Entering the 2021-22 season we have some of the most dynamic young players the sport has ever seen. It is hard to believe that it has been almost 20 years since guys like Crosby, Ovechkin, and Keith have entered the league. But, as happens with every generation of great players, we have a changing of the guard where younger players come into the league and take over the mantle of “best in the league”. So, who are the top forwards in the game? Are any of the “old guard” still in he top 10? If you are new to hockey, who is “must see TV”?
10. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
Kucherov is 28 years old and has been with Tampa since he came into the league in 2013. He has been a very good player for the Lightning over his tenure including a 128-point season in 2018-19. Kucherov took his place in rarified air last season in the playoffs joining Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux as the only players in NHL history to score 30-plus points in consecutive postseasons. He finished last postseason with 32 points as he led the Lightning to their second Stanley Cup Championship. So why is Kucherov ranked number 10, you may ask? Last season Kucherov did not play during the regular season at all and then he followed that up with only play three games this year before going down again with another potentially long-term injury. If Kucherov can stay healthy he would be a top 5 player without a doubt!
9. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Ovechkin is the oldest player to make the top 10. Ovechkin comes in at the ripe old age of 36. Ovechkin has been in the league since 2005. He is going to go down as one of the greatest goal scorers of all time, if not the greatest! Ovechkin has had 8 50-plus goal seasons including 65 goals in the 2007-08 season. Ovechkin dealt with some injuries last season that slowed him a little bit, but he still finished with 24 goals and 18 assists in 45 games. His Corsi last season was 56%. Ovechkin has been on FIRE this season. After six games this season, he has 7 goals and 5 assists. This is not sustainable, but he is on pace to have one of his best seasons ever. Ovechkin is currently sitting at 737 career goals and has made it clear he wants to beat Gretzky’s record of 894. He will have to average 32 goals a year to hit that mark in the next 5 years. Look for Ovechkin to have a great season this year!
8. Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers
Panarin is 29 years old and has been in the league since 2015. He is the clear leader of the Rangers and is a huge asset for them. Panarin had his best season in 2019-20 when he put up 32 goals and 63 assists. He had a very good 20-21 season as well putting up 17 goals and 41 assists. He only played 42 games last season due to some personal issues back in his home country as well as getting shutdown a few games early last season due to injuries. He is an assist machine and does nothing but make his team better. Last season he had a 6.7 goals above expected and a Corsi of 60%. This season he has started strong. His Corsi this season through seven games is 58% and he has 1 goal and 3 assists. Look for Panarin to continue to assert himself as one of the best playmaking forwards in the game this year as the Ranger make a push for the playoffs.
7. David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
Pastrnak is one of the best young players in the league. Sometimes it is easy to forget that he is only 25 years old considering he has been in the league since 2014. Pastrnak is part of the “perfection line” in Boston. As you can imagine, playing along side Marchand and Bergeron will boost anyone’s stats but he is a major contributor on that line. 2019-20 was his best season to date where he put up 48 goals and 47 assists. In the Covid shortened season last year he had 20 goals and 28 assists. Out of the top 10 players he had the third highest Corsi at 66%. He has been able to maintain his level of play to start the season this year keeping his Corsi at 64%. Pastrnak not only has one of the best shots in the league but he is a playmaker for his teammates as well. It is not only his ability to score but his ability to create for his teammates that brings him in at number 7.
6. Aleksander Barkov, Florida Panthers
Barkov is not only a great offensive player, but he was the best two-way player last season. Barkov won the Selke Trophy last season for the best defensive forward in the league. That is a pretty major feat considering Barkov also put up 26 goals and 32 assists. Barkov, like Pastrnak, is only 26 years old but has been in the league since 2013. He had his best season to point during the 2018-19 season, where he put up 96 points. The Panthers enter this season as one of the best in the league and Barkov is going to be a huge part of that. Barkov finished last season with a Corsi of 62%. Through six games this season his Corsi is 59% and he has six points. Expect Barkov to put together another great season this year and be in contention for the back-to-back Selke Trophies.
5. Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers
Draisaitl comes in as the number five player in the top 10. He is 26 years old and came into the league in 2014. Earlier this season Draisaitl became the fastest oiler to notch 500 career points last week. He is the first German-born player in NHL history to win the Hart Trophy for the 19-20 season. Draisaitl had a great 20-21 season, finishing with 84 points in 56 games. This was good for second best in the league. He had 15 more points than the next guy on the list. Draisaitl has been a cog in that explosive Oilers first forward line. Last season he had a 7 goals above expected, which was good for top 10 in the league. He also finished last season with a Corsi of 58%. This season he is off to a great start and it shows in how Edmonton has played to this point. In six games this season he has 12 points. Look for Draisaitl to have another top 5 finish in points this season!
4. Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche
Rantanen has not had the past success that the other guys on this list have had. The most points that Rantanen has scored in any given season is 87 in the 18-19 season. The thing with Rantanen is he is only 24 years old and has been in the league since 2015. Last season was hand down his best season putting up 66 points in 52 games. He had one of the best Corsi’s in the league last night coming in at 69%. Rantanen has turned into one of the best goal scorers in the league. Out of his 66 points last season he finished with 30 goals, which was good for 5th best in the league. Rantanen has started this season slow, but so has their team. Rantanen will get the scoring going and when he does look out!
3. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
If you follow hockey at all, and probably even if you don’t, you know who Auston Matthews is! He is currently the best scoring forward in the league without question. He comes into this season at the ripe old age of 24 and has is playing his sixth season. In his six seasons he has scored 200 goals. Last season was his best season to this point in his career. Finishing with 66 points in 52 games. He had 41 goals last season, that was good enough for most in the league. He also finished last season with an 11 goals against expected. He won the Calder Trophy in his rookie season and was a Hart Trophy Finalist last season. He is easily in the top 3 for best forwards this season and he will go down as one of the best forwards of all time. Matthews is extremely fun to watch play. He is not only one of the best young forwards in the game he is a top three forward in the entire league!
2. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
MacKinnon did not come into the league crowned a superstar like Matthews or McDavid, He had to prove himself over the nine seasons he has played. He has always been a good player but in the last four season he has really taken another step. He is not only one of the best forwards in the league, he is also the best leader out of these players. He has won the Calder Trophy and the Lady Byng Trophy. He had a great season last year finishing with 65 points in 48 games. Like Rantanen, his Corsi was 69% last season. This number is a testament to just how dominant Colorado’s offense was. MacKinnon can score but he is a playmaker. He is the leader of Colorado’s power play, which was dynamic last year. MacKinnon was not happy with the Avalanche’s play in the second round of the playoffs last season so look for him to take his talents to another level and put on a show for us this season!
1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
I would like to introduce you to McJesus, otherwise known as Connor McDavid. This guy is flat out amazing. He does it all! From a statistics and skills standpoint there is no one better in this league and it is not close. If McDavid continues to play at the level he has been, he will go down as one of the greatest players of all time. He is doing things that no one else is even capable of doing. He is not the best goal scorer in the league, but this guy is the best playmaker. He dazzles with his hockey IQ and his ability to make plays. McDavid is 24 years old and is entering his 7th season. In his 5 full seasons in the league he has scored 100 or more points in ever season except one, and that was in the 19-20 season where he scored 97 points in 64 games. Last season he was a whole different level of ridiculous. He finished last season with 105 points in 56 games. That is an average of 1.88 points per game! Last season was not a fluke either. So far this season McDavid has 15 points in 6 games. At that pace he would put up 205 points! That is Gretzky territory, as he is the only player to ever put up 200 points in a season. McDavid is without a doubt the BEST forward in the league!