As we get near the start of the NHL’s 2023-24 common season, a preferred debate for some hockey followers and media is the query of which groups have the very best top-six group of forwards.
After a summer time of roster strikes, the highest 5 groups of high six forwards have come into focus. Listed below are this author’s picks (in reverse order) for the 5 groups with the very best high-end forwards:
Honorable Mentions: Buffalo Sabres, Tampa Bay Lightning, Dallas Stars
5. Ottawa Senators
Prime six group: Brady Tkachuk (LW), Tim Stutzle (C), Claude Giroux (RW), Vladimir Tarasenko (LW), Josh Norris (C), Drake Batherson (RW)
The Sens added Tarasenko to an already-potent top-six ahead group this summer time, making them one of many NHL’s most harmful groups with the puck. They’ll additionally hopefully have a full season with wonderful younger middle Norris, who appeared in solely eight video games this previous season resulting from damage. They usually have a few of the most dynamic top-end skills in Tkachuk, Stutzle and Batherson, in addition to a confirmed elite contributor in senior member Giroux.
Ottawa additionally has an improved protection corps and goaltending tandem, however make no mistake – their forwards would be the important drivers of their success in 2023-24. They’re a crew on the rise, and their fan base has a lot to look ahead to this 12 months.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
Prime six group: Rickard Rakell (LW), Sidney Crosby (C), Jake Guentzel (RW), Reilly Smith (LW), Evgeni Malkin (C), Bryan Rust (RW)
The Penguins are the oldest crew on this listing, and so they acquired older this summer time with the commerce for Smith and star blueliner Erik Karlsson. However that doesn’t make them any much less of a risk – in reality, they’re now much more highly effective up entrance, an space by which they already had world-class skills Crosby and Malkin giving them a Grade-A punch down the center. Guentzel is at the moment injured, however when he returns to motion, the Pens may have imposing depth on the wings as properly.
Time is ticking away on Pittsburgh’s aggressive window, however Penguins GM Kyle Dubas is aware of which gamers are buttering his bread, and it’s not the Pens’ goalies or defensemen doing so. In the event that they keep wholesome, Pittsburgh’s high six forwards nearly assuredly will rack up factors, and the crew will rack up wins within the extremely aggressive Metropolitan Division.
3. New Jersey Devils
Prime six group: Jesper Bratt (LW), Jack Hughes (C), Tyler Toffoli (RW), Timo Meier (LW), Nico Hischier (C), Dawson Mercer (RW)
The Devils have one of many youthful rosters within the NHL at this time, and that features their top-six ahead group, led by 22-year-old Hughes, 24-year-old Hischier, 21-year-old Mercer, 25-year-old Bratt and 26-year-old Meier. The 31-year-old Toffoli is the senior member of their top-six forwards, however he had a powerful 34-goal, 73-point efficiency on a Calgary Flames crew final season that doesn’t have almost as many weapons on offense as New Jersey does.
The Devils’ high six have velocity and talent to spare, and so they’re one of many key the explanation why so many pundits have pegged New Jersey as one of many greatest Stanley Cup threats on the planet. Hughes, particularly, is a particular participant, however with this type of depth, he doesn’t need to do all of the heavy lifting. That ought to maintain him relaxed and centered all season lengthy, and his crew would be the chief beneficiary of the wealth of expertise constructed by GM Tom Fitzgerald.
2. Edmonton Oilers
Prime six group: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (LW), Connor McDavid (C), Zach Hyman (RW), Evander Kane (LW), Leon Draisaitl (C), Connor Brown (RW)
What are you able to say a few crew that employs the very best participant on earth in McDavid and one of many high 5 forwards within the NHL in Draisaitl? Edmonton’s top-six ahead unit has nearly no equal, with extremely expert opponents in Nugent-Hopkins – who’s coming off a profession 12 months on offense – the rugged Hyman and Kane, and new UFA acquisition Brown, an underrated two-way ahead who ought to thrive as a second-line, two-way winger.
The Oilers want huge seasons from their defensemen and goaltenders, but when they’re to go on a deep post-season run, it will likely be as a result of their high six forwards are the chief needle-movers for the group. They will do it, which is why Edmonton is a well-liked Cup choose this season.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs
Prime six group: Tyler Bertuzzi (LW), Auston Matthews (C), Mitch Marner (RW), Matthew Knies (LW), John Tavares (C), William Nylander (RW)
The Maple Leafs could not use the above six forwards on their high two traces – coach Sheldon Keefe has experimented at coaching camp with Nylander as a middle and Tavares on the wing – however Toronto’s depth by way of their six finest forwards is excellent.
Matthews, Marner and Nylander are all of their prime. Tavares is likely one of the most dependable point-per-game NHLers alive at this time, and Bertuzzi is a greasy menace who’ll nearly actually excel because the top-line left winger alongside Matthews and Marner.
The one wild card right here is Knies, the 20-year-old rookie winger who will get an prolonged look on the second or first line at left wing. However let’s say, for argument’s sake, that Knies struggles. His substitute within the high two traces would probably be UFA acquisition Max Domi, who will in all probability get pleasure from a profession resurgence enjoying with the likes of Tavares and Nylander.
The Leafs have astonishing upper-tier expertise up entrance, and their total depth is why we’ve picked them as the very best top-six forwards group within the NHL.
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