While a lot of people won’t care for my stance on this, it’s one that’s pretty easy to defend: when healthy, the best forward in the world is Sidney Crosby. It used to be him and Alexander Ovechkin battling it out for that title, but lately that discussion isn’t even taken seriously.

What is taken seriously, is the debate about who’s the next best player in the world (or just “the best player in the world” for you non-Crosby lovers – this debate isn’t about him, try to move past thinking/talking about him for one freaking article here).

So, I’ve taken the liberty of ranking the “rest of the best” top 10, which should serve to please a couple people, and enrage the rest.

(Editor’s note: I sinfully forgot Evgeni Malkin – he’d be in the mix somewhere around Perry and the Sedins.)

9. Alexander Ovechkin

A few years ago you’d have been stunned to see him ranked here, but if I’m a coach right now and could pick up any of the guys mentioned in this post, he’s going last (ironic, given the photo he took of someone else at the all-star game last year). He may still have it in him, he may find it again, but these days, it’s tough to imagine it happening. Oh, also, he’s at number nine because he’s really good. People have said worse things about him.

8. Jonathan Toews

Yesterday when I tweeted some “is Claude Giroux the next-best forward” stuff, I was shocked by the number of people who suggested Toews. He can do it all – play solid d, see the ice well, pass, shoot, all of it. But “well-rounded” isn’t enough to propel him to the top of this list.

7. Phil Kessel

Leafs fans may not love his rank here given his start to his season, but man, there are some damn good forwards in the NHL. Phil has stepped up his game in a major way to get into this conversation, and he’s still only 24 years old. There’s time to climb. Love his transition game.

6. Corey Perry

Last year’s Hart winner may have the luxury of great linemates, but he’s more than that. He poured in 50 goals last year on top of effectively playing his role as agitator. That he can do that and still have a clear enough mind to play offensively is a rare feat.

5. Henrik Sedin

Henrik won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player two years ago, and has so consistently boggled my head with vision, poise and creativity that he had to be this high up the list. Maybe it’s cheating having telepathic powers with a twin also-amazing brother, but whatever – they exist, and they’re amazing.

4. Daniel Sedin

Daniel above Henrik for no other reason than he’s the shooty portion of the dynamic duo, and goal scoring rules.

3. Steven Stamkos

As a young kid who’s already has a Rocket Richard Trophy under his belt, he’s not leaving this list for awhile. He has a shot like none other, and much like that, he’s shooting up the list of the NHL’s top point-getters this year.

2. Claude Giroux

Giroux is at number two strictly because of how long he’s been as eye-poppingly good as he is, which is to say not very long. That may be punishing him for being young, but the “right now” bias we all hold can be blinding. With that out of the way: he’s atop the NHL’s scoring lead (coming off a four point night with a GWG), and has an electric flair like few we’ve seen before. There’s nobody I’d rather watch on an in-game breakaway.

1.      Pavel Datsyuk

Three Selke trophies as the league’s best defensive forward is amazing in itself, but to do it with such offensive wizardry is special. He’s definitely going to get overtaken by a few names on this list at some point (and maybe soon, given he’s currently 30th in NHL scoring with 24 points in 26 games), but for my money, he’s still the “next best” in the game. He’s too unique a talent to ignore.

Comments (31)

  1. I know there are already two canucks on the list, and I’m biased, but I think Kesler is better than Perry – they always go at each other really hard – great to watch. His battles with Toews and the way they completely eliminate each other make me think they are pretty equal right now, and he should be in the conversation. Also, wouldn’t trade Kesler straight up for Ovi, Kessel or Perry…..

  2. Patrice Bergeron

  3. Why would you think Kessel is better than Toews. No way is it even close

  4. I’d have to disagree on Toews. Absolutely he’s well-rounded, but he’s also got 17 goals and 32 points. And, other than Datsyuk he’s the best defensive forward on this list.

    I think that most teams would take him over everyone on this list save for the top 2. He’s the kind of guy to build a team around, which I admit is a subjective thing.

    The Sedins are certainly offensive talents, but if you get shutdown by Dave Bolland in consecutive playoff years, you probably aren’t top 10 all round forwards. I’d take Kessler over both of them.

    And yes, I’d put Bergeron on here too.

  5. After hearing people’s thoughts on the list (on Twitter and here), I gotta say, I definitely should have put Toews ahead of Kessel and Perry. Not a chance any higher though.

    • not any chance higher????? i forgot that the Sedin sisters and Stamkos have their names on the Stanley Cup …. OH WAIT …..

      • Yup – team accomplishments are the single defining factor in an individual’s skill and reputation. I guess Ray Bourque sucked for all those years until he went to Colorado and finally learned something about playing hockey. Chris Osgood? Three times better than Tim Thomas! IT’S MATH.

        But you did get that Sedin Sisters gag in there, so good on ya, Carl. Stay classy.

    • Weak sauce Bourno…

      I guess were not basing this off of anything like single handily winning a few Gold Medals for Team Canada in the Olympics, and his 3 stints in World Juniors.. (Would post the video, but I’m sure you know)

      Also Dats is getting old, he’s shown me nothing at the 2 games I’ve watched live this year of him playing the Blues..

      Toews is the real deal, he’s the leader of any team. Name one team he walks into, and doesn’t take over its locker room??? (Claude G. is OVER RATED)

  6. Solid list. For my money, Datsyuk is the most entertaining player to watch in the league, including Crosby. The Nuge has some Datsyuk in him but he doesn’t quite have the same ability to open up stickhandling space for himself like Dats can. Not to mention the backhand sauce Dats flings around as if the opposition are just a bunch of cheap burger patties. Honorable mention: Teemu Selanne. In my mind, players creeping on the edge of this list: Anze Kopitar, The Nuge, Jaimie Benn, and Logan Couture.

  7. If being well-rounded doesn’t make you the best forward, what does? Wouldn’t you argue that Crosby is the best because he’s so well-rounded? He plays in all situations, dominates in faceoffs, is a great leader. Sounds kind of like another Stanley Cup winning captain…

  8. Is this a joke? There is no way Kessel should be ranked higher than Toews. Not only is Toews “well-rounded” but he has managed to tally 22 more points in his 4 year career than Kessel has in his 5 years of play. Not to mention leading a group of grown-ass men to a Stanley Cup Championship at the tender age of 22. Despite a strong start to the 2011-2012 campaign, I do not think Phil Kessel belongs on this list. There is no need to cater to Toronto fans. I always appreciate and respect your insight and columns but I disagree on this one.

  9. Does no one else think Tyler Seguin is as much a rising star as Claude Giroux? Kessel could easily be bumped out of this list. Totally agree with Aaron, Jonathon Toews is tenfold more effective in every aspect but his wrist shot than Phil Kessel. You should also probably proof read your writing, let alone “forget” about Evgeni Malkin…

  10. How can Phil the Thrill be ranked ahead of Evgeny Malkin. Art-ross and Conny Smyth winner.

  11. i think toews should be #3 on this list, and giroux has had a good quarter of a season same with kessel, why isint kessel right behind him? and the fact you forget malkin makes this a very shaky post ( i howled at “shooty” though )

  12. Mr. Bourne! Okay list but I approached it a different way. You said “Coach” and I say, “If I’m a GM of the league and I can start a franchise around any player currently in the NHL, who do I take that isn’t Sidney Crosby?”

    I think I’ll disagree with who is on the list rather than the rankings. I mean you can squabble over the Sedins or the top 3 but I’d just like to toss out my additions to this list

    1. Anze Kopitar – Daniel Wagner just posted something under the Analysis section that should be looked at by everyone. Kopitar starts less than 50% of his shifts in the offensive zone, doesn’t get the puck in the best situations/doesn’t get the bounces, and yet is up there in terms of league scoring. The guy is really good. Being from Phoenix, I’m a little disappointed in you on this one Bourne.

    2. I’m impartial to Patrice Bergeron but I can understand why he’s not on the list.

    I read that you would have put Malkin in there around Perry, which is fine so I’ll leave it alone.

    What I’d also like to comment on is Crosby. What he does on the ice is intangible and cannot be measured by metrics and you are right JTB, he’s the best. This reminds me of Gretzky. The Great One is so far removed from his Oilers dynasty that people forget just how good this guy was. He transcended the game like no other during his time just like Crosby is now. When people make the Lemieux vs. Gretzky argument they forget just how good Gretzky was.

    This is why I hope we’re not having a debate 10 years from now stating that player x had the hands and better goal-scoring and if only he hadn’t been so loyal to his franchise and been surrounded by better players and didn’t have a major injury, he’d be the best.

  13. The leaf haters are out today,jealousy will get you no where.

    • Don’t get me wrong. Kessel is a stud, I’ll take him anyday of the weeks with the Habs, but he’s not a top10 forward in this league. Seriously, he’s not even close to the top10 in this league.

      Crosby
      Datsyuk
      Giroux
      Malkin
      Stamkos
      St-Louis
      Toews
      Kane
      Perry
      Sedin
      Sedin
      Kopitar
      Getzlaf
      Perry

    • Get real. If Kessel is your franchise man, I feel so sorry for you.

  14. “But “well-rounded” isn’t enough to propel him to the top of this list.”

    Let me see if I’m understanding your logic: Pavel Datsyuk is a great defensive forward as well as having great offensive numbers, so he’s the second-best player in the league. Jonathan Toews is “well-rounded”, that is to say, both a great defensive and offensive forward, but it is not enough?

    Datsyuk career points per game: .98
    Toews career points per game: .91

    Taking a closer look at their statistics, Toews had a much better rookie season than Datsyuk, but after that, Datsyuk’s numbers started to increase. Toews’s numbers are more constant for his first four seasons in the NHL, but continuously on the rise, just as Datsyuk’s were.

    If you compare Toews’s current (5th) season with Datsyuk’s 5th season, Datsyuk had 1.101 points per game, and Toews currently has 1.143. So, they have similar offensive ability, with Datsyuk averaging slightly better numbers, which is expected as he has more seasons in the NHL.

    Comparing their defensive abilities, they are also very similar. Datsyuk has three Selke wins, the first of which he won in his 6th NHL season. Toews, who was nominated last year for the award, is the early favorite to win it this year.

    Toews has similar numbers as Datsyuk did when Datsyuk was in his 5th NHL season. Currently, Toews has much better numbers than Datsyuk. Jonathan Toews is entering his prime as a hockey player and superstar of this leauge, while Datsyuk is fading. Any reasoning for putting Datsyuk so far ahead of Toews is based purely on Datsyuk’s flashy offensive skills, but in reality, Toews has the exact same results that Datsyuk HAD, but currently cannot recreate.

    I merely compared Datsyuk and Toews because by comparing Toews to the number one forward, I am trying to prove that he is equal to that forward and thus should be higher on this list. I’m not sure how you define a great forward in this league, but in my opinion, someone is great at all aspects of the game (“well-rounded”) would exemplify that greatness.

  15. My first thought on seeing Datsyuk at #1: Are you SURE Pizzo didn’t write this?

    No hate to the guy, but I’m not sure he’s “dynamic” enough to be #1 on this list, if that makes sense. I don’t get a chance to see Detroit much, but I’ve never had that “Oh man, Datsyuk has the puck, something amazing is going to happen” feeling.

    • Then you need to watch red wings games more often bcause he has the wow datsyuk has the puck what’s going to happen? Type skill along with the best defensive forward the past 5 years ( would have won selke last year had he not been hurt) there are few players in this league that I would take over datsyuk

  16. No love for Nicklas Backstrom? In the hear and now, he’s better at both ends of the zones that Ovechkin, and is a monster on both the PP and PK.

  17. Datsyuk no.1??????? Are you high????????

  18. I think Corey Perry is a little high on the list. Sure, he won the Hart last year, but he has only put up 30 goals one other time. I think playing with some great linemates really helps his stats. He’s a -11 this year already. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great player, but I just think he’s a little to high on the list.

    I would take Toews any day of the week over Perry if you are considering what their all around play. Toews can lead the locker room and can also do everything on the ice.

  19. How about a guy who is considered the prototype power forward, has had 10 straight 30+ goal seasons, will drop the gloves with anybody, has 2 Rocket Richard trophies, an Art Ross, a Lester B. Person trophy, a King Clancy Trophy, and just when everyone was writing him off, last year he finished with 43 G 43A. And all this playing on a team with little supporting cast, where is Jarome Iginla on this list? It is laughable that I see people mentioning Kopitar, Selanne, Kesler, Jamine Benn(???), and no mention of Ignila.

    • Jarome Iginla is a great player, but he’s currently tied for 79th in league scoring. It’s awfully hard to consider him one of the top 10 forwards in the NHL right now, when he’s that far back. The majority of his awards came pre-lockout, with the only exception being his Mark Messier Leadership Award, which should come with a free bag of Lays.

      • point taken, but nowhere did I see it was about the top scorers for this year, it said who are the best forwards after Crosby, even though Iginla has got off to a slow start in scoring but does have 7 points in the last 4, and even when he is not scoring he is a presence on the ice that cannot be measure in points, and very few players possess

      • So what everything before pre-lockout should be thrown out? I see no other 2 time Rocket Richard forwards in the league.

        • I’m not saying everything pre-lockout should be thrown out, but this is a current list. Iginla is not currently a top-10 forward. It’s possible that he’ll recover and have a superb season, but when a guy is that far back in points, it’s awfully difficult to make an argument that he’s one of the best in the league right now.

          When your evidence for him being a top-10 player is mostly material from more than 5 years ago, it’s not very compelling.

          I really like Iginla and I’d love to have him on my team, but he doesn’t belong on this list right now. At the end of the season his overall performance might make a more compelling argument, but he shouldn’t be on this list at this point.

  20. No one I’d rather have on my forward ranks than Jon Toews, and that includes Crosby. He’s one of the best players in the world and is getting better on a weekly basis.

  21. I’ll take Evgeni Malkin over anyone on that list including Crosby. If anyone chooses to watch the games you will see that Geno is the most dominate force whenever he steps on the ice. Now that the man is healthy he is starting to get back to the best player in the world status once again.

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