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NHL Network: Patrick Kane top forward in League

Hart Trophy winner, Blackhawks right wing No. 1 on top 20 list @NHL

The ability to score thrilling goals, make eye-popping passes and go to the net with superb skating make up the hallmark of a top forward in the NHL, and it's time to take a look at the League's "Top 20 Forwards Right Now," as chosen by a panel of NHL Network experts:

1. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

Already a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the Blackhawks, Kane, 27, had NHL career-highs of 46 goals, 60 assists and 106 points in 82 games last season to earn the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's top scorer and the Hart Trophy as the League's most valuable player. It marked the fourth time in his nine seasons he has played in all 82 games, but it was his best offensive output by a significant margin thanks in part to new linemate Artemi Panarin. In Kane's previous 82-game seasons he had 72 points (2007-08), 88 points (2009-10) and 66 points (2011-12).

Video: Top 20 Forwards: Kane takes the top spot

2. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

Crosby and the Penguins benefited from general manager Jim Rutherford's in-season shake-up that focused on increasing depth and speed. The result was the ultimate reward, Crosby's second Stanley Cup title. The Pittsburgh captain, 29, stayed healthy, playing in 80 games, and rebounded from an early-season scoring slump, surging to finish third in the League in points with 85 (36 goals, 49 assists). In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he had six goals, including three game-winners, and 19 points to earn the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

3. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Ovechkin scored 50 goals for the third consecutive season in 2015-16 and led the League in goals for the fourth year in a row. At 30, he remains dominant and last season cemented his place as the most prolific Russian goal scorer in NHL history, eclipsing Sergei Fedorov's mark of 483, and he became the fifth-fastest player to 500 goals. Ovechkin also became the third player in NHL history to have seven or more 50-goal seasons, joining Mike Bossy and Wayne Gretzky, who each did it nine times.

4. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars

Benn, 27, had an NHL career-high 89 points (41 goals, 48 assists) last season and was a finalist for the Hart Trophy as league MVP following his 87-point total (35 goals, 52 assists) the season before. He has become a model of durability, missing one game over the past three seasons, despite having hip surgery twice in 2015. He also signed an eight-year, $76 million contract extension with the Stars on July 15, so the dynamic duo of Benn and Tyler Seguin, signed through 2018-19, is one Dallas fans can enjoy for years to come.

5. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks

Toews, 28, has finished in the top four in Selke Trophy voting for the League's best defensive forward in six of the past seven seasons. He scored the fewest points per game (0.73) in his NHL career last season, but remained one of the top two-way centers in the League. He has missed a total of nine games in the past three regular seasons, and has 44 points (19 goals, 25 assists) in 49 playoff games during that span. He's won the Stanley Cup three times along with two Olympic gold medals and a world championship, and will try to add a World Cup of Hockey title to his resume in September.

Video: Top 20 Forwards: Kopitar, Tavares, Pavelski

6. Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks

Pavelski, 32, arguably was the best forward in the 2016 playoffs with 23 points (14 goals, nine assists) in 24 games. He hasn't missed a regular-season game since the 2010-11 season, and has 116 goals in the past three seasons, second to Alex Ovechkin (154). He also is one of the most versatile forwards in the League, able to excel and at center and on the wing, and at even strength, on the power play and the penalty kill.

7. John Tavares, New York Islanders

Tasked with helping the Islanders rebuild when he arrived in 2009, Tavares, 25, has become the captain and face of the franchise, on track to join the list of club legends whose jersey numbers hang in the rafters at Barclays Center. He has been a Hart Trophy finalist twice in the past four seasons, and will look to have a more expanded role with Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 in September.

8. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings

Kopitar, 28, signed an eight-year contract extension worth a reported $80 million with the Kings in January, and he has done plenty to earn it. At the time, Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter said Kopitar was "worth every penny." A top-line center who is elite at both ends of the ice, Kopitar won the Selke and Lady Byng trophies in 2016. Though they were the first individual awards of his 10-season NHL career, Kopitar has proven to be a special player for a long time, especially in the postseason, where he has 64 points (20 goals, 44 assists) in 75 games.

9. Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars

Seguin, 24, was the No. 2 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft and has fulfilled his promise as a franchise player with the Stars. He showed flashes of his incredible talent with the Boston Bruins, but truly flourished in a larger role next to Jamie Benn on the top line in Dallas. Seguin has 234 points (107 goals, 127 assists) in three seasons since joining the Stars, which trails Sidney Crosby, Benn and Patrick Kane for the most in the League in that span.

10. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Malkin, 30, has scored more than a point per game in five straight seasons, and in nine of his 10 in the NHL. He has missed between 13 and 25 games in each of the past four regular seasons, but when he is healthy, he has been one of the dominant offensive forces in the League, a blend of skill, power and speed. He had 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 23 playoff games to help the Penguins win the Stanley Cup for the second time in his career.

11. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning

Stamkos, 26, has been one of the most consistent scorers since his rookie season in 2008-09. The No. 1 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft has had at least 23 goals in each of his eight seasons, topping 40 goals four times and 50 goals twice, including an NHL career-high 60 in 2011-12, which earned him his second Rocket Richard Trophy as the League's top goal-scorer. In 569 NHL games, Stamkos has 562 points (312 goals, 250 assists), trailing only Ovechkin in goals since entering the League.

12. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues

Tarasenko, 24, has finished in the top five in goals in each of the past two seasons and has increased his goals and point totals every season since joining the NHL in 2012-13, culminating with a career-high 74 points (40 goals, 34 assists) last season. He ranked in the top 10 with 12 power-play goals last season and had seven game-winners, including two in overtime. His success last season also carried over into the playoffs with nine goals and six assists in 20 games. He has 19 goals in 33 career postseason games.

Video: Top 20 Forwards: Gaudreau, Bergeron, McDavid

13. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Despite being limited to 45 games in his rookie season because of a broken collarbone, McDavid had 48 points (16, goals, 32 assists) and was a Calder Trophy finalist. The 19-year-old, selected by the Oilers with the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, averaged 1.07 points-per game, which was third in the League behind Kane (1.29) and Jamie Benn (1.09). He also had 12 multi-point games, including an NHL career-high five points (two goals, three assists) in a 5-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 11.

14. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

Bergeron, 31, has been one of the most consistent forwards, both offensively and defensively, for the past decade. He had 32 goals and 68 points last season, the seventh time he has had at least 20 goals and third time with at least 30. Bergeron also had six-game winning goals and 12 on the power play, and has ranked in the top three in scoring for the Bruins in nine of the past 11 seasons. Bergeron also is one of the best two-way players in the League, having won the Selke Trophy three times in the past five seasons.

15. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames

Gaudreau, 22, built upon a fine rookie season to improve his totals last season with 78 points (30 goals, 48 assists). He was tied for sixth in the League in points and tied for 11th in assists, had 21 power-play points for the second straight season and had six game-winning goals, including three in overtime. Gaudreau led the Flames in goals, assists, points, power-play points (21), overtime goals (3) and shots on goal (217) last season, and has 143 points in 160 NHL games.

16. Joe Thornton, San Jose Sharks

Thornton, 37, showed no signs of slowing down last season, finishing second in the NHL in assists (63) and tied for fourth in points (82). He also ranked fifth with 29 power-play points, has had at least 65 points in each of his past 15 full NHL seasons and averaged almost a point per game (1,341 points in 1,367 games) in his 18-season career. Thornton helped the Sharks reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in their history and was fifth in playoff scoring with 21 points (three goals, 18 assists).

17. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

Giroux, 28, had 67 points last season (22 goals, 45 assists), the fifth straight time he had at least 20 goals in the past five full NHL seasons. He led the Flyers in points for the fifth time in the past six seasons and has been their most consistent offensive player over the past decade. Since 2010-11, he has 443 points, most in the League (Ovechkin is second with 437). He also ranks first in power-play points in that span (179), having scored at least six power-play goals in each of the past seven seasons.

Video: Top 20 Forwards: Backstrom, Perry, Kucherov

18. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

Kucherov, 23, had 66 points (30 goals, 36 assists) last season, his third in the NHL, and proved the previous season (29-36-65) was no fluke. He has averaged almost a point-per game in the playoffs, with 42 points (22 goals, 20 assists) in 45 career postseason games. He led the Lightning in playoff scoring last season with 19 points (11 goals, eight assists) in 17 games.

19. Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks

Perry, 31, has led the Ducks in goals in each of the past six seasons and in eight of the past nine. His 212 goals since the 2010-11 season rank third in the League behind Ovechkin (256) and Stamkos (238), and he's third behind each of them with 40 game-winning goals in that span. Perry has scored at least 33 goals in each of the past five full NHL seasons and has averaged almost 40 (39.4) in that span. He won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2010-11, when he led the League with 50 goals.

20. Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals

It's only appropriate Ovechkin's linemate also makes the list; of Ovechkin's 525 NHL goals, Backstrom, 28, has assisted on 196 of them (37.3 percent), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Backstrom has had at least 70 points in each of the past three seasons, including at least 50 assists in six of his nine NHL seasons. He is almost a point-per game player (642 points in 652 games) and leads the League with 107 power-play points over the past three seasons.

Video: Top 20 Forwards: Who Missed the Cut?

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