Earlier this week, I wrote a column where I attempted to rank the current top 10 centers in the NHL. Surprisingly, most seemed to agree with the list entirely or only have suggestions for minor tweaks. That is quite rare given that these lists are extremely subjective, and fans often tend to underrate rival teams players while sometimes overrating their own.
Today, I am putting together another list, one that this time will rank the top 10 left wingers in the NHL. The chances that this one will be agreed upon almost unanimously are quite slim, but we will find out soon.
10. Gabriel Landeskog
Not only is Gabriel Landeskog a terrific leader for the Colorado Avalanche, but he has turned from a solid to great offensive player in recent years. Sure, it helps that he plays with one of the game’s best in Nathan MacKinnon, but he brings so many intangibles that it made it impossible to leave him off this list.
In 54 games last season, Landeskog scored 20 goals and 50 points. He has established himself as a guy who when healthy can score 30 goals and put up point per game, or very near point per game numbers. Thankfully for the Avalanche, they were able to get him re-signed this summer, and will now look to win a Stanley Cup for the first time since 2001, with Landeskog helping lead the charge.
9. Jake Guentzel
There is no denying that playing with Sidney Crosby has its benefits (just ask Pascal Dupuis or Chris Kunitz), but Jake Guentzel is a great player in his own right, and deserves to be recognized as such. The 26-year-old really established himself during the 2018-19 season, scoring 40 goals and 76 points in 82 games.
He hasn’t been able to replicate the goal total due to an injury riddled 2019-20 season and a shortened 2020-21 campaign, but he has finished above a point per game in both. He is also a proven playoff player, scoring 13 goals and 21 points in 25 games during their 2017 Cup win, and tallying an even better 10 goals and 21 points in 12 games the next year. While he remains quite underrated around the league, Penguins fans know just how valuable he is.
8. Max Pacioretty
There are few players who have scored goals as consistently as Max Pacioretty over the years. While the now-Vegas Golden Knight was known as somewhat of a streaky player during his time with the Montreal Canadiens, the fact is he has scored 30-or-more goals in six of the last 10 seasons. Even more impressive was that he was on pace for more than 30 in both the 2012-13 and 2020-21 shortened seasons, meaning he likely would have north of 30 in eight of ten years.
This past season, the 32-year-old Pacioretty led the Golden Knights with 24 goals on the season, while also recording 51 points in just 48 contests. It marked the second time in three seasons since being traded to Vegas that he led the team in goals, and had he not missed time due to injury during the 2018-19 season he very likely would have led in all three years. He is a terrific player that has not yet showed any signs of slowing down.
7. Alex Debrincat
After a down 2019-20 season, Alex Debrincat bounced back in the 2020-21 campaign, and established himself as one of the games better left wingers. The 5-foot-7, 165 pound forward has never let his small stature impact his play, and is making Blackhawks management look smarter by the day for selecting him in the second-round (39 overall) of the 2016 draft.
In just 52 games last season, Debrincat scored 32 goals and 56 points. Had the season not been shortened due to the pandemic, he likely would have put up north of 40 goals for the second time in his four-year NHL career. He is undeniably the Blackhawks best goal scorer, proven by the fact that Dominik Kubalik finished second on the team in goals last year with just 17. Due to his teams struggles in recent seasons he remains quite underrated amongst opposing fans, but that will change once they turn things around.
6. Kirill Kaprizov
Some may find this ranking too high given the fact that Kirill Kaprizov has only played in one NHL season, but the fact of the matter was he came in with high expectations and still proceeded to outplay them. The 24-year-old, who was putting up big numbers in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) for a number of years, finally headed to North America in 2020-21, and had a terrific season for the Minnesota Wild, scoring a team-leading 27 goals and 51 points in 55 contests.
The great season earned Kaprizov the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. The issue here is that he has not signed a new deal with the Wild, meaning he is still a restricted free agent. Given how valuable he proved he was last season, one would think a deal should be worked out soon here, but with camp inching closer and closer fans have to be feeling nervous. Hopefully for both his and the teams sake a deal is able to get signed soon, as he is a terrific player to watch and one that made the Wild an exciting team last season.
5. Kyle Connor
It seems the most two talked about forwards on the Winnipeg Jets are Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, but they have another fantastic one in Kyle Connor. The 24-year-old, who they drafted 17th overall in 2015, has had no problems scoring goals at the NHL level, proven by the fact that in his first full season in 2017-18 he had 31 of them.
Connor had another great season for the Jets in 2020-21, leading his team with 26 goals while also putting up 24 assists. He is still a young player who by no means has reached his maximum potential yet, which is a scary thought for the rest of the league. He is a part of a team that has one of the better forward lineups in the entire NHL, and he is a big reason why.
4. Alex Ovechkin
Despite being 36-years-old, Alex Ovechkin refuses to let father time take effect. In 45 games last season, ‘The Great 8’ scored 24 goals and 42 points. His amazing goal scoring abilities have been on display for well over a decade now, and have him inching closer and closer to Wayne Gretzky’s league record 894 tallies. Though he still has a ways to go with 730 of his own, he recently signed a five-year extension which makes it seem like he is going to do his best to get there.
Ovechkin currently has nine Rocket Richard Trophies to his name, with the most recent coming in 2019-20. Though he didn’t come close to Auston Matthews’ league-leading 41 this past season, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see him add a 10th to his trophy case this season. By the time his career is said and done, he will very likely be remembered as the best goal scorer the game has ever seen.
3. Jonathan Huberdeau
While both Guentzel and Debrincat are underrated, it is nowhere close to the same degree as Jonathan Huberdeau. He, along with his teammate in Aleksander Barkov, are two of the games most underrated talents due to the fact they play for a small market team in the Florida Panthers. The 28-year-old is coming off of a great 2020-21 season in which he had 20 goals and 61 points in 55 games.
A telling stat that proves Huberdeau’s offensive dominance can be explained by the fact that over the past three seasons combined, he is seventh in the entire league in points with 231. This has him ahead of some pretty elite names in guys like Mitch Marner, David Pastrnak, Mark Scheifele and Auston Matthews. Thankfully for Huberdeau, the Panthers have turned the page and are now one of the better teams in the entire NHL, meaning he may soon begin to get recognized for how good of a player he is.
2. Brad Marchand
Though many fans around the league hate him for his well known antics, it is impossible to deny the greatness of Brad Marchand. The 33-year-old is both one of the best players and pests throughout the entire league, and has turned into a monster offensively over the past five seasons.
Marchand’s best season statistically came in 2018-19, a year in which he had 100 points in 79 games. However, he stood a great shot at beating that this past season, as he was able to record an incredible 69 points in just 53 contests. He has scored 28 or more goals in six straight seasons, all while being an incredible playmaker and being a major nuisance to every opponent he faces.
1. Artemi Panarin
Since arriving as a rookie in 2015-16, Artemi Panarin has taken the league by storm. He established himself immediately, winning the Calder Trophy after a 77-point rookie campaign, and has only continued to get better. He was a great player with both the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets, but has transformed into an elite level superstar since signing with the New York Rangers during the 2019 offseason.
In Panarin’s first season with the Rangers, he more than lived up to his seven-year, $81.5 million deal, scoring 32 goals and 95 points in just 69 games. He was once again fantastic in 2020-21 with 17 goals and 58 points in 42 contests. The 29-year-old is a part of a Rangers team that could take a major step forward this upcoming season, meaning he has a chance to post even better numbers. What a phenomenal talent.
Feedback on List
As I mentioned on the last article in this series, feedback is more than welcome in the comments. I would love to hear anyone you believe is missing, as well as anyone you think is too high or too low. It is by no means an easy list to make, and it will be interesting to see how accurate, if at all, it is this upcoming season.
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.