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NHLTopPlayers: Top Wings, Nos. 20-11 – NHL.com

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[#NHLTopPlayers: Top Goalies, Nos. 10-6 | Top Goalies, Nos. 5-1]

20. Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins

Guentzel had NHL career highs in goals (40), assists (36) and points (76) in 82 games in 2018-19, and he was on pace to surpass those numbers prior to sustaining a shoulder injury on Dec. 30 that required surgery and caused him to miss the rest of the regular season. At the time of his injury, the left wing was leading the Penguins in goals (20) and points (43) and their forwards in average time on ice (20:38). Guentzel has also performed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 43 points (24 goals, 19 assists) in 41 games, including a League-leading 13 goals to help the Penguins win the Cup in 2017.

19. Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues

Tarasenko scored 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 10 games this season before sustaining a shoulder injury on Oct. 24 that required surgery and caused him to miss the rest of the regular season. Prior to the injury, the right wing was one of the most productive forwards in the League. From 2014-19, Tarasenko scored the third-most goals (182) in the League and was one of two players, along with Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, to score at least 30 goals in each of the five seasons. Tarasenko had 17 points (11 goals, six assists) in 26 playoff games to help the Blues win the Cup for the first time their 51-season history last season.

18. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

Giroux scored 53 points (21 goals, 32 assists) in 69 games this season, and among players to take at least 100 face-offs, he ranked fourth in the NHL at 59.0 percent. Since 2011-12, only Patrick Kane (719) and Sidney Crosby (691) have more points that Giroux (665), who leads the League in assists (458) and power-play points (270) in that span. Giroux has also been one of the most durable players in the League, having missed 10 games in the past 11 seasons. 

Video: BUF@PHI: Giroux nets backhander from the doorstep

17. J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks

In his first season with the Canucks after being acquired in a trade from the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 22, 2019, Miller led Vancouver in points (72) and was tied for the lead in goals (27), assists (45) and power-play points (25), each an NHL career high. The forward also won 59.2 percent of his face-offs, second in the League among players to take at least 100 draws. Millers helped the Canucks earn a berth in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, where they will have a chance to advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

“He gets traded to the Vancouver Canucks, takes on a leadership role, a young, up-and-coming Canucks team, and oh yeah, he leads their team in scoring,” NHL Network analyst Ken Daneyko said. “So he had a terrific season for the Canucks. Smooth transition for him, sometimes that does not always happen. He’s fit in beautifully for the Vancouver Canucks. That’s why he’s cracked the top 20.”

16. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames

Gaudreau has been one of the most dynamic forwards since his rookie season in 2014-15, and although he scored his fewest points in the NHL this season (58), Gaudreau still led the Flames in assists with 40. Last season, the left wing had NHL career highs in goals (36), assists (63), points (99), power-play points (27) and game-winning goals (eight) to help the Flames finish with the best record in the Western Conference. 

15. Max Pacioretty, Vegas Golden Knights

In his second season with the Golden Knights, Pacioretty bounced back in a big way. He led the Golden Knights with 32 goals and 66 points in 71 games after he had 40 points (22 goals, 18 assists) in 66 games in 2018-19. It is the sixth time in the past nine seasons the left wing has topped the 30-goal mark, helping Vegas win the Pacific Division and qualify for the playoffs for the third straight season. In the 2019 playoffs, Pacioretty had 11 points (five goals, six assists) in seven games.

“He’s fit in seamlessly with the Vegas Golden Knights,” Daneyko said. “Leads their team in scoring as well, and he seems to be enjoying life in the desert, putting the puck in the net, like he has throughout his career with the Montreal Canadiens, that he did for so many years. … He’s producing, he’s another one of those leaders, comes to play every night and he can put the puck in the back of the net. He’s done a very good job with the Vegas Golden Knights.”

Video: NJD@VGK: Pacioretty beats Blackwood to open scoring

14. Patrik Laine, Winnipeg Jets

In his fourth NHL season, Laine rebounded and showcased his overall skill. Known as a goal-scorer, Laine found the back of the net 28 times this season, including scoring nine goals in nine games from Jan. 19-Feb. 9. But the right wing also had an NHL career-high 35 assists, and he was a plus-8 in 68 games after he was a minus-24 last season. Since entering the NHL in 2016-17, Laine is tied for seventh in the League with 138 goals. He scored 18 goals in 12 games in November 2018, including becoming the first player since Johan Franzen (Feb. 2, 2011) to score five goals in a game when he did so against the St. Louis Blues on Nov. 24.

“He had a terrific year, he’s a guy that they’re going to rely on to put the puck in the net, we know that,” Daneyko said. “He’s streaky like a lot of top goal scorers, but now he’s doing other things. … Yes, he’s always going to have that great offensive ability and that great sniper shot, that’s a given. But now he’s starting to learn the rest of the game, so I’ve been impressed with him.”

13. Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames

Tkachuk led the Flames with 61 points (23 goals, 38 assists) in 69 games this season. He also scored four game-winning goals, including two in overtime, was second on Calgary with 122 hits and tied for third with 40 takeaways. The left wing had an NHL career-high 77 points (34 goals, 43 assists) in 80 games last season, and he has increased his ice time in each of his four NHL seasons (18:18 in 2019-20). Tkachuk has managed to play a physical game while remaining productive offensively, leading the Flames with 302 penalty minutes since his rookie season in 2016-17.

“He’s a guy that’s tough to play against, he’s nasty in front of the net, he’s got courage because he’ll do whatever it takes to help his team win, whether it’s agitate,” Daneyko said. “But make no mistake, he’s got terrific offensive instincts. … He’s a guy you love on your team and he’s the heartbeat I would say of the Calgary Flames even at his young age. He’s a guy that gets everybody else engaged and a terrific offensive player.”

Video: CGY@SJS: Tkachuk nets incredible between-the-legs PPG

12. Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets

Connor led rookies with 31 goals and was fourth with 57 points in 2017-18, and he has increased those numbers in each of the past two seasons. The left wing scored 66 points (34 goals, 32 assists) in 82 games in 2018-19 and had 73 points (38 goals, 35 assists) in 71 games this season. He also had an NHL career-high 21:05 of ice time per game this season and was tied for fifth in the League with seven game-winning goals. Connor helped the Jets earn a berth in the Qualifiers with the opportunity to advance to the playoffs for the third straight season.

“He’s starting to get some recognition,” Daneyko said. “Dynamic, great speed. … His confidence continues to grow and sometimes you do get lost in the shuffle when you have the Scheifeles, the Wheelers, and the Laines. But Kyle Connor is a guy the Winnipeg Jets are going to rely on heavily in the playoffs here”

11. Mikko Rantanen, Colorado Avalanche

Although he was limited to 42 games this season because of ankle and shoulder injuries, Rantanen was still fifth on the Avalanche with 41 points (19 goals, 22 assists). The right wing scored at least 84 points in each of the previous two seasons, and since 2017-18, he is tied for first on the Avalanche with 36 power-play goals and is second in power-play points with 82. Rantanen helped Colorado earn a berth in the playoffs this season after leading them with 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 12 postseason games last season.

“Yes, they have Nathan MacKinnon, he’s their big guy, they have (Gabriel) Landeskog, they have a lot of firepower, but they don’t have the style and uniqueness of a Mikko Rantanen,” Daneyko said. “So good to see that he’s healthy obviously with this long layoff and he’s a guy that’s one of the elite wingers in the game just because of that power, size (6-foot-4, 215 pounds), strength. Great set of hands, terrific passes, can put the puck in the net. He can kind of do it all.”

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