Welcome back to the third edition of this series, where I take on the daunting task of ranking the top 10 current players at each position in the NHL. In case you missed it, there have been two lists so far looking at the center position as well as left wing. Today, I will attempt to do the same, but with right wingers.
As mentioned in the other two articles in this series, these lists are tough to come up with and will likely have many detractors, given how subjective it is. With that being said, let’s take a look at who I chose to include.
10. Vladimir Tarasenko
Given that Tarasenko has been unable to play for most of the past two seasons due to injury, some may take issue with him being on this list. However, it is hard to argue anyone who missed the cut is more deserving. The 29-year-old seems to have fully recovered from his shoulder issues and could be in store for a massive 2021-22 campaign.
Earlier this offseason, Tarasenko requested a trade from the Blues organization due to being unhappy with how team doctors handled his injuries. However, it appears the two sides have made amends, and he is expected to be at training camp. In 2018-19, the last full regular season he was able to play, he scored 33 goals and 68 points in 76 contests. He could very well put forth that type of offense once again this upcoming season.
9. David Perron
Seeing Perron’s name on this list may come as a shock to many. He has been a good player for a long time, but not one many consider great. However, he has somehow improved in his 30s, and at age 33 is the best he has ever been.
In 56 games last season, Perron led the St. Louis Blues with 58 points. It marked the fourth straight year he has produced offense at an excellent rate, though he doesn’t seem to get much recognition for it. He should continue producing at a similar pace in 2021-22, and while he probably won’t get talked about much around the league, both the Blues organization and its fans know how valuable he is to their team.
8. Brock Boeser
Since his rookie season in 2017-18, Boeser has established himself as one of the game’s brightest young goal scorers. He has yet to play 70 games in a season over his four years in the league but has still managed to score north of 20 goals in three of them. This past season the 24-year-old suited up for 56 contests, scoring 23 goals and 49 points.
After his rookie season in which he recorded 29 goals and 55 points in 62 games, many expected Boeser to become one of the game’s elite forwards immediately. That hasn’t happened yet, as his numbers have continued to stay around that same rate. However, this could be the year that all changes. Playing on a very young and talented team, both Boeser and his Vancouver Canucks teammates could surprise many in 2021-22.
7. Matthew Tkachuk
The 2020-21 season was one to forget for the Calgary Flames, and Tkachuk is very much included in that. The 23-year-old struggled to find consistency and had some undisciplined moments throughout the year that raised questions about his maturity level. By the time the season had wrapped up, he had 16 goals and 43 points in 56 games.
While those numbers don’t seem so bad, a player like Tkachuk is capable of far better. It should be taken into account that he is the type of player who brings energy to games and can get the crowd into it. Without fans last season, he struggled to bring that energy night in and night out. That should change with fans back in the buildings in 2021-22, and as a result, he should go back to producing at, or possibly above, a point per pace.
6. Mitch Marner
This is where this list takes a massive jump. Marner is undoubtedly one of the better players in the entire NHL, but the remainder of this list is too stacked to have him any higher. The 24-year-old Toronto Maple Leaf has established himself as one of the game’s best regular-season players, having posted 228 points over his last 196 games.
Unfortunately, Marner has drawn a ton of criticism, particularly from his fan base, for his lack of production in the postseason. Over the Leafs’ past 12 playoff games the last two years, he has failed to score a goal and has just eight points. It simply isn’t good enough for a player making nearly $11 million per season and will have to be improved both to climb this list as well as to help his team find playoff success. Still, there is no denying he is a phenomenal talent, and he could very well pop off in the postseason this very next year.
5. Mikko Rantanen
Due to being on a Colorado Avalanche team that features Nathan MacKinnon, Rantanen has failed to get the credit he deserves so far in his career. The 24-year-old Fin has put up massive numbers over his four-year career, including this past season, where he had 30 goals and 66 points in just 52 games.
Rantanen has also proven to be a clutch playoff performer for the Avs, proven by his 18 goals and 52 points in 43 career postseason games. He doesn’t just put up offense either, as he possesses a massive 6-foot-4 frame that he is not afraid to throw around. Colorado is in very good shape with him and MacKinnon leading the way, and they should continue to remain Stanley Cup contenders for several years.
4. Mark Stone
Though Stone doesn’t produce offense at a rate as great as the two previous names on this list, he comes in higher due to being one of the best two-way players in the game. When you think of elite two-way forwards, you generally think of centermen, such as Patrice Bergeron. Despite being a winger, however, Stone’s two-way play is simply incredible, and he has been named a Selke Trophy finalist on two separate occasions as a result.
As mentioned, Stone doesn’t put up as much offense as a few of the names who came before him on this list, but he still racks up plenty of points. In 55 games this past season, he managed 21 goals and a team-leading 61 points. At just 29-years-old, the Golden Knights should still see several great seasons from him, and it wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if he were able to win a Selke Trophy during that span.
3. David Pastrnak
Despite putting up point-per-game numbers last season, it was considered an off-year from Boston Bruins forward Pastrnak because of how elite he has become. One year prior, he split the Rocket Richard Trophy with Alex Ovechkin after a career-high 48 goals. He also managed 95 points that season while playing in just 70 games.
Now that he is fully healthy, Pastrnak should be able to get back to the level he was at two years ago, if not surpass it. He is still just 25-years-old, so the sky truly is the limit for him. The Bruins made a great choice in selecting him 25th overall in 2014, and if they can win another cup in the Bergeron/Brad Marchand era, he will be a huge part of the reason.
2. Patrick Kane
Being selected first overall like Kane was back in 2007 comes with a ton of pressure, but there is no denying that the now 32-year-old has lived up to expectations and then some. Kane’s trophy collection includes a Calder Trophy, an Art Ross, a Hart, a Ted Lindsay Award, three Stanley Cup rings, and a Conn Smythe. He is already considered by many to be the greatest American-born hockey player of all time.
Despite playing on some weak Blackhawks teams the past few seasons, Kane has continued to put up offense at an incredible rate, including in 2020-21, where he had 15 goals and 66 points in 56 games. Thankfully for Kane, his team’s general manager in Stan Bowman made some big moves this offseason which has many expecting the Blackhawks to turn into a playoff team once again. If that is the case, his numbers may improve even more from the past few seasons, which is a scary thought for the rest of the league.
1. Nikita Kucherov
Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning is not only the best right winger in the NHL but one of the best players in the entire game. The 28-year-old is the best player on a stacked Bolts team that is currently the reigning back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, something he played a huge role in. Despite not winning the Conn Smythe either year, he was undoubtedly in the running for both, with 34 points in 25 games during the 2020 run and 32 points in 23 games in this most recent Cup win.
Kucherov’s brilliance was proven this year because he missed the entire regular season due to injury yet stepped in during the playoffs and was often the best player on the ice. He recorded a league-leading 128 points in 82 games just two seasons ago, which earned him the Art Ross Trophy, the Hart, and the Ted Lindsay Award. With him now being fully healthy and ready to go, we may see similar numbers this upcoming season.
Feedback on List
As I have mentioned throughout this series, feedback is more than welcome on these lists. Feel free to leave comments on who you believe shouldn’t have made the list, who should have been included, and who is too high or too low. These lists are extremely tough to make, given that everyone has differing opinions on players, but they are fun to do. We will find out soon enough how accurate, or inaccurate, it was.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.