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NHL - Ranking all 31 teams by their forward group

ESPN.com | Updated: 2018-09-25 00:01:00

The offseason saw some significant shifts in talent in the NHL, but in many ways the rich just got richer at the forward spot.

John Tavares joined a Toronto Maple Leafs team that was already loaded with young talent. Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty were acquired by the Vegas Golden Knights, one of the few teams in the NHL to roll four effective lines last season. The Philadelphia Flyers had significant scoring on their wings, and added James van Riemsdyk to that mix.

Here's how we rank the forward groups for all 31 NHL teams entering the 2018-19 season. The criteria included overall depth, strength of the team's top line, last season's offensive output and a general sense of how the pieces fit.


1. Tampa Bay Lightning

We're pretty sure you could put a 54-year-old Dave Andreychuk on the wing next to Steven Stamkos (27 goals, 59 assists) and Nikita Kucherov (39 goals, 61 assists) and he'd score 30 goals. As it stands, J.T. Miller (18 points in 19 games) will likely get the nod. The Lightning led the league in goals as a team (296) last season because their offense was spread throughout the lineup. Brayden Point (32 goals), Yanni Gourde (25 goals), Tyler Johnson (21 goals), Alex Killorn (15) and Ondrej Palat (11) all contributed to that total. Anthony Cirelli, Cedric Paquette, Adam Erne, Andy Andreoff and Cory Conacher lend support. Then there's Ryan Callahan, whenever he returns from injury. Arguably the deepest forward group in the league.

2. Toronto Maple Leafs

Now that we've all come to grips with the notion that Good Ontario Boy John Tavares chose to sign with the Leafs, we can focus on what that means on the ice. Tavares (84 points in 82 games with the Islanders) has always had the ability to make stars out of his linemates. Rare has been the opportunity to have a star talent added to his line, which is what Tavares will have in Toronto with either Mitch Marner (22 goals, 47 assists) or William Nylander (20 goals, 41 assists, assuming he signs a new contract). Zach Hyman (15 goals, 25 points) will likely join Tavares. Auston Matthews will likely get whichever winger Tavares doesn't get, along with Patrick Marleau (27 goals, 20 assists). The Leafs' blessing of riches at center extends to the third line, anchored by Nazem Kadri (32 goals, 23 assists). He'll likely be joined by Connor Brown (14 goals, 14 assists) and either Josh Leivo or veteran Tyler Ennis. Andreas Johnsson, Par Lindholm and Kasperi Kapanen will also be in the mix.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins

When your starting point is Sidney Crosby (1.09 points per game), Evgeni Malkin (1.26) and Phil Kessel (1.12), you're ahead of most teams, because that talent makes everyone around them better. Witness Jake Guentzel (22 goals, 26 assists) blossoming with Crosby. Witness Patric Hornqvist topping 20 goals in five straight seasons with Malkin. Witness ... OK, we have yet to witness Derick Brassard finding a new level with Kessel, but hope remains he can find that 60-point pace again. Bryan Rust (13 goals, 25 assists), Carl Hagelin (10 goals, 21 assists), Riley Sheahan (11 goals, 21 assists) are consistent contributors. Daniel Sprong, Dominik Simon and Zach Aston-Reese are also in the mix, as is 41-year-old team dad Matt Cullen on the fourth line.

4. Winnipeg Jets

How great is Mark Scheifele? The Jets center registered 2.39 points per 60 minutes (even strength) over the past two seasons, ranking him eighth overall in the NHL. Blake Wheeler, not to be outdone, has 2.41 goals per 60 over the past two seasons. Who joins them on the top line? Kyle Connor, who posted 31 goals as a rookie riding shotgun with these two. All due respect to Bryan Little (43 points), but the Jets might be a tad higher here if they had either retained or replaced Paul Stastny as the center for Patrik Laine (44 goals, 26 assists) and Nikolaj Ehlers (29 goals, 31 assists). Jack Roslovic, Andrew Copp and Adam Lowry are among the other center options. Mighty mite Mathieu Perreault (39 points) provides instant offense. Brandon Tanev, Marko Dano, Brendan Lemieux, Nic Petan and Kristian Vesalainen are among the depth forwards this season.

5. Vegas Golden Knights

At this point last season, no one was really sure what the top two lines would look like for the "Golden Misfits." In Year 2, their top six are all but set in concrete. Jonathan Marchessault (27 goals, 48 assists), William Karlsson (43 goals, 35 assists) and Reilly Smith (22 goals, 38 assists) return after generating 46 even-strength goals last season. GM George McPhee had a strong second line last season offensively, but it gave up as many goals as it scored at 5-on-5 (26). Enter free-agent center Paul Stastny (53 points), a strong two-way player, and Max Pacioretty, the former Montreal captain, who can also excel at both ends. They'll be paired with either Erik Haula (29 goals) or Alex Tuch (15 goals). Down the lineup, the Knights come at you in waves and can flat-out skate: Tomas Nosek, Ryan Carpenter, Oscar Lindberg, Cody Eakin, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, William Carrier. Oh, and also Ryan Reaves!

6. Washington Capitals

The Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals (still sounds a little weird) didn't add much to the forward group that skated the chalice in Vegas last June. The top line remains anchored by Alex Ovechkin, whose playoff MVP win capped a strong regular season (49 goals, 38 assists). Evgeny Kuznetsov had a Conn Smythe case too, and had 27 goals and 56 assists last season. Their returning linemate is controversy magnet Tom Wilson, who is now being paid more than a guy who musters 14 goals and 21 assists typically would. Nicklas Backstrom (71 points) anchors the second line with T.J. Oshie (18 goals, 29 assists). No. 3 center Lars Eller (18 goals, 20 assists) was a revelation in the postseason, while Travis Boyd is expected to inherit the fourth-line center mantle from the departed Jay Beagle. Offensive standouts on the wing include Jakub Vrana (13 goals, 14 assists) and Andre Burakovsky (12 goals, 13 assists in 56 games); Brett Connolly, Chandler Stephenson, Devante Smith-Pelly and preseason favorite Axel Jonsson-Fjallby fill out the lineup.

7. San Jose Sharks

Forgive the obvious metaphor, but this is a feeding frenzy. Joe Pavelski (22 goals, 44 assists), Evander Kane (14 points in 17 games) and Joe Thornton on the top line. Logan Couture (34 goals), Tomas Hertl (22 goals, 24 assists) and Timo Meier (21 goals) on the second line. Down the lineup are offensive spark plugs like Joonas Donskoi (14 goals) and Kevin Labanc (40 points). Melker Karlsson, Barclay Goodrow, Dylan Gambrell, Marcus Sorensen and Antti Suomela fill out the lineup. But that top six is worth the price of admission.

8. Boston Bruins

Brad Marchand (34 goals, 51 assists in 68 games), Patrice Bergeron (30 goals, 33 assists in 64 games) and David Pastrnak (35 goals, 45 assists) make up the best line in the NHL, generating 27 even-strength goals together and absolutely dominating possession. David Krejci, when healthy, is a steady contributor on the second line. He'll have Jack DeBrusk (43 points as a rookie) on one flank; one assumes either Danton Heinen or the more dynamic Ryan Donato will join them. There's a chance the other two center spots could go to Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson (aka JFK) and Sean Kuraly, with players like Chris Wagner and Noel Acciari filling out the group. Where does 34-year-old David Backes fit, coming off his lowest goal total since 2007-08 (not including the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season)? Great question.

9. St. Louis Blues

The Blues overhauled their forward group this summer, particularly at the center spot in acquiring Ryan O'Reilly (24 goals, 37 assists) from the Sabres and signing Tyler Bozak (11 goals, 32 assists) from the Leafs. They join Brayden Schenn (28 goals, 42 assists), coming off his most productive season in the NHL. Also added this summer: David Perron (16 goals, 50 assists), the steady veteran in his third tour with the Blues; and power forward Pat Maroon (17 goals, 26 assists). Vladimir Tarasenko has more than 30 goals in four straight seasons, while Jaden Schwartz had a 0.95 points-per-game average in 62 games. Alex Steen, Dmitrij Jaskin, Ivan Barbashev and what they hope is a healthy Robby Fabbri are back. But the real intrigue comes from the young standouts that could make the cut: centers Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou, who could both contribute this season and weren't offered up in the aforementioned overhaul of the Blues' forward group, to GM Doug Armstrong's credit.

10. Nashville Predators

The Predators have a dominant top line, and some new hope down the lineup. Ryan Johansen (15 goals, 39 assists), Filip Forsberg (26 goals, 38 assists) and Viktor Arvidsson (29 goals, 32 assists) are among the NHL's best trios. They scored 33 even-strength goals as a unit last season. Kyle Turris (42 points in 65 games), Kevin Fiala (23 goals, 25 assists) and Craig Smith (25 goals, 26 assists) generated 32 goals together (before Turris faded in the postseason). Nick Bonino (12 goals, 13 assists) and Calle Jarnkrok (16 goals, 19 assists) are the other centers. The aforementioned new hope on the wing is rookie Eeli Tolvanen, an explosive offensive talent who could challenge for the Calder Trophy if he earns the ice time. Austin Watson (currently suspended for a domestic violence charge), Miikka Salomaki and Colton Sissons are among the other options. Then there's Ryan Hartman: Does he have untapped offensive potential, or is he just muscle down the lineup?

11. Philadelphia Flyers

The addition of James van Riemsdyk (36 goals, 18 assists) sufficiently addressed the need to grab another top scoring winger, and gave second-year center Nolan Patrick (13 goals, 17 assists) a potent offensive weapon to pair with Jakub Voracek (20 goals, 65 assists). That'll pair nicely with the Flyers' top line of Claude Giroux (102 points), Sean Couturier (31 goals) and 21-year-old Travis Konecny (47 points). Wayne Simmonds (24 goals, 22 assists) may not have a clear future in Philly but will bolster the third line, likely with Oskar Lindblom and either Jordan Weal or Mikhail Vorobyev. Michael Raffl, Scott Laughton, Dale Weise and veteran Jori Lehtera are also in the mix.

12. Los Angeles Kings

Of all the lines on all the teams in the NHL, the one that Ilya Kovalchuk landed on in Los Angeles might be ideal for him. Anze Kopitar (35 goals, 57 assists) is an elite two-way center and puck distributor. Dustin Brown (28 goals, 33 assists) goes to the net and creates space on the forecheck. And both of them skate at a ... well, a pace that a 35-year-old Russian import won't mind. A healthy Jeff Carter (13 goals in 27 games) makes Tanner Pearson (15 goals, 25 assists) and Tyler Toffoli (24 goals, 23 assists) exponentially more dangerous. Alex Iafallo should be better than 25 points in 75 games, but the Kings would love another 37 points from Adrian Kempe and 14 goals from Trevor Lewis. Kyle Clifford, Nate Thompson are the veteran grunts, while 19-year-old Gabriel Vilardi and Jaret Anderson-Dolan are young wild cards.

13. Florida Panthers

Though the circumstances were truly bizarre, Mike Hoffman's arrival in Florida solidifies the Panthers' top six as one of the most impressive in the conference. The top line features Selke Trophy winner in waiting Aleksander Barkov (27 goals, 51 assists), flanked by Evgenii Dadonov and Nick Bjugstad. Hoffman (22 goals, 34 assists) figures to join the ascendant Vincent Trocheck (31 goals, 44 assists) and the consistent Jonathan Huberdeau (27 goals, 42 assists) on the second line. But after that ... well, you can see why the Panthers are hoping rookie Henrik Borgstrom gives them an offensive boost. The rest of the forwards are recognizable grunts -- Troy Brouwer, Derek MacKenzie, Colton Sceviour, Frank Vatrano, Jared McCann, Michael Haley, Jamie McGinn.

14. Dallas Stars

There were many times last season when Jamie Benn (36 goals, 43 assists), Tyler Seguin (40 goals, 38 assists) and Alexander Radulov (27 goals, 45 assists) were the sum total of the Dallas offense. It's a juggernaut line that scored 38 goals at 5-on-5 together. But the biggest surprise offensively for the Stars was their defensive group: The lines anchored by Radek Faksa (17 goals, 16 assists) and Tyler Pitlick (14 goals, 13 assists) produced 29 goals last season at even strength. These are the safe bets. Here are the wild cards: Jason Spezza, the 35-year-old center coming off the worst season his career (26 points); Martin Hanzal, the 31-year-old center who was limited to 38 games last season and had back surgery; and Valeri Nichushkin, the talented 23-year-old winger trying to pull a Radulov -- leaving the NHL, finding his game in the KHL, and returning a better player. Mattias Janmark, Blake Comeau, Devin Shore and Brett Ritchie are among the supporting cast and could jump up into prominent roles if new coach Jim Montgomery likes what he sees.

15. Minnesota Wild

The Wild's forward group requires a suspension of disbelief. You have to assume Eric Staal can continue the career resurgence after a 42-goal season, and that Jason Zucker's 33 goals aren't a contract year aberration. That Zach Parise, finally healthier, can contribute big numbers. That 35-year-old Mikko Koivu's criminally underappreciated two-way play last season can be repeated. There are a few givens here -- Mikael Granlund getting his 65-plus points, Nino Niederreiter getting around 20 goals, Charlie Coyle contributing some offense -- but the Wild could really use a breakout season from Joel Eriksson Ek (16 points) or promising rookie power forward Jordan Greenway. Eric Fehr, Matt Read, Marcus Foligno, J.T. Brown and Matt Hendricks do the dirty work for coach Bruce Boudreau.

16. Columbus Blue Jackets

Sure, his future with the team is tenuous at best, but Artemi Panarin is a Blue Jacket now, which means Columbus has the seventh-leading scorer in the NHL over the past three seasons (233 points). Pierre-Luc Dubois answered some questions about his status as a top-line center with a 48-point rookie season on Panarin's line. Cam Atkinson's likely to round out that trio. The second unit could make or break the CBJ this season: They need center Alexander Wennberg (35 points in 66 games) and winger Josh Anderson (19 goals, 11 assists) to level up, and Boone Jenner (13 goals, 19 assists) to reverse the two-year decline in his shooting percentage. Sonny Milano (14 goals) and Oliver Bjorkstrand (40 points) will try to build on promising seasons, while veterans Nick Foligno (15 goals) and Brandon Dubinsky (16 points in 62 games) seek to add some tenacity. Riley Nash was a solid signing from the Bruins as a depth forward. Meanwhile, the Jackets are the third team over the past year to try to tap Anthony Duclair's potential. A lot of maybes here, but there's some promise.

17. Calgary Flames

Johnny Gaudreau (84 points) and Sean Monahan (64) make up one of the NHL's most dynamic duos, but which new acquisition fills out the trio this season: James Neal (11 straight 20-plus-goal seasons) or Elias Lindholm, the former Hurricanes center who could add an element of defense to the line? Whoever misses on that feast of points likely drops down to play with the tenacious Mikael Backlund (45 points) and Matthew Tkachuk (49 points amid much pestering of opponents). Sam Bennett (26 points), Michael Frolik (25 points) and Mark Jankowski (25 points) were the next highest scorers at even strength. Summer additions Austin Czarnik and Derek Ryan, and potentially preseason favorite Dillon Dube, help with the depth, but this is still a top-heavy group.

18. Edmonton Oilers

I don't know, but this McDavid kid sounds like a keeper. Connor had 41 goals and 67 assists to win his second straight Art Ross, and exhibiting that rare ability to score with a variety of wingers: Leon Draisaitl (25 goals, 45 assists), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (24 goals, 24 assists), Milan Lucic (10 goals, 24 assists and a paltry 6.8 shooting percentage) and Ty Rattie (5 goals, 4 assists). Tobias Rieder could end up on the second line. Can Ryan Strome break 40 points? Can Jesse Puljujarvi level up in his third season? Can Jujhar Khaira build on last season's promising 69 games? Overall, this remains a lineup with insufficient depth beyond McDavid, Draisaitl and the Nuge. But with McDavid in the mix, there's a certain level below which they'll never fall.

19. New Jersey Devils

Taylor Hall was over 40 points better than any other forward on the Devils last season, winning the Hart Trophy with a 93-point campaign. Rookie center Nico Hischier (20 goals, 32 assists) deserves some credit for that campaign; if only the Devils' other young center, Pavel Zacha (25 points), could come within a whiff of his potential. Veterans Travis Zajac (26 points) and Brian Boyle (13 goals) are the other centers. The Devils found a top-six winger in speedy Jesper Bratt (35 points), and Blake Coleman was a burner down the lineup with 13 goals. Kyle Palmieri (24 goals, 20 assists) and Marcus Johansson (14 points in 29 games) were also in the top six. Stefan Noesen and Miles Wood bring offensive tenacity, while the Devils hope to get some contribution from young John Quenneville and Joey Anderson.

20. Chicago Blackhawks

Let's start with the encouraging news: Patrick Kane remains one of the NHL's most productive offensive stars, despite a dip in his numbers (27 goals, 49 assists) post-Artemi Panarin. Alex DeBrincat (28 goals, 28 assists) put together an impressive rookie campaign. Marcus Kruger and Artem Anisimov are known veteran quantities. Now the somewhat encouraging news: Neither Jonathan Toews (9.5 shooting percentage) nor Brandon Saad (7.6) are as ordinary as their shooting percentages last season would indicate, and both could bounce back. Nick Schmaltz showed flashes of top-line potential (21 goals, 31 points). Chris Kunitz is 39 and good for 29 points. Now the bad news: There are four more forward positions that need to be filled in the Blackhawks' lineup.

21. Colorado Avalanche

Nathan MacKinnon (39 goals, 58 assists) got the headlines and the accolades, but the Avs' entire top line had an incredible season. Mikko Rantanen (29 goals, 55 assists), Gabriel Landeskog (25 goals, 37 assists) and MacKinnon produced 47 goals together at even strength for a goal differential of plus-20. It's a tribute to them that Colorado made the playoffs, because its production fell off a cliff after the top line. Alex Kerfoot (14 even-strength goals) and Matt Nieto (10) were the only other forwards in double digits for 5-on-5 goals, and there's no way Kerfoot has another season with a 23.5 shooting percentage. Sven Andrighetto, J.T. Compher, Matt Calvert, Colin Wilson and Carl Soderberg can be effective at what they do, but don't move the needle all that much offensively. Tyson Jost, their 20-year-old 2016 first-rounder, could have a breakout season.

22. Anaheim Ducks

On paper, this is a fantastic core of forwards -- provided that the paper was printed on in 2012. Ryan Getzlaf (33) remains a point-per-game threat, and has helped linemate Rickard Rakell register back-to-back 30-goal seasons. But Corey Perry (33) and what's left of Ryan Kesler (34) are both on the decline. The Ducks might have found something exceptional in the chemistry between Adam Henrique and Ondrej Kase, who both tallied 20 goals last season. They could use a bit more offensively from Jakob Silfverberg, whose points per game and possession numbers took a tumble last season. Andrew Cogliano and Brian Gibbons bring speed to the lineup. The wild card is Patrick Eaves, who it appears will be back from a scary battle with a post-viral syndrome. He's two years removed from a 32-goal season.

23. Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes had only four forwards score double-digit goals at even strength last season, but that number should increase thanks to the offseason additions of Alex Galchenyuk (19 goals, 32 assists) and Michael Grabner (27 goals last season, 25 at even strength). Clayton Keller's 65-point rookie campaign portends good things, as he clicked well with top center Derek Stepan (56 points). Christian Dvorak has yet to top 40 points through two seasons, while Christian Fisher (33 points) is coming off a solid rookie season. It's a critical season for Dylan Strome, drafted third overall in 2015 and by far the least accomplished player from that top 10. Richard Panik and Brad Richardson are good veteran hands. They'll see what kind of upside Vinnie Hinostroza has after he was acquired in the Marian Hossa contract dump from Chicago. (And no, Hossa doesn't count in the rankings.)

24. New York Islanders

People like to treat John Tavares like a bathtub plug whose removal drained all the talent from the Islanders, but that's not the case. The keys to the kingdom now belong to Mathew Barzal, the Calder Trophy winner coming off 85 points in 82 games. He'll likely have Anthony Beauvillier (21 goals, 15 assists) on his wing, but new coach Barry Trotz has been toying with moving Jordan Eberle (25 goals, 34 assists) off Barzal's line and onto one with Brock Nelson and Anders Lee, who scored 40 goals with Tavares last season. Josh Bailey (18 goals, 53 assists) would then skate with Barzal. Bailey, Barzal and Beauvillier ... I mean, if that's not the Killer B's line, why do we even bother with nicknames? GM Lou Lamoriello scrambled after Tavares left and came up with free agents Valtteri Filppula and Leo Komarov; they'll join Andrew Ladd, Jan Kovar and the forever tantalizing Josh Ho-Sang in the mix on the third line. In acquiring Matt Martin, Lamoriello got the band back together on the fourth line: Martin, Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck. Scoff if you like, but this was arguably the best fourth line in the NHL at one point. For whatever that's worth.

25. Buffalo Sabres

Jack Eichel's last two seasons crept within the point-per-game zone, and he has never had a goal-scorer like Jeff Skinner (61 tallies in the past two seasons combined) on his line. Sam Reinhart had 25 goals and 25 assists to solidify his place in the top six. Kyle Okposo (44 points) brings veteran physicality and some versatility to the lineup. The Ryan O'Reilly trade with the Blues gave GM Jason Botterill three new assets at forward in Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund and Tage Thompson, the latter of whom could end up on the top line. He also added Conor Sheary, who scored 48 goals in three seasons with Pittsburgh. You know what you get from Jason Pominville (around 35 points), but what will the Sabres get from highly touted rookie Casey Mittelstadt, who might be their second-line center behind Eichel? (Ditto for talented young winger Alexander Nylander.) Scott Wilson, Zemgus Girgensons, Evan Rodrigues and Johan Larsson fill out the lineup.

26. Carolina Hurricanes

One of the few teams in the NHL whose defensive depth eclipses that of the forward group, but it's getting closer to balancing out for two reasons: winger Andrei Svechnikov, the No. 2 overall pick who's expected to be an immediate goal-scoring force; and center Martin Necas, a 19-year-old blue-chipper. They join a group that includes 20-year-old leading scorer Sebastian Aho (29 goals, 36 assists), Teuvo Teravainen (23 goals, 41 assists), new captain Justin Williams (16 goals, 35 assists) and center Jordan Staal (19 goals, 27 assists). They added Micheal Ferland from Calgary, who had 14 of his 21 goals at even strength last season. Valentin Zykov, Phillip Di Giuseppe, Brock McGinn and Jordan Martinook are among the supporting cast. Victor Rask (14 goals, 17 assists) will help, too, provided he stays out of the kitchen.

27. Detroit Red Wings

This group lost its most notable veteran when captain Henrik Zetterberg called it a career because of a bum back before the season. If there is a silver lining, it's that the center spot is the Wings' deepest, with No. 1 pivot Dylan Larkin (16 goals, 47 assists) backed by Frans Nielsen (16 goals, 17 assists), Andreas Athanasiou (16 goals, 17 assists) and Luke Glendening (11 goals, 8 assists). The Wings have the potential -- and let's reiterate that it's potential -- for two dynamic lines. Larkin could be flanked by Anthony Mantha (24 goals, 24 assists) and Tyler Bertuzzi (7 goals, 17 assists). Athanasiou could have the instant offense of Thomas Vanek (24 goals, 32 assists) and, if coach Jeff Blashill can trust him enough, rookie sniper Filip Zadina. Old reliables like Gustav Nyquist (21 goals, 19 assists), Justin Abdelkader (13 goals, 22 assists) and Darren Helm (13 goals, 18 assists) fill out the group. The wild cards: Michael Rasmussen, their promising 19-year-old center, and the long-gestating Russian winger Evgeny Svechnikov.

28. Montreal Canadiens

A much different group, minus Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty. We're always cautious about effusive preseason praise, but Jonathan Drouin has been getting raves after an inconsistent 46-point campaign. He's skated with Winnipeg import Joel Armia (12 goals, 17 assists) on the opposite wing. At center? In the short term, it'll probably be Max Domi, the latest in the franchise's parade of "wingers we hope can be No. 1 centers." In the long term ... well, No. 3 overall pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Drouin would be incredible to watch. Brendan Gallagher showed his scoring prowess with 31 tallies last season, to go along with his aggravating intangibles. (To that end, Andrew Shaw remains an overcompensated depth forward.) Speedy Paul Byron was given a big new deal after a 20-goal season. The Habs acquired promising young center Nick Suzuki and winger Tomas Tatar (20 goals) from Vegas for Pacioretty, and both could contribute. Phillip Danault, Matthew Peca and veteran sage Tomas Plekanec figure to fill out the middle. Artturi Lehkonen, Jacob de la Rose, Nicolas Deslauriers, Charlie Hudon and promising 22-year-old Nikita Scherbak are the other options in a crowded field at forward. But until Kotkaniemi reaches his potential, they don't have a true No. 1 center to tie it together.

29. New York Rangers

Let the rebuild commence! Highly touted rookies Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil will see regular time with the Rangers this season under new coach David Quinn. So will (hopefully) winger Pavel Buchnevich (43 points), whom Alain Vigneault buried like a time capsule last season. It's not a total teardown. Mats Zuccarello (16 goals, 37 assists), Mika Zibanejad (27 goals, 20 assists), Chris Kreider (16 goals, 21 assists in 58 games), Ryan Spooner (16 points in 20 games), Jimmy Vesey (17 goals, 11 assists) and Vladislav Namestnikov (just four points in 19 games after scoring 44 in 62 with Tampa) all return. Jesper Fast, Matt Beleskey, Brett Howden and Cody McLeod are among the other options. One wild card: Kevin Hayes, who made the leap to 25 goals last season after a career best of 17.

30. Ottawa Senators

The smoke clears from the dumpster fire. Matt Duchene (49 points in 68 games) and Matt Stone (62 points in 58 games) are still standing there, covered in soot and seeking new contracts next summer. Chris Tierney (17 goals, 23 points) was the only immediately serviceable part of the Erik Karlsson trade and should see plenty of ice time as the Sens' second-line center while the explosive Jean-Gabriel Pageau misses months with a torn Achilles tendon. Ryan Dzingel (23 goals, 18 assists) and Mikkel Boedker (15 goals) bring some goal scoring on the wing. Rookies Brady Tkachuk and Alex Formenton, both 19, will see plenty of action. Zack Smith, Magnus Paajarvi and Tom Pyatt will be in the mix. So will what's left of Bobby Ryan, who will cost the Sens $7.25 million against the cap through 2022 and scored 11 goals in 62 games last season.

31. Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks know they have two things going for them, which is nice: 21-year-old winger Brock Boeser, who scored 55 points in 62 games last season, and 23-year-old center Bo Horvat, who had 22 goals and 22 assists in 64 games. Jonathan Dahlen may eventually skate on the top line, but he's in the AHL to start the campaign. The Canucks might also have a third thing going for them: Rookie center Elias Pettersson is expected to anchor their second line and challenge for the Calder Trophy. Sven Baertschi (14 goals, 15 assists), Nikolay Goldobin (14 points in 38 games) and the tenacious Brendan Leipsic (9 points in 14 games) are options on the wing. The Canucks infamously handed four-year contracts to Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel to bolster the bottom six. Sam Gagner, Markus Granlund, Brandon Sutter, Tyler Motte and Jake Virtanen are in the mix as well. And then there's Loui Eriksson, who had 10 goals in 50 games last season and makes $6 million against the cap annually through 2022. Good times.

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