Top wing in NHL in 3 seasons debated

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NHL Network is spending the offseason presenting the best current NHL players at each position. On Sunday, the network’s producers and analysts chose the top 20 wings in the League in a special program that airs at 6 p.m. ET on NHL Network. To add to that conversation, we asked eight NHL.com writers to pick the player they think will be the best wing in three seasons. Here are their choices:

 

David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins

Pastrnak was the right wing on the NHL First All-Star team after tying for the League lead with 48 goals last season. He’s 24; in three years he’ll be 27. Nikita Kucherov will be 30. Artemi Panarin will be 32. Patrick Kane will be 34. Brad Marchand will be 35. Alex Ovechkin will be 38. Could a younger player overtake Pastrnak? Sure. But I’m going with a relatively young player who has scored at least 34 goals in four straight seasons. He has increased his goal total each time too, from 34 to 35 to 38 to 48. — Nicholas J. Cotsonika, columnist

As my esteemed colleague Nick so thoroughly documents, Pastrnak’s talent is as good as that of any wing in the NHL. But it goes deeper than that. Anyone who has spent time with Pastrnak can’t help but be positively influenced by his upbeat personality. His omnipresent smile can light up a room and is infectious among his teammates. Add it all together, and he’s the complete package. Of course, he might be looking for new linemates in three years when Patrice Bergeron is 38 and Marchand is 35. No matter. This is someone who makes the players around him better. A player can’t have a better endorsement than that. — Mike Zeisberger, staff writer

Video: TBL@BOS: Pastrnak rockets one-timer in for 48th goal

 

Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers

Panarin arguably was the best wing, right or left, in the League last season, scoring 95 points (32 goals, 63 assists) in 69 games. He’s 29 years old and has played in 391 NHL games. In three years he’ll be a 32-year-old who will have played in a shade over 600 games, meaning he won’t have a lot of miles on him. The Rangers should be among the better teams in the League. They should play fast. Panarin could be on the same line with Kaapo Kakko, who will be a more developed 22-year-old in three years. As much as I like Pastrnak, I worry about what happens when current linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand lose a step. Panarin will be playing with young players and he’ll have plenty of road ahead of him. — Dan Rosen, senior writer

 

Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche

Possessing great size (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) and a great shot, Rantanen has been one of the most dynamic wings to watch the past two seasons. Despite missing 28 games because of injuries, Rantanen scored 41 points (19 goals, 22 assists) in 41 games last season. In the two previous seasons (2017-19), Rantanen scored 171 points (60 goals, 111 assists) in 155 games. Rantanen has shown great chemistry with center Nathan MacKinnon and left wing Gabriel Landeskog on Colorado’s first line, but he can move around and still score. Rantanen turned 24 on Oct. 29. If he can stay healthy, imagine the production he’ll have over the next three seasons. — Tracey Myers, staff writer

 

Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning

I’m not ready to move on from Kucherov. I think that in three years he’ll still be at the top of his game, even as he hits 30. Kucherov was a monster during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, leading all players with 34 points (seven goals, 27 assists) en route to winning the Stanley Cup for the first time. Kucherov scored the most points by a wing, and second-most points in the NHL, in the past three seasons combined with 313 (113 goals, 200 assists), behind only Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid, who scored 321. Kucherov drives a team that is coming off a championship and which shows no sign of slowing down. Neither does he. — Amalie Benjamin, staff writer

Video: Top 10 Nikita Kucherov plays from 2019-20

 

Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames

In three years Matthew Tkachuk will be 25 and have played seven NHL seasons. On his current trajectory, he’ll be in the thick of this conversation because he is such a multi-faceted player. I see uber-talented players cited by my colleagues so far and Tkachuk is trending that way, approaching that point-per-game mark in each of the past two seasons. His 34 goals in 2018-19 were an indication of offensive smarts and soft hands, and an increasing maturity to his grit and fearlessness is only going to make him more prominent in the seasons ahead. He’s an all-situation player, already a leader and I’m convinced there is so much more to come. — Tim Campbell, staff writer

 

Andrei Svechnikov, Carolina Hurricanes

Svechnikov is coming off a breakout performance in his second NHL season, where he scored 61 points (24 goals, 37 assists) in 68 games, for a points-per-game average of 0.90. That was twice the rate of his 0.45 points-per-game average in his rookie season of 2018-19, when he scored 37 points (20 goals, 17 assists) in 82 games. Svechnikov’s chemistry with elite two-way center Sebastian Aho and wing Teuvo Teravainen has helped him take the next step in his NHL career and form one of the most potent young forward lines in the League. If the 20-year-old is comfortable enough to score 12 points (seven goals, five assists) in his first 15 Stanley Cup Playoff games, not to mention show off his offensive flair with multiple lacrosse-style goals already, his ceiling could be as high as any wing in the game three years from now. — Pete Jensen, senior fantasy editor

 

Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals

This is personal. I don’t much care that one of the greatest snipers in NHL history will be 38 in three years. Nor do I care that in today’s NHL, the odds are very long against a player being among the game’s elite as he nears age 40. With 706 goals, Ovechkin is eighth all-time, 188 behind No. 1 Wayne Gretzky. Whether the Great Eight can catch the Great One is anyone’s guess, but maybe he can surpass the six between himself and Gretzky, 802 putting him one up on No. 2 Gordie Howe. And no one in hockey more joyfully celebrates scoring than Ovechkin, be it in the preseason or the playoffs. I want to see him celebrating plenty more goals, for years to come. — Dave Stubbs, columnist

Video: The guys talk Ovechkin chasing the all-time goal lead

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