In the NHL there are a handful of players that you love to have on your team but hate to play against.
Not many NHL fans may admit it, but they probably cringe a little when they see these players score a nice goal, win a playoff series or the Stanley Cup.
Even though sometimes we may not agree with their style of play or antics, away from the ice, some of these players may be the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
With that said, let’s take a look at five players who should be considered the most annoying to play against in the NHL today.
Ryan Kesler – Anaheim Ducks
Ryan Kesler is a very easy player to hate, especially if you are not an Anaheim Ducks fan. He is a hard-nosed player who is often seen going after the opposing team’s best players and trying to get them off their game.
During his days with the Vancouver Canucks, he was reportedly at the top of the NHL’s embellishment list, in NHL rules meetings.
His style of play has even gotten on the nerves of many players around the NHL, including Ryan Johansen. The Nashville Predators' center voiced his displeasure during last year’s playoffs and had some harsh words about Kesler’s play.
“His family and friends watching him play, I don’t know how you cheer for a guy like that. It just doesn’t make sense how he plays the game. I’m just trying to go out there and play hockey, and it sucks when you have to pull a stick out of your groin after every shift.
Another part of Kesler’s game that doesn’t sit too well with others, is his unwillingness to engage in too many fights when challenged. Perhaps it’s part of his strategy to agitate his opponents and let them come away with the penalty.
Why you may tolerate Ryan Kesler:
Kesler plays the game hard, rarely takes a shift off and will do everything in his power to help his team win. He usually takes on the toughest matchup assignments and can be counted on to shut down the other team’s best players.
At 6’2" and 202lbs, Kesler is not a small guy and can physically match up against anyone. He is an elite two-way center who knows how to get under people’s skin but does it in a subtle way that doesn’t cost his team too many penalties.
Antics aside, you would probably love to have a player like that on your side, as he competes each and every night and leaves everything on the table.
Brad Marchand – Boston Bruins
Ever since entering the NHL, Brad Marchand has embraced the agitator role and has slowly become a huge part of the Boston Bruins' franchise.
However, Marchand has a rich history of questionable antics and has been suspended multiple times in his career. He goes overboard from time to time and is an ultimate pest who can get under the skin of any opponent.
On top of that, he sometimes shows little remorse for his wrongdoings.
One of the most frustrating things for many is that Marchand has the skill set to hurt you on the scoreboard as well.
He is coming off a career-year with the Bruins scoring 39 goals, and 85 points, and finished in the top-five in scoring. Marchand has proved that he has the talent to be an elite scorer in at the NHL level, which makes many believe he doesn't need to play the way he does.
Sometimes it's interesting to imagine if Boston fans could tolerate Marchand if he wasn't a Bruin……
Why you may tolerate Brad Marchand:
He is a talented pest, possessing vision with the puck and excellent stick-handling abilities. Marchand has breached the 20-goal plateau six times in his career and has averaged 31 goals in his past four seasons in Beantown.
The 29-year-old has the ability to deliver in the clutch and has scored some big goals for Boston in the past, including an excellent postseason in 2010/11 when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup. That series also famously saw Marchand use Daniel Sedin as a punching bag, getting under the entire Vancouver team's skin en route to the win.
Matthew Tkachuk – Calgary Flames
As an 18-year-old coming into the NHL, Matthew Tkachuk has quickly embraced the villain role and was a very effective player for the Calgary Flames last season.
Having only played one season, Tkachuk has already made a name for himself as one of the new up-and-coming skilled agitators in the NHL.
Opposing teams may find the son of former NHL All-Star Keith Tkachuk a nightmare to play against for several reasons.
For one, he looks like he genuinely enjoys stirring the pot each and every night. He is often found in the middle of scrums between whistles and is not afraid to get into the dirty areas.
He parks himself in front of the net and does a good job disrupting opposing goalies.
Tkachuk finishes his checks often, and plays on the edge. He isn’t afraid to give the other team some attitude if he feels it can give his team an advantage.
The 19-year-old was the 11th most penalized player in the NHL in 2016/17, with 105 penalty minutes in 76 games played.
Why you may tolerate Matthew Tkachuk:
Quite frankly, many teams around the NHL would love to have a guy like Matthew Tkachuk on their roster. He is an old school hard-nosed player, with an edgy game.
With the enforcer role nearly extinct, he is a new archetype in today’s game that gives the Calgary Flames some sandpaper and a source of intimidation in their lineup.
It is rare for a young player to have such courage to not really back down from anyone. Tkachuk gives an honest effort each and every night and makes Calgary a more difficult team to play against.
He is not the biggest guy (6’1", 195lbs) but is a very strong player who can protect the puck and help his team keep possession in the offensive zone.
Tkachuk looks to be a solid top-six forward and a perennial 20-goal scorer in the NHL for years to come. He finished his rookie season with an impressive 48 points in 76 games and should eclipse those numbers in the 2017/18 season.
Antoine Roussel – Dallas Stars
Although he plays in a hockey market that doesn't get much exposure, if you watch the Dallas Stars closely, you will notice Antoine Roussel.
He may not show up on the scoresheet every night but he plays a huge role for the Dallas Stars.
Roussel plays the game with a high amount of intensity and is often seen running his mouth, and ticking off opposing teams. He just has a way of instigating opponents and always does it with a smirk on his face.
Sometimes I am curious to hear what he actually says to other players to get them so riled up.
In a sense, the Frenchman plays the agitator role quite well, as he always tries to lure opposing players to go into the penalty box with him. Often, he doesn't just go after anybody, he picks his spots and goes after big impact players to help his team win the tradeoff.
At times, he delivers some pretty heavy slashes, which adds to the many reasons why Roussel is one of the most irritating players to play against in the NHL.
Why you may tolerate Antoine Roussel:
If you are a Stars fan you may appreciate Antoine Roussel for several reasons. He helps your team draw penalties, is all over the ice on the forecheck and doesn’t shy away from the physical side of the game.
The 27-year-old is a high energy player with a decent amount of skill to keep up with the more talented players around him. Roussel’s rambunctious style is often contagious and opens up space for his linemates on offense.
He can be used in multiple situations and is a reliable penalty killer, and most importantly not a liability on the ice. You can always count on Roussel to give his opponents a tough time when he is on the ice.
Off the ice, as this story shows, he can be a very nice guy with a good heart. Which probably means he is also a good locker room guy that helps keep the team morale up through the grind of a tough 82-game season.
Andrew Shaw – Montreal Canadiens
Andrew Shaw is only listed at 5'11" and 179lbs but he plays a lot bigger than his size. He is often counted on to provide physical play and is not afraid to get into anyone's face.
In the offensive zone, Shaw is often seen crashing the opposition's net for loose pucks and sometimes runs through the goalie to try to score a goal.
He is a scrappy player that never seems to shut up on the ice, and is arguably the biggest trash talker in the NHL today.
Shaw is a very emotional player and sometimes lets it get the best of him, resulting in some unnecessary penalties.
In an interview, the 2011 fifth rounder described himself as a “rat” and an “agitator” on the ice.
That alone should give you a good indication of what type of player he is.
Why you may tolerate Andrew Shaw:
There are so many things to love about the 26-year-old, especially if he plays on your team. Just ask Chicago Blackhawk fans and they can tell you all about number 65.
The two-time Stanley Cup champion is a versatile player who can play all three positions and is very useful on the powerplay by causing a lot of havoc in front of the net.
He never hesitates to stick up for a teammate and is a major presence on the ice with his grit and tenacity.
It was rather evident that the Chicago Blackhawks missed some of that sandpaper in their lineup last year, after trading Shaw to the Montreal Canadiens and crashing out of the playoffs to the St. Louis Blues.
He was fan favorite in Chicago and has quickly become one of the most liked players in Montreal.
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