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Wings on the bubble

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

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

NHL Network knows who the best players are in the League right now. They will reveal their lists in a nine-episode series that runs through the start of the regular season. The third episode is Sunday at 7 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 preview of the series and 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 | Centers on the bubble | Defensemen on the bubble]


NHL Network will answer that question Sunday, and Mike Johnson, a forward who spent 11 seasons (661 games) in the League from 1996-2008 and is an analyst for NHL Network, shared his input with what makes a top wing.

"You want a guy who's going to be able to score goals but also a guy who maybe isn't so dependent on everyone else to create his offense for him, can also do a little bit on his own and help his linemates offensively as well," Johnson said. "You want a guy you can have out there in all situations. Guys who can thrive in all situations are the ones who make the best wingers in the League."

The top 20 wings will be revealed in the show, but Johnson discussed some on the bubble who just missed the cut among the show producers and NHL Network analysts who made up the selection panel.

Video: A look at who just missed the Top 20 Wings list


Jonathan Marchessault, Vegas Golden Knights

The 27-year-old left wing had NHL career highs in assists (48), points (75), shots on goal (268) and plus-minus (plus-36) with the Golden Knights last season. He ranked second on the team in points and had 24 more points than his NHL career high of 51 set in 2016-17. Marchessault, who had six game-winning goals during the regular season, led Vegas in goals (eight) and was second in points (21) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to help the Golden Knights reach the Cup Final in their inaugural season.

"Speedy, feisty player, which I think is part of what makes him so good," Johnson said. "He plays with an edge to his game and is involved emotionally. Volume shooter who gets a lot of pucks at the net which gives him an opportunity to score lots of goals. He has a nose for getting into the areas where you have to get to to create offense. He doesn't hang on the perimeter. He might be a guy who could jump up into the top 20 next year if he does it again."

Video: WPG@VGK, Gm3: Marchessault pots second on empty net


T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals

Oshie had 18 goals and 47 points in 74 games last season, including 11 points (six goals, five assists) in the final 11 games of the regular season. The 31-year-old right wing carried that into the playoffs with 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 24 games to help the Capitals win the Stanley Cup. Oshie, who had at least 50 points in four straight seasons prior to 2017-18, has scored on 53.3 percent of his shootout attempts (40 of 75) which ranks second among active players with at least 20 attempts (Aleksander Barkov, 54.3 percent).

"He does so many things beyond just scoring goals," Johnson said. "Maybe he struggled a little more with scoring goals this past regular season but in the playoffs he was as good as anyone. He can play physical, we know how good he is on the power play in the central, bumper-type slot man position working nicely alongside Alex Ovechkin, knowing when to get in the way, when to get out of the way. How hard he plays and the grit and physicality that goes with his skill makes him pretty unique among the best wingers in the League."

Video: VGK@WSH, Gm4: Oshie opens scoring with nifty PPG


Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks

Kane had 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in 17 games after he was traded to the Sharks by the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 26, including his first NHL hat trick in a four-goal game March 16 against the Calgary Flames. Kane had 54 points (29 goals, 25 assists) in 78 games and an NHL career-high 307 shots on goal last season. Kane has scored at least 20 goals and had at least 260 shots on goal in three straight seasons. In his first NHL playoffs last season, the 27-year-old left wing had four goals and five points in nine games.

"Evander is a fast, powerful player," Johnson said. "He's very physically strong. You saw what happened when he went to a bit of a stronger team than Buffalo to San Jose, the goals started coming, the production was a bit higher. You have to be a smart player to play with other good players and Kane fit in nicely with Joe Pavelski and the other high-end guys in San Jose, which says something about how he sees the game and creates it. He is a speed-based guy. Everything he does is based on his power and his speed and he's elite in both of those categories."

Video: VGK@SJS, Gm3: Kane goes top shelf on Fleury


Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers

Huberdeau had NHL career-highs in goals (27), assists (42), points (69), power-play goals (seven), power-play points (19), game-winning goals (four) and shots on goal (204) with the Panthers last season. He played an NHL career-high 19:12 of ice time per game, appearing in all 82 games for the first time. The 25-year-old left wing has double-digit goals in each of his past four NHL seasons, including at least 54 points in three of them. 

"Huberdeau is a very slick winger," Johnson said. "He is good defensively, which might be underrated. He is a good, two-way winger. Reliable, can kill penalties; you want him out there when you are protecting a lead. Makes really smart plays with the puck in the important areas to get the puck up the ice. Once it's up the ice, he has very good hands. Not the fastest, but he is slippery and can get past defenders to create offense. His one-on-one, breakaway skills are off the chart. Really solid two-way winger that will be good in that regard for a long time."

Video: BUF@FLA: Huberdeau deflects shot by Johnson for PPG


Anders Lee, New York Islanders

Lee, 28, led the Islanders with 40 goals last season, the second straight season he's led the team (34 in 2016-17). He's scored at least 25 goals in three of the past four seasons and has missed three games in three seasons. The left wing had an NHL career-high 62 points in 2017-18, including 14 power-play goals (tied for sixth in NHL) and 22 power-play points. Lee finished second in the NHL in shooting percentage (19.2) among players who played at least 25 games and had at least 100 shots on goal (William Karlsson, 23.4 percent).

"The quietest 40-goal scorer in the history of the game," Johnson said. "Forty is 40 in today's NHL. The fact that he could do that deserves attention and respect, probably more than he has received. He is just a big, strong guy that can get in front of the net and make things happen there. Whether it is tipping pucks, rebounds or one-timers, a lot of his good work is done right in and around the net (on the) power-play and 5-on-5, but to his credit he knows that and goes there game after game, shift after shift because he knows that's where he has to go to be successful."

Video: NYI@DET: Lee beats Coreau with nifty backhand


Here is the schedule (all episodes will air at 7 p.m., ET): 

Aug. 19: Top 20 wings

Aug. 26: Top 10 goalies

Sept. 2: Top 50 players (50-41)

Sept. 9: Top 50 players (40-31)

Sept. 16: Top 50 players (30-21)

Sept. 23: Top 50 players (20-11)

Sept. 30: Top 50 players (10-1)

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