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Who Are the NHL’s Best Forward Duos in 2018-19?

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And how do Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser line up compared to the rest?

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser (6) celebrates his goal with forward Elias Pettersson (40) after scoring against Las Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) (not pictured) during the first period at Rogers Arena. 
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

On two occasions this season, the Canucks glimmering future flashed before our eyes.

Lets’ flashback to November 2nd, when the Canucks put on one of the most entertaining matches in Rogers Arena since this was a playoff team. In that game, Elias Pettersson posted five points, including the game-tying goal, against the Colorado Avalanche.

Having a bad day? Re-watch these highlights, just because.

That was his ninth NHL game. He was still 19 years old.

His new linemate, Brock Boeser, had his best game of the season with two goals and four points on the night. Just when optimism had shattered a hole in the roof of Rogers Arena, Boeser was sidelined for three and a half weeks.

Not to fear, because Pettersson and Boeser made everyone forget that the Canucks recently lost 12 of 13 games, with a dominant performance against a St. Louis Blues team that had their pants caught around their ankles from about the midway point of the first period onwards.

Another five points for Pettersson and a hat trick for Boeser, and we can all start to dream about how good this tandem may be.

That’s part of the reason why I wanted to put this write up together. How do Pettersson and Boeser fare against the league’s best forward duos, and how far away are these two from becoming one of the league’s best forward duos?

Sometimes it’s hard to quantify the magic that Pettersson creates on the ice, but I’ll pull together a few numbers just to see how they line up compared to the likes of the best forward duos in hockey this season.

Disclaimer: In my analysis, I wanted to find duos that were productive at a level without being heavily reliant on the third member of a line.

For lines where I couldn’t make a distinction that two players were pulling their weight above another, they weren’t included on the list. That means that Boston’s top line, Vegas’s top line, and the surprising trio of Tomas Tatar, Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault in Montreal, for example, weren’t included.

All stats are from five-on-five at even strength. Stats courtesy of Natural Stat Trick.

First, a look at the Canucks’ budding young duo.

Elias Pettersson & Brock Boeser

TOI: 130:10
Scoring Chances For/60: 27.7
Scoring Chances For%: 50.8%
Goals For/60: 5.1
Goals For%: 78.5%

The one concern about Petey & The Flow’s production is that the shooting percentage is likely unsustainable. Together at five-on-five, their shooting percentage is up near 17.5%. When Pettersson and Boeser aren’t together, Petey is shooting at 9.5% while Boeser is at 7.5%.

As a team, the Canucks are shooting at 7.9% at five-on-five.

NHL: Vancouver Canucks at St. Louis Blues
Vancouver Canucks goaltender Jacob Markstrom (25) and center Elias Pettersson (40) and right wing Brock Boeser (6) celebrate after the Canucks defeated the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Before I get to the top-five forward duos so far this season, here are some honourable mentions that didn’t make the cut.

Sebastian Aho & Teuvo Teravainen (CAR): Micheal Ferland was fantastic there early in the season, but it’s Lucas Wallmark riding shotgun right now. Still, when Aho and Teravainen are on the ice, the Hurricanes’ shot generation is off the charts.

Johnny Gaudreau & Sean Monahan (CGY): Elias Lindholm has turned this line into one of hockey’s best, and he’s a major reason why Gaudreau and Monahan don’t make it onto this list as one of the best duos. Apart from Lindholm at five-on-five (just under 100 minutes), Gaudreau and Monahan’s production absolutely craters.

Jamie Benn & Tyler Seguin (DAL): In 130 minutes even strength minutes away from Radulov, Benn and Seguin’s production drops drastically.

Taylor Hall & Nico Hischier (NJD): Similar to the Gaudreau/Monahan duo. Hall and Hischier have played great together, but Palmieri’s impact cannot be understated.

Brady Tkachuk& Mark Stone (OTT): There’s no denying that Tkachuk and Stone have been an absolute force for Ottawa together on the ice this season. The only reason they don’t crack the top five is because Tkachuk is dependent on Stone. Apart from Stone, Tkachuk’s numbers fall off, whereas Stone is still just as productive at even-strength without Tkachuk. Without either player on the ice, the Senators are rocking a SCF% of 37.7, and a GF% of 38.1. Both those totals surpass 50% with either player on the ice.

Brayden Point & Nikita Kucherov (TBL): Point has actually spent more time with Tyler Johhnson this season, but the line has ascended to new heights since they joined Nikita Kucherov. Although the pair ranks third and fourth in league scoring, it’s difficult to separate their production aside from Johnson, who’s been very productive in his own right this season.

Blake Wheeler & Mark Scheifele (WPG): These two have been glued together all season, but their production at even-strength has been middling. However, they have improved since Nikolaj Ehlers joined them in place of Kyle Connor on that line.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Los Angeles Kings
Columbus Blue Jackets center Pierre-Luc Dubois (18) and left wing Artemi Panarin (9) celebrate the goal scored by right wing Cam Atkinson (13) against the Los Angeles Kings during the first at Staples Center.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

5. Pierre-Luc Dubois & Artemi Panarin (CBJ)

TOI: 335:22
SCF/60: 29.1
SCF%: 53.8%
GF/60: 4.3
GF%: 60%

It’s the trio of Dubois, Panarin and Cam Atkinson that have been leading the Columbus Blue Jackets offensively this season. While many consider the Jackets a team with depth, these three players are far and away the top three point-getters on the team.

Atkinson actually leads the Blue Jackets with 19 goals this season, but he’s certainly been a beneficiary of two great playmakers in Panarin and Dubois. Part of the reason why I had them in my top five, is because in limited minutes (just over 60 at even-strength) without Atkinson, Dubois and Panarin’s underlying numbers actually improved.

Another reason why Dubois and Panarin crack the list? They’re both great puck movers and capable players defensively. Dubois was touted as the whole package when he was drafted, and he’s done nothing to deter that notion since entering the NHL.

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Washington Capitals at Vegas Golden Knights
Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) passes the Stanley Cup to center Nicklas Backstrom (19) after defeating the Vegas Golden Knights in game five of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

4. Alex Ovechkin & Nicklas Backstrom (WSH)

TOI: 167:21
SCF/60: 31.5
SCF%: 54.7%
GF/60: 4.3
GF%: 75%

These two started the season on separate lines, but they’ve been reunited recently, and the results mirror exactly what Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom have accomplished together throughout their careers.

Ever since Tom Wilson returned from suspension, he’s been a fixture on their line. He’s out with a concussion now, but Ovechkin and Backstrom continue to produce.

Actually, these two players have been more productive without Wilson at even-strength. They’ve allowed more shots against without the burly winger, but Ovi and Backstrom are better statistically in every other category when they’re on the ice together without Wilson.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Los Angeles Kings
Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (9) congratulates center Jeff Skinner (53) on his third goal of the game scored against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period at Staples Center. Eichel provided an assist on the goal.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

3. Jeff Skinner & Jack Eichel (BUF)

TOI: 320:22
SCF/60: 26.9
SCF%: 52.5%
GF/60: 5.1
GF%: 69.2%

Acquiring Jeff Skinner for a middle prospect and some mid-round picks has made Jason Botterill look like the NHL’s version of Albert Einstein early in the season. Even though the duo has spent significant time with both Sam Reinhart and Jason Pominville, they’ve continued to produce regardless.

The Sabres are a low-event hockey team this season, with their scoring chances for and against ranking near the bottom of the league. It probably means that Skinner and Eichel’s on-ice shooting percentage of 14.2% will likely fall, but so far they’ve been two of the most dynamic players in hockey this season.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares (91) celebrates his goal with right wing Mitchell Marner (16) in the second period against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Scotiabank Arena.
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

2. John Tavares & Mitch Marner (TOR)

TOI: 397:40
SCF/60: 34.5
SCF%: 50.6%
GF/60: 4.4
GF%: 61.7%

Although many across the league groaned with John Tavares joined Toronto, from an entertainment standpoint it was a huge win. Tavares, Mitch Marner and Zach Hyman have formed one of the most fun lines in hockey to watch.

It’s pretty clear when watching the Leafs that Hyman is a responsible passenger, but the wizardry of Tavares and Marner has been fun to watch. They do allow a ton of chances as a unit, but they’re so prolific on offence that it hardly matters.

Just to think that with William Nylander back in the fold, the Leafs could have two forward duos in the top five with Nylander and Auston Matthews. Life isn’t fair sometimes...

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon (29) celebrates his overtime winning goal with right wing Mikko Rantanen (96) against the Winnipeg Jets at the Pepsi Center.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

1. Nathan MacKinnon & Mikko Rantanen (COL)

TOI: 452:22
SCF/60: 29.3
SCF%: 53.6
GF/60: 4.0
GF%: 63.8%

Is there anybody else that could be number one in 2018-19? I mean, Rantanen and MacKinnon are currently #1 and #2 in league scoring respectively this season.

Rantanen was widely considered the least-talked about player to reach 80+ points in sometime. If that’s the case, call this season Rantanen’s coming out party.

Gabriel Landeskog is a great player in his own right, but Rantanen and MacKinnon have proven that they are two of the best puck movers in the entire league. They have been absolutely dominant together, and Colorado could start challenging the NHL’s elite if the rest of the team behind them could pull their weight.