3%); Jonathan Cheechoo, Sharks (2%); Sidney Crosby (2%).

QUESTION 2: WHO IS THE TOUGHEST PLAYER IN THE NHL?
Laraque
Laraque
• TOP VOTE-GETTER: Georges Laraque (56%).
• More on Laraque | Statistics | Coyotes page
• There was an infamous incident earlier this season when a television mike captured Georges Laraque inviting the Ducks' George Parros to a fight. Not all of his on-ice duels have been that "civil," but Laraque is one of the more feared forwards in the NHL. He has 865 career penalty minutes over eight NHL seasons.
• OTHER MENTIONS: Derek Boogaard, Wild (20%); Donald Brashear, Capitals (9%); Zdeno Chara (4%); Scott Parker, Sharks (2%); Chris Chelios, Red Wings (2%), Colton Orr, Rangers (2%); Jarome Iginla (2%); Chris Neil, Senators (2%); Tomas Holmstrom, Red Wings (1%); Ryan Smyth, Oilers (1%).

QUESTION 3: WHO IS THE BEST COACH IN THE NHL?
Ruff
Ruff
• TOP VOTE-GETTER: Lindy Ruff (41%).
• Jack Adams Award winners | Sabres page
• Lindy Ruff has coached the Buffalo Sabres since the 1997-98 season, but his most successful campaign came in 2005-06. Ruff led the Sabres to a 52-24-6 record and 110 points, both franchise records and a 25-point improvement over the previous season. He won coach of the year honors in 2006, as well.
• OTHER MENTIONS: Randy Carlyle, Ducks (13%); Jacques Lemaire, Wild (10%); Barry Trotz, Predators (7%); Guy Carbonneau, Canadiens (6%); Peter Laviolette, Hurricanes (4%); Dave Lewis, Bruins (4%); Bob Hartley, Thrashers (3%); Ken Hitchcock, Blue Jackets (2%); Marc Crawford, Kings (2%); Dave Tippett, Stars (2%); Wayne Gretzky, Coyotes (2%).

QUESTION 4: STARTING FROM SCRATCH TODAY, WHO IS THE FIRST PLAYER YOU PICK FOR YOUR TEAM?
Crosby
Crosby
• TOP VOTE-GETTER: Sidney Crosby (45%).
• More on Crosby | Statistics | Penguins page
• Even Wayne Gretzky has asserted that if there were any player who could break his records, it's Sidney Crosby. At 19, Sid already anticipates plays and makes passes like a seasoned veteran. Defenders try to cut down lanes and space around him, but Crosby's super speed makes that a tough task.
• OTHER MENTIONS: Martin Brodeur, Devils (11%); Alexander Ovechkin, Capitals (10%); Joe Thornton, Sharks (9%); Nicklas Lidstrom, Red Wings (5%); Scott Niedermayer, Ducks (5%); Chris Pronger, Ducks (2%); Jarome Iginla, Flames (2%); Peter Forsberg, Flyers (2%); Joe Sakic, Avalanche (2%); Miikka Kiprusoff, Flames (2%); Roberto Luongo, Canucks (2%): Ryan Miller, Sabres (2%).

QUESTION 5: GAME 7 OF THE CUP FINALS ... WHICH CURRENT GOALIE WOULD YOU WANT IN NET FOR YOUR TEAM?
Brodeur
Brodeur
• TOP VOTE-GETTER: Martin Brodeur (75%).
• More on Brodeur | Statistics | Devils page
• One of the most consistent goalies over the past decade, Martin Brodeur is even more impressive in the postseason. Over his 13-year career, Brodeur has missed the playoffs just once and has helped the Devils win three Stanley Cups. His seven shutouts in a single playoff year (2003) is an NHL record.
• OTHER MENTIONS: Miikka Kiprusoff, Flames (10%); Roberto Luongo, Canucks (6%); Nikolai Khabibulin, Blackhawks (3%); Dominik Hasek, Red Wings (2%); J.S. Giguere, Ducks (2%); Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (1%); Andrew Raycroft, Maple Leafs (1%); Ryan Miller, Sabres (1%).

QUESTION 6: WHICH TEAM HAS THE MOST INTIMIDATING FANS?
Flyers
Flyers
• TOP VOTE-GETTER: Philadelphia Flyers (24%).
• Flyers page | Schedule | Player stats
• Everyone thinks their city has the best fans, but NHL players on average find Philly to be the most intimidating. From the "Broad Street Bullies" to the "Legion of Doom," Flyers fans are knowledgeable, passionate and, um, vocal. Remember, Philly fans even booed Santa Claus.
• OTHER MENTIONS: Montreal Canadiens (22%); Calgary Flames (19%); Edmonton Oilers (10%); San Jose Sharks (9%); Toronto Maple Leafs (6%); Minnesota Wild (3%); Detroit Red Wings (3%); Vancouver Canucks (2%); New York Rangers (2%); Columbus Blue Jackets (1%).

QUESTION 7: WHO IS THE DIRTIEST PLAYER IN THE NHL?
Avery
Avery
• TOP VOTE-GETTER: Sean Avery (38%).
• More on Avery | Statistics | Kings page
• Known for his controversial comments off the ice, Sean Avery is one of the toughest players to face if you're on the other side of the line, which some might find surprising because of his 5-foot-9 frame. He is an aggressive player (he led the league with 257 PIM last season) who has been criticized at times for untimely, unnecessary penalties.
• OTHER MENTIONS: Jarkko Ruutu, Penguins (13%); Jordin Tootoo, Predators (13%); Darcy Tucker, Maple Leafs (11%); Darius Kasparaitis, Rangers (9%); Matthew Barnaby, Stars (4%); Denis Gauthier, Flyers (4%); Ryan Hollweg, Rangers (3%); Steve Ott, Stars (3%); Matt Cooke, Canucks (3%).

QUESTION 8: WHO IS THE HARDEST HITTER IN THE NHL?
Phaneuf
Phaneuf
• TOP VOTE-GETTER: Dion Phaneuf (43%).
• More on Phaneuf | Statistics | Flames page
• In just his second season in the NHL, Dion Phaneuf is already being heralded as one of the best defensemen in the league. Modeling his game after former Devils great Scott Stevens, Phaneuf delivers massive open-ice hits, and, as one scout said, "He's tough as bloody nails." It doesn't hurt that Phaneuf also has a monster shot from the point.
• OTHER MENTIONS: Zdeno Chara, Bruins (11%); Rob Blake, Kings (8%); Alexander Ovechkin, Capitals (7%); Jordin Tootoo, Predators (7%); Raffi Torres, Oilers (4%); Denis Gauthier, Flyers (6%); Chris Neil, Senators (3%); Eric Lindros, Stars (2%); Cam Janssen, Devils (2%); Robyn Regehr, Flames (1%); Peter Schaefer, Senators (1%); Brendan Witt, Islanders (1%); Scott Parker, Sharks (1%); Donald Brashear, Capitals (1%).

QUESTION 9: WHO IS THE FASTEST SKATER IN THE NHL?
Gaborik
Gaborik
• TOP VOTE-GETTER: Marian Gaborik (26%).
• More on Gaborik | Statistics | Wild page
• Marian Gaborik is one of the league's most gifted players and is hard to beat, or slow down, one-on-one. Various injuries have kept fans from seeing Gaborik's full potential (he has yet to play a full season), but there's no doubting his importance to his team (the Wild are 4-2-2 in their last eight with Gaborik back in action).
• OTHER MENTIONS: Maxim Afinogenov, Sabres (13%); Scott Niedermayer, Ducks (13%); Martin St. Louis, Lightning (8%); Marian Hossa, Thrashers (7%); Alexander Ovechkin, Capitals (7%); Chris Kunitz, Ducks (6%); Teemu Selanne, Ducks (5%); Patrick Marleau, Sharks (3%); Ilya Kovalchuk, Thrashers (2%); Sidney Crosby, Penguins (2%); Steve Sullivan, Predators (2%); Joe Thornton, Sharks (1%); Marco Sturm, Bruins (1%); Jarome Iginla, Flames (1%); Jason Chimera, Blue Jackets (1%); Matthew Lombardi, Flames (1%).

QUESTION 10: IF ALL OF THE NHL'S CURRENT COACHES WERE IN A WWE CAGE MATCH, WHO'D WIN?
Hitchcock
Hitchcock
• TOP VOTE-GETTER: Ken Hitchcock (29%).
• Jack Adams Award winners | Jackets page
• We couldn't resist asking this question. And no, we're not going to ask Hitch to model some wrestling tights, a la Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka. But we figure more players voted for him because he is a no-nonsense disciplinarian who does not take too lightly to laziness on the ice. We guess players saw that as a benefit in da cage!
• OTHER MENTIONS: Ted Nolan, Islanders (18%); Lindy Ruff, Sabres (13%); Craig MacTavish, Oilers (7%); John Tortorella, Lightning (7%); Marc Crawford, Kings (4%); Peter Laviolette, Hurricanes (3%); Barry Trotz, Predators (3%); Wayne Gretzky, Coyotes (2%); Denis Savard, Blackhawks (2%); Mike Babcock, Red Wings (2%); Paul Maurice, Maple Leafs (2%); Jim Playfair, Flames (1%); Bob Hartley, Thrashers (1%); Jacques Lemaire, Wild (1%); Michel Therrien, Penguins (1%); Randy Carlyle, Ducks (1%); Guy Carbonneau, Canadiens (1%).

QUESTION 11: WHO IS THE BEST OVERALL ATHLETE IN THE NHL?
Brind'Amour
Brind'Amour
• TOP VOTE-GETTER: Rod Brind'Amour (18%).
• More on Brind'Amour | Statistics | Hurricanes page
• Some might be surprised by this answer, but they don't call him "Rod the Bod" for nothing. Brind'Amour has a rep for being a fitness freak, showing up three hours early at the rink to stretch, ride the bike, work on core and upper-body strength … before practice. At 36, he's not slowing down and is on pace for an 85-point season.
• OTHER MENTIONS: Sidney Crosby, Penguins (16%); Zdeno Chara, Bruins (13%); Jarome Iginla, Flames (9%); Chris Chelios, Red Wings (8%); Alexander Ovechkin, Capitals (6%); Chris Drury, Sabres (6%); Scott Niedermayer, Ducks (4%); Marian Hossa, Thrashers (4%); Peter Forsberg, Flyers (3%); Alexei Kovalev, Canadiens (3%); Teemu Selanne, Ducks (3%); Joe Sakic, Avalanche (3%); Marty Turco, Stars (1%); Darcy Tucker, Maple Leafs (1%); Mike Fisher, Senators (1%); Martin Gelinas, Panthers (1%); Ray Whitney, Hurricanes (1%).

QUESTION 12: WHICH CURRENT PLAYER WOULD MAKE THE BEST NHL COACH?
Sakic
Sakic
• TOP VOTE-GETTER: Joe Sakic (24%).
• More on Sakic | Statistics | Avalanche page
• Joe Sakic might be a "quiet leader," but the Avalanche captain does all of the little things (on top of being one of the league's most talented scorers) to earn the respect of his coaches and teammates. Many within the league also credit Sakic for his ability to listen and give good input to players, and find ways to rally his teammates through tough situations.
• OTHER MENTIONS: Brendan Shanahan, Rangers (18%); Rod Brind'Amour, Hurricanes (14%); Scott Mellanby, Thrashers (8%); Jason Smith, Oilers (6%); Alyn McCauley, Kings (6%); Jeremy Roenick, Coyotes (5%); Jarome Iginla, Flames (5%); Ryan Smyth, Oilers (3%); Nicklas Lidstrom, Red Wings (3%); Shane Doan, Coyotes (2%); Chris Drury, Sabres (2%); Ian Moran, Ducks (2%); Chris Chelios, Red Wings (2%); Bill Guerin, Blues (2%); Teppo Numminen, Sabres (2%).