Top 15 NHL Power Forwards
It is a rare commodity for a player to have size, skill and the intelligence to put it all together on a nightly basis. This particular combination is defined as a power forward. Through the NHL’s history, many have excelled in this role. Cam Neely was a player that scared opponent’s going into the corner just as much as he did getting the puck in the slot. Neely helped the Boston Bruins maintain their big and bad status.
Mark Messier was not only one of the league’s greatest leaders, he was also one of the most feared. His skillset lent itself to his undeniable toughness. Opposing players did not want to look him in the eye and if they did, their eyes would be black from one of his patented elbows. These legends along with Eric Lindros, Brendan Shanahan and Keith Tkachuk among others paved the way for big, skilled players to dominate the league. From here, Jarome Iginla and Shane Doan would take the reins as a couple of the best NHL power forwards for a solid decade. We saw the likes of Eric Staal, Rick Nash and Milan Lucic follow, dominating the league for stretches of time. While Staal, Nash and Lucic still can play an effective game, they are by no means the players they were a few years ago. The new wave of power forwards are coming and complimenting an already commanding group.
With the way the game is played today, speed and pace are of utmost importance. That is why the term power forward should carry a modified meaning. It isn’t just about dropping the gloves and laying board-rattling hits.
These unique characters can possess those abilities, however, it isn’t absolutely required. The modern-day power forward uses their size to their greatest advantage. This can be judged by protecting the puck, driving the net or being a presence in the crease on the power play.
This list of the NHL’s best power forwards should represent this newfound definition while also maintaining the importance of their abilities to rack up points.
15) Charlie Coyle (Minnesota Wild)
Coyle had a coming out party last season under new head coach, Bruce Boudreau, who breeds offensive confidence in his players. With a career-high 56 points, Coyle showed his importance to the Wild’s 106 point season.
The 6-foot-3 versatile American, capable of playing center or the wing, is a machine at winning puck battles along the boards and cycling down low. For such a big man, his hands are extremely impressive which is just another quality the Wild love about him.
14) Chris Kreider (New York Rangers)
Kreider may be one of the most polarizing players in the NHL. He possesses every tool to be one of the most dangerous players whenever he steps on the ice but struggles with inconsistency. It is hard to argue that as a net-front presence on the power play he isn’t one of the best in the entire league
Last year, the Massachusetts native was red hot setting a career high in points with 53. This season, with only 13 points through 24 games, he has left fans and the coaching staff wanting more. Through offensive woes, Kreider continues to lay the body in an attempt to contribute something.
Brandon Saad using his body to protect the puck, something he excels at. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
13) Brandon Saad (Chicago Blackhawks)
Saad is by no means a rough and tumble player but with his thick frame, he is a nuisance to knock off the puck. His lower body strength mirrors that of his former teammate and one of the all-time best power forwards, Marian Hossa.
It really says something about Saad when the Blackhawks felt the need to bring him back in order to get their captain, Jonathan Toews going offensively. With two Stanley Cups to his credit, he has done more than prove he is deserving of this recognition.
12) Max Pacioretty (Montreal Canadiens)
Early in his career, it was evident Pacioretty was going to be a power forward. His offensive success came with time but his forcefulness never left his game. While he ranks fifth in goals with 148 since the 2013-14 season, it is a direct result of him hounding pucks and refusing to give up on plays.
Despite trade rumours circling, Pacioretty is such an important part of the Canadiens. As their captain, he tilts the ice offensively and whenever his team needs an extra spark, physically as well. Of his 35 goals last season, 23 were scored from the hash marks or below.
11) Evander Kane (Buffalo Sabres)
The Sabres season so far has been a huge disappointment but one of the bright spots has been Kane, who is enjoying a resurgence this year on pace to blow past his career high in goals and points.
The Vancouver product has matured on and off the ice since his time with the Winnipeg Jets. Instead of sacrificing defence for offence, he lets the game come to him and then he absolutely drives it. We also haven’t seen any Instagram pictures of Kane with wads of cash as of late which is refreshing.
When he came on the scene, many compared Kane to Iginla because of his abilities to deposit the puck in the net more than most of his colleagues and run around the ice crushing opposing players. While his game has developed, he can still shoot the puck with the best of them and finishes every check.
10) Aleksander Barkov (Florida Panthers)
Certainly not your prototypical power forward, Barkov doesn’t play all that physical. His 6-foot-3 frame makes it a nightmare for centers matching up against him because it is impossible to take the puck off his stick.
Barkov plays a very disciplined game with only 50 penalty minutes through nearly 300 NHL games. It is unnecessary to take penalties when he is the one with the puck the majority of his time on the ice.
As one of the newest faces of Finnish hockey, Barkov’s career trajectory is extremely exciting. Who knows how good he can be? Already one of the most naturally skilled players you will find and his shootout mhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEaxNYcr2zMoves only prove that.
9) Sean Couturier (Philadelphia Flyers)
Judging Couturier’s potential has been a rollercoaster. Originally drafted as an offensive powerhouse, Couturier built his game from the ground up and accepted a more defensive role. Through his first six seasons, he would average around 40 points a year. This season he is on pace for 89, looking like a completely different player. With his sky-rocketing offense, many would expect his defensive play to drop off but that is far from the truth.
At 6-foot-4, Couturier is solid on faceoffs and is an elite puck-protector. If they manage to get the puck, he is no slouch. Those long legs can move. I believe he would be a very strong contender to make Team Canada at the 2018 Olympics if NHL players were attending.
8) Mark Stone (Ottawa Senators)
Stone is one of the most intellectual players in the game. He isn’t the quickest nor is he the most agile yet he is unequivocally the best player in the league in takeaways with 349 since 2014-15, over 100 more than the second best. No, you didn’t read that wrong.
Stone doesn’t play an overly assertive game but he doesn’t need to. He positions his body effectively, meaning it is going to be a long night trying to break the cycle when he is involved.
He is one of the best two-way players in the game today which is extremely rare when the player is a winger. The Manitoban would also likely occupy a spot on the Canadian Olympic team as a reliable presence who can play in all situations.
Mark Stone is the best in the league at stripping opponents’ of the puck. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
7) Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers)
One of the biggest reasons for the Oilers’ decade of darkness was their inability to draft a big, center who can compete in the Western Conference. Draisaitl fits the bill and more as one of the most elite playmakers in the NHL.
Only Joe Thornton may be a more effective passer on his backhand than Draisaitl, who ranked top-ten in league scoring last year. With teammate Connor McDavid, they form one of the most lethal duos in recent history.
Likely to retire as the best German player in NHL history, Draisaitl doesn’t just put up points. When you find him in the offensive zone, he will be dominating board battles and shielding the puck with his tremendous physique.
Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
6) Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles Kings)
Though he has only been captain for a shade over a season, Kopitar has always been the leader of this Kings club. Though fans would probably tell you that former captain, Dustin Brown deserves a spot on this list due to his resurgence this season, they will have to settle with the Slovenian.
With two cups under his belt, Kopitar is still making adjustments to be the best player he can be.“Really, the message with Kopi was that if he can just get just a little bit quicker — even if it’s a quarter step in his game — it’s going to help him,” said head coach John Stevens.
With 25 points in just 24 games, Kopitar is on pace for his best statistical campaign to date. He is garnered as one of the best shutdown centermen of the past decade. Since 2010-11, Kopitar has averaged the most time-on-ice per game for players who have played 200 or more games.
5) Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks)
Though limited to just six games this season due to injury, Getzlaf has amassed seven points. When he is on his game, he is without a doubt a top-ten player in the league and proved it last season with 73 points, carrying the Ducks to the Western Conference finals.
Through their rigorous playoff run, we saw why players absolutely despise playing against Getzlaf. While the refereeing was atrocious in both series the Ducks won against the Calgary Flames and the Oilers, the big Saskatchewan boy took advantage.
Ryan Getzlaf is one of the most feared players in the NHL (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
With his ridiculous stick work and willingness to do absolutely anything to win, he is not only considered one of the dirtiest players currently playing but one of the hardest to play against because it doesn’t stop him from producing. As one of the best playmakers of the past decade, Getzlaf is a consistent choice for international events with Team Canada and frankly, defined what a prototypical Western Conference center should be.
4) Wayne Simmonds (Philadelphia Flyers)
Simmonds is an absolute joy to watch play. He embodies what Don Cherry wants in a good Canadian kid and continues the tradition of a Broad Street bully ruling in Philadelphia.
As a perennial 30-goal scorer, many would believe that the offense would get to his head and he would forget the physicality that got him to the NHL. It is quite the opposite. If Simmonds isn’t scoring, look out because he will likely be leading his team in hits that night.
Simmonds is just shy of 1000 career penalty minutes in slightly over 700 games and has over 1200 career hits. If that doesn’t tell you the guy is a purebred power forward, I don’t know what will.
3) Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg Jets)
When one thinks of Wheeler, they think of leadership. The guy is the key cog in the machine that drives the Jets. His teammates respect everything he is about because he backs it up on the ice.
Wheeler was a late-bloomer which often is the case with big players but is now widely considered one of the best in the world. His playmaking abilities are behind only a select few and his compete level is matched by none.
Blake Wheeler is the emotional leader for the Winnipeg Jets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
2) Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars)
Since the 2013-14 season, only Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane have more points than Benn, one of the hardest working players in the league. Drafted in the fifth-round in 2007, he cracked the team only two years later – an unbelievable feat from such a late round pick.
Benn determines the pace of the game using his skill level and assertiveness. Despite the impressive production, the former Kelowna Rocket is one of the toughest players you will ever see and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves with anyone in the league.
1) Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals)
Many would consider Ovechkin a sniper and rightly so, he is the best goal-scorer the NHL has seen in decades and one of the best all-time. This doesn’t change the fact that he is a physical specimen and since breaking into the league has the fourth most hits among forwards.
The future Hall-of-Fame winger chills opposing players to the bone when they see his body coming full speed at them to finish his check, something he always does. Something else he always does? Sets up his office on the left circle ready to blow a one-timer past the goaltender.
Many feel for him to truly be considered great, he must have a Stanley Cup ring but I strongly disagree. One only needs to know his nickname, the great eight, to recognize the legacy he will leave on the game. As for the future, Ovechkin is still completely focused on bringing a cup to Washington.
Ovechkin has already won more awards and earned more statistical achievements than the vast majority of players that have ever played the game but that isn’t enough. Number eight isn’t only great because he scores goals, his community involvement is a hallmark all hockey players should follow.
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