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From Lucic to Backes, the Best Power Forwards in the NHL

WINNIPEG – As any NHL scout will tell you, there is a classic power forward stereotype – tall, wide, tough and skilled, the best power forwards mix talent with size in a way that makes them both feared and respected.

Historically, the best power forwards have been players with all of those characteristics: players such as Phil Esposito (perhaps, the original power forward), Clark Gillies, Mark Messier, Kevin Stevens, Brendan Shanahan and Todd Bertuzzi.

Joe Thornton

Joe Thornton

Today, the power forward needs to be three things – big, tough and relatively young. Yes, Jaroma Iginla, Joe Thornton and Scott Hartnell are classic power forwards, but they aren’t the same types of players they were 10 years ago. Milan Lucic, David Backes and Corey Perry, on the other hand, are exactly what Thornton and Iginla were a decade ago.

Most hockey fans love power forwards. These are the guys who create chaos in the opposing zone, intimidate lesser men and force goalies into early retirement. These are the guys every wants, every night, and the teams that get them, tend to win a lot of hockey games.

Here’s a look at our 2012-13 choices for the NHL’s most effective (read: best) power forwards.  And yeah, we love these guys.

The NHL’s Eight Best Power Forwards:

Milan Lucic

Milan Lucic

Milan Lucic, Boston Bruins: He’s 6-foot-4, 220-pounds and he just looks scary. Only 24, he’s one of the most gifted big men in hockey. This season he already has 44 penalty minutes and is on his way to a solid 120 – in a 48-game season — while likely scoring 15 goals in this lockout-shortened season. There are a number of NHL observers that believe he’s more the prototypical power forward than Corey Perry or Ryan Getzlaff. He’s certainly prone to being the nastiest and on those nights when he channels his president, Cam Neely, he can be one of the best all-around forwards in hockey.

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks: He’s 6-foot-4, 221 pounds and can always be found in front of the net. That’s where he scores. That’s where he knocks people down and deposits rebounds. However, can you have two power forwards on the, umm, ahh, same line? Apparently so. Getzlaf hasn’t been a big penalty guy in his career, but he won’t back down (he had 121 minutes in 2008-09 and 75 last season). In 18 games so far this season, he has six goals and 15 assists and is a rock-solid plus-9. He is a perfect linemate for Corey Perry.

David Backes, St. Louis Blues: This guy is one of the great, yet underrated players in the NHL. He’s 6-foot-3, 228 pounds, is probably the best defensive forward in the game – despite the way the Selke voters go every year – and is an absolutely classic power forward. He has skill, great size, is afraid of no one and his numbers bear that out. Last year, he had 24 goals and 30 assists with 101 penalty minutes and an extremely good plus-15. This year, he has two goals and 10 assists in 18 games and already has 26 PIMs (on pace for 75 in the lockout-shortened season). He’s not a big fighter like say a Lucic, but he is tough and he’s not afraid to go heavily into the dirty parts of the rink.

David Backes, St. Louis Blues

David Backes, St. Louis Blues

Ryan Clowe, San Jose Sharks: He’s from Mount Pearl, Nfld., and stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 225 pounds and is off to a very slow start offensively, this season. Still, he’s a banger, he’s not afraid of anybody and he already has 68 penalty minutes in just 16 games (that’s a pace for 204 PIMs in this 48-game season). Last season, he had 17 goals and 45 assists and 97 penalty minutes. This year, he has yet to score a goal and has only six assists, but he’s still hitting people and that counts for something.

Wheeler heads to the Habs net.

Wheeler heads to the Habs net.

Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets: When he’s at his best, there are few players better. This season, Wheeler got off to a slow start, but now has six goals and 10 assists in 19 games and is starting to play the way he did last season when he almost willed the Jets into the playoffs. He’s 6-foot-5, 210 pounds and goes hard to the net on almost every shift. Playing alongside Jets captain Andrew Ladd and centre Brian Little, Wheeler is the guy who bangs in the corners, goes to the front of the net and gives his two linemates a lot of extra room. Just 26, he gets better every season.

Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks: The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Perry is a classic power forward. Big, strong, fearless and dominating on every shift, Perry has five goals and 12 assists in 17 games and has also accumulated 24 penalty minutes to go with a very strong plus-10. If you look up the term “power-forward” in the encyclopedia, you just might find Perry’s picture.

Voracek at the Net

Voracek at the Net

Jakub Voracek, Philadelphia Flyers: For no particular reason, he’s our only European on this list. No reason why, I don’t think. It just seems that even the best European players tend to use speed, quickness, and open ice to create and execute offensive plays. From Thomas Vanek (a big, strong forward), Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Evgeni Malkin, among others, are classic playmakers and scorers, not bulls in the proverbial china shop. Voracek, on the other hand, can pull off the big, strong, bull forward as well as anyone. He goes hard to the net – and the other dirty parts of the ice – and picks up plenty of points in that nasty area right in front of the goal. He might be European by birth and training, but at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, he’s power forward by trade. And with 24 points already this year, he’s a good one, too.

Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets: OK, I know, right there on the scoresheet handed out before every Jets game it reads: 33. Dustin Byfuglien, D. That’s right, he’s officially a defenseman. However, the more you watch him play, the more you realize, he’d rather play up front, create scoring chances and bang around in front of the net. At 6-foot-5 and, maybe, 275 pounds, Byfuglien carries plenty of size to the offensive end of the rink and while he’s listed as a defenseman and gets a defenseman’s 25-minutes-a-game worth of icetime, he more often than not plays as a centre. Let’s call him the NHL’s first centre/defenseman and a good one at that.

Honorable Mention: Mike Richards, Jamie Benn, Chris Stewart, Troy Brouwer, Jamie McGinn, Rene Bourque, Johan Franzen.

 

Corey Perry, Tough Duck

Corey Perry, Tough Duck

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