NHL Power Rankings: The 10 Best Right Wings in Hockey
In the second installment of NHL Power Rankings by position, I'm taking a look at the 10 best right wings in the NHL today. But first a few ground rules: In order to qualify as a "right wing," the player must be listed on NHL.com's 2010-11 regular season statistics page as a RW and have played a minimum of one full NHL season (80-plus career NHL games).
Beyond that, I've taken into account a number of factors when crafting this list: offensive skill and production, defensive play, intangibles (face-offs, blocked shots, etc.), clutch play and leadership, to name a few.
And without further ado, here they are: the 10 best right wings in the NHL today. Enjoy.
No. 10: Martin Havlat, San Jose Sharks
When he's on his game, Martin Havlat is one of the NHL's most naturally gifted offensive playmakers at the RW position. He has the ability to single-handedly take over a game, generate his own scoring chances and put pucks in the back of the net from just about anywhere on the ice.
In the defensive zone, Havlat has developed into a solid, if not spectacular, defender. He still turns the puck over too much and he still isn't an on-ice leader of the same caliber as other players on this list, but he is a solid all-around RW just about every team in the NHL would love to have on their roster.
No. 9: Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs
When the Maple Leafs sent a pair of first-round picks and a second-round pick to the Boston Bruins for the rights to Phil Kessel, they believed they were getting one of the NHL's best young snipers. And they were right.
Kessel does not have the benefit of playing alongside an offensive playmaker like Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf or Joe Thornton. He does not play for a team with a particularly strong defense corps or a rock-solid starting goaltender. Despite all of that, Kessel has managed to put up impressive numbers in the goal-scoring department.
Kessel's defense and leadership are still areas of concern, but he has improved dramatically over the past two seasons. I have little doubt that if Kessel is able to play alongside a bona fide playmaking centerman, he'll contend for a Rocket Richard trophy. He's that good.
No. 8: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
After just four NHL seasons, Patrick Kane has emerged as one of the NHL's premiere young snipers and most potent offensive weapons. On the stat sheet, Kane's production has been impressive: In 313 NHL games, the Hawks winger has scored 303 points—almost a point per game pace.
Kane certainly has room to improve in the other two zones. He posted a mediocre plus-7 rating in 2010-11 (plus-16 career), blocked very few shots and turned the puck over far too much.
Kane could stand to improve his leadership ability, but right now his offensive production alone is impressive enough to justify his relative placement on this list. Should he hope to move up, he'll need to drastically improve in other facets of the game.
No. 7: Bobby Ryan, Anaheim Ducks
Bobby Ryan is quietly blossoming into one of the NHL's best RWs, overshadowed by linemates Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. On the ice, Ryan is an emerging power forward with a nose for the net and a team-first attitude. He continued his ascent into the ranks of the game's elite with a strong 2010-11 season, posting a career-high 71 points.
Like many young wingers, Ryan's defensive game lacks polish, but he is a hard-working defender who is not afraid to engage in the physical aspects of the game regardless of the zone.
Ryan has increased his on-ice maturity significantly since coming into the NHL and has begun to develop his leadership skills as one of the new cornerstones of the Ducks franchise.
If Ryan can continue to develop as a power forward and refine his defensive game, he will surely be considered one of the top five RWs in the NHL. But for now, No. 7 is a solid ranking given his experience, resume and past performance.
No. 6: Danny Briere, Philadelphia Flyers
When the Philadelphia Flyers made Danny Briere one of the league's highest-paid players during the spending spree that was the 2007 NHL free agency period (remember Scott Gomez?), they believed they were getting a player capable of leading the team out of the cellar and into the ranks of the NHL's elite.
While the relationship got off to a shaky start, Briere's play over the past two seasons has re-established him as one of the game's best forwards.
In terms of offensive ability, Briere is one of the most elusive players in the NHL today, capable of making plays from just about anywhere. In the defensive zone, Briere is an extremely reliable presence, consistently disrupting plays and forcing turnovers.
While he is not the most physical player (due in large part to his small stature), he more than compensates through smart positioning, stick-checking and skating ability.
Briere's value is probably best demonstrated through his postseason performance as a career point per game player and his leadership ability. On the ice, Briere is a vocal leader. Off the ice, he is a mentor to many of the Flyers' younger players, going as far as to open his home up to emerging superstar Claude Giroux.
Briere is, without question, one of the game's most complete players, on and off the ice.
No. 5: Rick Nash, Columbus Blue Jackets
As it stands right now, Rick Nash is one of the NHL's best power forwards. Like Kessel, Nash toils on a team that has struggled to surround him with talented pieces capable of giving him the support he needs to shine. And like Kessel, Nash is a player that could contend for a Richard Trophy if he's provided with a playmaking centerman.
Nash has blossomed into a leader on and off the ice for the Blue Jackets, earning the "C" and handling with class the pressure and questioning that accompany the title. He is a hard-working defender who understands his role and has the ability to complete it.
All told, Nash is one of the NHL's best wingers. He's the complete package.
No. 4: Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
The young Claude Giroux is the Flyers' Mr. Everything.
He is an elite all-around offensive player, capable of creating goals from nothing.
He is an extremely solid defensive stopper. He's emerged as one of the most dangerous penalty killers in the entire NHL.
He's developed into a solid faceoff man, taking many of the team's biggest draws down the stretch. He's a vocal and emotional leader for the Flyers who has demonstrated his ability to step up in big situations—especially the playoffs.
It would not surprise me in the least if, one year from now, the NHL community is talking about Claude Giroux as one of the best players in the NHL. He's that good.
No. 3: Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks
Despite playing in the relative obscurity of Anaheim, Corey Perry has managed to win a Hart Trophy, a Rocket Richard trophy and a number of All-Star selections.
If that wasn't enough to justify his position as No. 3 on this list, consider the fact that he's averaged nearly 80 points over the past three seasons, played incredibly solid defense and been a vocal on-ice leader for the Ducks.
There isn't too much else to add here. Perry is a 50-goal scorer who understands how to play solid defense. He's a team-first player. He's a high-character guy. And he's a player that tries to do all of the little things well.
No. 2: Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
Jarome Iginla, even at age 34, is still playing at a high level. He quietly scored 43 goals in 2010-11 and has averaged nearly 40 goals per year for the past five seasons. Over his illustrious career, Iginla has reached the 50-goal plateau twice, scored more than 85 points five times (including 2010-11), and managed to do all of that while maintaining a very solid 13.3 career shooting percentage.
Despite playing on one of the NHL's weaker teams in the cutthroat Western Conference, Iginla has managed respectable plus/minus numbers for much of his career and improved his two-way game dramatically over the past three seasons.
In the leadership department, Iginla is one of the NHL's best and most underrated. He's a class act on and off the ice. He has mentored a number of young Flames players over the years. And he's managed to elevate his level of play and lead by example in the playoffs, averaging nearly a point per game.
Iginla receives the very slight nod over Perry right now because of his leadership, his two-way game and his consistent history of excellent production. Should Perry have another excellent season in 2011-12, he will overtake Iginla.
No. 1: Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning
Even at age 36, Martin St. Louis remains the best RW in the NHL. Just ask Steven Stamkos.
St. Louis is arguably the best pure passer in the game today, capable of putting a saucer pass on a teammate's stick before the player even realizes he's open.
In addition to his passing prowess, St. Louis remains a viable threat to put the puck in the back of the net himself, averaging more than 30 goals per season for the past eight years. He's a consistently excellent offensive playmaker.
Despite his small stature, St. Louis manages to play solid defense at the other end of the rink. He is a leader for the Lightning on and off the ice, currently serves as an assistant captain and he's a fantastic all-around ambassador for the game of hockey.
If all of that wasn't enough to justify this pick, consider St. Louis' personal trophy case: He's won a Stanley Cup, a Hart Trophy, an Art Ross trophy, the NHL Plus/Minus Award, a Lady Byng Trophy and a Lester B. Pearson Award.
St. Louis continues to play consistently excellent hockey, even at age 36. He is more than deserving of the title "Best RW in the NHL".
The Honorable Mentions
These five guys didn't quite make the cut, but they still deserve to be mentioned as some of the game's best right wings:
1. David Backes, St. Louis Blues (tied for No. 10)
2. Shane Doan, Phoenix Coyotes
3. Michael Grabner, New York Islanders
4. Ryan Callahan, New York Rangers
5. Marian Gaborik
One final point: Due to his uncertain career status, Teemu Selanne has been omitted from this list. Should he decide to play another NHL season, he will be listed in the Top 10.
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