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The 10 Best (and 5 Worst) Performances from Forwards on New NHL Teams in 2019-20

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Vancouver Canucks winger J.T. Miller ranks up there with the best.

J.T. Miller Vancouver Canucks
J.T. Miller has been an absolute beast for the Vancouver Canucks
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The Vancouver Canucks know all about ill-timed signings and offseason acquisitions.

One doesn’t have to look much past Loui Eriksson’s albatross contract as proof of that. However, sometimes things actually work out once the new guy joins the team.

This list focuses more on the successful guys, as we rank the 10 best (and also five worst) performances from forwards who joined a new team prior to the beginning of the season.

A couple of notes on the list. Rookies weren’t included as new additions. This is solely a list of free agent signings and forwards acquired by trade. There’s also a slight bias towards salary cap hit and the cost of acquisition.

10 Best Performances from NHL Forwards on New Teams

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Dallas Stars
Oct 26, 2019; Dallas, TX, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Brandon Tanev (13) in action during the game between the Stars and the Penguins at the American Airlines Center.
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

10. Brandon Tanev (PIT)

32 GP, 6 G, 10 A, 16 PTS

The contract was certainly questionable, but Brandon Tanev has lived up to expectations and then some so far in Pittsburgh. He’s currently on pace for career-highs in goals and points. Tanev is still a physical force for someone who’s 180 pounds, with his 126 hits ranking third league-wide.

9. Derick Brassard (NYI)

30 GP, 7 G, 10 A, 17 PTS

Hands up if you remembered that Derick Brassard was still in the league.

After bouncing around with three different teams last season, Brassard didn’t sign a contract with the New York Islanders until August 21st. He’s gone quiet of late but had a 15 game stretch with seven goals and 16 points. Not bad for a late summer signing.

8. Erik Haula (CAR)

16 GP, 8 G, 3 A, 11 PTS

Injuries have forced the Finn from the lineup, but he was scoring a half-goal per game while playing in a bottom six role. Haula formed a potent third-line with Ryan Dzingel (who almost made this list as well) and rookie Martin Necas.

On a mediocre team, that might be a decent second line, which shows you the depth Carolina has built.

7. James Neal (EDM)

34 GP, 15 G, 7 A, 22 PTS

The real deal himself has to crack this list after his torrid start to the season. Even though he’s predictably cooled off, his 15 goals are still tied for 13th league wide.

Oh, and they traded him for cast-off Milan Lucic, so that bumps him up a bit as well.

NHL: Florida Panthers at Vancouver Canucks
Oct 28, 2019; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Florida Panthers forward Brett Connolly (10) warms up against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena.
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

6. Brett Connolly (FLA)

29 GP, 14 G, 8 A, 22 PTS

While Neal got all kinds of attention for his hot start, Brett Connolly has been the more consistent forward. Of course since he plays for the Florida Panthers, he might be the biggest under-the-radar good signing of the offseason.

The Campbell River native might not be playing with Connor McDavid, but his most common linemates, Vincent Trochek and Mike Hoffman, aren’t plugs by any means.

5. Andre Burakovsky (COL)

28 GP, 12 G, 11, A, 23 PTS

Get ready for the barrage of Colorado Avalanche forwards, and it starts with Andre Burakovsky,

He was often talked about as a buy-low, bounce-back candidate last season in Washington, and boy has he made those pumping that narrative look like geniuses. The Austrian native is playing the most hockey of his career (15:28 average time on ice), and he’s been a factor on the power play with seven points.

4. Nazem Kadri (COL)

28 GP, 10 G, 11 A, 20 PTS

It was clear to many that Nazem Kadri was being underutilized in Toronto after they acquired John Tavares. That’s not the case in Colorado, where he’s pushing to return to his 30-goal form. The Avalanche lacked depth last season and Kadri has filled in that hole on the second line in a big way.

3. Joonas Donskoi (COL)

30 GP, 13 G, 14 A, 27 PTS

The San Jose Sharks have struggled mightily this season with a lack of depth. With their suffocating salary cap situation, they hoped that their younger guys could bridge the gap. The team knew they couldn’t afford to keep Joonas Donskoi, but it must sting to see him playing this well.

One of the reasons for Colorado’s continued success has been because they have split up that top line — and it’s working. Donskoi is currently playing on Nathan MacKinnon’s while Kadri centers Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen.

2. J.T. Miller (VAN)

32 GP, 13 G, 18 A, 31 PTS

You knew you’d find J.T. Miller pretty far up this list, and there’s almost an argument to place him first overall. Most expected a bounce-back from the 13 goals and 47 points he had last season, but I don’t think anyone expected him to score at an 80-point pace.

Although he was acquired to play with Bo Horvat originally, his success playing with Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser has made it tough for Travis Green to move him off of that line. League-wide, he’s 21st in points, tied for 16th in power play points (13), and he’s tied for ninth in power play goals (6),

1. Artemi Panarin (NYR)

31 GP, 18 G, 23 A, 41 PTS

Okay, so maybe there wasn’t much argument for first on this list. It’s hard not to give “The Breadman” top spot on this ranking. While the New York Rangers have been playing better of late, Panarin has easily been the Rangers best skater all season long.

Panarin is already at 18 goals, double that of the next-best Ranger (Mika Zibanejad, nine goals). The Rangers also only have two players with more than 20 points (Ryan Strome — 27, Tony DeAngelo — 22). He signed a hefty contract in the offseason, but he’s doing everything he can to live up to it in the early going.

5 Worst Performances from NHL Forwards on New Teams

5. Alex Galchenyuk (PIT)

23 GP, 2 G, 8 A, 10 PTS

Alex Galchenyuk has missed time with injury, but there’s no question that he’s underwhelmed in Pittsburgh this season. Also, when the general manager who just acquired you basically says you’re expendable, things likely aren’t going so well.

4. Phil Kessel (ARI)

34 GP, 7 G, 12 A, 19 PTS

Perhaps there are no real winners from the summertime swap of Galchenyuk and Phil Kessel.

The production from Kessel isn’t anything to write home about, and most of his production has come on the power play. He’s a liability at even-strength, and Kessel isn’t making up for it in goals. Currently, the former Stanley Cup winner has one even-strength goal in 34 games.

3. Nikita Gusev (NJD)

29 GP, 5 G, 9 A, 14 PTS

In fairness, no one has been good for the Devils this season, but the KHL superstar isn’t immune to criticism. He was acquired to be a driver on offence and while his numbers aren’t terrible, more is expected from the 27-year-old.

2. Joe Pavelski (DAL)

32 GP, 7 G, 7 A, 14 PTS

Probably one of the biggest disappointments of the season, Joe Pavelski has just not found his footing in Dallas. He was playing like a bit of an ageless wonder in San Jose, and no one questioned the fact that he was producing at an elite rate as a 34-year-old. There’s still time to turn it around, but it’s been a slow transition for Pavelski in Dallas.

1. Milan Lucic (CGY)

32 GP, 3 G, 5 A, 8 PTS

I’ll give some credit to Lucic, who’s found the back of the net with more regularity, scoring goals in three of his last four games. He also went 27 games without scoring a goal and looks as slow as ever. Perhaps he’s turned a corner, but this is no time to call the Lucic acquisition a raging success for the Flames.

Or...maybe it is?