All the forward pairings that make up the top five have been strong producers since the beginning of the regular season. All the respective players that make up this list are in the top 20 in NHL scoring (most are at the top).
Assuming who the most productive duo has been in the NHL this season, I asked which players should round out the top five:
@ColtonnDavies 2)Kane/Panarin 3)Pacioretty/Plekanec 4)Sedin/Sedin 5)Steen/Tarasenko
— Bean (@DerekMooseCoach) December 2, 2015
@ColtonnDavies sedins, kane/panarin, mackinnon/duchene, hoffman/ryan
— Evan (@evanway) December 2, 2015
After evaluating what each duo has done statistically and the impact to their respective teams, here’s the list I came up with of the NHL’s best:
Missed the NHL’s top duos ranked 10 through six? Click here to see the list.
5. Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec – Montreal Canadiens
Why have the Canadiens been atop the NHL standings for most of the year, even without always having Carey Price in the lineup to steal games? The Habs have had exceptional contributions from their top players, and forwards Max Pacioretty and Tomas Plekanec have led the way offensively.
Pacioretty sits tied for eighth in the NHL with 25 points, while Plekanec is tied for 12th with 24 points. Each player also has a plus-nine rating through 26 games. Pacioretty is tied for fourth in the league in goals while Plekanec is tied for fourth with 17 assists.
There’s no denying how large of an impact both 27 year-old Pacioretty, the Habs’ captain, and 33 year-old Plekanec have had in the team’s lineup, in terms of leadership on and off ice the ice. In Montreal’s franchise record 9-0-0 start to regular season, Pacioretty led the team with 11 points (seven goals, four assists), while Plekanec was tied for second with Andrei Markov with 10 points (five goals, five assists). At their current rate, Pacioretty is aimed for 79 points, 12 points better than 2014-15 , and Plekanec is on pace for 76 points, which would be 16 points more than last season.
4. Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin – Vancouver Canucks
In their prime, the Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin would’ve easily topped this list for consecutive seasons – Henrik led the league with 112 points in 2010, while Daniel’s 104 points were the NHL’s best the following season. Nonetheless, at 35 years old the Sedin’s continue to defy the odds by being among the league-leaders in scoring.
Daniel sits alone in fourth with 28 points (12 goals, 16 assists), while Henrik is tied for 12th with 24 points (eight goals, 16 assists). And despite their age, the Sedin twins can still carry the load offensively; for a Canucks team that’s in the top 10 in goals-for in the NHL, the Sedin twins had just under 28% of the teams total points through 26 games.
What’s impressive about the Sedins is their sense for finding each other on the ice to create offense; through the team’s first 26 games, Henrik had assisted on seven of Daniel’s 12 goals, while Daniel had an assist on all eight of Henrik’s goals, and six times had the primary assist. It’s hard to put any other duo of forwards in the same category, career-wise, as the Sedins – both players have over 900 career points, and Henrik’s career 0.839 point per game average is almost identical to Daniel’s average of 0.836.
3. Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov – Washington Capitals
Alex Ovechkin is often expected to be among the league leaders in goals and points; he sat tied for 22nd in league scoring with 12 goals and 10 assists through 22 games. The left winger Ovi is used to playing with Nicklas Backstrom as his center, but he’s had a new pivot for most of this year, thanks to the emergence of Evgeny Kuznetsov.
In his second full NHL season, the 23 year-old Kuznetsov sat tied for sixth in the NHL with 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) through 23 games. The former 26th overall pick by the Capitals in 2010 was finishing out a contract in the KHL with Traktor Chelyabinsk prior to beginning his career in the NHL last season. The big Russian’s skating and playmaking abilities compliment Ovi’s game well, as proven by the pair’s combined 48 points through 45 games.
And as good as Ovechkin and Kuznetsov have been offensively – leading the Caps team in scoring that sat fourth in the NHL in goals as of December 1st – they’re all-around play has been equally as good. Kuznetsov had a plus-14 rating through 23 games, while Ovechkin was a plus-12 through 22 games. It’s a big reason why the Capitals, in that same time frame, had the second best goal differential in the NHL (+24), behind only the Montreal Canadiens.
2. Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin – Chicago Blackhawks
One of the bigger surprises in the NHL this season has not only been how strong Patrick Kane has performed despite off-ice controversy all summer, but also how well he’s meshed on a line with rookie Artemi Panarin, on a newly formed Blackhawks line centered by Artem Anisimov.
Through 25 games, Kane led the league with 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists), which in a full season would put him on pace for 125 points – a total that hasn’t been reached in the NHL since Joe Thornton had 125 points in 2005-06. Panarin, meanwhile, led all NHL rookies with 16 assists and 23 points, tying him for 18th in league scoring overall. The 24 year-old Russian was a superstar in the KHL, where he played for parts of seven seasons before signing with the Blackhawks earlier this year.
Panarin’s style of play was compared to Kane’s before he began playing in the NHL. The undrafted Panarin has excellent offensive instincts; to put his offensive abilities into perspective, he outscored teammate Ilya Kovalchuk in the KHL last season with SKA St. Petersburg. And like Kuznetsov in Washington, Panarin is a gifted offensive player who is playing alongside a former first overall pick. While some did predict Panarin’s breakout, no one could’ve expected him to form such a formidable offensive duo with Kane.
1. Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn – Dallas Stars
Was there really ever a question who should be on top of this list? The Dallas Star are on top of the Western Conference standings, six points ahead of the next best team through 25 games, and their 3.48 goals-for average per game was the NHL’s best in that span.
No tandem in the league has performed at a higher level than Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin this season, in terms of pure skill and overall production. Benn (18 goals, 17 assists) and Seguin (13 goals, 21 assists) sat second and third, respectively, in league scoring through 25 games, trailing only Patrick Kane.
On a Stars team that sat second in the NHL with 87 goals through 25 games, this duo has combined to score 36% of the team’s total goals. Benn was the league’s Art Ross Trophy winner with a career-high 87 points last season, and this season he’s on pace for 115 points which would smash that total. Seguin, meanwhile, isn’t far off – he’s on pace for 112, which would be 28 points more than his career-best of 84 with the Stars in 2013-14.
And while this duo has reached new heights in terms of their production, they’ve been effective as line mates for three seasons now. Since 2013-14, Seguin has assisted on 60% of Benn’s goals (52 out of 87). Together the pair has a combined 395 points in 364 games, good for a 1.09 point-per-game average. So far in 2015-16, Benn and Seguin are treading at a 1.38 point per game average. The skill of these two players is undeniable, and their production as a duo speaks for itself.
Canucks contributor for The Hockey Writers. Maple Ridge, BC native. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or @ColtonnDavies on Twitter.