The Atlantic Division's Top 10 forwards


Let's take DMG's idea that he had at Japers Rink, fashion it towards the Atlantic Division and get started over here with our own debate, shall we?

 

Behind the jump the sure-to-be controversial Top 10 rankings of forwards within the division...Malkin or Crosby, who will be #1?  And did I really list three Flyers?  Gross.

 

#10 - Jordan Staal - Center, Pittsburgh Penguins


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Jordan Staal 82 22 27 49 5 37 2 1 3 0 166 13.3


Homer pick?  Perhaps but Jordan Staal put up a fair number of points and ought to only improve his production. His two-way play makes him one of the best PK'ers in the division and helped him get invited to Team Canada's Olympic camp.  That's worthy enough to crack this list.

 

#9  - John Tavares - Center, New York Islanders

no stats 

The 18 year old Tavares is the most touted draftee since, well, Sidney Crosby.  But that alone won't help him climb these rankings, he starts at the nine spot but could quickly be a Top Fiver if he establishes himself in the NHL as quickly as he did dominating in Juniors.

 

#8 - Simon Gagne - Left Wing, Philadelphia Flyers


 

GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Simon Gagne 79 34 40 74 21 42 12 4 3 1 221 15.4

Gagne has some injury question marks but has made it mostly intact through three of the past four seasons.  Here's his goals/points stats in those three seasons: 47/79, 41/68, 34/70.  That's big time.  There's little doubt that when healthy, he'll fill the net.

#7 - Marian Gaborik - Left Wing, New York Rangers


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Like Gagne, Gaborik has had durability concerns, but little concern about his pure skillset.  Anyone that can average over a point/game in Minnesota's old oppresively defensive system has some talent.  Now on broadway and unshackled from the neutral zone trap, it'll be interesting to see how this newcomer does.

#6 - Patrik Elias - Left Wing, New Jersey Devils


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Patrik Elias 77 31 47 78 18 32 12 2 6 0 247 12.6


Often overlooked, Patrik Elias can be quietly a very consistent and dynamic offensive player.  Elias finished 21st in the league in points and he's been doing it for a while.  Elias has averaged 28 goals since the 1999-2000 season, that's a long time of consistencty.

#5 - Jeff Carter - Center, Philadelphia Flyers


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Jeff Carter 82 46 38 84 23 68 13 4 12 0 342 13.5


Carter has a breakout season in 2008-09 when he finished 2nd in goals scored to Alex Ovechkin.  Carter has the size (6'3, 200) and skill to be a premiere NHL forward for a long time at just the age of 24.  He's got size, a good shot and a willingness to go into the high traffic areas to score them. 

#4 - Mike Richards - Center, Phialdelphia Flyers


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Mike Richards 79 30 50 80 22 63 8 7 4 0 238 12.6


Versatility is a good thing to have as a hockey player and Richards excels in many areas.  He serves as the Flyers captain, he can score goals and set them up, he led the league in shorthanded goals and was a few votes shy of winning the Selke trophy for the best defensive forward in the league.  Richards also plays an abrasive style that annoys opposing players and fans equally, but there's substance behind it.  Mike was credited with 147 hits and tied for the league high (among forwards) with 90 blocked shots.

#3 - Zach Parise - Left Wing, New Jersey Devils


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Zach Parise 82 45 49 94 30 24 14 0 8 3 364 12.4


Parise, listed at 5'11 isn't an imposing player in stature, but he sure is when it comes to production.  2008-09 saw him ranked 3rd league-wide in goals, only four players outscored him and they were superstars in Malkin, Ovechkin, Crosby and Datsyuk.  Further, Parise was 3rd in shots on goal, tied for 7th in game winning goals and had the 8th best plus/minus in the whole of the NHL.  It might be argued no forward had a finer all-around regular season than Parise did in 08-09.  But alas, that's only good enough to get him recognition as the 3rd best forward in the division at this point in time.

#2 - Evgeni Malkin - Center, Pittsburgh Penguins


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Evgeni Malkin 82 35 78 113 17 80 14 2 4 0 290 12.1


Can you rank the reigning scoring champion in the regular season AND the playoffs as just the second best forward in his division?  Maybe it's a 1 and 1A situtation, but Malkin gets the nod here as the #2.  Geno has displayed dominance, improving his assist and point total every season in the NHL.  When he's on his game there isn't a more forceful offensive player in the league.  For Malkin to get to #1 he's got to improve his consistency a little, he can seem a little aloof for shifts/games, the peaks and valleys of his game are still there even though he's undoubtedly a star.  Also Malkin has struggled in the faceoff circle (42.4%), another small blemish that detracts from this ranking, even if he did lead the league in turnovers and is more than adequate without the puck.

#1 - Sidney Crosby - Center, Pittsburgh Penguins


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2008 - Sidney Crosby 77 33 70 103 3 76 7 0 3 2 238 13.9


Again, probably controversial to slot Sid ahead of Geno, but given Crosby has a superior point/game average and does display the consistent play shift to shift, game to game, he's the choice as the top dog in the Atlantic.  Crosby's working on rounding out his game, becoming more fluent in the defensive zone and in 2008-09 won more than 50% of his faceoffs for the season.  Crosby also took 1600+ faceoffs, good for 5th in the league there.  His team leans on him for the important times and that's another reason to boost him here.  Crosby dealt with a myriad of nagging injuries throughout the regular season which kept him out of the top of the points race, but seems certain to be a contender each and every year.  He's the captain of the Stanley Cup champs and led the league with 15 playoff goals (10 at even strength).  That's why Sidney Crosby is the Pensburgh top forward in the Atlantic.

--

So what do you think?  Crosby over Malkin justified after Geno had the superior statistical season?  Only one NY Ranger makes the list, should a guy like Chris Drury or Nikolai Zherdev have cracked the top 10?  Tavares at #9 could be seen as too high since he hasn't proven anything or maybe too low by some, since he's below guys like Gagne and Gaborik who can't stay on the ice for large stretches of time.  If you want to make any differences or debates on rankings, feel free to make your case in the comments.

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