In Part I , we looked at the starting lineup . Now, the rest of the forward lines…
Zach Parise – Tomas Plekanec – Jason Pominville
Niklas Hagman – Ryan Kesler – Patrick Sharp
Steve Ott – Brandon Dubinsky – Milan Lucic
The second unit is all about speed and tenacity. Zach Parise has that rare combination of will and skill that will lead to many 40-goal seasons, even playing for the offensively challenged New Jersey Devils. He is fantastic at creating plays out of nothing, and is a deadly finisher around the net.
Tomas Plekanec will center this line, and he has been arguably the biggest surprise in the NHL this season. His great play is due in small part to the emergence of Andrei Kostitsyn and the reemergence of Alex Kovalev, but Plekanec has been a horse for Montreal regardless of where he has lined up. He is a tireless worker in the defensive end, and has extremely underrated hands. Combine that with lightning fast speed and a deadly release, and Plekanec has all the makings of a future National Hockey League star.
And on the right side, Jason Pominville has been by far the most consistent player on the Sabres this season. Many had pegged him as a 30/30 guy and expected his goal totals to dip a bit with the departure of both Daniel Briere and Chris Drury. While his goal totals have dropped a bit, he has been distributing the puck and his assist totals are high. He is a heady offensive player and is extremely versatile. He is not the biggest guy on the ice but loves to go to the dirty areas to get goals and make plays. This second unit is young, fast, and will outwork nearly anyone they match up against.
The third line would be a pain in the rear to play against, and it also possesses the ability to light the lamp consistently. Niklas Hagman is a free agent at the end of this season and is due for a huge raise. He has scored some big, big goals for Dallas this season and is an accomplished defensive player. He hasn’t scored this many goals since the 2000-2001 season for Karpat back in Finland. The Stars will be in tough to lock him up, as his services will be in hot demand.
At center is my choice for the Selke Trophy this season, Ryan Kesler. Kesler can shadow any forward in the league and his hard work in the off-season at his offensive game has paid off. His vision, hands, and creativity still have a ways to go, but his speed and tenacity more than make up for it. He is one of the most hated players league-wide, as his chippy and abrasive style has not endeared him to many outside of Vancouver. Expect big things from Kesler in the post-season, if the Canucks make it.