The NHL's top forward groups
August, 20, 2013
By Craig Custance | ESPN.com
Jim Davis/Getty ImagesSidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are two reasons why Pittsburgh has the NHL's top forward group.There are still a few more free agents to sign and decisions to be made in training camp, but for the most part, rosters are set. So this week, we'll look at some of the best teams by position, starting today with the 10 best forward groups in the NHL.
In addition to my own thoughts, I've checked in with an NHL talent evaluator to provide another angle on each group.
General manager Ray Shero was remarkably efficient in tackling his offseason to-do list after the Penguins were eliminated from the playoffs by the Boston Bruins. But looking back, it's still incredible he was able to bring back everybody he did in a cap system. Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz have annual cap hits under $4 million per season, which is great value. Matt D'Agostini, who scored 21 goals with the Blues in 2010-11, might end up being a sneaky good signing.
This forward group has everything you want in an elite unit -- starting with strength down the middle with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Sutter. James Neal brings size on the wing, Dupuis the speed. Beau Bennett has great patience with the puck for a young player (he's 21) and is a great passer. There are not a lot of weaknesses here.
NHL talent evaluator's take: "I think the guy they'll miss the most because he's been there is Matt Cooke. Say what you want about Cooke, but he was an effective player for them. I thought [Brenden] Morrow was really good for them in the playoffs. He was excellent. But with all the injuries and everything else, one thing they've had consistent there is that third line, and Cooke had been an effective player there."