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Rankings the Best Forward Lines So Far This Season

The best of the best
Feb 9, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche left wing Gabriel Landeskog (92) reacts to the lose to the Vancouver Canucks at the Pepsi Center. The Canucks defeated the Avalanche 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Having a dominant forward line is such a big luxury in the NHL today.  You obviously need more then just one line but the benefit of having a trio that can greatly tilt the ice in your favor for almost around a third of the game is an advantage that teams are lucky to have.  We have seen several teams this season that have been successful and big reasons for that is having a line that can carry significant play.  There’s been some debate about who has the best line in the NHL, so I’ve decided to do my own ranking of lines that I think have been the best this season.  So, using video and numbers, here are my top 10 lines so far this season.

  1. Taylor Hall – Nico Hischier – Kyle Palmieri (NJD)

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The New Jersey Devils have struggled to find the success they had last season through the first half but not because of these three.  Hall, Hischier and Palmieri were very successful as a line last season and they have picked up where they left off this season.  Hischier at 19 is developing into a strong two-way centre with great hands and smarts.  Palmieri has one of the better releases in the league, and Hall creates so much space for himself and his teammates with his terrific skating and playmaking ability.  They are dangerous in tight, in terms of high danger shot attempts, the Devils are 67-37 (64.42%) when those three are on the ice.  They have also outscored the opposition 21-11 (65.63%) at 5v5 so far this season.  The Devils however need more support behind this top line if they want to be successful, as they have been outscored 36-51 (41.38%) when the trio is not on the ice.

  1. Artemi Panarin – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Cam Atkinson (CLB)

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When the Jackets traded for Panarin they were looking for someone who could be a gamebreaker, he has been exactly that and much more during his time with Columbus.  When the Jackets drafted Dubois 3rd overall in 2016, they were hoping that he would develop into a natural centre to help make up for losing Ryan Johansen, he has also done a very good job of that.  Let’s also not forget about Atkinson who is having the best offensive season of his career so far with 38 points in 35 games.  As a line, they have a lot of speed, Atkinson can fly and Panarin is one of the best transition players in the league with his skill and poise with the puck.  He’s not afraid to skate the puck up the ice himself and all that possession leads to a lot of chances off the rush.  They are 185-151 (55.06%) in terms of scoring chances and have outscored the opposition 29-18 (61.70%) at 5v5.

  1. Jason Zucker – Eric Staal – Mikael Granlund (MIN)

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Minnesota has struggled to find offense this season, but this line has been their go-to line in order to generate offense.  Zucker, Staal and Granlund have been strong in all three zones this season and is carrying significant play for Minnesota, keeping them in the playoff hunt.  They are a versatile line that plays quick and at a high tempo, they can score off the rush or the cycle.  Zucker is a fast player who is aggressive on the forecheck, absorbing contact and keeping the opposition hemmed in.  Staal and Granlund also use their passing ability to create chances for each other and Zucker in and around the slot.  They out attempt the opposition 75-32 (70.09%) from high danger, they outshoot teams 164-119 (57.95%) and have outscored teams 15-8 (65.22%), all at 5v5.  They have been terrific together so far this season.

  1. Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Alexander Radulov (DAL)

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Since the Stars signed Radulov in the summer of 2017, the combination of him, Benn and Seguin have been one of the more dominant lines in the league.  They overwhelm you physically and with skill, it’s so hard for the opposition to get the puck from them because they can wear you down with possession and chances.  They have outscored opposing teams at 5v5 20-8 (71.43%) and 15-5 (75.00%) from high danger.  Like New Jersey, Dallas has struggled with depth scoring, getting outscored 32-43 (42.67%) without their top line on the ice.

  1. Nikolaj Ehlers – Mark Scheifele – Blake Wheeler (WPG)

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This combination has been great this season since being put together.  They are all incredibly skilled and all bring different elements to the table.  Ehlers is a controlled zone entry machine who generates a ton of chances once entering the zone.  Wheeler is one of the best passers to the slot and Scheifele is one of the most frequent shooters from the slot.  When you have three skilled players like that who all complement each other so well, it is a nightmare for the opposition to defend.  At 5v5, the trio has outscored the opposition 19-8 (70.37%) and 11-3 (78.57%) at high danger, carrying the play whenever they are out on the ice.

  1. Travis Konecny – Sean Couturier – Claude Giroux (PHI)

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During a frustrating first half of the season for the Flyers, the line of Konecny, Couturier and Giroux have been a bright spot so far.  They have tilted the ice significantly in their favor when they’re on the ice.  They’ve out attempted the opposition 293-182 (61.68%), outshot them 152-88 (63.33%) and they have outscored teams 16-9 (64.00%) at 5v5 this season.  Couturier is a brilliant two-way centre who finally broke out offensively last year, Giroux is one of the most dynamic playmakers in the game, and Konecny brings a combination of speed, skill and sandpaper.  They work so well together and make for one of the best lines in hockey.

  1. Tomas Tatar – Phillip Danault – Brendan Gallagher (MTL)

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This one might be surprising and maybe a little controversial for a lot of people.  You can argue where you would put them, but they deserve to be high on this list.  Montreal has been one of the biggest surprises during the first half of the season and currently sit in the second wild card spot with 43 points.  They’re not huge names in the league but they have quietly been incredible this season.  Tatar has had a huge bounce back season after a 34-point season last year and being healthy scratched at times for Vegas in the playoffs.  Together, they are a quick, forechecking line, they are all fast and they are aggressive on the puck, forcing turnovers and turning them into high quality chances.  At 5v5, they’ve outshot teams 258-154 (62.62%), they’ve outscored teams 22-13 (62.86%), they’ve out chanced teams 227-133 (63.06%) and they’ve outscored teams 18-9 (66.67%) at high danger.  They’ve played hard minutes this season and they are a huge reason for Montreal’s start to the year, they deserve to be high on this list.

  1. Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Elias Lindholm (CGY)

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Elias Lindholm has been an amazing add to the Flames so far this season, he’s a versatile player that complements Monahan and Gaudreau so well.  Since their goaltending has been better over the last while, Calgary is one of the hottest teams in the league, they are 8-3-1 in the month of December and their top line is a major catalyst for this success.  All three of them are point per game players and have combined to outscore the opposition 26-17 (60.47%) at 5v5.  Gaudreau is among the league leaders in passes to the slot and Monahan is one of the leaders in slot shots.  They are a great duo, the addition of Lindholm has given them more versatility and they have clicked all season long.

  1. Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak (BOS)

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I still think they are arguably the best line but Bergeron’s missed time with injury and they haven’t been quite as good as last season, those were big reasons why I have them at 2 instead of 1.  But these three have still been incredible together and they don’t have any weaknesses as a line.  Bergeron is arguably the best defensive centre in the game, Marchand is a premier pest who is as good as most wingers in the league.  You add in the smooth, skilled, dynamic Pastrnak and you have a near perfect line.  They are 55% or higher in shot attempts, high danger attempts, scoring chances and goals.  There’s not much more that I can say about this trio other then they’re fantastic.

  1. Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen (COL)

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Most people probably saw this coming, I almost had to put them 1 after the start to the season that they’ve had.  Rantanen and MacKinnon are currently both top 3 in league scoring and Landeskog is also on pace for 53 goals and is over a point per game player as well.  They’ve been without question the most dangerous offensive line in the league and are almost unstoppable at times.  They are at their best when they are creating offense off the rush and in transition.  They move the puck so well and they read off each other great.  MacKinnon uses his explosiveness and skill to create a ton of rush chances.  Once they’re in the zone, Rantanen has been one of the best playmakers in the league this season and creates a ton of opportunities for both MacKinnon and Landeskog.  They’ve outscored teams 33-19 (63.46%) at 5v5 and 19-12 (61.29%) at high danger.  Because of what they have done so far, they take the top spot on my list.

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