Ranking NHL Teams By Forwards


Last but not least, the forwards — the guys who get most the goals and thus most the glory.

If you can’t score, you can’t win, so this position is as important as any. It’s also as difficult to rank as any since there are 12 forwards in the lineup compared to just six defencemen and only two goaltenders.

Depth is important but star power wins the day when it comes to forwards. Yes, teams have four lines, but they can lean on their top line or their top few forwards to prevail on any given night. However, to have success in the long run — to make the playoffs and have a chance at the Stanley Cup — teams typically need to roll four lines, so depth is definitely a factor in the big picture.

In the third of a four-part series ranking the NHL teams by position, here is how the forwards ranked heading into the 2021-22 season — counting down from No. 32 to No. 1.

32) Arizona Coyotes

Clayton Keller – Nick Schmaltz – Phil Kessel

Lawson Crouse – Barrett Hayton – Christian Fischer

Ryan Dzingel – Johan Larsson – Dmitrij Jaskin

Antoine Roussel – Jay Beagle – Loui Eriksson

Travis Boyd

ANALYSIS: To say it’s going to be a long season in the desert would be a massive understatement. Having traded their number-one defenceman in Oliver Ekman-Larsson, their second-best goalscorer in Conor Garland, and now one of their top centers in Christian Dvorak, they will most definitely be searching for offence this season. Unfortunately for them, they probably won’t even have the defence or goaltending to win games 1-0 or 2-1. Their top line is okay with Keller, Schmaltz, and Kessel, but beyond that, it’s slim pickings. Their projected second line only had nine goals between them last season and Hayton is still technically a rookie. That’s a pretty big drop-off when you consider their top line had a combined 44 goals.

Phil Kessel Arizona Coyotes
Phil Kessel, Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Their bottom-six isn’t much to look at either as they are full of unknowns and underachievers. Dzingel seems to be only good in Ottawa, Jaskin hasn’t been in the NHL since the 2018-19 season and Loui Eriksson hasn’t been a goal scorer for what seems like forever. Basically, if their top line is shut down, they are pretty much toothless when it comes to offence.

31) Buffalo Sabres

Victor Olofsson – Casey Mittelstadt – Jeff Skinner

Rasmus Asplund – Dylan Cozens – Tage Thompson

Anders Bjork – Cody Eakin – Vinnie Hinostroza

Zemgus Girgensons – John Hayden – Kyle Okposo

Drake Caggiula

IR: Jack Eichel

ANALYSIS: As you probably know already, Jack Eichel will be out of the Sabres’ lineup for the foreseeable future because of a neck injury that will require surgery to repair. He has also been the subject of trade rumors and speculation all offseason too. Without the services of their top scorer and all-around best player, they will be in trouble to start the season. Their top two centers are now 22-year-old Casey Mittelstadt and 20-year-old Dylan Cozens. While talented, they are not established top-six forwards in the NHL and will be in tough against the monsters of the Atlantic Division. Jeff Skinner has underachieved since signing his massive contract, and Victor Olofsson can’t do it all.

Casey Mittelstadt, Buffalo Sabres
Casey Mittelstadt, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In other words, the Sabres will struggle to score this season without Eichel. Unless Mittelstadt and Cozens break out and Skinner and Olofsson score 25-30 goals, this team will finish towards the bottom of the NHL again.

30) Anaheim Ducks

Maxime Comtois – Trevor Zegras – Troy Terry

Max Jones – Ryan Getzlaf – Jakob Silverberg

Alexander Volkov – Sam Steel – Rickard Rakell

Isac Lundestrom – Adam Henrique – Derek Grant

Nicolas Deslauriers

ANALYSIS: Even though Getzlaf is still on the Ducks’ roster, all the focus will be on the 21-year-old Zegras. Recently named The Hockey Writers’ second-best NHL prospect behind only Quinton Byfield of the Los Angeles Kings, he will be tasked to lead the offence this season. With next to no additions to the roster, they are hoping that he can continue the production he saw at the end of last season when he put up three goals and 13 points in 24 games.

Trevor Zegras Anaheim Ducks
Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Riding shotgun with him on the top line will likely be Comtois who finished last season as the Ducks’ leading scorer with 16 goals and 33 points. He is only 22 years old and could become a 20-goal scorer alongside the playmaking marvel that is Zegras. The Ducks still have Getzlaf, Henrique, Jakob Silfverberg, and Rickard Rakell, but considering they only put up 34 goals between the four of them, it’s difficult to see them as a threat.

29) Detroit Red Wings

Jakub Vrana – Dylan Larkin – Tyler Bertuzzi

Robby Fabbri – Pius Suter – Filip Zadina

Vladislav Namestnikov – Michael Rasmussen – Sam Gagner

Givani Smith – Joseph Veleno – Adam Erne

Mitch Stephens

ANALYSIS: Even though the Red Wings have added Jakub Vrana and Pius Suter to their top-six group, they are still a team behind the eight-ball when it comes to offensive firepower. Last season their leading scorer was defenceman Filip Hronek and he only had 26 points. That’s not nearly enough to compete in the NHL. Their leading goal scorers were Anthony Mantha and Adam Erne who both had 11 goals. Again, not enough.

Tyler Bertuzzi Detroit Red Wings
Tyler Bertuzzi, Detroit Red Wings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If the Red Wings hope to pull themselves out of the basement, Vrana, Larkin, Bertuzzi, and Zadina all have to have bounceback seasons where at least one or two hit 20 or more goals. Suter was a great pickup from the Chicago Blackhawks, but he’s not a proven entity. Yes, he had 14 goals last season (which would have led the team in Detroit), but that was his rookie season in the NHL. Hopefully, he’s not just a flash in the pan, for the Wings’ sake.

28) San Jose Sharks

Timo Meier – Logan Couture – Kevin Labanc

Alexander Barbanov – Tomas Hertl – Evander Kane*

Rudolfs Balcers – Nick Bonino – John Leonard

Andrew Cogliano – Dylan Gambrell – Matt Nieto

Nick Merkley / Lane Pederson

*status unknown going into training camp

ANALYSIS: Since making it to the Western Conference Finals in 2019, the Sharks have plummeted to the bottom of the NHL in almost every category. Once one of the most lethal offensive groups in the league, they have finished towards the bottom in average goals per game and overall goals for two seasons in a row. If the controversial Evander Kane does not start the season with the team, their offence will take another hit as he was their leading goal scorer in 2020-21 with 22 goals. Their two most dangerous offensive weapons, Hertl and Couture have to return to form if they want to make any noise in the Pacific Division.

San Jose Sharks' Logan Couture
Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks. (Josie Lepe/AP Photo)

Former draft pick Nick Bonino was added in the offseason to bolster their bottom-six, but he’s not going to push the needle too much when it comes to goals. He will help, but his last 20-goal season was back in 2014 when he was with the Ducks.

27) Nashville Predators

Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen – Luke Kunin

Matt Duchene – Mikael Granlund – Rocco Grimaldi

Eeli Tolvanen – Cody Glass – Nick Cousins

Tanner Jeannot – Colton Scissons – Mathieu Olivier

Yakov Trenin / Matt Luff

ANALYSIS: On paper, the Nashville Predators should be a good team offensively with Johansen, Duchene, and Forsberg in their top six. Except they’re not. Forsberg has done his part with six 20-goal seasons in the past seven campaigns and 12 goals and 32 points in 39 games in 2020-21, but Duchene and Johansen have not. They both have not hit 20 goals in a Predators’ uniform and they are getting paid way too much for the production they have brought to the table.

Filip Forsberg Nashville Predators
Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Overall, the Predators finished 20th in goals-for last season and did not have a 20-goal scorer for the first time in a while. Granted it was a shortened season, but that shouldn’t be an excuse when you look at other elite teams finishing with multiple 20-goal scorers in the same circumstances. Now, without their leading scorer in Cale Jarnkrok, they will need young guns like Glass, Tolvanen, and Kunin to step up and provide for a team that will probably struggle to score goals all season long.

26) Los Angeles Kings

Alex Iafallo – Anze Kopitar – Dustin Brown

Adrian Kempe – Phillip Danault – Victor Arvidsson

Andreas Athanasiou – Gabriel Vilardi – Trevor Moore

Brendan Lemieux – Blake Lizotte – Austin Wagner

Carl Grundstrom / Lias Andersson

ANALYSIS: The Kings come into the 2021-22 season with a much-improved forward group on paper. Adding two-way dynamo Phillip Danault from the Montreal Canadiens gives them a great one-two punch down the middle while Victor Arvidsson will be a legitimate 20-goal scoring threat on the second line.

Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Vilardi had an impressive sophomore season with 10 goals and 23 points, so he might be ready to take the next step on the third line. Overall, if the top-six can play to their potential, the Kings might be a better team than most people think, at least when it comes to the offence.

25) New Jersey Devils

Tomas Tatar – Nico Hischier – Jesper Bratt

Janne Kuokkanen – Jack Hughes – Yegor Sharangovich

Miles Wood – Pavel Zacha – Alexander Holtz

Andreas Johnsson – Michael McLeod – Jesper Boqvist

Tyce Thompson / AJ Greer

ANALYSIS: The Devils improved their top-six with the signing of Tatar, but their forward group still contains a lot of question marks. Hischier, Hughes, and Zacha are three great centers, but other than Tatar, all of their wingers are not proven entities in the NHL. 19-year-old Alexander Holtz will be a top-line winger in this league for a long time, but he will need time to adjust to the smaller ice before that happens. He played 10 games in the American Hockey League (AHL) last season with the Binghamton Devils and scored one goal and three points.

24) Columbus Blue Jackets

Patrik Laine – Jack Roslovic – Jakub Voracek

Gustav Nyquist – Boone Jenner – Oliver Bjorkstrand

Alexander Texier – Sean Kuraly – Emil Bemstrom

Eric Robinson – Kevin Stenlund – Liam Foudy

Yegor Chinakhov/Nate Gerbe/Zac Rinaldo

IR: Max Domi

ANALYSIS: Like the Kings, the Blue Jackets have a solid top-six especially if Laine and Voracek click as a duo. Voracek is an insane playmaker while Laine is a pure goalscorer. Sounds like a match made in heaven right? With Roslovic’s work ethic and creative skillset, they might have a pretty lethal top line on their hands. The second line anchored by either Jenner or Kuraly flanked by Nyquist and Bjorkstrand could be solid as well.

Patrik Laine Columbus Blue Jackets
Patrik Laine, Columbus Blue Jackets (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The bottom six is where it gets dicey. Lots of unknowns in Texier, Bemstrom, Robinson, Stenlund, and Foudy. Yegor Chinakhov could throw a wrench in things if he impresses the brass in training camp too. We will just have to wait and see who steps up during the season I guess.

23) Ottawa Senators

Brady Tkachuk – Josh Norris – Drake Batherson

Tim Stutzle – Shane Pinto – Connor Brown

Nick Paul – Logan Brown – Colin White

Alex Formenton – Chris Tierney – Austin Watson

Clark Bishop

ANALYSIS: The Senators were a surprisingly good offensive team last season finishing 19th in the league in goals-for. They only had one 20-goal scorer in Connor Brown, but six others hit double-digits including talented 2020 second-overall pick Tim Stutzle who had 12 goals in his rookie season. Evgenii Dadonov (13 goals) is the only forward from that group not returning in 2021-22.

Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators
Brady Tkachuk of the Ottawa Senators. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If the trio of Tkachuk, Norris and Batherson continue to improve as a top line and Stutzle takes the next step in his sophomore season, their top-six could be very dangerous. It will hinge on Shane Pinto building on his strong six points in 12 games and budding chemistry with Stutzle and Brown though.

22) Calgary Flames

Johnny Gaudreau – Elias Lindholm – Matthew Tkachuk

Blake Coleman – Sean Monahan – Dillon Dube

Andrew Mangiapane – Mikael Backlund – Tyler Pitlick

Milan Lucic – Brad Richardson – Trevor Lewis

Byron Froese / Brett Ritchie

ANALYSIS: The Flames were once again a middling offensive team during the 2020-21 season. Gaudreau rebounded with a decent 19 goals and 49 points in 56 games, but he is still not the elite producer he was back in 2018-19 when he put up 99 points in 82 games. Ditto for Monahan who failed to hit 20 goals for the first time in his career. In fact, he had a career-low of 10 goals and 28 points.

Johnny Gaudreau
Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames. (Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

The future is clearly in the hands of 23-year-old Matthew Tkachuk, 24-year-old Andrew Mangiapane, and 22-year-old Dillon Dube. Coleman was added from the Tampa Bay Lightning to help support the offence, but it remains to be seen if he can shoulder a bigger load in the top-six after thriving in the shadows of Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Steven Stamkos.

21) Minnesota Wild

Kirill Kaprizov – Victor Rask – Mats Zuccarello

Jordan Greenway – Joel Eriksson Ek – Kevin Fiala

Marcus Foligno – Ryan Hartman – Nick Bjugstad

Kyle Rau – Nico Sturm – Frederick Gaudreau

Joseph Cramarossa / Connor Dewar

ANALYSIS: As of this writing, Calder Trophy winner Kirill Kaprizov remains un-signed. Though, with the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) off the table, he should sign soon. That should be music to Wild fans’ ears because he was by far their best player last season. Leading the team with 27 goals and 51 points in 55 games, he was the first elite young player to wow everyone since Marian Gaborik did it back in 2001-02 when he scored 30 goals in 78 games.

Kirill Kaprizov Minnesota Wild
Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild (Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Wild still lack a true number-one center, but if Joel Eriksson-Ek can continue the momentum from his career-high 19 goals, that will go a long way to solving that problem. He’s just entering his prime at 24 years old, so expect bigger things from him this season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit 50 points especially if he ends up playing with Kaprizov regularly.

20) Dallas Stars

Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Alexander Radulov

Jason Robertson – Roope Hintz – Joe Pavelski

Blake Comeau – Radek Faksa – Denis Gurianov

Joel Kiviranta – Luke Glendening – Michael Raffl

Tanner Kero / Nick Caamano

ANALYSIS: The Dallas Stars fell back to earth last season after making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020 against the Lightning. Tyler Seguin missing all but three games was a massive factor in this as he recovered from hip surgery. He did score two goals in three games at the end of the season though, so there may be hope for the offence in 2021-22. The Stars as a team aren’t usually known for their goal-scoring, but a healthy Seguin will go a long way in rebounding from missing the playoffs.

Tyler Seguin Dallas Stars
Tyler Seguin, Dallas Stars (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Robertson was a massive bright spot for the Stars as the rookie finished second in Calder Trophy voting after scoring 17 goals and 45 points in 51 games. Only Joe Pavelski had more goals and points than him. If he continues to progress, he could be flirting with 30 goals this season.

19) Chicago Blackhawks

Alex DeBrincat – Kirby Dach – Patrick Kane

Dominik Kubalik – Jonathan Toews – Tyler Johnson

Dylan Strome – Henrik Borgstrom – Alex Nylander

Brandon Hagel – Adam Gaudette – Ryan Carpenter

Jujhar Khaira / Brett Connolly

ANALYSIS: After being without Toews all of last season, the Blackhawks will welcome back their captain in 2021-22. That means the dynamic duo of Toews and Kane will be back for the first time since 2019-20. They will be joined by new Blackhawk Tyler Johnson who will resume a top-six role after toiling on the fourth line with the Lightning. He might be over 30, but he still has the speed and skill to score 20 goals, especially alongside skilled players like Toews and Kubalik.

Alex DeBrincat Blackhawks
Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

5-foot-7 dynamo Alex DeBrincat will also be back after his 32-goal performance that effectively showed everyone in the NHL that the 18-goal performance in 2019-20 was just a blip on the radar. He was everything and more for the Blackhawks last season and will look to duplicate that production in 2021-22.

18) Seattle Kraken

Jaden Schwartz – Alex Wennberg – Jordan Eberle

Jared McCann – Calle Jarnkrok – Joonas Donskoi

Brandon Tanev – Morgan Geekie – Mason Appleton

Marcus Johansson – Nathan Bastian – Colin Blackwell

Riley Sheahan / Alex True

ANALYSIS: The Kraken will enter the 2021-22 season with a pretty solid group of forwards. They bolstered their expansion draft group with the signings of Wennberg and Schwartz in free agency and now have a top-nine that should be able to compete with most of what the Pacific Division has to offer. Wennberg and Jarnkrok aren’t true number one centers, but they should be able to sustain the top six between the two of them. Wennberg had his best season in the NHL with a career-high 17 goals in 56 games last season, so maybe with two skilled linemates like Schwartz and Eberle, he can continue that momentum.

Alex Wennberg Florida Panthers
Alex Wennberg with the Florida Panthers (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The second line should be pretty good too as Jarnkrok has hit double-digits in goals in six of his eight seasons in the NHL. He will be joined by the underrated McCann and Donskoi who have been buried behind stars in Pittsburgh and Colorado respectively. With more ice time and responsibility, they could thrive like Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson did with the Vegas Golden Knights a few seasons ago.

17) Vancouver Canucks

J.T. Miller – Elias Pettersson – Brock Boeser

Nils Hoglander – Bo Horvat – Conor Garland

Tanner Pearson – Jason Dickinson – Vasily Podkolzin

Tyler Motte – Brandon Sutter – Zack MacEwen

Phil Di Giuseppe

ANALYSIS: Once Pettersson is finally signed, the Canucks will have a formidable top-nine going into the 2020-21 season. With the additions of Garland, Dickinson, and rookie Vasily Podkolzin, they should have more than enough offence to win games. The versatility of a lot of their forwards should also give opponents fits when head coach Travis Green decides to mix up his lines during a game.

Vancouver Canucks Elias Pettersson
Elias Pettersson of the Vancouver Canucks. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

If Boeser’s 23 goals in 56 games last season are any indication of future production, they should also have their first 40-goal scorer since Ryan Kesler potted 41 back in 2011. Captain Bo Horvat will also have a consistent goal scorer on his wing and a matchup center in Dickinson to take a bit of the defensive load off him. Look for him to have a career season offensively.

16) New York Rangers

Artemi Panarin – Mika Zibanejad – Kaapo Kakko

Chris Kreider – Ryan Strome – Vitali Kravtsov

Alexis Lafreniere – Filip Chytil – Samuel Blais

Barclay Goodrow – Kevin Rooney – Ryan Reaves

Julien Gauthier / Dryden Hunt

ANALYSIS: Panarin continued to be everything and more for the Rangers this season after signing the massive contract a couple offseasons ago. He led them with 17 goals and 58 points in 42 games and was their best player night in and night out. Not far behind was Zibanejad, who also put up 24 goals and 50 points in 56 games. They were quite the dynamic duo for the Blue Shirts.

Artemi Panarin New York Rangers
Artemi Panarin, New York Rangers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Beyond them, they had five more players with ten or more goals and even though highly touted prospect Alexis Lafreniere didn’t have the best rookie season, he still has the potential to be an impact player down the road. Throw in the fact that Kaapo Kakko looked better in his sophomore season, the Rangers will not have any problems scoring for the foreseeable future.

15) Montreal Canadiens

Tyler Toffoli – Nick Suzuki – Cole Cauflield

Jonathan Drouin – Christian Dvorak – Brendan Gallagher

Mike Hoffman – Jake Evans – Josh Anderson

Arturri Lehkonen – Cedric Paquette – Joel Armia

Mathieu Perreault

ANALYSIS: The Montreal Canadiens have been in the news a lot this offseason, especially in the last few weeks. You can thank the Carolina Hurricanes for that. After deciding not to match the offer sheet for Jesperi Kotkaniemi and failing to re-sign Danault, they will have a new second-line center this season. Replacing them will be Dvorak, formally of the Coyotes. Last season he had 17 goals and 31 points in 56 games. When you compare that to Kotkaniemi’s five goals and 20 points, he is a definite upgrade. He will also replace Danault’s faceoff presence as he’s been well over 50 percent the past two seasons.

Christian Dvorak, Arizona Coyotes
Christian Dvorak, former Arizona Coyote (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Hoffman had 17 goals and 36 points in 52 games with the St. Louis Blues last season, so he should effectively replace Danault’s production of five goals and 24 points in 53 games. The biggest question mark will come in the form of Cole Caufield. He will be the favorite to win the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie, so it will be interesting to see if the magic he showed in the playoffs can transfer to a full season in the NHL.

14) Winnipeg Jets

Kyle Connor – Mark Scheifele – Blake Wheeler

Paul Stastny – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Nikolaj Ehlers

Andrew Copp – Adam Lowry – Kristian Vesalainen

Jansen Harkins – Riley Nash – Dominic Toninato

Luke Johnson

IR: Bryan Little

ANALYSIS: The Winnipeg Jets will continue to be an offensive force this season, even without the services of Patrik Laine. Dubois might have been a non-entity in the playoffs, but he’s still a legitimate top-six center in the NHL. The trio of Connor, Scheifele, and Wheeler is as good as it gets for a top-line and most teams would kill for a second line that contained the likes of Stastny, Dubois, and Ehlers.

Mark Scheifele Winnipeg Jets
Mark Scheifele of the Winnipeg Jets. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Jets’ bottom-six took a bit of a hit when it lost Mason Appleton to the Seattle Kraken but after the breakout seasons from Copp and Lowry, that shouldn’t be a huge loss moving forward.

13) New York Islanders

Anders Lee – Matt Barzal – Josh Bailey

Anthony Beauvillier – Brock Nelson – Kyle Palmieri

Zach Parise – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Oliver Wahlstrom

Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck

Leo Komarov / Ross Johnston / Richard Panik

ANALYSIS: After losing Eberle to the Kraken, the Islanders will need someone else to step into the top six and produce. Luckily, they were able to re-sign Palmieri and grab the ageless Zach Parise from the Wild. Palmieri will likely step into Eberle’s old spot in the top six and attempt to continue his goal-scoring ways at 30 years old. Before the shortened season stopped the streak in its tracks, he was on a run of five seasons with 20 or more goals. Parise, while not the dangerous 50-goal scorer from the Devils anymore, he still has some gas left in the tank, especially if he’s starring in a secondary role with Pageau on the third line.

New York Islanders Mathew Barzal
Matt Barzal of the New York Islanders. (Greg Thompson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The identity line of Martin, Cizikas, and Clutterbuck will also return after Cizikas signed a long-term deal that will keep him with the Islanders until the 2026-27 season. From offence to goaltending, head coach Barry Trotz will have another solid team to coach in 2021-22.

12) St. Louis Blues

Brandon Saad – Ryan O’Reilly – Vladimir Tarasenko

David Perron – Brayden Schenn – Pavel Buchnevich

Zach Sanford – Oskar Sundqvist – Robert Thomas

Kyle Clifford – Ivan Barbashev – Jordan Kyrou

Mackenzie MacEachern / Dakota Joshua

ANALYSIS: The Blues were again a strong group offensively with two-way force Ryan O’Reilly leading the way with 24 goals. They didn’t have Tarasenko for half the campaign again but still managed to finish 13th in offence. Most of that had to do with David Perron and his team-leading 58 points in 56 games and 22-year-old Jordan Kyrou’s breakout season of 14 goals and 35 points in 55 games. The now-departed Mike Hoffman also contributed 17 goals in 52 games and Schenn rounded out the offence with 16 goals in 56 games.

Ryan O'Reilly St. Louis Blues
Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Now with Saad and Buchnevich added to the roster who had 35 goals between them last season, the Blues will be even more formidable offensively. Add in the continued improvement of youngsters Sanford, Thomas and Sundqvist and they could be one of the deepest rosters in the Central Division.

11) Philadelphia Flyers

Claude Giroux – Sean Couturier – Travis Konecny

Joel Farabee – Kevin Hayes – Cam Atkinson

James van Riemsdyk – Scott Laughton – Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Oskar Lindblom – Nate Thompson – Wade Allison

Derick Brassard / Connor Bunnaman

ANALYSIS: The Flyers struggled in most areas last season. The offence, however, wasn’t one of them as they still finished with a 20-goal scorer in Farabee and six players who eclipsed 10 goals. This season, the lineup will only see one change as long-time Flyer Jakub Voracek will be replaced by former 40-goal scorer Cam Atkinson. If this group can replicate the same offensive success they had a year ago and the revamped defence can keep the puck out of the net, they might surprise everyone and shoot up the standings.

10) Boston Bruins

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Taylor Hall – Charlie Coyle – Craig Smith

Erik Haula – Tomas Nosek – Nick Foligno

Jake DeBrusk – Curtis Lazar – Chris Wagner

Karson Kuhlman / Trent Frederic

ANALYSIS: The Bruins have arguably the best top line in the league, and they proved it once again in 2020-21. Marchand led the team with 29 goals and the entire unit accounted for 72 goals and 165 points. I would say that’s pretty good for a top line. Unfortunately, their offence basically stopped there last season, as only Nick Ritchie and Craig Smith scored more than 10 goals. Now with Ritchie (15 goals) in Toronto and David Krejci (44 points) in the Czech Republic, the offence hits a brick wall past Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak, and the recently re-signed Taylor Hall.

David Pastrnak Boston Bruins
David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins. (Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Bruins will have to find a new second-line center for the first time in 15 seasons. As of right now, that person is Charlie Coyle. While he does have a 21-goal season on his resume, he’s no Krejci. Unless Foligno, Haula, and DeBrusk can all rebound and turn back time to their productive years, the Bruins will have trouble generating offence all season. Having said all that, they are still a top-10 offence with the lethal Perfection Line leading the way.

9) Pittsburgh Penguins

Jake Guentzel – Jeff Carter – Bryan Rust

Jason Zucker – Teddy Blueger – Kasperi Kapanen

Brock McGinn – Evan Rodrigues – Danton Heinen

Zach Aston-Reese – Brian Boyle* – Sam Lafferty

Anthony Angello

IR: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin

*On professional tryout (PTO)

ANALYSIS: The Pittsburgh Penguins could be in trouble to start the season with both their superstars on the shelf. They still remain high on this list because of the fact that both Crosby and Malkin will return early in the season. Without them in the lineup, veteran Jeff Carter will take over the duties as their top-line center. Their offence will likely struggle out of the gate unless he can continue the torrid pace he was on towards the end of the season and into the playoffs last year. Since coming over from the Kings, he has an eye-popping 13 goals and 16 points in 20 games. That’s definitely top-line center production, so depending on how the rest of the forwards do, they might be able to tread enough water to stay afloat until at least Malkin comes back.

8) Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie

Anthony Mantha – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Tom Wilson

Conor Sheary – Lars Eller – Daniel Sprong

Carl Hagelin – Nic Dowd – Garnet Hathaway

Michael Sgarbossa / Brian Pinho

ANALYSIS: The Capitals boast one of the league’s better top sixes and have for years now. They displayed their firepower yet again this season with Ovechkin posting his 16th straight season with 20 goals or more. They again finished the season near the top of the league in goals-for and had nine players hit double-digits in goals.

Alex Ovechkin Washington Capitals 700 goals
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals, acknowledges the crowd as he is honored for scoring 700 career NHL goals, Feb. 25, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Despite the disappointment of not making it past the opening round for the third straight season, this team remains an offensive juggernaut capable of beating any team on any given night.

7) Edmonton Oilers

Zach Hyman – Connor McDavid – Jesse Puljujarvi

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto

Warren Foegele – Kyle Turris – Zack Kassian

Devin Shore – Derek Ryan – Josh Archibald

Ryan McLeod / Seth Griffith

ANALYSIS: The Oilers were once again led by the dynamic duo of Draisaitl and McDavid as they combined for 64 goals and 189 points despite only playing 56 games each. Their offence was again top-heavy though, as no other forward had more than 16 goals. They will hopefully get a boost there this season with Zach Hyman, who has significant experience playing with superstars having played with Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner in Toronto. With the playmaking of McDavid or Draisaitl, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit 30 goals.

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Even with Hyman, the Oilers are still too reliant on the two-headed monster of Draisaitl and McDavid. They need others like Yamamato, Nugent-Hopkins, and Puljujarvi to step up and score more consistently, especially when the playoffs begin. The star duo has shown the ability to bring their team to the dance but they need more players to pull on the rope once they’re there. It can’t always be them.

6) Toronto Maple Leafs

William Nylander – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner

Nick Ritchie – John Tavares – Ilya Mikheyev

Alex Kerfoot – David Kampf – Wayne Simmonds

Michael Bunting – Pierre Engvall – Jason Spezza

Ondrej Kase / Kurtis Gabriel

ANALYSIS: The Maple Leafs were a powerhouse offensively yet again with Matthews, Tavares, Nylander, and Marner leading the way. They finished sixth in goals for and boasted the league’s top goal-scorer and eventual Rocket Richard winner in Auston Matthews. Tavares didn’t dominate, but he still nearly put up his 12th straight campaign with 20 or more goals as he was just one goal off of 20.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This season, they will be banking on Ilya Mikheyev taking the next step in his development and Ritchie continuing his career-season with the Bruins where he scored 17 goals. He will be riding shotgun on Tavares or Matthews’ line, so he should get plenty of opportunities to do just that and possibly more.

5) Vegas Golden Knights

Max Pacioretty – Chandler Stephenson – Mark Stone

Jonathan Marchessault – William Karlsson – Reilly Smith

Mattias Janmark – Nolan Patrick – Evgeni Dadonov

William Carrier – Brett Howden – Nicolas Roy

Keegan Kolesar / Patrick Brown / Sven Baertschi

ANALYSIS: The Golden Knights probably boast one of the more lethal top-sixes in the NHL. They may not have someone who will put up 90-100 points, but they have multiple players who can easily hit 50-60, and that can sometimes be even more dangerous in the end. They also have speed throughout their lineup and a top-six that can score at least 20 goals every single season. Pacioretty paced them again with 24 goals, but each of them is capable of doing the same damage as him.

Max Pacioretty #67, Vegas Golden Knights
Max Pacioretty (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Now with the added threats of Janmark, Patrick and Dadonov on the third line, the Golden Knights have a top nine that rival some of the best in the league.

4) Colorado Avalanche

Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen

Andre Burakovsky – Nazem Kadri – J.T. Compher

Valeri Nichushkin – Tyson Jost – Darren Helm

Mikhail Maltsev – Alex Newhook – Logan O’Connor

Stefan Matteau / Kiefer Sherwood

ANALYSIS: The Avalanche can also put in a claim for the league’s top line as the dominant trio put up 70 goals and 183 points with Rantanen leading the way with 30 goals and 66 points. They also got much-needed depth scoring from Kadri and Burakovsky who scored 30 goals between the two of them. Overall they actually got a lot of help from the rest of the forwards as nine players eclipsed the 10-goal mark.

Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon
Nathan MacKinnon of the Colorado Avalanche. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Avalanche did lose Saad and Donskoi to the Blues and Kraken respectively, so someone will have to step up and replace the 32 goals they provided. Luckily for them, they have the talented Alex Newhook coming up this season to potentially help out with that.

3) Florida Panthers

Carter Verhaeghe – Aleksander Barkov – Sam Reinhart

Jonathan Huberdeau – Sam Bennett – Anthony Duclair

Frank Vatrano – Noel Acciari – Patric Hornqvist

Maxim Mamin – Joe Thornton – Owen Tippett

Ryan Lomberg / Mason Marchment

ANALYSIS: Like the Hurricanes, the Panthers already had a dynamite attack before they added Reinhart from the Buffalo Sabres. Now they could have an almost unstoppable duo on the top line with Barkov, who had his sixth-straight 20-goal season and Reinhart who matched his career high of 25 goals and generated 40 points in only 54 games. Then if Verhaeghe builds on his 18 goals and Bennett, Huberdeau and Duclair continue to produce like a 1a line, they could be the league’s top offensive team by the end of the season.

Panthers center Aleksander Barkov
Aleksander Barkov of the Florida Panthers. (Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Then, if that wasn’t enough, the Panthers also have two 18-goal scorers in Hornqvist and Vatrano on the third line and a future hall of famer in Thornton on the fourth. Talk about a deep offensive attack.

2) Carolina Hurricanes

Andrei Svechnikov – Sebastian Aho – Teuvo Teravainen

Nino Niederreiter – Vincent Trocheck – Martin Necas

Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Jordan Staal – Jesper Fast

Jordan Martinook – Derek Stepan – Josh Leivo

Steven Lorentz / Stefan Noesen

ANALYSIS: Before they snagged Kotkaniemi from the Canadiens, the Hurricanes were already an offensive juggernaut. Now with another threat added to their arsenal, their lineup is as deep as anyone’s in the NHL. Led by the dynamic trio of Svechnikov, Aho, and Teravainen and the revitalized Vincent Trocheck, offence should not be a problem in 2021-22.

Sebastian Aho Carolina Hurricanes
Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With Staal and Stepan rounding out the centers, they also have four pivots that can go up and down the roster without any issue. Remember, Stepan and Staal are former 20-goal scorers and when healthy, can be two of the best two-way centers in the game. The only thing that could hold the Hurricanes back this season is their defence. Andersen will be able to hold his own, but if the defence falters they might have to resort to winning games 5-4.

1) Tampa Bay Lightning

Ondrej Palat – Brayden Point – Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn – Anthony Cirelli – Steven Stamkos

Mathieu Joseph – Ross Colton – Corey Perry

Pierre-Edouard Bellemarre – Alex Barre-Boulet – Patrick Maroon

Daniel Walcott / Gamel Smith

ANALYSIS: Despite losing their entire third line of Goodrow, Gourde and Coleman in the offseason, the Lightning still have a powerful offensive attack led by Kucherov, Point and Stamkos. After missing the entire regular season and dominating the playoffs with eight goals and 32 points in 23 games, Kucherov should be one of the league’s top scorers in 2021-22. Ditto for Point who replicated his 14 goals in the playoffs and now has 28 goals over the last two postseasons and 36 goals in 67 games overall.

Nikita Kucherov Tampa Bay Lightning
Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Throw in the Stanley Cup Final guarantee Corey Perry and potential breakout candidates, Ross Colton and Mathieu Joseph, and the Lightning might just have a chance at their third straight championship in 2022.


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Recapping Forward Ranking

1) Tampa Bay Lightning

2) Carolina Hurricanes

3) Florida Panthers

4) Colorado Avalanche

5) Vegas Golden Knights

6) Toronto Maple Leafs

7) Edmonton Oilers

8) Washington Capitals

9) Pittsburgh Penguins

10) Boston Bruins

11) Philadelphia Flyers

12) St. Louis Blues

13) New York Islanders

14) Winnipeg Jets

15) Montreal Canadiens

16) New York Rangers

17) Vancouver Canucks

18) Seattle Kraken

19) Chicago Blackhawks

20) Dallas Stars

21) Minnesota Wild

22) Calgary Flames

23) Ottawa Senators

24) Columbus Blue Jackets

25) New Jersey Devils

26) Los Angeles Kings

27) Nashville Predators

28) San Jose Sharks

29) Detroit Red Wings

30) Anaheim Ducks

31) Buffalo Sabres

32) Arizona Coyotes


Feel free to disagree with those rankings and share your own in the comments below.

All depth charts taken from CapFriendly.com as of Sept 11, 2021

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