Calling an NHL player “underrated” has always been a bit ridiculous.

The moment a player is called “underrated” is the moment when his value is acknowledged for not having been acknowledged. Players like Loui Eriksson and Nicklas Backstrom were called “the most underrated player in hockey” for several seasons. How many years must pass before they are, in fact, very much rated properly?

Please note that there’s a difference between a player being underrated and their performance being underappreciated. For example: No one’s going to call Colorado Avalanche right wing Mikko Rantanen “underrated,” as the sixth-leading scorer in the NHL over the past two seasons. But this season, he has been underappreciated, despite playing on the titan of the Western Conference.

Rantanen has scored 86 points in his first 69 games to lead the Avalanche in scoring. He is third in the NHL in goals scored above average (25.5) per Evolving Hockey. Yet we’ve probably read more stories about Mikko Koivu than we have Mikko Rantanen this season, and that dude retired last February!

In this week’s column, we applaud these elusive performances. We spotlight the overshadowed. We applaud those star performances we’ve taken for granted and elevate those on the rise.

Here are the 12 most underappreciated players of the 2021-22 season: