20. Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins
Guentzel had NHL career highs in goals (40), assists (36) and points (76) in 82 games in 2018-19, and he was on pace to surpass those numbers last season prior to a shoulder injury sustained Dec. 30 that required surgery and caused him to miss the rest of the regular season. At the time of his injury, the left wing was leading the Penguins in goals (20) and points (43), and he was tops among their forwards in average time on ice (20:38 per game). He has scored 46 points (25 goals, 21 assists) in 45 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
“You go back two seasons in time, 40 goals, proved himself to be a 40-goal scorer so he really has inserted himself into rather elite company,” NHL Network analyst Stu Grimson said. “But this is a guy that just brings a great balance of skill and grit. Got a great knack for the net, great release.”
19. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues
Tarasenko scored 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 10 games before a shoulder injury sustained Oct. 24 kept him out the remainder of last season. The right wing was one of the most productive forwards in the NHL from 2014-19, when he scored the third-most goals (182) in the League and was one of two players, along with Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, to score at least 30 goals in each of the five seasons. Tarasenko scored 17 points (11 goals, six assists) in 26 playoff games to help the Blues win the Stanley Cup for the first time in their 51-season history in 2019.
18. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Giroux scored 53 points (21 goals, 32 assists) in 69 games last season, and among players to take at least 100 face-offs, he ranked fourth in the NHL at 59.0 percent. Since 2011-12, only Patrick Kane (719) and Sidney Crosby (691) have scored more points that Giroux (665), who leads the NHL in assists (458) and power-play points (270) in that span. Giroux has also been one of the most durable players in the League, having missed 10 games in the past 11 seasons.
17. J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks
In his first season with the Canucks after being traded to Vancouver by the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 22, 2019, Miller led them in points (72) and was tied for the lead in goals (27), assists (45) and power-play points (25), each an NHL career high. He also won 59.2 percent of his face-offs, second in the NHL among players to take at least 100 draws. Miller helped the Canucks advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2015 and scored 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) in 17 postseason games.
“His first season as a Vancouver Canuck [was] nothing short of remarkable,” Grimson said. “Significant upward trajectory in what he’s got going as an NHLer. … This has been a great add for the Vancouver Canucks and the future looks awfully bright for a core, a core of forwards that really organically look like they’re only going to get better as time wears on, Miller an important part of that.”
16. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
Gaudreau has been one of the most dynamic forwards in the NHL since his rookie season in 2014-15. Although he scored the fewest points of his NHL career last season (58), he led the Flames with 40 assists. In 2018-19, Gaudreau had NHL career highs in goals (36), assists (63), points (99), power-play points (27) and game-winning goals (eight) to help Calgary finish with the best record in the Western Conference.
15. Max Pacioretty, Vegas Golden Knights
In his second season with the Golden Knights, Pacioretty led them with 32 goals and 66 points in 71 games after he scored 40 points (22 goals, 18 assists) in 66 games in 2018-19. It was the sixth time in the past nine seasons the left wing scored at least 30 goals, helping Vegas win the Pacific Division and qualify for the playoffs for the third straight season. Pacioretty scored eight points (five goals, three assists) in 16 playoff games last season.
14. Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets
Laine scored 28 goals last season, including nine in nine games from Jan. 19-Feb. 9. But the right wing also had an NHL career-high 35 assists and was plus-8 in 68 games after he was minus-24 in 2018-19. Since entering the NHL in 2016-17, Laine is tied for seventh in the League with 138 goals. He scored 18 goals in 12 games in November 2018, including becoming the first NHL player in nearly eight years to score five goals in one game Nov. 24 against the Blues (Johan Franzen for Detroit Red Wings against Ottawa Senators, Feb. 2, 2011).
13. Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames
Tkachuk led the Flames with 61 points (23 goals, 38 assists) in 69 games last season. He scored four game-winning goals, including two in overtime, and was second on Calgary with 122 hits and tied for third with 40 takeaways. The left wing scored an NHL career-high 77 points (34 goals, 43 assists) in 80 games in 2018-19 and has increased his average ice time in each of his four NHL seasons (18:18 per game in 2019-20).
“The consensus in this (locker) room is that this is in fact the straw that stirs the drink,” Grimson said. “If so goes Matthew Tkachuk, that’s the direction that these Calgary Flames go. … But the thing that you really appreciate, it’s the compete in his game, it’s the sandpaper.”
12. Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets
Connor led NHL rookies with 31 goals and was fourth with 57 points in 2017-18, and he has increased those numbers in each of the past two seasons. The left wing scored 66 points (34 goals, 32 assists) in 82 games in 2018-19 and 73 points (38 goals, 35 assists) in 71 games last season to help the Jets earn a berth in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. He also averaged an NHL career-high 21:05 of ice time and was tied for fifth in the NHL with seven game-winning goals.
“He’s a developer. He takes a broad, bold step each year,” Grimson said. “And he does it in a rather unassuming way. … Doesn’t really matter who you pair him with. He seems to be equally productive.”
11. Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
The right wing scored 65 points (22 goals, 43 assists) in 71 games last season, the fifth straight he’s scored at least 61 points and seventh straight with at least 20 goals. Wheeler had back-to-back 91-point seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19, tying Giroux for the NHL lead in assists in 2017-18 (68) and finishing third in 2018-19 (71). He has ranked first or second on the Jets in scoring in eight of the past nine seasons and has missed six games in that span.
10. Mark Stone, Vegas Golden Knights
Stone scored 63 points (21 goals, 42 assists) in 65 games to top the 60-point mark for the fifth time in the past six seasons. He led Golden Knights forwards in ice time per game (19:25) and was second in shorthanded ice time per game (1:56). The right wing tied for second in the NHL in takeaways (78), one season after he was the runner-up for the Selke Trophy, awarded to the best defensive forward, for the third consecutive season. Stone has scored 74 points (26 goals, 48 assists) in 83 games and 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 27 playoff games with the Golden Knights since being acquired in a trade from the Senators on Feb. 25, 2019.
“He does all things well: great skater, great shooter, great passer, sees the ice exceptionally well and I think it’s really a high compete level,” Grimson said. “He’s a real competitor, he’s playing a tough tempo each and every night. Never been to 30 goals but I’ll bet you … this man will be a 30 goal scorer before we get too far into his tenure with the Vegas Golden Knights.”
9. Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida Panthers
Huberdeau led the Panthers in points (78; 23 goals, 55 assists) in 69 games last season after he was second to center Aleksander Barkov with 92 points (30 goals, 62 assists) in 2018-19. He led them in power-play points (29), was second in ice time per game among forwards (18:46), and became Florida’s all-time leader in points (437). The left wing had seven games with at least three points and helped Florida earn a berth in the Qualifiers.
8. Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche
Although he was limited to 42 games last season because of injuries, Rantanen was fifth on the Avalanche with 41 points (19 goals, 22 assists). The right wing scored at least 84 points in each of the previous two seasons and is tied with Nathan MacKinnon for first on the Avalanche with 36 power-play goals and second in power-play points (82) behind MacKinnon (100) since 2017-18. Rantanen has scored 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) in 27 playoff games the past two seasons.
7. Mitchell Marner, Toronto Maple Leafs
After leading Toronto with an NHL career-high 94 points (26 goals, 68 assists) in 2018-19, Marner finished second last season with 67 points, including a Maple Leafs-leading 51 assists, behind center Auston Matthews (80). The right wing led Toronto forwards in average ice time for the second straight season (21:33 per game) and scored 24 power-play points, his fourth straight season with at least 20. Marner helped the Maple Leafs earn a berth in the Qualifiers, when he had four assists in five games.
6. Brad Marchand, Boston Bruins
Marchand scored 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) in 70 games last season, the fourth straight he scored at least 85 points. During that span, he ranks fifth in the NHL with 357 points (137 goals, 220 assists) in 297 games. The right wing led Bruins forwards in average ice time per game (19:27) and helped them win the Presidents’ Trophy for finishing with the highest points percentage in the NHL. Marchand ranks second in the NHL during the past three postseasons with 52 points (20 goals, 32 assists) in 49 games, one point behind Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov.
“One of the more undersized wings on this board (5-foot-9, 181 pounds) but you know it never really seems to come up in his game,” Grimson said. “He’s really sturdy on his skates, a great knack around the net, but I love how he uses that low center of gravity and one of his great attributes, his puck protection.”
5. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Few players were more dynamic or consistent the past decade than Kane, who finished eighth in the NHL last season with 84 points (33 goals, 51 assists). He has scored at least 21 goals in each of his 13 NHL seasons and is third in points since entering the League in 2007 (1,022; 389 goals, 633 assists). The right wing had a 15-game point streak (11 goals, 13 assists) from Nov. 2-30, 2019, the second longest in the NHL last season behind Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (17), and helped the Blackhawks advance to the playoffs.
4. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Ovechkin scored his 700th NHL goal on Feb. 22 and is eighth in NHL history (706), two behind Mike Gartner. His 48 goals were tied for the League lead last season, and he won the Rocket Richard Trophy for a record ninth time. The left wing has scored at least 48 goals in six of the past seven seasons and won the Conn Smythe Trophy voted as playoff MVP in 2018 after helping the Capitals win the Stanley Cup for the first time. His 1,278 points are second among active NHL players behind Joe Thornton (1,509).
3. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
Kucherov won the Hart Trophy voted as NHL MVP in 2018-19, when he scored 128 points (41 goals, 87 assists), the most in one season since Mario Lemieux (161) and Jaromir Jagr (149) for the Penguins in 1995-96. In 68 games last season, Kucherov scored 85 points (33 goals, 52 assists) and was plus-26 before leading the NHL with 34 points (seven goals, 27 assists) in 25 postseason games and helping the Lightning win the Stanley Cup. The right wing ranks second in the NHL with 398 points (153 goals, 245 assists) in 304 games during the past four seasons, behind Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (421).
2. David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins
The right wing tied Ovechkin for the NHL lead in goals with 48, and his 95 points in 70 games were tied for third with Artemi Panarin of the New York Rangers. Pastrnak’s 20 power-play goals and 10 game-winning goals led the League and his 38 power-play points were third. Pastrnak has increased his goals and points totals in each of the past three seasons and has scored at least 34 goals and 70 points in each of the past four. He’s scored 49 points (18 goals, 31 assists) in 46 playoff games the past three seasons, fourth among all players.
“The skillset is there, without question,” Grimson said. “Skates exceptionally well, top end talent in that respect. Great playmaker, great shot, loves to get it off in stride. …It’s the way he processes the game. Finds time and space, makes utilization of that time and space, and finds a way to execute.”
1. Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers
In his first season with the Rangers, Panarin scored 32 goals with 63 assists in 69 games. The left wing was first in even-strength points (71) and first among forwards in rating (plus-36). He scored at least one point in 54 games and helped the Rangers earn a berth in the Qualifiers. Panarin was a finalist for the Ted Lindsay Award as most outstanding player in the NHL as voted by fellow members of the NHL Players’ Association and the Hart Trophy as League MVP. He’s scored 415 points (148 goals, 267 assists) in 391 games in five NHL seasons and has never scored fewer than 27 goals or 74 points in a season.
“He really is an exceptional talent,” Grimson said. “The numbers tell you an important part of the story, it’s that chemistry that he has with line mate, center Ryan Strome, that just sets Artemi Panarin apart from the rest of the field, at least for this moment in time. … Great knack for where to be in time and space, but it’s his ability to take a pass, cradle a pass and then get that pass off in stride that fools a lot of NHL goaltenders across both conferences.”