New York Rangers v Boston Bruins

Last night I was watching a game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Colorado Avalanche in which, get this, the Blackhawks pulled out a victory. Along the way, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much the way Matt Duchene handles the puck reminds me of the way Pat “The Professor” Kane handles it. (I’m going to keep pushing that nickname until it sticks.)

And in the past, I’ve mentally linked the way Rick Nash plays to the way Marian Hossa plays to the way Evgeni Malkin plays, so I figured it might be fun to see what type of star-labels I could come up with for forwards, and then figure out who would fit where.

I’ve narrowed it down to six groups, with a handful of guys falling under the “hybrid” label. Also, I used the expression “star” lightly, given that I’ve categorized like, 60 players.

Those “star” classes are as follows:

Long Bodies, Wizard Wands, Bombers, Big Boys and Lurkers, with “Workers” as the sort-of-dicey label for the last group.

Shall we dive in? I think we shall.

***

Long Bodies 

Description: Tall, rangy forwards that basketball analysts would describe as “long,” I think because they have big wingspans, or something. Whatever it is, they have great body control, and seem like they’d be impossible to contain, like playing a highly-motivated pterodactyl with excellent dexterity.

In this class:

Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins* Marian Hossa

* Rick Nash

* Evgeni Malkin

* Jason Spezza

* Corey Perry

* Jamie Benn (potential Big Boy, semi-Bomber)

* Jeff Carter (with a nod to the Worker class)

* Bobby Ryan

* James van Riemsdyk

* Joe Thornton (multi-hybrid crossover with our “Big Boys” and “Lurker” categories)

* Taylor Hall (future, as in, maybe-not-quite-worthy of NHL star status yet, but you can see it there)

* Jonathan Huberdeau (future)

***

Wizard Wands

The Wizard Wand group is obviously a bunch of dudes with #sickmitts, but it’s more than that. It’s the way they wield “the wand.” (Not a masturbation euphemism,  some how.) It seems like they use short sticks – no idea if that’s the case or not – because it seems like they constantly have the puck on a string. They’re the guys who can stickhandle in a phone booth, they’re the guys who make you want to do the And1 towel spin, and they have the real potential to embarrass d-men. Also, they can usually skate pretty damn well. Those guys are…

Colorado Avalanche v Anaheim Ducks* Patrick Kane

* Matt Duchene

* Sidney Crosby (hybrid with our “Worker” class)

* Claude Giroux

* John Tavares (also a pretty decent Lurker)

* Jeff Skinner

* Jordan Eberle

* Nazem Kadri (too soon?)

***

Bombers

Bombers is pretty easy to explain: these are the guys you don’t want cocked and loaded at the top of the face-off circle calling for a pass when there’s nobody around to defend them. Hockey is a bit of a nuanced game, but in the end, if you don’t have a gun to fire, you’re not gonna win many wars. These trigger men are:

New York Islanders v New Jersey Devils* Steven Stamkos

* Alexander Ovechkin

* James Neal

* Ilya Kovalchuk

* Patrick Marleau

* Patrick Sharp

* Jarome Iginla

* Marian Gaborik (not a true “bomber,” more of a trigger)

* Dany Heatley

* Alexander Semin (not a true “bomber” either, but like Gaborik, certainly carries a gun)

***

Big Boys

They say “you can’t teach size,” and they’re right. Because, y’know, you can’t teach size. These are the guys who figured out how to best use the gifts they were given, and they cash in largely by just being bigger men than their opponents and leaning on them. They’re talented too, of course, but you get the point.

Dallas Stars v Detroit Red Wings* Eric Staal

* Ryan Getzlaf

* Johan Franzen

* Vincent Lecavalier (possibly a Bomber, possibly a Worker as well)

* Jordan Staal

* David Backes

* Milan Lucic

***

Lurkers

I love this group. These are the guys that you’re not sure that they played until you check the stat sheet and see they had one and two for a three point night. “Oh.” They just keep doing it, finding soft spots, reading a few steps ahead of the play, anticipating better than the mindless puck-chasing morons of the league. Their able to play for a lot of years because of this. They tend to be more dish-happy, because they’re more thoughtful, and tend to read the play so well.

Anaheim Ducks v Calgary Flames* Teemu Selanne

* Thomas Vanek (almost a Long Body hybrid)

* Patrick Elias (guy just keeps. on. doin’ it)

* Daniel Sedin

* Henrik Sedin (the twins have some Wizard Wand/Long Body crossover potential)

* Pavel Datsyuk (of course, he’s a Wizard Wand hybrid)

* Nicklas Backstrom

* Paul Stastny

* Brad Richards

* Phil Kessel (the rare Lurker/Bomber hybrid)

* Martin St. Louis (the even-more-rare Lurker/Bomber/Worker hybrid)

* Danny Briere

* Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (future)

***

and finally…

Workers

These are your guys who are tough to put in a box, because they’re good, but they’re too good at everything to plainly classify. They cause turnovers, they bang at rebounds, they create chances, they might even finish the odd check, but they’re far too good to label as grinders. It’s not an insult to be in this group, it’s a compliment. This category includes:

Minnesota Wild v Anaheim Ducks* Mike Richards

* Henrik Zetterberg

* Zach Parise (his Getty Images account is essentially just hundreds of pictures of him in constant battle with an opponent)

* Jonathan Toews (bit of a Long Body, bit of a Lurker)

* Tyler Seguin

* Daniel Alfredsson (semi-Lurker as well)

* David Clarkson

* Anze Kopitar (Long Body/Lurker potential here too)

* Evander Kane

* Scott Hartnell

* Patrice Bergeron

***

So there you have it, 60 great forwards neatly filed in six little boxes.

Let me know what you think I’m missing here. A player? Several? A whole new category? Whatever it is, I’ll be happy to make adjustments to the lists until we get ‘em right.

Comments (53)

  1. It’s Patrice Bergeron, not Patrick, unless you’re referring to that nice Irish boy Patrick Bergeron-Cleary. :-)

    And you accidentally left David Krejci off your Wizard Wand list.

    • If Krejci were on this list it’d be in the Lurker category undoubtedly not the Wizard. Everyone’s favorite player to hate Brad Marchand though is the glaring omission, with by far the best shooting percentage in the league and tied for 6th in goals scored with 2-4 games in hand on every other player in the top 30.

  2. David Clarkson?

    • You take issue with a guy coming off a 30 goal season with 10 goals in 23 games so far this season, somehow?

      • 163 points in 401 games doesn’t scream “NHL star”. Last year was his career best season and he was 111th in points among forwards. I’m sure he’s a great player but out of place among the rest of those guys.

      • I’d like to bring up something I remember from the Devils’ broadcast team last year. Clarkie credited some of his increased scoring to Adam Oates telling him to cut an inch or so off his stick. Funny how the little things help, eh?

        I would say he’s a long body/worker.

  3. Maybe call the “Bombers” the “Snipers”, and reserve “Bombers” for the guys who make their money with blasts from the point or at least a bit further out than the faceoff dots (to let a few non-D in there).
    So “Snipers” are guys like Kessel, Kovalchuk, Semin, Gaborik; “Bombers” are guys like Chara, Weber, Souray; “S/B Hybrids” would be Stamkos, LeCavalier, Ovechkin.

    ?

  4. Definitely could use Ryan Callahan as a worker in there. This year showing off his scoring touch can be pretty. See: shootout & goals vs TB & PHL.

    • I second this, also watch Callahan’s shootout goal vs Buffalo, it was a thing of beauty. He’s definitely showing that he can do more than just hit, block shots, and clean up garbage goals.

  5. Moulson has to be considered a top forward now, right? Though he isn’t really a lurker as you define it because he’s a finisher not a disher. I’d call him more a ninja. He stealths his way to the net, blending in with the scenery and when he sees his chance BAM the puck is in the net before anyone noticed he was ever near the crease.

    • There’s a missing category out there, and I’m not sure what it is. But I had trouble defining Moulson and Pacioretty (so they got left off entirely), and I struggled with Kopitar.

      Common thread between them seems to be “good at hockey.”

      • I think Kopitar is likely in the right category.
        Spezza is an oversight (and this is coming from a Leaf’s fan).
        I’m loathe to add more names (this is a fun exercise, not an all inclusive list), but I don’t think Hartnell quite bleongs yet in this group (though others are certainly free to disagree).

        What about adding a “two-way studs” category -Towes, Zetterberg, Kopitar, Richards.etc

        Than maybe adjust the “workers class” to something more of the hard-nosed players -a bit of grit, goes to tough places, in the middle of things.

      • Maybe I’m misreading, but what you call “Bombers” I would call “snipers”, and Bombers, to me, are speed/shot guys.

        Take “Bomber” as a guy who, well, bombs down the wing or trough the middle and takes a hard shot, an explosive speed heavy shot guy. What you define as Bomber, let’s call them “Snipers”.

        Pacioretty, for instance, is a hybrid: either relies on that mix of explosive speed and heavy shot or behaves like a big body once the play is set into the zone, so a mix of Bomber/Big body. Kessel is a mix of Bomber and lurker. Semin is a Bomber / long body, Ovechkin, Stamkos and Kovalchuk are Bombers / snipers…

        It’s still murky to me, but I guess my point is there is a difference between guys who cock and load and guys who use overpowering speed to punch trough the D and generate chances with their killer shot.

  6. Top team in the Eastern conference right now: Montreal

    Number of players listed here that play for Montreal: 0

    Depth > stars, I guess. I’ll take it.

    • I just made the exercise of player types on MTL’s top-9. Apart from Pacioretty (long body? Bomber? Big boy?) Galchenyuk (Long body) and Bourque (big boy), they are all workers.

      And I could see the argument for Pacioretty as a worker too.

  7. Watching Jason Spezza play, I was always impressed with his ability to use his length and size (6-3, 215) to protect the puck while stick-handling. I think he fits in pretty well with the Long Bodies group.

    • GREAT call, he’s definitely on there. I’m adding him.

      One other thing to note: I’m not pumped with Seguin’s placing. Him, Pacioretty, Moulson, Kopitar…there’s another group to be made.

      • It’s tough, because Seguin and Kopitar are guys you can watch rush the puck, they’re shifty, they seem to emerge with the puck by going through people – like a clipping error in a video game. I’m not sure if you’d file Patches there. And Moulson is not what you’d call elusive by any means. For Matty, no matter what guys are trying to do to the rest of him, his arms seem unaffected, and he gets the puck on the net. He absorbs contact like a sponge.

        So you’re right about a missing box, but I’m not sure if you could put all four of these guys into the same missing box.

  8. I don’t get the Sedins Long Body crossover?
    Do you mean because they constantly get sticks in the back and still keep the cycle going? Because I wouldn’t say they look like any of the other guys in that group, but that description kind of fits…

  9. You forgot a “Career Ender” category.

    Which would of course include the likes of Patrick Kaleta, Todd Bertuzzi, Kimmo Timonen (not intentionally), etc etc etc.

  10. I know we haven’t seen much of him this season, but where would you place Lupul? Worker seems to be the best fit, but maybe there is a bit of Lurker there too?

  11. I’d add Mikko Koivu to the “Worker” group. The guy’s been consistently putting up decent numbers the last handful of years on not very good teams in Minnesota. I’d also probably put Moulson in the “Lurker” category. Dude is rarely flashy, in my opinion, but you look at the stat sheet after the game and all of a sudden he had a four point night.

  12. Ryan Callahan belongs in the Worker category. I would say the top name even

  13. “They cause turnovers, they bang at rebounds, they create chances, they might even finish the odd check, but they’re far too good to label as grinders.”

    Brad Marchand? My category for him is “water bug,” so maybe that’s a subset.

  14. Hey Justin, what about Wayne Simmonds as a Big Boy?? Claude Giroux does he fit on your list somewhere??

  15. Just wondering, are we categorizing playing-style, or scoring-style? – Because, I believe the two are necessarily distinct. And that such an ambiguity might result in some confusion as to the choice of classifications, and who occupies them.

  16. Ah… the Carolina Hurricanes. 4 of the top forwards in the league but you’d never know it since you’ll always be flipping the channel when they’re on. BTW, as a ‘canes season ticket holder I can assure you that they are a lot more entertaining to watch this season than in previous seasons. They were pretty much unbearable to watch for awhile. The addition of Semin and J. Stall has helped a lot.

  17. No mention of datsyuk in the wizard wands?!?!? Best hands in the league and they forgot about him……good work

    • I actually started to flip my stack over that until I realized he was under lurker as a cross-over Wizard Wand. Still, I think Datsyuk belongs primarly as a Wizard Wand cross-over Lurker, if indeed he is a Lurker. I kinda want to disput that lable because it sounds too close to cherry picker for my taste and Datsyuk definitely is not such. Plus I’m fairly certain that everyone is very aware of when Datsyuk is playing because the dangers of not being so are strong.

  18. I think you need one more category… I look at Thornton and the Sedin’s and their magic seems to be passing. Datsyuk also has it. They are guys that can somehow keep the puck away from others like a semi-pro adult playing “keep away” with a bunch of mini-mites, then float a saucer perfectly onto the tape of a player on the other side of the ice. Can they score? Sure. But the artwork is in the offensive strategy and passing.
    I’d love to see a category for them, if for no other reason than to find others that share this magic. Needs a good name though. Quarterbacks?

    • I vote for “Maestro.” Either they combine enough of the categories that you have trouble putting them in one or the other, or they just generally conduct the rest of the team (and even the opponents) like so many second fiddles. They all play the Maestro’s tune. These guys are elite, rare, and a lot of really good players don’t quite do enough all together to reach this level.

      Datsyuk is a Maestro. Crosby is a Maestro. The Sedin twins together form a Maestro, like forming Voltron or something. Not sure who else in the league you could put there. Being slightly biased, I think that Tavares is being fitted for the baton right now – but he’s not quite gotten both feet on the podium just yet.

  19. he didnt forget about him hes a bit of a hybrid as he mentioned with other skills attached… read more…. good work

  20. Aren’t lurkers just bombers who can also pass?

  21. I would put Kopitar in the “wizard” category, I have always considered him and Datsyuk as the last people I’d want to play against in a pond hockey game.

  22. Okay, two points:

    1. You played too much Final Fantasy in your lifetime.

    2. Kopitar’s game touches all areas. That’s what makes him so good.

  23. I thought Pierre McGuire coined the term “long body” while describing Jordan Stall. Therefore I think Staal should be in said category, solid list though!

  24. Datsyuk is way more of a worker/wizard than a lurker. You ALWAYS notice him on the ice whether or not he has the puck or does anything on the score sheet. Otherwise, good list.

    • I’m actually on board with this. Maybe it’s just semantic, but I can’t get past considering Datsyuk a Luker. He does possess those qualities. He does all those things, but if he disappears on the ice it’s probably just because you’ve blinked.

    • I read through, get to the sick mitts section, see no Datsyuk, proceed to wonder what planet I’m on.

  25. Don’t forget Jagr, the prototypical long body.

  26. Hmm. I feel like the “long bodies” and “Big boys” could perhaps be merged. Jordan Staal (Big boy), for instance, uses his range as well as anyone in the league and Eric (long body) is difficult to keep from cutting through dangerous areas looking for rebounds because of his size.

    And as for a missing category, what about Garbagemen?

    The Hartnell/Kunitz types who certainly have skill of their own, but show up at the tops of the leaderboards precisely because they’re shoveling so much of another guys’ crap into the net.

  27. I’d add Jaromir Jagr to Long Bodies, Nick Backstrom to Wizard Wands and Brad Marchand and Ryan Callahan to Workers. And put Datsyuk in every category

  28. How would you classify Loui Eriksson? I know he’s not really considered an NHL star but it’s not because he doesn’t put up points. He’s had 3 straight years of 70+ points, a 36 goal year before that and he’s pretty consistently ranked as one of the most underrated players in the NHL.

  29. So kadri who has hands but gets reemed for losing the puck too much is a wand wizard (a bit of a toronto bias) andDatsyuk should be in the wizard category before anything else.

  30. i was trying to figure out where you put a guy like dustin brown. my first instinct was worker. then i read the workers description again and it didn’t seem to quite describe him.

    more kind of an over-achiever? but that didn’t seem right either.

    maybe “little engine that could”?

    or “tide that raises all boats”?

    something to capture the intangible trait that seems to elevate beyond a measurable. the leader of men gene, the right guy, right place, right time, against all odds type thing.

    hmmm….this category thing is tough.

  31. I came up with other categories, simply based on how they create offense, no matter if they’re scorers or passers

    “Puck Protectors”
    They have skill, but they also have size and use it to their advantage to make plays, not only to punish opponents. They slow down the game, some more ( Thornton ) than others ( E. Staal ), some are dishers, some are shooters
    Prototype : Jagr
    Thornton, Kopitar, Tavares, Staal I and II, Nash, Perry, Ryan, Benn, Carter

    “Wizards”
    If you face them, you hope you’ll not look like a fool. If you watch, you wonder how did he do that ? They can be big, they can be small, some skate, some protect the puck, but they do things that amaze fans. Even when they seem cornered, they find a way.
    Prototype : Gretzky, Lemieux
    Giroux, Spezza, Datsyuk, Sedins I and II, Malkin, P.Kane, Ribeiro, Getzlaf

    “Energizers”
    They do everything at high-speed. Some skate to open areas then pass the puck ( Crosby ) most are shooter-first ( Kessel ) but speed and hard-work get it done for them. I think most are shooters because it’s tougher to see the ice at 100 mpH
    Prototype : Bure
    Crosby, Parise, old Ovechkin, Kessel, St-Louis, Eberle, Gaborik, Seguin, Duchene, Selanne

    “Snipers”
    They don’t carry the puck as much as the other groups, but you better cover them before they get it in the offensive zone, or you’re gonna skate to the face-off circle in the middle of the ice with your head low. Or you’ll be benched.
    Prototype : Hull
    Stamkos, recent Ovechkin, Semin, Moulson, Neal, Kovalchuk, Vanek, Marleau, Iginla

    “Cerebral”
    They are not always spectacular, they’re always in the right area, and they can use their teammates. They disappear at times( in a sneaky sense ) , only to make the huge play when it counts. They do everything well, and it’s easy to see them as overachievers
    Prototype : Sakic
    Elias, Toews, Zetterberg, Bergeron, B.Richards, Eriksson, Alfredsson, M.Richards, Whitney

    • +1 I think some of this needs to be combined with the original to create the correct answer. That maestro category above also has merit.

  32. i dont recall seeing kesler.. but thats ok.. also semin is definetly a bomber JB as a former “skill guy” you should know an absolutely fucking lethal wrist shot when you see it

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