The NHL Network has now shifted it’s #NHLTopPlayers campaign to the top 20 wingers in the game. It’s an interesting discussion and as seen below, the collection of wingers in the league right now is a deep and talented group. But, there are certainly a few gems that stand out.
With that kind of depth, creating a top 20 list should not be difficult, but what about a top five? That is an all together different assignment. Every list is going to create different opinions and debates so I am very much interested in hearing who readers feel are the top 5 NHL wingers.
A couple of minor caveats for readers to know – my list is not an all-time list. I considered age, salary and recent productivity for my list. Further, I tried to project the players future output accordingly. In other words, my list features the best five wingers in the game today and tomorrow.
5) JT Miller – Age 27 – $5.25M AAV Through 2023
Is Miller a surprise? For me, Miller is slowly becoming the premiere power forward within the NHL. His 72 points (27 goals and 45 assists) were a career best and in doing so also led the Canucks in scoring last season.
Given Miller’s steady and increasing offensive productivity his $5.25M for the next five seasons is a great deal for the Canucks. Most importantly for me, is Miller’s ‘fit’ in Vancouver. Miller’s style of play along with the young offensive stars around him could mean he is just getting started in terms of setting career bests.
4) Patrick Kane – (31) – $10.5M AAV Through 2023
It is easy to forget that Patrick Kane is still only 31 years of age. When the next season starts, he will already receive his ‘silver stick’ for 1,000 NHL games played.
During last year’s Covid shortened season Kane showed no signs of slowing down, finishing with 84 points (33G, 51A) in 70 games. The salary is massive, but I don’t see Kane’s production declining for the remaining three years on his contract. Kane is just too skilled and too smart of a player – the two biggest assets in today’s NHL.
3) Artemi Panarin – (29) – $11.6M AAV Through 2026
Artemi Panarin is another player that could be heading toward the peak of his career in terms of productivity – especially with the array of offensive talent around him in New York with the Rangers. Panarin was on a torrid pace in 19/20 recording career bests in goals (32), assists (63) and points (95) – in just 69 games.
While Panarin has only been in the NHL for five seasons he has never recorded less than 74 points in a season. His $11.6M might be expensive during the last year or two of his current contract, but my guess is that the best is yet to come for Panarin.
2) Nikita Kucherov – (27) – $9.5M AAV Through 2027
At 27 years of age, Kucherov has established himself as an NHL superstar. Had the 19/20 season finished, Kucherov would have likely reached the 100-point mark for a 3rd straight season. Instead, Kucherov settled on 33 goals and 52 assists (85) in 68 games which amazingly seems like an ‘off’ season for the Moscow native.
The recent Stanley Cup win, without Steven Stamkos, means Kucherov will one day be a solid candidate as a Hall of Fame player.
1) David Pastrňák – (24) – $6.67M AAV Through 2023
Given Pastrňák’s age, contract, and ever-increasing productivity he is the best winger in the game today, and moving forward. Since the 2016/17 season Pastrňák has gone from 70 points, to 80, to 81 (in 65 games) and then 95 this past shortened season. Besides JT Miller in the top 5 list, Pastrňák is an absolute steal on the current contract he is under for the next 3 seasons.
What About Alex Ovechkin?
Many readers will note the omission of Alex Ovechkin in my top 5 winger list. Not to worry – he has his own category. Could Ovechkin be the GOAT? As in the greatest winger of all time? Debatable, but Ovechkin’s career numbers provide a strong case to argue with.
However, at 35, the sun is going down on Ovechkin’s career – unfortunate for him and the game of hockey as he has been an excellent ambassador on many different scales.
One Final Thought
Before closing out the winger discussion (for now) I felt like there was one player missing from the NHL Network list (in tweet above). Teuvo Teräväinen of the Carolina Hurricanes. At 26, Teräväinen seems like a player that is just getting started as an elite playmaker at the NHL level. The young Finn has four years remaining on his $5.4M AAV salary and that is already starting to look like a bargain. Teräväinen is not in a top 5 conversation but a consideration for the eventual top 20 winger list.
Stay tuned for the eventual top 20 winger list. In the meantime who are your top 5 wingers?!
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