A number of dynamic forward pairs are taking the NHL by storm this season. Statistically, a number of teams have two players who, thanks to strong chemistry, carry a lot of the load offensively.
Most of these players have a higher offensive output thanks to their great chemistry with another teammate, and all of them possess great scoring and playmaking talent. Here’s the count down of the top 10 forward duos I’ve ranked as the NHL’s most productive so far this season:
10. Mike Hoffman, Bobby Ryan – Ottawa Senators
The Senators have the third most goals in the NHL and have a lot of players living up to expectations offensively. No forwards on the Sens have more points than Mike Hoffman and Bobby Ryan, and the wing partners have found some pretty good chemistry dating back to last season.
With 22 points apiece, Ryan (eight goals, 14 assists) and Hoffman (11 goals, 11 assists) sit just outside the top-20 in NHL scoring, and second and third on Ottawa, behind Erik Karlsson. Hoffman, a former fifth round pick in 2009, broke out with 27 goals and 48 points as a rookie last season. Though Ryan went through some long stretches with no goals last year, the former second overall pick in 2005 had his highest points-per-game average since 2011-12. At their current rate, Hoffman is on pace for 86 points which would shatter his career best, while Ryan is on pace for a career high 52 assists and 75 points.
9. Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene – Colorado Avalanche
MacKinnon, the first overall pick in 2013, has found his offensive stride after a shaky sophomore season, where he had 38 points in 64 games. Currently this season, MacKinnon is on pace for 79 points, which would double his output from 2014-15. While MacKinnon’s offensive output has improved this season, he’s found instant chemistry alongside Duchene, who has 23 points in 25 games. Duchene, a third overall pick in 2009, is tied for fourth in the league with 13 goals – 12 of which have come since November 3rd. Though he’s a minus-two on the season, Duchene has a plus-eight rating in his last 11 games.
While their combination of speed and skill is as good as almost any duo in the league, MacKinnon and Duchene are farther down the list because they haven’t played together as long as other tandems that have had great success this season.
MacKinnon was previously centering Gabriel Landeskog and Alex Tanguay, prior to Tanguay sustaining a knee injury in early November. In Tanguay’s absence, coach Patrick Roy has finally decided to move Duchene to the right wing and stack his top line, which hasn’t changed since. Even with Mikhail Grigorenko on the wing with Landeskog serving a two-game suspension, the pair proved their chemistry by combining for eight points in that two game span.
8. Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Los Angeles Kings
Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli have paced the Kings’ offense all season, as the two forwards combined for 21 of the team’s 59 goals through their first 24 games. Carter’s 23 points put him in the top 20 in league scoring, while Toffoli’s 11 goals tie him for 11th in the league. And for the Kings team that has the lowest goals against in the NHL (50 GA in 24 games), Carter and Toffoli have played great two-way hockey – Carter’s plus-15 rating leads the league, while Toffoli’s plus-13 puts him fourth.
The 23 year-old Toffoli first broke out in the NHL last season on a line with Carter, posting 23 goals and 49 points in 76 games and asserting himself as a top forward in the Kings’ lineup. Carter, meanwhile, is on pace for what would be his highest points total since he had 84 in 2008-2009, as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers.
The pair, both natural centermen like MacKinnon and Duchene, continue to show great chemistry and while Los Angeles is stingy defensively, it’s arguable that the team wouldn’t be sitting in first place in the Pacific Division currently without receiving consistent offense from Carter and Toffoli. The duo’s 43 combined points account for close to 30% of total points by Kings players.
7. Alex Steen, Vladimir Tarasenko – St. Louis Blues
Much like Carter and Toffoli for the Kings, Alex Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko are far and away the highest point producers on the injury-riddled Blues this season. Tarasenko leads the Blues with 24 points, good for 12th in NHL scoring, and Steen’s 21 points puts him in the league’s top 30.
Tarasenko proved to be a consistent scoring threat when he broke out with 37 goals in 2014-15, which featured a ton of highlight-reel goals. The Blues 16th overall pick in 2010 has continued his torrid pace this season; his 14 goals through 24 games trailed only Patrick Kane and Jamie Benn. The 31 year-old Steen is on pace to set a career-high in points for the third consecutive season.
The left-winger Steen took on a more playmaker-style role last season after finding chemistry with right-winger Tarasenko, posting a career high 40 assists. And with a natural goal scorer like Tarasenko on the other side of him, how could Steen not naturally fall into this role?
Steen says he and Tarasenko’s chemistry is at another level. Due to Vlady’s patience w/o the puck when Steen has possession. #stlblues
— Andy Strickland (@andystrickland) April 19, 2015
6. Taylor Hall, Leon Draisaitl – Edmonton Oilers
Despite the fact the Oilers continue to reel in the NHL standings, one positive has been the strong play of Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl.
Hall sits tied for eighth in NHL scoring with 25 points through 25 games, and his plus-11 rating is good for seventh in the league and easily a career-high for the 24 year-old. And Draisaitl has been on a tear since being called up from the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors in late October. The 20 year-old has 18 points in 15 games and a plus-eight rating as well. The pair combined for 12 goals and 21 assists in the first 10 games upon Draisaitl’s arrival.
For Draisaitl, the Oilers third overall pick in 2014, his performance is a drastic turnaround from 2014-15, when he had two goals, nine points and a minus-17 rating in 37 games before being sent back to the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL. Any concerns that he isn’t ready to play in the NHL have become an afterthought. And while he and Hall, the Oilers first overall selection in 2010, haven’t spent as long on a line together as other duos, they are sitting this high in the top-10 because of the incredible amount of talent they bring to the table.
Click here to see the list of the NHL’s top five duos.
Canucks contributor for The Hockey Writers. Maple Ridge, BC native. Contact: email@example.com or @ColtonnDavies on Twitter.