#NHLTopPlayers: Top 20 Wings
NHL Network reveals best of current cropby David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer
The ability to score thrilling goals, make eye-popping passes, and go to the net with superb skating are the hallmarks of an elite wing. NHL Network producers and analysts chose the top 20 wings in the League for a special program that premiered Sunday as the second in a nine-part series leading up to the regular season. Here is the list:
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1. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
Kucherov tops the list for the second straight year. After leading the NHL with 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists) last season, the most since Pittsburgh Penguins forwards Mario Lemieux had 161 and Jaromir Jagr had 149 in 1995-96, Kucherov won the Hart Trophy voted as NHL MVP by the Professional Hockey Writers' Association and the Ted Lindsay Award as most outstanding player in a vote by the NHL Players' Association. The 26-year-old right wing increased his points for a fifth straight season and has scored at least 30 goals in each of the past four. He led the NHL in power-play points (48) and was tied for fifth in game-winning goals (eight). Kucherov's 379 points the past four seasons are second in the NHL.
"He does so many things out there and I like the fact that he has a little grit to his game as well," NHL Network analyst Mike Rupp said. "I think that's really important for a superstar. …I love his game, I love everything he brings, and he ain't going anywhere."
Video: Kucherov claims top spot on Top 20 Wings list
2. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
A finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award last season, Kane was third in the NHL with a career-high 110 points (44 goals, 66 assists) last season. The 30-year-old right wing's 381 points are the most in the NHL the past four seasons, and his 151 goals in that span are second. He has topped 100 points twice in the past four seasons (106 in 2015-16) and has scored at least 21 goals in each of his 12 NHL seasons.
"When he started shooting the puck and scoring goals, it opened up an all-new way of life for him on the ice," Rupp said. "…When it's all said and done, he'll be the best -- hands down, the best -- U.S.-born player to ever play the game.
3. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Ovechkin scored 51 goals last season to lead the NHL for a record eighth time. It was the eighth season he scored at least 50 goals, trailing Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy (nine times each) for most in NHL history. The 33-year-old left wing had 89 points, the most he's had since finishing tied for second in the NHL with 109 in 2009-10. Ovechkin, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy as Stanley Cup Playoff MVP in 2018 after helping the Capitals win the Cup for the first time, is 13th in NHL history with 658 goals.
"This guy just lives and breathes to score goals and he did it again this past season," Rupp said. "There was no letdown from the prior year, winning the Stanley Cup, which is the biggest thing for me. You always have teams that have a little bit of a letdown, but you also have players that do. … He's going to hit probably this next season, 700 goals."
4. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
The 31-year-old left wing is coming off an NHL career-high 100 points (36 goals, 64 assists), including 34 (10 goals, 24 assists) on the power play. His nine game-winning goals included three in overtime and were tied with Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid and Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog for second in the NHL. Marchand had 85 points in each of the previous two seasons and has scored at least 34 goals in each of the past four. He helped the Bruins advance to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final and tied St. Louis Blues center Ryan O'Reilly for the lead in playoff scoring with 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) in 24 games.
"This guy can do anything," Rupp said. "Anything the game offers, he'll do it and he'll do it with authority. He'll let you know that he will be there smiling in your face when he has success."
Video: Marner, Marchand land at No. 4 and No. 5 on the list
5. Mitchell Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs
Marner led the Maple Leafs with 94 points (26 goals, 68 assists) last season. In three NHL seasons, the 22-year-old right wing has 224 points (67 goals, 157 assists) in 241 games and has helped Toronto qualify for the playoffs in three straight seasons. He has 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 20 NHL playoff games. Marner had 21 power-play points, three shorthanded points and five game-winning goals last season.
"There's nothing polite about his game because he'll make you look absolutely stupid on the ice," Rupp said. "I've said it and I'll say it again, no knock to his teammates because he's got world-class teammates in Auston Matthews and John Tavares, he's been the best Toronto Maple Leafs player in the last two years."
6. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
Draisaitl was fourth in the NHL with a career-high 105 points (50 goals, 55 assists) last season. He was tied for sixth in the NHL with 16 power-play goals, also a career high, and scored three shorthanded goals for the second straight season. The 23-year-old left wing, who also played center and won 50.52 percent of his face-offs (677 of 1,340), has scored at least 70 points in each of the past three seasons.
"He has proven to me now that he can do it on his own, he's self-sufficient, but he also gets out there with Connor McDavid and look out, because he was the only guy in the National Hockey League with a 50-50 (goals-assists) season," Rupp said. "Wow, sky's the limit here with this guy too."
Video: Leon Draisaitl settles in at No. 6 on Top 20 Wings
7. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
Gaudreau had an NHL career-high 99 points (36 goals, 63 assists) last season to help the Flames finish first in the Western Conference. The left wing had three goals and three assists in a 9-4 win against the New Jersey Devils on March 12 to become the first NHL player with a six-point game since Jamie Benn (one goal, five assists) for the Dallas Stars against the Flames on Nov. 14, 2013. Gaudreau, who turns 26 on Aug. 13, had 10 three-point games and five four-point games last season. He has scored 25 game-winning goals in the past five seasons.
"If the team figures it out a little bit more in the playoffs and he has playoff success, the sky's the limit for Johnny Gaudreau," Rupp said. "…You want to take my money out of my wallet for tickets to go watch a game, I'm watching 'Johnny Hockey.'"
Video: Johnny Gaudreau named 7th on the Top 20 Wings list
8. Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers
The left wing had an NHL career-high 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) in 77 games last season, setting a single-season Columbus Blue Jackets record. Panarin scored eight game-winning goals, including four in overtime. He has 320 points (116 goals, 204 assists) in 322 games in four NHL seasons. The 2015-16 Calder Trophy winner voted as NHL rookie of the year had 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 10 postseason games to help Columbus sweep Tampa Bay in the 2019 Eastern Conference First Round for the first playoff series win in its history. The 27-year-old signed a seven-year contract with the Rangers on July 1.
"If you're a pending UFA in the National Hockey League and you want to go to a particular team, you know what your best way of getting there is? Torch them every time you play them," Rupp said. "That's what Artemi Panarin did against the New York Rangers (five points in four games last season). ... Biggest fish on the market goes to the biggest market, New York Rangers."
Video: Panarin lands at No. 8 on the Top 20 Wings list
9. Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche
For a second straight season, Rantanen set NHL career highs in goals (31), assists (56) and points (87). He had 33 power-play points and 10 three-point games, including three four-point games. The 22-year-old right wing had 27 points (eight goals, 19 assists) during a 14-game point streak from Nov. 18-Dec. 15 and led Colorado with 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 12 playoff games.
"He's a guy with his big frame (6-foot-4, 215 pounds), his capability, the guys he's able to play with, he's unbelievable," Rupp said. "I think this is a great opportunity to be much higher than [No. 9] next season. Just needs to get it done for 82 games."
10. David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
Pastrnak has scored at least 34 goals in each of the past three seasons, and his 107 goals in that span are ninth in the NHL. He had an NHL career-high 81 points (38 goals, 43 assists) last season, besting his previous high, from the prior season, by one point. The 23-year-old right wing was tied for fourth in the NHL with 17 power-play goals, and his three hat tricks were tied for first with Ovechkin. Pastrnak had 39 points (15 goals, 24 assists) in 36 playoff games the past two seasons.
"He's more of a hybrid for me because he's got that Blake Wheeler-driving offense capabilities of setting teammates up," Rupp said. "But he's also great at finishing one-on-one plays … and he's on the best line in hockey (with Patrice Bergeron and Marchand). I think that's the best line in hockey, the chemistry they have is incredible. This guy each year is just going to be climbing and climbing and climbing."
Video: David Pastrnak takes the No. 10 spot on the list
11. Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
The Jets captain had his second straight 91-point season with 20 goals and an NHL career-high 71 assists in 2018-19. The right wing is one of four NHL players with at least 90 points each of the past two seasons (Kucherov, McDavid, Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon). His 139 assists the past two seasons rank third in the NHL behind Kucherov (148) and McDavid (142). Wheeler, who turns 33 on Aug. 31, scored four goals in a 5-2 win against the Blue Jackets on March 3, and he has scored at least 20 goals in six straight seasons.
"He's a guy that makes this very unique because … you talk about them having to score goals, well, this guy can drive the offense, and not too many guys can drive offense from the winger position," Rupp said. "Blake Wheeler is one of those guys, he's very special, a huge piece to Winnipeg in any kind of future and success they have up there."
12. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Giroux had 85 points (22 goals, 63 assists) coming off an NHL career-high 102 (34 goals, 68 assists) in 2017-18 after moving from center to left wing in training camp. The 31-year-old played center at times last season and won 57.9 percent of his face-offs (674 of 1,164), fourth in the NHL among skaters with at least 500 draws. Giroux's 688 points since 2010-11 are third in the NHL behind Penguins center Sidney Crosby (710) and Kane (708). Giroux has missed 10 games in the past 10 seasons, none in the past three.
13. Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights
Stone had an NHL career-high 73 points (33 goals, 40 assists) with the Golden Knights and Ottawa Senators last season, including 11 (five goals, six assists) in 18 regular-season games after he was traded to Vegas, and had 12 points (six goals, six assists) in seven playoff games. It was the fifth straight season the 27-year-old right wing scored at least 20 goals. Last season, he was a finalist for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the top defensive forward in the NHL, after leading the League in takeaways (122) for the fourth time in the past five seasons.
"It's not too often that you have a Selke [Trophy] nominee, a candidate that is a winger," Rupp said. "He does so much away from the puck. …The little subtle things he does you may not notice, but his teammates sure notice because he gives them second-chance opportunities in the offensive zone."
Video: Mark Stone lands at No. 13 on the list
14. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
One of two NHL players with at least 30 goals in each of the past five seasons (Ovechkin), Tarasenko had 68 points (33 goals, 35 assists) last season. The 27-year-old right wing had 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) during a 12-game point streak from Jan. 19-Feb. 17 and helped St. Louis win the Stanley Cup for the first time with 17 points (11 goals, six assists) in 26 playoff games.
15. Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils
The 27-year-old left wing won the Hart Trophy in 2017-18, when he set NHL career highs in goals (39), assists (54), points (93) and rating (plus-14), helping the Devils qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12. He also tied his NHL best with seven game-winning goals (2011-12 with Oilers). Although he was limited to 33 games last season because of a left-knee injury that required surgery, Hall averaged more than one point per game (37 points; 11 goals, 26 assists).
"When he's in the lineup, he's contributing, he's getting points," Rupp said. "Look for him to have another bounce-back year this year and probably be higher on the list next year."
Video: Taylor Hall comes in at No. 15 on the list
16. Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
Huberdeau had 92 points (30 goals, 62 assists) last season, second on the Panthers behind linemate Aleksander Barkov (96) and 23 more than his previous NHL career high (69), set in 2017-18. His 34 power-play points (11 goals, 23 assists) were tied for eighth in the NHL. It was the first time the 26-year-old left wing scored 30 goals in seven NHL seasons.
"He might be the most underrated player in the National Hockey League," Rupp said. "His teammates would probably argue that, saying, 'Oh, this guy is great. He's unbelievable.' …Now with the big moves they made down there in Florida in the offseason, expect him to have a team around him now, where maybe he can lurk in the weeds a little bit more."
Video: Jonathan Huberdeau takes the No. 16 spot on the list
17. Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames
The 21-year-old left wing has increased his goals and points each of the past two seasons, reaching NHL career highs of 34 goals and 77 points last season, his third in the NHL. Tkachuk also set NHL career bests in average ice time per game (17:36), shooting percentage (16.4 percent) and multigoal games (six) in 2018-19.
"Although he had 77 points, for me, those 77 points and the way he gets his points and plays his game, that [makes] him more valuable to me than some of the guys who maybe got 100 points this season," Rupp said. "Matthew Tkachuk has been unbelievable."
Video: Matthew Tkachuk lands at No. 17 on the list
18. Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche captain had an NHL career-high 75 points (34 goals, 41 assists) in 73 games last season and led Colorado with nine game-winning goals. The 26-year-old left wing had 10 goals in eight games from Oct. 16-Nov. 1 and has scored at least 20 goals in six of his seven full NHL seasons. Landeskog had eight points in 12 games in the 2019 playoffs, when the Avalanche advanced to the second round for the first time since 2008.
19. Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets
Laine scored 18 goals in November, two shy of the NHL record for goals in one month (Teemu Selanne for the original Jets, March 1993; Joe Malone for the Hamilton Tigers, February 1921), but 12 the rest of the season. He had three hat tricks in 12 games in November, including a five-goal game in an 8-4 win against the Blues on Nov. 24, the first in the NHL since Johan Franzen for the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 2, 2011. The 21-year-old right wing has scored 110 goals in his first three NHL seasons, sixth in the League in that span.
"All of these guys that are going to be on this top wings list, the biggest thing for me that stands out is you've got to be able to finish, and he's one of the best finishers in the League," Rupp said. "… Him getting back to his normal self should project him, or catapult him, further up the list next year."
Video: Patrik Laine comes in at No. 19 on the list
20. Phil Kessel, Arizona Coyotes
Kessel had 82 points (27 goals, 55 assists) last season with the Penguins after he had an NHL career-high 92 (34 goals, 58 assists) in 2017-18. The right wing, who turns 32 on Oct. 2, has scored at least 20 goals in 11 straight seasons, including more than 30 in six of them, and led the NHL with 10 game-winning goals last season. Kessel, who was traded to the Coyotes on June 30, hasn't missed a game in nine seasons and has played 774 straight games dating to Nov. 3, 2009. He helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017 with 45 points (18 goals, 27 assists) in 49 playoff games.