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Wings on the bubble

Five who fell short of making NHL Network's top 20 list

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

Top 20 Wings Honorable Mentions

Honorable mentions for the Top 20 Wings

Before unveiling the Top 20 Wings Right Now, the NHL Network crew looks at a few players who narrowly missed the cut

  • 01:54 •

NHL Network knows who the best players are in the League right now. It will reveal its lists in a nine-episode series that runs up to the start of the regular season. The second episode is Sunday at 6 p.m. ET and focuses on the top 20 wings.

Did your favorite wing make the list? Tune in Sunday to find out and join the conversation with the #NHLTopPlayers hashtag. Here is a look at five wings on the bubble who just missed the top 20.

There are a lot of great wings in the NHL, but who are the 20 best right now?

 

[RELATED: #NHLTopPlayers Right Now]

 

NHL Network will answer that question Sunday, and Mike Rupp, a forward who played 11 NHL seasons (610 games) from 2002-14 and is an analyst for NHL Network, shared his input with what makes a top wing.

"There's some that are elite point-getters, but then you need to have defensive play come into it," Rupp said. "Wingers are guys that have to kind of battle for pucks and do the little things along the boards that make them pretty valuable."

The top 20 wings will be revealed in the show, but Rupp discussed five who just missed the cut in a poll of NHL Network producers and analysts.

 

Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks

In his second NHL season, DeBrincat scored 41 goals (sixth in NHL), including 13 on the power play, and had 35 assists. His 76 points were 24 more than he had as a rookie in 2017-18. He had 24 power-play points, three game-winning goals and a shooting percentage of 18.6 percent. The 21-year-old left wing had seven multigoal games last season, and his four hat tricks the past two seasons are tied with Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak, Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares and Winnipeg Jets right wing Patrik Laine for second-most in the NHL behind Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin's six.

"He's taken nice steps. He had 28 (goals) in Year One and jumped up to 41," Rupp said. "All he's ever done is score goals. If he can get 35-plus this year, I don't only think he cracks the list, I think you can probably put him all the way up to top 12. Another year of this, and he can be soaring up this list."

Video: CHI@SJS: DeBrincat nets 40th goal with second of game

 

Joe Pavelski, Dallas Stars

The 35-year-old led the San Jose Sharks with 38 goals last season and had 64 points in 75 games. He's had at least 61 points in each of the past eight full NHL seasons, and last season was the only time in his NHL career he had a negative plus-minus rating (minus-4). Pavelski, a right wing who has played center in the NHL, signed a three-year contract with the Stars on July 1 after playing his first 13 seasons with the Sharks. He had the best shooting percentage of his career last season (20.2 percent), and his 205 goals in the past six seasons rank sixth in the NHL.

"He had an unbelievable season last year," Rupp said. "He had 38 goals but only 64 points. When you're in that kind of 60-point range, that's where the bubble guys seem to fall in. It's tough to say how he's not on the list, but when you look at the guys that are, how do you replace those guys?"

Video: STL@SJS, Gm1: Pavelski swats in rebound for PPG

 

Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars

Although his 53 points (27 goals, 26 assists) last season were the fewest he's had in a full NHL season since he had 41 as a rookie in 2009-10, Benn remains one of the elite wings in the NHL. He's scored at least 22 goals in each of his nine full NHL seasons and at least 34 in four of the past six. The 30-year-old left wing has also produced in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 25 points (seven goals, 18 assists) in 26 games in his past two postseason appearances.

"He won the Art Ross Trophy (as the leading scorer in the NHL) a few years back (2014-15), so he's obviously capable of doing a lot," Rupp said. "He plays on one of the top lines in the League (with Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov), but consistency the last few years has been an issue. If he gets on track this year, he'll be right back in the mix here."

Video: DAL@STL, Gm1: Benn cleans up rebound on power play

 

Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins

Guentzel scored 38 goals in his first two NHL seasons (122 games) but topped that with 40 in 82 games last season to lead the Penguins. His 76 points, plus-13 rating and four game-winning goals also were NHL career highs. The 24-year-old left wing has 43 points (24 goals, 19 assists) in 41 NHL playoff games and won the Stanley Cup in 2017.

"The one thing for Jake Guentzel for me is that he's been very clutch and his playoff performances have been out of this world, " Rupp said. "He shows up when you need him to show up. I'm still unsure what his ceiling is, and last year he put a big stamp on that with 40 goals, 76 points. If he has another year with 75-plus points, he can jump way up this list."

Video: NYI@PIT, Gm4: Guentzel scores 35 seconds in

 

Elias Lindholm, Calgary Flames

The 24-year-old right wing, who was traded to the Flames by the Carolina Hurricanes on June 23, 2018, had NHL career highs in goals (27), assists (51) and points (78) last season, finishing third on the Flames in scoring. He also tied for sixth in the League with a plus-30 rating. Lindholm also set NHL career highs in power-play goals (nine), power-play points (26), game-winning goals (five), shots on goal (182) and shooting percentage (14.8) to help the Flames earn the top seed in the Western Conference.

"He was probably the biggest steal in the NHL as far as trades go," Rupp said. "It certainly helps playing with the guys he plays with, but I always thought that he played the game with a high level. I liked him when he was in Carolina, but he's surrounded by a lot of talent now and can create for them, not just the other way around."

Video: CGY@COL, Gm4: Lindholm finds twine on power play

 
Here is the remaining schedule (all episodes will air at 6 p.m. ET):

Aug. 11: Top 20 wings

Aug. 18: Top 20 defensemen

Aug. 25: Top 10 goalies

Sept. 1: Top 50 players (50-41)

Sept. 8: Top 50 players (40-31)

Sept. 15: Top 50 players (30-21)

Sept. 22: Top 50 players (20-11)

Sept. 29: Top 50 players (10-1)

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