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.