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Top 20 NHL Wings

NHL Network reveals best of current crop

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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 wing. NHL Network experts chose the top 20 wings in the League for a special program to be broadcast during the summer. Here is their list:

 

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1. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

Kane led the League in points (106) by 17 and finished second in goals (46) and third in assists (60) in 2015-16. He also had a 26-game point streak (16 goals, 24 assists) from Oct. 17-Dec. 13, the longest by a United States-born player, and won the Hart Trophy (MVP) and Ted Lindsay Award (top player as voted by his peers). Kane followed that with 89 points (34 goals, 55 assists) last season, finishing second in the NHL in points and fifth in assists, and was named to the NHL First All-Star Team for the second straight season.

The 2007-08 Calder Trophy winner as the top rookie in the NHL, Kane, 28, has scored more than 20 goals in each of his first 10 NHL seasons and has 752 points (285 goals, 467 assists) in 740 games. He's won the Stanley Cup three times (2010, 2013, 2015). Kane won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2013 (nine goals, 10 assists in 23 games) and was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players.

"He always had the skill, but now I think he's putting in the time off the ice, conditioning-wise, getting prepared for the season, doing all of the little things to go from a very good player to one of the game's best, one of the elite players in the NHL," said NHL Network analyst Bill Lindsay, a forward in the League for 13 seasons (1991-92 through 2003-2004). "He has proven that the last couple of years."

Video: Patrick Kane leads the Top 20 Wings list

 

2. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

Kucherov, 24, had NHL career highs in goals (40, tied for second in the League), assists (45), points (85, tied for fifth), power-play goals (17, tied for first), power-play points (32, third), game-winning goals (seven), shots on goal (246) and penalty minutes (38) last season.

"He just put the Tampa Bay Lightning on his back in the second half [of last season]," Lindsay said. "They had a lot of injuries, so Nikita Kucherov [had] the ability to do a lot of stuff and create stuff by himself. He does not need a lot around him to make himself great. Tampa Bay almost got back into the playoffs because of Kucherov."

He had at least 29 goals, 36 assists and 65 points each of the past three seasons. Kucherov has 234 points (108 goals, 126 points) and is plus-63 in 285 regular-season NHL games, and has 42 points (22 goals, 20 assists) in 45 playoff games.

Video: NHL Network unveils the Top 20 Wings Right Now

 

3. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins

Marchand finished tied for fifth in the League in points (85) and tied for fourth in goals (39) last season. He also was one of nine NHL players to average more than one point per game (1.06, seventh). It was the fourth straight season he had at least 24 goals and the sixth time in his NHL career.

Marchand, 29, also had NHL career highs in power-play goals (nine), power-play points (24) and game-winning goals (eight), and was named to the NHL First All-Star Team. He won the Stanley Cup with the Bruins in 2011 and has 374 points (192 goals, 182 assists) in 534 NHL games.

Video: Biggest surprises from Top 20 Wings Right Now list

 

4. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues

Tarasenko has scored at least 37 goals, 73 points and six game-winning goals each of the past three seasons, and has led the Blues in points each of them. He had an NHL career-high 75 points (39 goals, 36 assists) last season and an NHL career-high 40 goals in 2015-16.

The 25-year-old had 64 power-play points (29 goals, 35 assists) and 21 game-winning goals the past three seasons, and has become one of the best shooters in the game. He scored on 13.6 percent of his 286 shots on goal last season and is at 13.8 percent for his NHL career. The Blues have qualified for the playoffs in each of Tarasenko's five NHL seasons.

Video: Honorable mention players for the Top 20 Wings list

 

5. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars

Benn had 26 goals and 43 assists last season, his lowest totals in a full NHL season since 2011-12. However, he has been first or second in scoring on the Stars each of the past three seasons. Benn had 41 goals (third in the NHL), 48 assists and 89 points (second) in 2015-16 after winning the Art Ross Trophy in 2014-15 for leading the League in points (87).

Benn, 28, has made the NHL First All-Star Team twice and the Second All-Star Team once, and has scored at least 22 goals in each of his seven full NHL seasons. Over the past three seasons, Benn has 245 points, third in the NHL behind Kane (259) and Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (258).

 

6. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

Ovechkin was tied with T.J. Oshie for the Capitals lead in goals last season (33) and has been their leader or co-leader in goals each of his 12 NHL seasons. He's won the Rocket Richard Trophy as the leading goal-scorer in the League six times, including four straight seasons from 2012-13 to 2015-16. He has scored 50 or more goals seven times in his NHL career, most recently in 2015-16 when he had a hat trick in Washington's penultimate game to reach 50.

"[He's] the purest goal-scorer that we've seen come along in a long, long time in the NHL," Lindsay said.

Ovechkin has been named to either the NHL First All-Star Team or Second All-Star Team 10 times. He has won the Hart Trophy three times and the Ted Lindsay Award three times. The 31-year-old has been durable, missing 29 games in his NHL career, and his 558 goals and 1,035 points lead the League since 2005-06, his rookie season. Ovechkin was named one of the 100 Greatest NHL Players.

Video: Alex Ovechkin lands at No. 6 on the Top 20 Wings list

 

7. Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks

The Sharks captain scored 29 goals last season, just missing a fourth straight season of at least 30 goals. He's had at least 22 power-play points each of the past four seasons and led the League with 11 game-winning goals in 2015-16.

Pavelski, 33, has eight 20-goal seasons and has had a rating of plus-11 or higher each of the past four seasons. He has missed one game in the past six seasons. Pavelski helped San Jose reach its first Stanley Cup Final in 2015-16, scoring 23 points (14 goals, nine assists) in 24 playoff games.

"Best in the business for the front of the net," Lindsay said. "Always presenting that stick for targets and for deflections. You're going to take a lot of cross-checks, a lot of slashes, but if you're willing to do that and you've got that kind of hand-eye coordination, you're going to end up scoring goals."

Video: Joe Pavelski lands at No. 7 on the Top 20 Wings list

 

8. Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets

Laine, who turned 19 on April 19, finished second among NHL rookies in goals (36) and points (64) in 73 games and led the Jets in goals in 2016-17. He finished second in Calder voting behind Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, who led rookies in goals (40) and points (69), and scored the seventh-most goals in a season by an 18-year-old in League history. He also had three hat tricks, five game-winning goals, 14 power-play points (nine goals), a plus-7 rating and a shooting percentage of 17.6.

He led NHL rookies with an average of 0.88 points per game and was second among rookie forwards with an average of 17:54 of ice time per game (Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche: 18:03).

"He uses that long reach and that long stick to get maximum whip, and that whip on that stick is what puts the power in the shot for Laine," Lindsay said. "Don't underestimate how good of a skater he is. He's big, but he has long, powerful strides."

Video: Patrik Laine ranked as No. 8 on the Top 20 Wings list

 

9. Artemi Panarin, Columbus Blue Jackets

Traded from the Blackhawks on June 23, Panarin was second on Chicago in goals (31) and points (74) last season behind Kane, and was named to the NHL Second All-Star Team.

The 25-year-old won the Calder in 2015-16, leading rookies in goals (30), assists (47), points (77) and game-winning goals (seven), and finishing tied with Anthony Duclair of the Arizona Coyotes and Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart of the Buffalo Sabres for the lead in power-play goals (eight). His 151 points the past two seasons were tied for seventh in the League.

 

10. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames

Gaudreau had 18 goals and led the Flames with 43 assists and 61 points last season. He also had 16 power-play points (four goals, 12 assists) and three game-winning goals. In 2015-16, he led Calgary in goals (30), assists (48) and points (78, tied for sixth in the League).

"[Wayne] Gretzky was probably the best ever of knowing where the puck was going to be and knowing where everyone else was on the ice," Lindsay said. "Johnny Gaudreau has that ability."

The 24-year-old has at least 61 points each of his first three NHL seasons and has made the NHL All-Star Game in each. Gaudreau has 204 points (73 goals, 131 assists) in 232 NHL games and won the Lady Byng Trophy as the most gentlemanly player in the League last season, when he was assessed two minor penalties in 72 games.

Video: Johnny Gaudreau is named No. 10 on Top 20 Wings list

 

11. Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets

Wheeler has been one of the most underrated and consistent forwards in the League since 2013-14. He has 282 points (106 goals, 176 assists) the past four seasons, 12th in the League, and has had at least 26 goals and 35 assists in four straight seasons. Wheeler had 74 points (26 goals, 48 assists) last season and 78 (26 goals, 52 assists) in 2015-16.

In each of the past five seasons, Wheeler, 30, has finished in the top three in goals, assists and points on the Jets. He has missed five games over the past six seasons. Wheeler has been a key contributor on special teams, with 109 power-play points and 17 shorthanded points in his nine NHL seasons.

Video: Blake Wheeler takes No. 11 on the Top 20 Wings list

 

12. Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins

Kessel has thrived in Pittsburgh since being traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1, 2015. He had 70 points (23 goals, 47 assists) last season, ranking third on the Penguins. Kessel also was third in 2015-16, when he had 59 points (26 goals, 33 assists). He led Pittsburgh with 22 points (10 goals, 12 assists) in the playoffs in 2016 and had 23 (eight goals, 15 assists) in 2017, helping Pittsburgh win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships.

Kessel, who turns 30 on Oct. 2, has scored at least 20 goals in nine straight seasons after he had 11 and 19 his first two seasons in the League. He has scored at least 30 goals five times, doing so in four straight seasons (2008-09 through 2011-12). He has 649 points (296 goals, 353 assists) in 832 NHL games, including 202 on the power play (78 goals, 124 assists), and hasn't missed a game in the past seven seasons.

"That trade to Pittsburgh, I think [it's] the best thing that ever could've happened to Phil Kessel and for the Penguins," Lindsay said. "The Penguins don't win back-to-back Stanley Cups without this guy."

Video: Phil Kessel lands at No. 12 on the Top 20 Wings list

 

13. Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens

Pacioretty has flown under the radar as one of two NHL players to score at least 30 goals each of the past four seasons (Ovechkin has 12 straight 30-goal seasons). He's been Montreal's leader or co-leader in goals each of the past five seasons and has led them in points each of the past six. Pacioretty, 28, scored 35 goals, including seven game-winners, and tied his NHL career high with 67 points last season. Of his 209 NHL goals, 41 (19.6 percent) are game-winners.

"He can score goals in tight, but he has the kind of wrist shot that he can score from long distances as well," Lindsay said. "When you watch Max Pacioretty play, he plays in straight lines, north-south hockey, and that's what a winger's all about. … He is definitely the prototypical power forward."

Video: Max Pacioretty lands at No. 13 on the Top Wings list

 

14. Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators

Forsberg, 23, burst onto the scene as a rookie in 2014-15, when he had 63 points (26 goals, 37 assists) and finished fourth in Calder voting. He followed that with 64 points (33 goals, 31 assists) in 2015-16 and had 58 points (31 goals, 27 assists) last season. Forsberg was tied for second in the League with nine game-winning goals and tied for fifth with three shorthanded goals. He had back-to-back hat tricks on Feb. 21 and 23 during a stretch when he scored 10 goals in five games.

Forsberg's nine goals and 16 points led the Predators during the playoffs last season, when he helped them advance to their first Stanley Cup Final.

Video: Filip Forsberg takes No. 14 on the Top 20 Wings list

 

15. David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins

In 75 games last season, Pastrnak had 34 goals and 70 points, each an NHL career high that ranked second on the Bruins (Marchand had 39 goals and 85 points). Pastrnak, 21, more than doubled his goal, assist and point totals from 2015-16, when he had 26 points (15 goals, 11 assists) in 51 games. He began the season with at least one goal in three straight games and had a five-game goal streak from Oct. 26-Nov. 8. He finished the season with six game-winning goals, including two in overtime.

 

16. Cam Atkinson, Columbus Blue Jackets

Atkinson, 28, increased his goal total for the fifth straight season in 2016-17, scoring an NHL career-high 35 in 82 games. His point total increased for the second straight season (from 53 in 2015-16 to 62), and he had an NHL career-high 27 assists. Atkinson had 21 power-play points (10 goals, 11 assists) and three shorthanded goals in 18:05 of average ice time. He had a nine-game point streak from Dec. 5-23 (seven goals, seven assists) and helped Columbus finish with the most wins (50) and points (106) in its history.

 

17. Jeff Skinner, Carolina Hurricanes

Skinner won the Calder in 2010-11, scoring 63 points (31 goals, 32 assists) in 82 games, and has been a consistent scorer ever since with at least 20 goals in five of six full NHL seasons, including an NHL career-high 37 last season. Of his 180 NHL goals, 41 (22.8 percent) have come on the power play and 26 (14.4 percent) have been game-winners. Skinner, 25, has led the Hurricanes in points each of the past two seasons and in goals three of the past four.

Video: Jeff Skinner comes in at No. 17 on the Top Wings list

 

18. Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia Flyers

Simmonds has become one of the best all-around players in the League. In each of the past four seasons, he's scored at least 28 goals and 50 points, and had at least 13 power-play goals. Last season, he had 54 points (31 goals, 23 assists), 25 power-play points (16 goals, fourth in League, and nine assists), four game-winning goals, two shorthanded goals and 122 penalty minutes. Simmonds, who turns 29 on Aug. 26, uses his size (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) to get to the net and create scoring chances for his teammates. He made his first NHL All-Star Game last season and was voted MVP after scoring the game-winning goal for the Metropolitan Division.

"This guy is tough," Lindsay said. "He'll go to the front of the net, he'll pummel you on the forecheck, and he loves to get in there tight. He's dynamic on the power play."

Video: Wayne Simmonds named No. 18 on the Top 20 Wings list

 

19. T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals

Oshie has scored at least 51 points each of the past four seasons, including 107 points (59 goals, 48 assists) in two seasons with the Capitals. He scored an NHL career-high 33 goals last season, tying Ovechkin for the Capitals lead. 

Oshie made the most of his 143 shots on goal, scoring on a League-high 23.1 percent of them. The 30-year-old was plus-28 last season, the seventh time in nine NHL seasons he's finished plus-10 or better. Oshie is third in the NHL with 39 shootout goals since 2008-09, and his 54.9 shooting percentage in the tiebreaker ranks fourth in that time among players who have taken at least 10 shots.

 

20. Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils

Hall scored 20 goals, led the Devils with 33 assists and tied for the lead with 53 points last season, his first in New Jersey. He also had four game-winning goals. He's scored at least 20 goals in five of his seven NHL seasons and has had at least 50 points five times.

In 2013-14, Hall set NHL career highs with 53 assists and 80 points, leading the Edmonton Oilers in each category, and tied his NHL career high with 27 goals. The 25-year-old has made the NHL All-Star Game each of the past two seasons and has 381 points (152 goals, 229 assists) in 453 NHL games.

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