The top forwards in the NHL today all play drastically different, but are also all largely the same: they are clutch scorers, have excellent hands, are dynamic skaters, good leaders, and are complete players.
In part 2 of the countdown of the Top 20 NHL Forwards, we’ll examine the top 10 forwards, regardless of position.
10. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Anze Kopitar is the prototypical number 1 center. Will he score 70+ points a year? Check. Will he play all 210 feet of ice at a high level? Check. Will he be there in the clutch? Check. Will he lead the team to a Stanley Cup Championship? Double Check.
Kopitar is something special for sure. He plays a complete game and is the Kings’ centerpiece. The Kings haven’t had tremendous postseason success since winning it all for the second time in 2014, but Kopitar and co. are geared up for another ring.
9. Jonathan Toews, Chicago Blackhawks
Figuring out where to rank Kopitar and where to rank Toews was quite tough given that they play a similar style. Both Kopitar and Toews have won a Selke Trophy as the game’s top two-way forward, both win faceoffs at an above-average clip, and both are excellent leaders that have won multiple championships.
But Toews has something that Kopitar doesn’t: one more Stanley Cup. Toews is a remarkably clutch scorer that is perhaps the best in the game at playing a full 210-foot game. He is one of the game’s most cerebral players.
Toews is the best captain in the NHL today and a dynamite number 1 center for any team.
8. Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks
For years, Joe Pavelski was a dependable, two-way, 60-point scorer. But then something clicked for Pavelski in 2012, and he became a goal-scoring machine. He has scored over 30 goals in 4 of his last 5 seasons, including a 41-goal performance in 2014.
Pavelski was named the captain of the Sharks following that banner season, and he proved to be up to the task. He continued his excellent scoring and took a Sharks team that missed the playoffs in 2015 all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2016.
Pavelski is defensively responsible, wins key draws, and can score goals by both sniping and deflecting pucks. He is a truly entertaining player to watch.
7. Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars
Much like Joe Pavelski, Tyler Seguin went from a perfectly competent middle-six winger to a dynamic number 1 center, only Seguin made the switch following a trade from the Boston Bruins to the Dallas Stars. The trade functioned as a sort of wake-up-call for the inconsistent Seguin, and he became a game-breaker.
Seguin has played three seasons in Dallas and scored no less than 33 goals and 73 points in all of them. He has improved in all facets of the game each year, and has yet to turn 25 years old.
Seguin will have a long future in Dallas, and he is looking forward to bringing the Stars back to their former Championship status.
6. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
The NHL 17 cover boy, Vladimir Tarasenko has taken the league by storm over the past 2 seasons. The “Tarasenk-show” has scored 37 and 40 goals over the last two seasons, respectively, and does so in remarkable fashion.
Tarasenko is a master of dirty dangles and general puck wizardry, garnering comparisons to his fellow countryman, Pavel Datsyuk. Tarasenko is an extremely dynamic scorer and arguably the game’s best sniper.
He hasn’t had any major postseason success yet, but it will surely come in time for Tarasenko.
5. John Tavares, New York Islanders
No one knows where the Islanders will be playing next year, but everyone does know that captain John Tavares will be there leading the way. The 24-year-old center scores over 30 goals and 75 points every year and has more than lived up to his status as a former number one overall draft pick.
Given all the drama surrounding the Islanders, it is a gift to have someone as steady and dependable as Tavares at the helm. He will look to lead the Islanders to the Conference Finals for the first time since 1993.
4. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars
Jamie Benn made the leap from a very good player to an elite player in 2014 and hasn’t looked back. Since then, he’s been good for at least 35 goals and 80 points year in and year out. Benn even won the Art Ross Trophy in 2015 for leading the league in scoring.
Benn can play either left wing or center, but is most comfortable on the wing. He does his best damage on the power play, where he scored about a third of his goals and points last season.
Benn is a big forward that isn’t afraid to mix it up if his team needs it. He is one of the hardest forwards to play against in the league.
3. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Alex Ovechkin has sure had an interesting NHL career, hasn’t he? After bursting onto the scene and scoring 50 goals per season in his peak, he fell a little bit from 2010-2012 and failed to reach 40 goals over that time.
But since then, “The Great Eight” has roared back with 3 straight 50-goal seasons and has improved his overall game under head coach Barry Trotz. Ovechkin still doesn’t play great defense, but he has gotten a bit more responsible in his own zone. He has also cut down on his PIMs while maintaining that physical style that makes him so tough to play against.
Not only will Ovechkin light you up on the score sheet, he’ll make sure you go home bruised up too. He is the game’s premier power forward.
2. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Kane had the best possible season he could’ve wished for in 2016. After dealing with off-ice-issues, Kane posted a career season last year at the age of 27. Kane scored over 40 goals and hit 100 points for the first time en route to earning MVP honors.
Kane is probably the most gifted player in today’s game; he can do things with the puck that few others can. He is a clutch scorer and more than willing as a passer, and it seems as if big plays just find him.
He has also won 3 Stanley Cup Championships and a Conn Smythe Award as playoff MVP, earning him clutch status.
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
Despite the rise of Benn, the scoring of Kane, and the prominence of Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby is still the undisputed best player in all of hockey. Crosby’s hockey sense is off the charts. He sees things happen before they actually do, which often results in the Penguins winning games.
Early on in Crosby’s career, he struggled with his temper, his tendency to dive, and concussions. However, he has overcome all of these aspects as he has become a grizzly veteran.
One knock on Crosby for years was his inability to win big games. However, the Penguins’ dominance in the 2016 postseason, which resulted in Crosby’s second Championship, was more than enough to quiet the naysayers.
There just simply isn’t a player who does a little bit of everything better than Sidney Crosby.