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NHL Power Forwards: Ovechkin, Cole & The Rest

April 7, 2012; Winnipeg, MB, CAN; Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane (9) during the second period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-US PRESSWIRE
April 7, 2012; Winnipeg, MB, CAN; Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane (9) during the second period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the MTS Centre. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-US PRESSWIRE

What began as a lark has become an annual tradition: searching for power forwards in the NHL using the definition built through common fan parlance. There were seven newcomers to the power forward list in 2011-12 and 15 total seasons. But, as before, repeatability remains the problem for everyone but Alex Ovechkin and, to a lesser extent, Erik Cole.

I've looked at the mythical beast for the past few years and found that it's Ovechkin and some big guys that can sometimes put a solid season together and make the list. But with lesser-skilled, fast-skating behemoths like Milan Lucic in the fold, these seasons have to be easier to come by, right?

As I've done with each look, I set the minimums for the position at .3 goals per game (25 goals over an 82-game season) and 1.5 hits per game. For the reasoning, check the article behind the "mythical beast" link above.

The following charts detail each player by season that met the minimums.

06-07 Power Forwards


07-08 Power Forwards


08-09 Power Forwards


09-10 Power Forwards


10-11 Power Forwards


11-12 Power Forwards


Back for more:

  • Alex Ovechkin might not score 50 anymore, but he remains the premier (and only) power forward in the game.
  • Last season I mentioned that Erik Cole might have one more of these seasons left in the tank and he delivered. He's older now, so relying on him to repeat is naive, but since the lockout, only Ovechkin has been better.
  • Chris Kunitz makes the list for a third time, and the second in a row. He did it this season without Sidney Crosby at center.
  • Mike Fisher is back for a third time and even though he was here twice before, he's got to be the least likely repeat performer to be named in a fan poll.
  • Three guys are back for the second time and second time in a row: Jamie Benn, Ryan Callahan, and Milan Lucic. Benn is a young workhorse and already a premier player in the league. Callahan is a three-zone, three-situation player who delivered the most hits of anyone on the list. Last year I said Lucic would have to increase his shot rates or he wouldn't be back. Instead, he shot 17% again.


  • Fisher might be the least likely repeat performer, but David Clarkson has to be the least likely player on this list. David Clarkson? Clarkson hit a career high this season with 228 shots on goal, though his shot rates were steady year-over-year, he just played two minutes more per game than any previous season. He's 27 years old and cashed in with 30 goals, but didn't have to use an obscene shooting percentage to get there.
  • Evander Kane - the more I watch him, the more he reminds me of Erik Cole, but Kane's 287 shots is more than any season total for Cole. His 234 last season would rate as Cole's second best. Kane will turn 21 in August. Kane's baseline is basically 30-goal forward for the next 9 years. His most common linemate was Alexander Burmistrov and the two of them torched weak competition this season.
  • Jarome Iginla - Iginla's first appearance on the list coincides with a ten-year low in shots - strange.
  • Joffrey Lupul - Toronto should stop over-counting hits.
  • Jordan Staal - His first appearance on the list, but not likely his last.
  • Scott Hartnell - the first of two Flyers on the list, Hartnell is here because he played Warren Young for Giroux and Jagr.
  • Vincent Lecavalier - His first time on the list - he's always been a physical player, but like many physical players who don't hit (the entire point of this post) he doesn't get the recognition as such.
  • Wayne Simmonds - paired with Daniel Briere for the majority of his playing time, Simmonds' shot rates skyrocketed this season. He still needed a 14%+ shooting percentage to make the list, but the increased in shots means he might not need the same percentage next year.

Near misses:

  • Ryan Malone missed by a goal, his second near-miss in as many seasons.
  • Shane Doan missed the list for a third straight season, and missed by just three goals.
  • Gabriel Landeskog missed by three goals, but he'll be back as a regular member of this list.

The six-year standings:

* indicates current consecutive years on the list

Alexander Ovechkin 6 ******
Erik Cole 4 **
Chris Kunitz 3 **
Mike Fisher 3 *
Dustin Brown 3
Mike Richards 3
Ryan Malone 3
Shane Doan 3
Jamie Benn 2 **
Milan Lucic 2 **
Ryan Callahan 2 **
Bobby Ryan 2
Brenden Morrow 2
David Backes 2
Devin Setoguchi 2
James Neal 2
Ryan Getzlaf 2
Ryane Clowe 2
David Clarkson 1 *
Evander Kane 1 *
Jarome Iginla 1 *
Joffrey Lupul 1 *
Jordan Staal 1 *
Scott Hartnell 1 *
Vincent Lecavalier 1 *
Wayne Simmonds 1 *
Alexei Ponikarovsky 1
Andrei Kostitsyn 1
Blake Comeau 1
Brandon Dubinsky 1
Chuck Kobasew 1
Danny Cleary 1
David Booth 1
Guillaume Latendresse 1
Johan Franzen 1
Jonathan Cheechoo 1
Michael Ryder 1
Rick Nash 1
Rod Brind'Amour 1
Ryan Kesler 1
Steve Ott 1
Tuomo Ruutu 1

I have a running conclusion about the traditional Power Forward and it still holds:

A roster fix via the vaunted "power forward" is nearly impossible. The players in this mold are extremely rare and the ones that do actually exist come with a heavy cap number. Their trade cost is just about priceless. Beyond that, the guys that fit this mold aren't necessarily dynamic scorers...

...there were 71 "power forward" seasons by 40 different players during the last six seasons. Only 12 of those players broke the 30 goal mark and the other 28 players averaged 24.8 goals per season.

These types of seasons have a very low rate of repeatability. The players that aren't named Ovechkin depend on high shooting percentages to accumulate goals. When those percentages regress, those forwards drop from the list. Put simply, the traditional "power forward" is almost a myth. The only player positioned to duplicate Ovechkin's six consecutive seasons is Evander Kane, and he's got a chance only because he's so young and health is on his side.