Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler Image by: Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images
Forget Batman and Robin. These five dynamic duos have been lighting up the NHL this season.
Looking through the league’s list of top scorers, you’ll quickly notice a pattern of pairs emerge. This is to say where one top scorer is, he doesn’t have a teammate too far behind.
In fact, among the top 20 scorers — which includes 23 players given the tie for 20th spot — there are only 12 teams represented. Said another way, only five players have made their way into the upper echelon of league scoring through the quarter mark of the campaign without at least one teammate coming along with them. Those players are the Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid, Colorado Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon, New Jersey Devils’ Taylor Hall, Los Angeles Kings’ Anze Kopitar and Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane. The 18 other players with 25 or more points, though, are sharing the top-20 status with a teammate.
So, among those teammates who are helping each other find the scoresheet, which linemates have provided the best offensive punch? Here are the five best scoring duos in the league:
Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning
Kucherov’s solo effort last season was nothing short of heroic and, were it not for the Lightning missing the playoffs, the Russian winger likely would've finished much higher than eighth in Hart Trophy voting. He’s well on his way to accomplishing a top-of-the-heap finish in Hart voting this time around, though. That’s in large part due to the phenomenal punch he’s providing alongside a now healthy Stamkos, who seems to have turned in his sharpshooting ways for playmaking prowess this season.
The individual statistics speak for themselves. Stamkos and Kucherov sit 1-2 in overall NHL scoring and they're providing more offensive impact than any other duo in the league. Kucherov has 17 goals in 23 games, on pace for a 61-goal season, and he's on track for a 122-point campaign. Stamkos, meanwhile, has 10 goals and 36 points in 23 outings, which sets him up for a 36-goal, 129-point season. It’s an almost unthinkable scoring pace from one duo. And what makes it more impressive is across the 400 minutes the two have skated together at all strengths, they’ve been on the ice for 41 Lightning goals, 26 times combining on the same scoring play. That includes a handful with the man advantage, where the two generally play alongside Alex Killorn.
Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
Wheeler and Scheifele have skated around this season as if they’re each other’s shadow. In 24 games, the duo has spent nearly 470 minutes skating together at all strengths. They start defensive draws together, skate alongside one another in the offensive zone and continue to work together on the power play. It’s hard to blame coach Paul Maurice for keeping the two together, though, when they’ve been so impactful.
While they may not get quite the press of Stamkos and Kucherov or Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz in St. Louis, the Jets’ high-scoring duo have been on the ice together for 38 Jets goals, including 20 tallies in which both were involved in the same scoring play. Maybe more impressive is that seven of those markers have been either power play or shorthanded goals in which Wheeler had the primary assist on a Scheifele goal. That’s hard to top.
Possibly the only knock on the combination of Wheeler and Scheifele is that their possession rate isn’t quite up there with the league’s best. And while that’s true, it’s worth noting that no other duo on this list takes a lower percentage of offensive zone starts. This is an all-situations pairing that’s playing all 200 feet.
Jaden Schwartz and Brayden Schenn, St. Louis
One-quarter of a campaign is far too early to call the Blues’ acquisition of Schenn a no-doubt win for St. Louis, but the Flyers better hope they get a bona fide star out of those two first-round selections, otherwise this could be one of the franchise’s most regrettable decisions.
Schenn was consistently good in Philadelphia, a steady producer who could make things happen with his stick and his body, but he’s taken his game to a new level playing alongside Schwartz with the Blues. Beyond the fact sit fourth and seventh in NHL scoring, respectively, Schwartz and Schenn have been effective nearly every single minute they’ve played together. At all strengths, they’ve been on the ice together for 40 Blues goals, a mere 12 against and they're driving play to the tune of a 63.4 percent shot attempts for rate. Not only that, but Schenn and Schwartz have teamed up on 19 markers.
Some may argue that Vladimir Tarasenko belongs in the conversation, and it’s difficult to underestimate his impact, but Tarasenko has played more than 100 minutes fewer alongside Schenn and Schwartz at all strengths. He’s not a third wheel, but he’s definitely not attached at the hip quite like Schenn and Schwartz have been this season.
Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, Calgary Flames
Gaudreau’s campaign has been overlooked this season, and no, that’s not a height joke. With 11 goals and 34 points in 23 games, Stamkos is the only player in the league who has produced at a rate better than Gaudreau and ‘Johnny Hockey’ is doing so on a team that has nowhere near the pure offensive ability of the Lightning. Tampa Bay averages nearly a full goal more per game than Calgary.
We shouldn’t be surprised to see Gaudreau and Monahan on this list together, though. Since arriving with the Flames, the two have been nearly inseparable on the ice and have turned into one of the most effective combinations in the league. A couple years older and wiser, though, has allowed them to reach new heights.
Including power play time, Gaudreau and Monahan have been on the ice together for 37 Flames goals, the bulk of which have come off of their own sticks. Together, the duo has combined on 20 of those tallies and they're the clear driving forces behind the Calgary offense, including an awesome 74 percent shot attempts percentage at all strengths. Add in a heavy slant of high-danger and scoring chances and you have a unit that is causing havoc every time they touch the ice.
Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
Some will argue this duo doesn’t work as well without Sean Couturier down the middle, and there would be some merit to that as Couturier has been nothing short of fantastic as the top-line center in Philadelphia this season. However, if we’re using minutes spent together and overall production, the 1-2 punch with the most impact for the Flyers this season is Voracek and Giroux. Together, the two have played 50-plus minutes more alongside one another than either has with Couturier. That’s in large part due to play on the power play, mind you, but success together at any and all strengths is what we want to see here.
The combination of Voracek and Giroux has been right up there alongside the Monahans and Gaudreaus and Scheifeles and Wheelers when it comes to on-ice goals for, too. The two Flyers standouts have been on the ice for 37 Flyers goals for and have combined on the same scoring play 16 times. (That’s two more times than either have been involved in the same scoring play as Couturier, for those wondering.) They’ve also managed to do so while, like Scheifele and Wheeler, taking a heavier slant of defensive zone starts than other duos on this list. In fact, if we look at the league’s top 20 scorers and their most common linemate, the only pairs that take more defensive zone starts are the Jets’ duo, the Kings’ Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown and the Devils’ Taylor Hall and Nico Hischier.
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