For my 1001st post, I thought it was fair to feature the player whom I feel might be the best on the planet, Evgeni Malkin. I was going to wait until the trade rumours either fell or came through (I personally doubt it'll happen, I would keep him if I were GM, even if it meant I had to trade away my captain), but it seemed appropriate to start a new millennium of posts with the best of the best.
Ironically, I have never pulled a Malkin (nor a Sidney Crosby, nor Alexander Ovechkin, nor Wayne Gretzky), so I usually never even look for some on Ebay, always assuming they're out of my price range as a half-starving musician; there's actually a funny story about this card, #27 from Donruss' 2011-12 Elite set from Panini, numbered 96/418, showing him in the Pittsburgh Penguins' black (home) uniform but embedded with a light-blue (alternate) swatch:
Andrei Markov cards.
The second overall pick of the 2004 draft (behind Ovechkin) has won all the individual awards you can think of: two Art Ross Trophies, a Hart, a Ted Lindsay, and even one that Crosby never will (a Calder) and one he hasn't yet (the Conn Smythe, as playoff MVP, the first Russian to win the award).
He was a key component of the Pens' 2009 Stanley Cup-winning team (obviously), and seems to have the ability to rise up in the most important games and just take charge of the play. He's highly-decorated on the international stage as well, with gold medals at the World Championships 2012, 2014) and World U-18s (2004), silver at the Worlds (2010, 2015) and World Juniors (2005, 2006) and bronze at the Worlds (2005, 2007) and U-18s (2003).
At 6'3'' and 210 pounds, he's a cross between Eric Lindros' physical invulnerability in that three-year stretch in the mid-1990s and Jaromir Jagr's raw talent, and the only time I've ever seen him let up is in the Final Game at the 2015 World Championships a month ago, when he could have laid a devastating semi-blindside hit to a Canadian player to perhaps turn the 4-0 game around in the offensive zone; that player, however, was Crosby, and ''Geno'' just stopped in his tracks as Sid was rounding his own net, his eyes looking at the puck that was just ahead of his skates. Had Geno not let up, Crosby might still be concussed today (regardless of when you're reading this).
But apart from that, every time I've seen him play was like watching the world's strongest man reading the best poem of all time, that he just happened to improvise right in front of our eyes. He's a beast, plain and simple.
He's literally all-world: he's a multiple NHL First-Team All-Star (2008, 2009, 2012), but also a three-time World Championship All-Star (2007, 2010, 2012), as well as Best Forward and MVP (2012 for both).
He scored a goal in each of his first six games in 2006, a feat that hadn't been achieved since the NHL's inaugural season in 1917-18, and is the only player not named Gretzky to have led the NHL and the Worlds in scoring in the same year.
He's merely 587 games into his NHL career (with 712 points to show for it) and already has first-ballot Hall Of Fame credentials. That's in addition to his 111 points in 101 playoff games in this Dead Puck Era II.