The 2015-16 NHL season is just a few weeks away, and the anticipation has steadily been building throughout an exciting preseason highlighted by the addition of 3-on-3 overtime.
Many of the players providing the excitement in this new overtime format are wingers. The high-end skill, speed and play-making flare from these players have kept fans on the edge of their seats.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 wingers in the NHL, regardless if they play on the left or right side.
1) Alexander Ovechkin, LW, Washington Capitals
Ovechkin is the best pure goal scorer in the league and led all players last season with 53 tallies, 10 more than Steven Stamkos in second place. The Capitals captain also is among the most difficult players to defend on the power play with his powerful and accurate slap shot from inside the faceoff circle. Combine these offensive skills with a physical, power forward-type of style with improved defense, and you have one amazing player.
2) Patrick Kane, RW, Chicago Blackhawks
Kane is the most skilled winger in the league, has elite quickness, hands and speed, and also possesses the play-making skill to create scoring chances for teammates. He is as clutch as they come in the playoffs, too, evidenced by his 114 points in 116 career games. He was on his way to a potential Hart Trophy season in 2014-15 before suffering an injury in February, but the American forward still finished with 64 points (27 goals, 37 assists) in 61 games.
3) Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, St. Louis Blues
The 23-year-old Russian forward isn’t a household name among casual hockey fans, but he will be very soon after scoring a career-high 37 goals and increasing his offensive output by 30 points from the 2013-14 season. Tarasenko is among the most elite goal scorers in the league and will continue to improve while playing in a deep, talented group of Blues forwards.
4) Corey Perry, RW, Anaheim Ducks
Perry is a classic power forward who scores a ton of goals and plays the strong, physical style of hockey you’d expect from someone his size. The Ducks forward scored 33 goals last season despite being limited to 67 games because of injuries, and he added another 10 tallies in 16 playoff games.
5) Jamie Benn, LW, Dallas Stars
The Stars captain tallied 13 points in the final five games of last season to win the scoring title with 87 points. He also played in all 82 games, which is impressive, given his power forward style of play. Benn’s improvement defensively also has paid huge dividends for Dallas, a team with high expectations entering the 2015-16 campaign.
6) Marian Hossa, RW, Chicago Blackhawks
Hossa does it all for the Blackhawks as one of the most underrated players of this generation. The veteran forward scores between 50 and 65 points, drives puck possession, plays on both special teams units and takes on elite level competition. Hossa is by far the best defensive winger in the game, which makes the lack of recognition he receives in Selke Trophy voting rather ridiculous.
7) Phil Kessel, RW, Pittsburgh Penguins
If you thought the Penguins’ power play already was close to unstoppable, just wait until Kessel joins the mix alongside Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. Kessel had three 30-plus-goal seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs despite playing with mediocre centers such as Tyler Bozak. Those scoring totals should skyrocket in Pittsburgh, where he’ll likely open the season on Crosby’s wing. It also should be noted that Kessel is an underrated playmaker, with 30 or more assists in each of the last five seasons.
8) Rick Nash, LW, New York Rangers
Nash’s 42 goals last season were a career high. He hadn’t reached the 40-goal mark since the 2008-09 campaign. After suffering a concussion in 2012-13, Nash seems to finally be playing the type of high-scoring, power-forward game that made him so tough to defend as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The knock on Nash is his playoff scoring production. He has just 10 goals in 60 career playoff games, including two in the first 15 games of New York’s postseason run a year ago. Sure, he made a positive impact in other areas, but he’s being paid almost $8 million to score goals, and that hasn’t happened consistently enough in playoff action.
9) Taylor Hall, LW, Edmonton Oilers
Hall was limited to 58 games last season because of injuries. Durability is becoming a real concern with the former No. 1 overall pick — he has played more than 65 games in a single season just once since his rookie campaign in 2010-11.
When Hall is on the ice, he’s a high-scoring winger who adds great speed and power-play skill. His offensive production should reach higher levels playing alongside 2015 No. 1 pick Connor McDavid on the Oilers’ top line.
10) Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild
Parise is one of the hardest-working players in the NHL. The Wild captain fights for pucks in all areas, blocks shots and forces turnovers. These talents make him a valuable member of the Wild penalty kill as well. Parise also adds a high level of skill and has averaged 32 goals over the last two seasons.
Click to see our top 10 centers entering 2015-16 >>
Thumbnail photo via Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports Images