If we were voting for this year’s NHL first and second all-star team today, who would the top 10 candidates be at left wing? That’s the question we’ll try to answer here, looking solely at statistics from this season. Here’s our current top 10 performers of 2015-16.
1. Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars (38GP, 23G-27A-50PTS)
It’s impossible to overlook the NHL’s current goal-scoring leader. Benn is also one of just two players to reach the 50-point plateau on the season. The Dallas captain is the top offensive left wing in the league today, and impressively he isn’t a one-trick pony. He plays key minutes on both the power play and the penalty kill and his on-ice shot metrics at even-strength are substantially better than the Stars’ already excellent team average.
Just for good measure, Benn also leads all Dallas forwards with 77 hits through 38 games, 31 more than second-ranked Antoine Roussel.
2. Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers (38GP, 15G-25A-40PTS)
The NHL’s No. 4 leading scorer has formed impressive chemistry with second-year pivot Leon Draisaitl, and that’s helped him to overcome a shaky Oilers power play. Hall is actually tied with Benn in even-strength scoring (32 points each) but the big difference is that Benn has 18 points on special teams (including four on the penalty kill) to Hall’s eight.
Edmonton’s shot differential improves by more than 14 per hour the moment Hall steps on the ice; he drives puck possession and offensive zone time for a team that is too often hemmed up in its own end of the rink.
3. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames (36GP, 17G-22A-39PTS)
Like Hall, Gaudreau is highly dependent on even-strength scoring; he exactly matches Hall’s production in that category but comes up one point short on the power play. He’s currently tied for fifth in total NHL scoring with Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues.
Gaudreau’s Corsi number is substantially better than Calgary’s team average (though not quite to the same degree that Hall’s is in Edmonton) but he’s not just capable of getting the puck to the right end of the rink. Gaudreau’s 17.0 shooting percentage this season represents a slight improvement from his impressive 14.4 conversion rate as a rookie.
4. Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (34GP, 18G-13A-31PTS)
Ovechkin’s 18 goals put him five back of the league lead, and tied with or ahead of every player on this list not named Jamie Benn. His shooting percentage is down a little from past seasons; it isn’t unreasonable to think he can even improve on his current mark the rest of the way.
5. Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks (38GP, 16G-21A-37PTS)
The 35-year-old Sedin is enjoying his best shooting percentage season since 2011-12, and as a result he’s already topped his goal totals for 2012-13 and 2013-14 and is within four of matching his output for last year. He’s been very good on the power play, an area of weakness over the last three seasons, and at even-strength his line is dragging the Canucks kicking and screaming toward a postseason berth in the Pacific.
6. Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators (33GP, 18G-16A-34PTS)
Hoffman’s emergence this season has been one of the NHL’s better stories. A year ago he proved he could play with a 27-goal, 48-point effort. This year he’s proving he can lead with a better than point-per-game scoring pace and a monstrous +15.1 relative Corsi.
7. Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens (39GP, 15G-14A-29PTS)
Pacioretty’s contributions go well beyond offence, though he helps there, too. There are parallels to Benn. Like the top left wing on this list, Pacioretty is a big, physical two-way winger who plays in all situations and on both special teams. He also serves as team captain in what is perhaps the league’s toughest market.
8. Mike Cammalleri, New Jersey Devils (37GP, 12G-21A-33PTS)
Cammalleri has been a critical piece of New Jersey’s strong run over the first half of the season. He’s already matched or exceeded his assist production of the last four seasons and is once again on pace to finish around the 25-goal mark.
9. Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues (39GP, 13G-21A-34PTS)
Steen is having a strong offensive year, but his traditionally excellent two-way play seems to have taken a hit, as the Blues shot metrics have fallen with him on the ice this year and the team has allowed an uncharacteristically high number of goals against. Part of the problem is likely the struggles of the Jay Bouwmeester/Alex Pietrangelo defence pairing, with whom he is often matched in a tough-minutes role.
10. Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks (38GP, 11G-21A-32PTS)
It’s hard to rate Panarin because he’s been glued at the hip to the man who is perhaps the league’s most creative offensive player. Having said that, Patrick Kane’s career year no doubt owes something to the presence of Panarin on his far wing. He’s been an incredibly impressive rookie.