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.

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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. Please note, the lineups shown are just projections that are meant to showcase players on the team, and will likely not reflect the actual starting lines out of training camp/

32) Arizona Coyotes

Clayton Keller – Travis Boyd – Nick Schmaltz

Lawson Crouse – Barrett Hayton – Jack McBain

Nick Ritchie – Nathan Smith – Zack Kassian

Andrew Ladd – Nick Bjudstad – Christian Fischer

ANALYSIS: Rebuilding is a difficult task that often takes years of turmoil and struggle before positive steps forward are made. At the moment, the Arizona Coyotes are deep in a rebuild, as they are weaponizing their cap space to acquire draft picks by the fistful. Due to this, their forward corps is a bit of a mishmash of cast-offs from around the NHL, who were traded by their former teams along with future assets in order to clear cap space.

Clayton Keller Arizona Coyotes
Clayton Keller of the Arizona Coyotes. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This has left the Coyotes with an underwhelming roster of aging players, developing prospects, and journeymen who could overachieve due to their increased role with the franchise, but still won’t necessarily be a coherent unit. So, I don’t have high expectations for Arizona in 2022-23.

31) Chicago Blackhawks

Philipp Kurashev – Lukas Reichel – Patrick Kane

Andreas Athanasiou – Jonathan Toews – Taylor Raddysh

Tyler Johnson – Max Domi – Colin Blackwell

Boris Katchouk – Sam Lafferty – MacKenzie Entwistle

ANALYSIS: Another team deep in a rebuild, the Chicago Blackhawks are making it clear that they will be tearing down their franchise to the studs so they can extract as much value as possible out of their current core in order to build for the future. I would expect any 2023 Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA), which includes Kane, Toews, Athanasiou, and Domi, to be traded this season. That means this already weak unit could get significantly worse, and potentially threaten the Coyotes as the worst forward core in the NHL.

30) Anaheim Ducks

Adam Henrique – Trevor Zegras – Troy Terry

Mason McTavish – Ryan Strome – Frank Vatrano

Maxime Comtois – Isac Lundestrom – Jakob Silfverberg

Max Jones – Derek Grant – Sam Carrick

ANALYSIS: Well, the Ryan Getzlaf era is officially over for the Anaheim Ducks. While he wasn’t the player he once was, his departure from the franchise marks what appears to be a retooling of the young Ducks team, as they sold heavily at the 2022 Trade Deadline. However, the franchise is flush with high-end prospects and will be led by Zegras, who is one of the most exciting players in the NHL.

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

This makes me excited for the future of the Ducks, even if the present doesn’t look very promising. Give it another year or two, however, and I will expect this young unit to shoot up these rankings.

29) San Jose Sharks

Alexander Barabanov – Tomas Hertl – Timo Meier

Luke Kunin – Logan Couture – Kevin Labanc

Oskar Lindblom – Nick Bonino – Noah Gregor

Steven Lerentz – Nico Sturm – Matthew Nieto

Jonah Gadjovich – Evgeny Svechnikov

ANALYSIS: Another franchise that appears to be going in a rebuilding direction under new leadership, the San Jose Sharks feature a forward core that has some high-end established talent with names like Hertl, Meier, and Couture, but overall features a number of journeymen who are good at their jobs, but likely won’t be able to elevate the Sharks to greatness either. This isn’t a bad core of veteran players, and I expect them to be competitive most nights, but I also don’t expect them to light the world on fire.

28) Buffalo Sabres

Jeff Skinner – Tage Thompson – Victor Olofsson

Peyton Krebs – Casey Mittlestadt – Alex Tuch

Rasmus Asplund – Dylan Cozens – Jack Quinn

Anders Bjork – Zemgus Girgensons – Kyle Okposo

Vinnie Hinostroza

ANALYSIS: The time is now for the Buffalo Sabres’ forward core to take that next step. This much-maligned group had a bit of a breakthrough throughout the 2021-22 season, with Thompson scoring 38 goals, Skinner and Okposo bouncing back and the big Jack Eichel trade bringing two top-six forwards to Buffalo in Krebs and Tuch. Along with this talent, the Sabres feature a war chest of high-end prospects that are quickly developing into NHL-quality players who could be fighting for a roster spot in the coming years.

Related: 7 Biggest NHL Players in Today’s Game

Now, it’s absolutely possible that last season was just a fluke and that all of these players will regress heavily back to the median, but it feels like this is the least likely scenario to happen. I’m expecting Buffalo to be better this year, and by the 2023-24 season, this forward core should be breaking into the top 20.

27) Philadelphia Flyers

Scott Laughton – Sean Couturier – Travis Konecny

James Van Riemsdyk – Kevin Hayes – Cam Atkinson

Joel Farabee – Morgan Frost – Owen Tippett

Nicolas Deslauriers – Patrick Brown – Zack MacEwen

ANALYSIS: I’m not quite sure what to make of the Philadelphia Flyers’ forward core. On one hand, there’s a lot of talent here, with players like Couturier, Hayes, Atkinson, and Van Riemsdyk that would slot into any team’s top-six in the NHL. If they can stay healthy, they will produce a lot of points, and at least make for a fun season in Philadelphia.

James van Riemsdyk Philadelphia Flyers
James van Riemsdyk of the Philadelphia Flyers. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

On the other hand, health has been an issue for these players. Also, it’s difficult to shake off the memories of the 2021-22 season, where the Flyers’ offense looked completely lost for long stretches of time. Bringing in a new head coach could help with this situation, but I’m also not going to assume improvement based on this change alone.

26) Montreal Canadiens

Nick Suzuki – Cole Caufield – Mike Hoffman

Jonathan Drouin – Christian Dvorak – Josh Anderson

Evgenii Dadonov – Kirby Dach – Brendan Gallagher

Paul Byron -Jake Evans – Joel Armia

Rem Pitlick – Juraj Slafkovsky

ANALYSIS: There’s a lot to like about the Montreal Canadiens’ forward core. While it still has a long way to go before it becomes a contender, every year that young players like Suziki, Caufield, and Slafkovsky develop, the more dangerous this core becomes. The addition of Dach adds one more player with incredibly high potential who could become a star with Montreal.

While I still think the Canadiens are a few years away from being a real threat, this forward corps has a lot of talent and they will be a lot of fun to watch this season. They are young and will make a lot of mistakes as well, but that’s all part of the process for a rebuilding team.

25) Seattle Kraken

Andre Burakovsky – Matthew Beniers – Oliver Bjorkstrand

Jaden Schwartz – Alex Wennberg – Jordan Eberle

Jared McCann – Yannie Gourde – Ryan Donato

Brandon Tanev – Morgan Geekie – Joonas Donskoi

Shane Wright

ANALYSIS: After experiencing a relatively poor expansion season in terms of scoring, the Seattle Kraken made some major additions throughout the offseason to address this area of weakness. By signing Burakovsky, trading for Bjorkstrand, and bringing Beniers onto the roster, the team has essentially rebuilt its top-six. This new-look core appears much more formidable, especially if they decide to bring their fourth-overall pick at the 2022 NHL Draft, Shane Wright, onto the roster immediately.

Once again, I’m not expecting greatness out of this corps just yet, but there’s a lot of talent that has star potential down the line. So, while it may be a few years out, the Kraken appear to be building a sustainable forward corps for long-term success.

24) Detroit Red Wings

Lucas Raymond – Dylan Larkin – Tyler Bertuzzi

Jakub Vrana – Andrew Copp – David Perron

Dominik Kubalik – Pius Suter – Filip Zadana

Adam Erne – Michael Rasmussen – Oskar Sundqvist

IR: Robbi Fabbri

ANALYSIS: The Detroit Red Wings took more positive steps forward during the 2022 offseason with the additions of Copp and Perron. These veterans add an immediate sense of respectability to a forward corps that is still filling in with young talent.

Jakub Vrana Detroit Red Wings
Jakub Vrana of the Detroit Red Wings. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This unit feels close to a breakout, and it’s possible that these additions will be enough to put them over the top. There’s a lot of developing talent here, and if they can all start reaching their full potential for an entire 82-game season, then the Red Wings may finally find themselves back in the playoff hunt.

23) Dallas Stars

Jason Robertson* – Roope Hintz – Joe Pavelski

Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Denis Gurianov

Mason Marchment – Radek Faksa – Luke Glendening

Joel Kiviranta – Jacob Peterson – Marian Studenic

*Unsigned RFA

ANALYSIS: The Dallas Stars have become a cautionary tale about signing your star players to contracts that pay them a little bit too much for a little bit too long. It may not seem like a major issue at the moment, but with the decline of Seguin and Benn, the Stars’ forward corps started looking flaccid instead of exciting. If not for the emergence of Robertson and his goalscoring prowess, this team would be in an even worse place.

However, even that isn’t a guarantee this season, as the Stars haven’t been able to sign their star Restricted Free Agent (RFA). Depending on how long those negotiations drag on, this could completely reshape their forward corps in a negative way. Without Robertson, Dallas looks very mediocre, which is a major problem for a team that often struggles to score over the course of a full season.

22) Minnesota Wild

Kirill Kaprizov – Ryan Hartman – Mats Zuccarello

Marcus Foligno – Joel Eriksson Ek – Jordan Greenway

Matthew Boldy – Frederick Gaudreau – Tyson Jost

Connor Dewar – Marco Rossi – Brandon Duhaime

Sam Steel

ANALYSIS: The salary cap was not kind to the Minnesota Wild this offseason, as they were forced to trade emerging star Kevin Fiala as they were unlikely to resign him. While the team still has a true superstar in Kaprizov, the unit overall is lacking that punch you’d hope for from a playoff-caliber franchise. So, while I expect them to score a fair share of highlight-reel goals, I also don’t believe this is a forward corps that will be enough to get the Wild to the promised land either.

21) New York Islanders

Anthony Beauvillier – Brock Nelson – Kyle Palmieri

Anders Lee – Mathew Barzal – Josh Bailey

Zach Parise – Jean-Gabriel Pageau – Oliver Wahlstrom

Matt Martin – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck

ANALYSIS: I don’t really know what to make out of the New York Islanders’ forward corps. The 2021-22 season was an absolute disaster for most of the group, as they heavily underperformed in terms of scoring output. If this trend continues, then you can make a very valid argument that they should be near the bottom of this list, as they simply couldn’t score for long swaths of the season.

Mat Barzal New York Islanders
Mat Barzal of the New York Islanders. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With that in mind, I expect the Islanders to improve this season, I’m just not sure by how much. With names like Nelson, Barzal, Beauvillier, and Bailey in their top six and the “Best fourth line in the NHL,” this core should be at least in the top 15 if not higher. Perhaps with a new head coach, they will find the right scoring balance once again?

20) Los Angeles Kings

Adrian Kempe – Anze Kopitar – Kevin Fialla

Trevor Moore – Phillip Danault – Viktor Arvidsson

Alex Iafallo – Blake Lizotte – Arthur Kaliyev

Gabriel Vilardi – Quinton Byfield – Rasmus Kupari

ANALYSIS: While I may not think of the Los Angeles Kings as a scoring mecca, their forward core has a really great balance of offensive potential and defensive ability. This roster has a mixture of proven veteran talent and top prospects who will only get better with every passing season. With the addition of Fiala, they have one more scoring weapon that may be enough to take them to that next level as a team. Considering that they made an unexpected run to the 2022 Playoffs, this could be a scary idea for the Pacific division as the Kings may be back to being a perennial threat to win it all.

19) Columbus Blue Jackets

Johnny Gaudreau – Boone Jenner – Patrik Laine

Gustav Nyquist – Jack Roslovic – Jakub Voracek

Kent Johnson – Cole Sillinger – Kirill Marchenko

Eric Robinson – Sean Kuraly – Mathieu Olivier

ANALYSIS: After signing Gaudreau, a move that took the hockey world by storm this offseason, the Columbus Blue Jackets suddenly look like a real threat instead of a team that’s rebuilding. Now, this forward corps has a long way to go, but all of their talent is starting to fall into place.

Johnny Gaudreau Calgary Flames
Johnny Gaudreau, formally of the Calgary Flames. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If Laine can stay healthy, then they have an elite top-line in terms of scoring potential. Even with that in mind, I still believe the Blue Jackets are a year or two away from being a really explosive offensive corps. That time is coming fast, though, and I expect them to move up this list throughout the season.

18) New Jersey Devils

Ondrej Palat – Nico Hischer – Jesper Bratt

Yegor Sharangovich – Jack Hughes – Dawson Mercer

Tomas Tatar – Erik Haula – Andreas Johnsson

Jesper Bratt – Michael McLeod – Nathan Bastion

ANALYSIS: Every season I do this. I look at the moves made by the New Jersey Devils in the offseason along with the developing high-end talent they have and think “This is the year!” Once again, I’m back here looking at the Devils’ roster and I really like what I’m seeing. This forward core has so much scoring potential, and the addition of Palat could be the perfect veteran balance for a relatively young team. I’m tempted to put them even higher on this list, but the top half is so competitive that I couldn’t justify moving them into it just yet.

17) Nashville Predators

Filip Forsberg – Ryan Johansen – Matt Duchene

Nino Niederreiter – Mikael Granlund – Eeli Tolvanen

Tanner Jeannot – Colton Sissons – Yakov Trenin

Zach Sanford – Cody Glass – Philip Tomasino

ANALYSIS: Many left the Nashville Predators for dead before the start of the 2021-22 season, as their forward corps had become one of the biggest underachievers in the NHL. Well, as the season played out it quickly became apparent that it was a redemption tour for the likes of Duchene, Johansen, and even Forsberg, as they went on to post some of their best scoring numbers in years. If this revival continues this is a dangerous corps, especially with the addition of Niederreiter, who should bring a consistent scoring threat to their top-six. So, don’t count the Predators out again in 2022-23.

16) Ottawa Senators

Brady Tkachuk – Josh Norris – Drake Batherson

Alex DeBrincat – Tim Stutzle – Claude Giroux

Alex Formenton – Shane Pinto – Mathieu Joseph

Parker Kelly – Dylan Gambrell – Austin Watson

ANALYSIS: It’s hard to not be excited about the Ottawa Senators right now. The team appears to be finishing an extensive rebuild, and with the addition of DeBrincat through trade and Giroux through free agency, their top-six forwards are amongst the best in the league.

Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks
Alex DeBrincat formally of the Chicago Blackhawks. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Now, there’s always a chance that DeBrincat regresses with his new team or that young players like Stutzle or Tkachuk take a step back in their development, but that seems less likely to happen. I want to believe that this group will be a real threat this year, as they have the potential to be one of the most entertaining forward corps in the league.

15) Vancouver Canucks

J.T. Miller – Elias Pettersson – Brock Boeser

Nils Hoglander – Bo Horvat – Conor Garland

Vasily Podkolzin – Jason Dickinson – Ilya Mikheyev

Tanner Pearson – Curtis Lazar – Andrei Kuzmenko

ANALYSIS: With Miller signed to a long-term contract, the Vancouver Canucks should have a relatively quiet and consistent season after experiencing so much turmoil over the last year-plus. While 2021-22 started incredibly poorly, this forward core found its’ footing throughout the season, and when they are firing on all cylinders, it is a scary group. They have a number of elite scorers and playmakers, and the addition of Mikheyev brings with it solid defensive responsibility as well. Overall, this could be an underrated group that has the potential to make the Canucks a playoff-caliber team.

14) Winnipeg Jets

Kyle Connor – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Cole Perfetti

Nikolaj Ehlers – Mark Scheifele – Blake Wheeler

Jansen Harkins – Adam Lowry – Mason Appleton

Morgan Barron – Dominic Toninato – Kristian Vesalainen

ANALYSIS: When it comes to offensive punch, few teams can match the Winnipeg Jets’ top-six forwards. Connor and Ehlers are dynamic, game-breaking scorers, Scheifele and Wheeler are getting older but still can produce at a consistent pace, and Dubois has really started to find his game after being acquired in 2021.

Related: How Jets’ Scheifele Can Rebuild Trust for the Upcoming Season

Now, on the bad side, the Jets’ forward corps always have a lot of drama swirling around them. There have been rumors that any or all of these players could force their way out of town, which would leave a large hole in their roster to fill. The team also lacks a defensive mindset up front, which keeps them from being a complete unit overall. Still, they have a ridiculous amount of talent, and you really can’t ignore how much they can produce when healthy.

13) Washington Capitals

Alex Ovechkin – Evgeni Kuznetsov – Connor Brown

Anthony Mantha – Dylan Strome – T.J. Oshie

Marcus Johansson – Lars Eller – Conor Sheary

Axel Jonsson-Fjallby – Nic Dowd – Garnet Hathaway

IR: Carl Hagelin – Nicklas Backstrom – Tom Wilson

ANALYSIS: The Washington Capitals find themselves in a bit of a different spot than most teams in terms of forwards. Overall, this is an incredible core, but also an aging one that is fighting more and more with injuries each season. For example, they have three key starters on IR heading into the season, meaning that the top-end potential will be limited throughout the season unless they can all get healthy and back on the ice.

However, as long as Ovechkin continues to produce like the goalscoring machine that he is, the Capitals will be fine. Even with injuries, they have plenty of depth and will weather the regular season as one of the top-producing units.

12) New York Rangers

Chris Kreider – Mika Zibanejad – Alexis Lafrenier

Artemi Panarin – Vincent Trocheck – Kaapo Kakko

Sammy Blais – Filip Chytil – Vitali Kravtsov

Barclay Goodrow – Ryan Carpenter – Ryan Reeves

ANALYSIS: Over the last season, the New York Rangers became the poster child for everything coming together in a rebuild, which then turns it into more of a retool. Their unexpected run to the Eastern Conference Final was due in no small part to their offensive ability, as players like Kreider, Panarin, and Zibanejad all started reaching their full potential under new head coach Gerard Gallant.

Chris Kreider New York Rangers
Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While it’s unlikely that Kreider will score 50-plus goals again, young top-end prospects like Lafreniere and Kakko will be asked to take that next step in their careers to help pick up some of that slack. If everything continues to click, this is a dangerous core that can keep up with the best in the NHL.

11) Boston Bruins

Pavel Zacha – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Taylor Hall – David Krejci – Jake DeBrusk

Trent Frederic – Charlie Coyle – Craig Smith

Nick Foligno – Jack Studinicka – Tomas Nosek

ANALYSIS: It’s easy to forget just how much talent the Boston Bruins have accrued over the years, despite being tight up against the salary cap. When you look at their roster, it reads like a greatest hits of the last five years of NHL hockey, with names like Hall, Bergeron, Pastrnak, Krejci, Foligno, and Coyle jumping off the page along with newly acquired players like Zacha who are still fighting to find their place in the league.

This also feels like a bit of the last dance for the Bruins, however, as many of their key veteran forward are on the final year of their contracts. This means it might be an all-in season in Boston, which is a scary thought as this is an elite forward core that will be fighting even harder to reach the Stanley Cup

10) Calgary Flames

Jonathan Huberdeau – Elias Lindholm – Tyler Toffoli

Blake Coleman – Nazem Kadri – Andrew Mangiapane

Jakob Pelletier – Mikael Backlund – Dillon Dube

Milan Lucic – Kevin Rooney – Trevor Lewis

ANALYSIS: The 2022 offseason looked like it was going to be a complete disaster for the Calgary Flames, as they were set to lose two 100-point forwards due to free agency and a trade request. However, the franchise made lemonade out of lemons and turned those losses into a franchise-altering trade that brought back a new 100-point forward in Huberdeau and by signing one of the top free agents in Kadri. These shrewd moves re-opened a Stanley Cup window that appeared to be quickly closing, and this forward corps looks even more dangerous than it did at the start of the previous season.

9) St. Louis Blues

Pavel Buchnevich – Robert Thomas – Vladimir Tarasenko

Brandon Saad – Ryan O’Reilly – Jordan Kyrou

Ivan Barbashev – Brayden Schenn – Logan Brown

Nathan Walker – Noel Acciari – Klim Kostin

ANALYSIS: Despite the loss of Perron this offseason, the St. Louis Blues still have an absolutely stacked forward corps. At center alone, Thomas has developed into a surprise star, O’Reilly is still a top producer, Schenn is a consistent veteran presence who can chip in 20-plus goals each season, and Acciari is a low-risk player who could bounce back in a limited fourth-line role.

Robert Thomas St. Louis Blues
Robert Thomas of the St. Louis Blues. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This line-up is fantastic from top to bottom, and forces me to ask the question… am I underrating the Blues again? Every time I rank them on these lists, I look at their players and think… “That’s better than where I have them.” Either way, I expect St. Louis to impress once again and be a Stanley Cup threat due to the talent of their forwards.

8) Pittsburgh Penguins

Jake Guentzal – Sidney Crosby – Rickard Rakell

Jason Zucker – Evgeni Malkin – Bryan Rust

Brock McGinn – Jeff Carter – Kasperi Kapanen

Ryan Poehling – Teddy Blueger – Josh Archibald

ANALYSIS: As long as the Pittsburgh Penguins feature a healthy Crosby and Malkin down the middle of their lineup, then they are going to be a threat to win a Stanley Cup. While they may be aging, the two superstars are still producing at an elite pace, and they are getting support from players like Guentzal, Rust, Zucker, and Kapanen to help share some of the workload. Overall, this is an elite unit that will push to be one of the best in the league in 2022-23.

7) Vegas Golden Knights

Chandler Stephenson – Jack Eichel – Mark Stone

Jonathan Marchessault – William Karlsson – Reilly Smith

Nolan Patrick – Nicolas Roy – Phil Kessel

Will Carrier – Brett Howden – Keegan Kolesar

ANALYSIS: After years of flirting with the salary cap ceiling, the Vegas Golden Knights’ forward corps took a solid hit this season when they were forced to trade Max Pacioretty for future considerations in order to stay compliant. This move should have created a major hole in their lineup, but then you remember it was made to allow them to keep superstar players like Eichel and Stone in the lineup, and you understand why it was made.

Jack Eichel Vegas Golden Knights
Jack Eichel of the Vegas Golden Knights. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

However, the addition of Kessel is what really puts this unit over the top for me. He isn’t the player that he once was, but he’s still an incredible depth piece for Vegas, who could be a boon to their franchise if they can make it back to the postseason. They lacked his confidence and postseason acumen in recent years, so he could be that final key that helps them reach their full potential.

6) Edmonton Oilers

Zach Hyman – Connor McDavid – Evander Kane

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto

Warren Foegele – Ryan McLeod – Jesse Puljujarvi

Mattias Janmark – Derek Ryan – Devin Shore

ANALYSIS: There’s no discussion to be had about the top-end of the Edmonton Oilers forward corps. McDavid and Draisaitl are two of the best players in the world, bar none, and their presence alone on this team is enough to put the Oilers into the Top-10 of this list. The addition of Kane halfway through the season worked wonders as well, as he immediately found his place on the roster and started producing like a player who deserved another long-term extension.

The only thing keeping Edmonton from being even higher on this list is their depth. It’s improved since the 2022 Playoffs, but as we saw in the Western Conference Final, they can rely a bit too much on their top-end talent to win. That can only get you so far once you reach the upper echelon of forward corps.

5) Carolina Hurricanes

Teuvo Teravainen – Sebastian Aho – Seth Jarvis

Andrei Svechnikov – Paul Stastny – Martin Necas

Jesper Fast – Jordan Staal – Ondrej Kase

Jordan Martinook – Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Lane Pederson

IR: Max Pacioretty

ANALYSIS: When you think of the Carolina Hurricanes, defense will likely jump to mind. However, they are far more than their blue line, as their underappreciated forward corps was one of the best in the NHL last season. This is another group with an incredibly balanced lineup, and they will only get better when the newly acquired Pacioretty returns from IR later this season. So, don’t be surprised when the Hurricanes are lighting up the scoreboards each night.

4) Tampa Bay Lightning

Steven Stamkos – Brayden Point – Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn – Anthony Cirelli – Brandon Hagel

Vladislav Namestnikov – Nick Paul – Ross Colton

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Patrick Maroon – Corey Perry

Alex Barre-Boulet

ANALYSIS: It should come as no surprise to see the Tampa Bay Lightning still near the top of the forward rankings. Despite time and the salary cap taking its toll on this unit, they are still absolutely loaded from top to bottom with offensive talent and defensive responsibility. Stamkos is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, and the additions of Paul and Hagel during the season reshaped this core with younger talent to compliment players like Maroon, Perry, and Bellemare.

Related: Nikita Kucherov Is Still a 100-Point Scorer if He Stays Healthy

There’s a reason why the Lightning almost won three-straight Stanley Cups. This forward corps is elite and it’s still one of the best in the NHL despite their losses.

3) Colorado Avalanche

Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen

Valeri Nichushkin – J.T. Compher – Arturri Lehkonen

Andrew Cogliano – Alex Newhook – Logan O’Connor

Darren Helm – Ben Meyers – Jayson Megna

ANALYSIS: After winning the 2022 Stanley Cup, the Colorado Avalanche experienced an expected post-cup talent bleed that saw a number of important players leave the franchise to find greener pastures. This makes them a little bit difficult to rank, because the talent they lost all played a significant role in their championship, but much of the core is still in place.

Honestly, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt and I’m believing in Landeskog, MacKinnon, and Rantanen when I rank the Avalanche so highly. As the new players find their place with the franchise, these superstars will carry the team forward and help them push for a second-straight Stanley Cup.

2) Toronto Maple Leafs

Michael Bunting – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner

Alex Kerfoot – John Tavares – William Nylander

Pierre Engvall – David Kampf – Calle Jarnkrok

Wayne Simmonds – Adam Gaudette – Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Kyle Clifford

ANALYSIS: In terms of high-end offensive talent, few teams can match the Toronto Maple Leafs. Between Matthews scoring 60 goals in 2021-22, Marner taking that next step as a playmaker, and Bunting finding a surprisingly perfect fit alongside them, their top-line is one of the best in the league. Their depth is also excellent, with all four lines featuring a balance of offensive and defensive capabilities.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

When you get this far in a ranking, the difference between the first place team and the fifth is small and can change daily. Right now, I’m betting on the team with the 60-goal scorer to continue scoring at a league-leading pace.

1) Florida Panthers

Carter Verhaeghe – Aleksander Barkov – Matthew Tkachuk

Anthony Duclair – Sam Bennett – Sam Reinhart

Nick Cousins – Anton Lundell – Patric Hornqvist

Ryan Lomberg – Eetu Luostarinen – Colin White

PTO: Eric Staal

ANALYSIS: The scoring pace of the Florida Panthers throughout the 2021-22 regular season looked like a video game at times, as the team paced the league by averaging 4.11 goals per game. While much of that core still remains intact, they swapped out their top point prodcuer for Tkachuk, who is seen by many as one of the best wingers in the sport.

This is a big risk, but it is one that I believe will pay off for the Panthers. This forward core is incredible from top to bottom, as it features elite scoring and defensive responsibility with Selke Trophy winner Aleksander Barkov. This unit should continue scoring at will against most of the league, and it should help keep Florida in the President Trophy hunt.

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Recapping Forward Ranking

1) Florida Panthers

2) Toronto Maple Leafs

3) Colorado Avalanche

4) Tampa Bay Lightning

5) Carolina Hurricanes

6) Edmonton Oilers

7) Vegas Golden Knights

8) Pittsburgh Penguins

9) St. Louis Blues 

10) Calgary Flames

11) Boston Bruins 

12) New York Rangers

13) Washington Capitals

14) Winnipeg Jets   

15) Vancouver Canucks                   

16) Ottawa Senators

17) Nashville Predators

18) New Jersey Devils

19) Columbus Blue Jackets

20) Los Angeles Kings

21) New York Islanders

22) Minnesota Wild

23) Dallas Stars

24) Detroit Red Wings

25) Seattle Kraken

26) Montreal Canadiens

27) Philadelphia Flyers

28) Buffalo Sabres

29) San Jose Sharks

30) Anaheim Ducks

31) Chicago Blackhawks

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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