April 12 2009 01:46AM
There are thirty teams in the NHL. Each team has one first line, with three forwards on it; ergo there have been ninety first-line players since the lockout. Defining a first-line player is difficult, but the most obvious requirement is offense. With that in mind, I went and researched the top ninety players by points per game since the lockout at Hockey-Reference.com.
I’ve bolded all players in the Northwest Division:
1. Sidney Crosby: 1.37 PTS/GM T2. Alexander Ovechkin: 1.29 PTS/GM Joe Thornton: 1.29 PTS/GM 4. Evgeni Malkin: 1.26 PTS/GM T5. Daniel Alfredsson: 1.17 PTS/GM Pavel Datsyuk: 1.17 PTS/GM Jason Spezza: 1.17 PTS/GM 8. Dany Heatley: 1.15 PTS/GM 9. Marc Savard: 1.12 PTS/GM 10. Ilya Kovalchuk: 1.11 PTS/GM T11. Marian Gaborik: 1.10 PTS/GM Jarome Iginla: 1.10 PTS/GM Henrik Zetterberg: 1.10 PTS/GM T14. Marian Hossa: 1.07 PTS/GM Vincent Lecavalier: 1.07 PTS/GM Joe Sakic: 1.07 PTS/GM 17. Daniel Briere: 1.05 PTS/GM 18. Teemu Selanne: 1.03 PTS/GM T19. Martin St. Louis: 1.00 PTS/GM Eric Staal: 1.00 PTS/GM Mats Sundin: 1.00 PTS/GM T22. Olli Jokinen: 0.96 PTS/GM Henrik Sedin: 0.96 PTS/GM Paul Stastny: 0.96 PTS/GM Steve Sullivan: 0.96 PTS/GM T26. Nicklas Backstrom: 0.95 PTS/GM Simon Gagne: 0.95 PTS/GM Daniel Sedin: 0.95 PTS/GM Alexander Semin: 0.95 PTS/GM T30. Patrik Elias: 0.94 PTS/GM Paul Kariya: 0.94 PTS/GM Ray Whitney: 0.94 PTS/GM 33. Martin Havlat: 0.93 PTS/GM T34. Ales Hemsky: 0.92 PTS/GM Brad Richards: 0.92 PTS/GM Alex Tanguay: 0.92 PTS/GM 37. Ryan Getzlaf: 0.91 PTS/GM T38. Patrick Marleau: 0.90 PTS/GM Rick Nash: 0.90 PTS/GM 40. Andy McDonald: 0.89 PTS/GM T41. Jason Arnott: 0.88 PTS/GM Tim Connolly: 0.88 PTS/GM Pavol Demitra: 0.88 PTS/GM Patrick Kane: 0.88 PTS/GM T45. Scott Gomez: 0.87 PTS/GM Anze Kopitar: 0.87 PTS/GM Alexei Kovalev: 0.87 PTS/GM T48. Rod Brind’Amour: 0.86 PTS/GM Mike Cammalleri: 0.86 PTS/GM Michael Nylander: 0.86 PTS/GM Derek Roy: 0.86 PTS/GM T52. Shane Doan: 0.85 PTS/GM Mike Ribeiro: 0.85 PTS/GM Cory Stillman: 0.85 PTS/GM Jonathan Toews: 0.85 PTS/GM T56. Alexander Frolov: 0.84 PTS/GM Brendan Morrow: 0.84 PTS/GM T58. Saku Koivu: 0.83 PTS/GM Ryan Smyth: 0.83 PTS/GM T60. J.P Dumont: 0.82 PTS/GM Slava Kozlov: 0.82 PTS/GM T62. Patrice Bergeron: 0.81 PTS/GM Thomas Vanek: 0.81 PTS/GM T64. Brian Gionta: 0.80 PTS/GM Jason Pominville: 0.80 PTS/GM Brendan Shanahan: 0.80 PTS/GM 67. Daymond Langkow: 0.79 PTS/GM T68. Andrew Brunette: 0.78 PTS/GM Jonathan Cheechoo: 0.78 PTS/GM Chris Drury: 0.78 PTS/GM Shawn Horcoff: 0.78 PTS/GM Kristian Huselius: 0.78 PTS/GM Zach Parise: 0.78 PTS/GM T74. Maxim Afinogenov: 0.77 PTS/GM Brad Boyes: 0.77 PTS/GM Milan Hejduk: 0.77 PTS/GM Vaclav Prospal: 0.77 PTS/GM Bobby Ryan: 0.77 PTS/GM T79. Jason Blake: 0.76 PTS/GM Mark Recchi: 0.76 PTS/GM Mike Richards: 0.76 PTS/GM Brian Rolston: 0.76 PTS/GM Justin Williams: 0.76 PTS/GM T84. Erik Cole: 0.75 PTS/GM Mike Modano: 0.75 PTS/GM 86. Robert Lang: 0.74 PTS/GM T87. Jamie Langenbrunner: 0.73 PTS/GM Markus Naslund: 0.73 PTS/GM T89. Keith Tkachuk: 0.72 PTS/GM Todd Bertuzzi: 0.72 PTS/GM
This of course, is a strictly offensive metric; certain players with defensive shortcomings should be knocked down the list while players with a stronger game are correspondingly elevated. Still, everyone will have their own opinion on these guys, but one thing is for sure: since the lockout, these 90 players have been the ones most effective at putting up points.
Calgary Flames 11. Jarome Iginla: 1.10 PTS/GM 22. Olli Jokinen: 0.96 PTS/GM 48. Michael Cammalleri: 0.86 PTS/GM 67. Daymond Langkow: 0.79 PTS/GM 89. Todd Bertuzzi: 0.72 PTS/GM
Edmonton Oilers 34. Ales Hemsky: 0.92 PTS/GM 68. Shawn Horcoff: 0.78 PTS/GM
Vancouver Canucks 19. Mats Sundin: 1.00 PTS/GM 22. Henrik Sedin: 0.96 PTS/GM 26. Daniel Sedin: 0.95 PTS/GM 41. Pavol Demitra: 0.88 PTS/GM
A couple of points of interest jump out here. Starting in Calgary, the Flames are obviously very well represented with offensive firepower; they actually have two players in the top-thirty, and five players who would qualify as first-liners (based solely on offensive production).
The Oilers are a little short; their younger players haven’t shown an ability to jump up to the top line yet. Hemsky’s right on the cusp of being a top-thirty forward offensively, but the real surprise here is how Shawn Horcoff ranks. Often ridiculed as a third-line forward with little offense, his offensive production alone puts him on a first-line pace since the lockout. The clear missing piece is a scoring left winger to play with the two of them.
Vancouver looks the strongest by this measure; they have fewer players in the top-90 than Calgary, but they have three in the top-thirty. The Sedin twins are perpetually underrated, even by Canucks fans, and if Mats Sundin can recapture his form from the past few seasons they’ll be in excellent shape for a deep playoff run.