Commentary

The case for Ryan Kesler as MVP

The Canucks' star is the hockey equivalent of a five-tool talent

Originally Published: January 26, 2011
By Craig Button | Special to ESPN Insider
Ryan KeslerJessica Haydahl/NHLI/Getty Images Ryan Kesler's all-around game makes him a five-tool talent.

In baseball, a five-tool player is one who excels at batting for average, hitting for power, running the bases, throwing with power and precision, and fielding his position. In other words, five-tool players have the ability to be dominant in every aspect of their game.

What elements would define a five-tool player in hockey? Clearly, speed would be included, along with scoring ability, creativity, playmaking skills and effective defense. Having an imposing physical presence is important as well.

While discussion about "complete" hockey players is common, it's hard to immediately identify any flawless players in today's NHL. Henrik Sedin was the NHL's MVP in 2009-10, but speed and physical prowess don't define his game. Alex Ovechkin has won the MVP award, but defense doesn't come to mind when describing his game. Another former MVP, Sidney Crosby, is described as the prototypical complete player, but even he is continuing to develop the weaker parts of his game (he's averaging only 28 seconds per game this season for penalty-killing duties).

However, there is one player who fits the criteria of a five-tool hockey player perfectly: Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks. While he doesn't yet have the name-brand quality of Crosby or Ovechkin, his all-around game can't be ignored -- and his play in the first half of the season merits MVP award consideration.


For the full take on why Ryan Kesler might be the NHL's MVP this season, become an ESPN Insider today.

Craig Button contributes regularly to ESPN Insider. Since 1988, Button has worked in the NHL as a scout and later as director of scouting with the Minnesota North Stars, becoming director of player personnel after the franchise relocated to Dallas. He later served as vice president and general manager of the Calgary Flames. He currently works as an analyst for the NHL Network.