Over the many decades of its existence the NHL has seen some truly legendary trios that have terrorized opposing defensemen and goalies. Imagine having to try and stop Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Sid Abel (AKA The Production Line). Other famous lines include The Legion of Doom (Eric Lindros, John LeClair, Mikael Renberg), The Triple Crown Line (Marcel Dionne, Charlie Simmer, Dave Taylor), The French Connection (Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin, Rene Robert), and The Punch Line (Rocket Richard, Toe Blake and Elmer Lach). All of these fearsome combinations were the stuff of nightmares for goalies in their day.
But what about today's NHL? Will any of the league's current lines join the legends listed above? There are definitely some impressive firepower on the top lines of many NHL clubs. Here are my picks for the top 10 best lines in the NHL today.
10 - Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O'Reilly - Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche exceeded everyone's expectations last year and that was due in no small part to the outstanding play of Calder Trophy winner Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon's speed, power and skill helped him notch 63 points in his first campaign. Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog might not have the top end offensive talent of MacKinnon, but he plays a strong two way game in the mold of a player like Jonathan Toews. Making up the line is the slickly skilled Ryan O'Reilly. With skill and speed to burn this young line will be a headache for opposing defenders for many years to come.
9 - Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Reilly Smith - Boston Bruins
Although many in the hockey world consider this squad to be the Bruins' second line, they are without a doubt the B's most consistent, effective trio, producing points while simultaneously shutting down some of the game's biggest stars. Bergeron is arguably the best faceoff man in the league, and his responsible defensive game earned him the Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward last season. Not bad considering he led the Bruins with 30 goals last year. Marchard is a great complement to Bergeron. He also has defensive acumen, the hands to put the puck in the net, great speed, and is probably the league's most effective pest. Reilly Smith is the forgotten man on line, coming as a throw-in in the trade that sent Tyler Seguin to Dallas. He notched 20 goals and 51 points last season.
8 - Phil Kessel, James Van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak - Toronto Maple Leafs
Though the Leafs didn't make the playoffs last season that failure certainly can't be attributed to their top line. Phil Kessel continues to be one of the game's premiere snipers. His ability to carry the puck with speed, beat defensemen one on one and shoot the puck with incredible velocity and accuracy make him a handful to contain. Van Riemdyk is a beast in front of the net, with quick hands in tight, and Bozak's pass-first mentality meshes perfectly with Kessel's love of shooting the puck. If the Leafs can claw their way into the playoffs this year you can bet it will be this line who does the heavy lifting to get them there.
7 - John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Cory Connacher - New York Islanders
Former #1 overall draft pick John Tavares is poised to challenge Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin for the title of the NHL's best offensive player. Tavares has gotten better each year and after an injury derailed his season last year he is back and on a mission this season, and could even challenge for the Art Ross Trophy. Kyle Okposo is thriving on Tavares' wing, finally living up to the potential that saw the Islanders take him 7th overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He had 27 goals and 69 points last year, and could hit north of 80 this season if both he and Tavares stay healthy. Connacher is a bit of an unknown. He was good with Tampa Bay, but was a bust in Ottawa. However, he has shown flashes of talent and should have his best year yet playing alongside JT and Okposo.
6 - Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson - Los Angeles Kings
Finally, a line on this list that has a nickname! That 70's Line was a dominant force in the playoffs last year, helping the Kings to their second Stanley Cup in three seasons. This year the line is intact and picking up where they left off. Though the Kings are known for their low-scoring, defensive brand of hockey Carter, Toffoli and Pearson have been among the league's most prolific trios, notching 23 points between them in just 7 games so far this season.
5 - Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Radim Vrbata - Vancouver Canucks
The Sedin twins have been perhaps the most dynamic duo in the league over the past decade, but it has always been a struggle to find another winger to play with the talented twins (If only they'd been triplets!) This off-season saw newly minted GM Jim Benning make a great signing, landing sniper Radim Vrbata in free agency. Word is that Vrbata actually accepted less money than he could have earned elsewhere for a chance to play with the twins, feeling his style of play would be the perfect complement to the Sedins' offensive wizardry. So far the experiment is working brilliantly. The Sedins' horrible 2013-14 campaign has been all but forgotten, and the trio have showed up on the highlight reel on a regular basis during the early part of the season.
4 - Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Devante Smith-Pelly - Anaheim Ducks
Old time hockey fans probably see a lot of similarities between Detroit's Production Line and this trio of Ducks. Like Howe and Lindsay, Getzlaf and Perry are two big bodies that are equally comfortable playing a skilled game or a physical game. The pair are consistently near the top in scoring despite spending a fair bit of time cooling their heels in the sin bin. Smith-Pelly is another big body (222 lbs) that replaces the departed Bobby Ryan on the Ducks #1 unit. While he might not have the scoring talent of Ryan he opens up the ice for Getzlaf and Perry, allowing them more time and space to weave their offensive magic.
3 - Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Patrick Hornqvist - Pittsburgh Penguins
I don't think I need to go into much explanation about the strengths of Sidney Crosby, and his presence alone pretty much guaranteed this line a spot somewhere on this list. However, both Kunitz and Hornqvist have been almost criminally overrated over the years and they aren't just riding Crosby's coattails on Pittsburgh's #1 unit. Kunitz opens up the ice for his skilled center, punishing defenders with his physical brand of play. He also possesses incredible hockey sense, a must when playing with the game's most creative player. He knows where to go and when to get there to receive Crosby's brilliant passes, and he has the skills to finish. Hornqvist has been dwelling in relative obscurity in Nashville throughout his career, yet managed to put up impressive point totals despite playing on a squad with a dearth of offensive talent. Watch for him to smash his previous single season best point total (53) this year.
2 - Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza - Dallas Stars
Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn were one of the NHL's best duos last season, and with the recent addition of slick superstar Jason Spezza to their line they are going to be all but unstoppable in the offensive zone this season. Seguin's speed and skill, Benn's shooting ability and physicality and Spezza's stickhandling and on-ice vision give the line a little bit of everything, and defensemen are going to have to have their heads on a swivel as they attempt to shut down this line. Good luck.
1 - Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp - Chicago Blackhawks
While they might not instill quite as much fear in defensemen as Seguin, Benn and Spezza, the line of Toews, Hossa and Sharp is still an offensive force to be reckoned with and at the same time rival Patrice Bergeron's line in Boston for the title of best defensive forward line in the league. The Blackhawks are again one of the prime contenders for the Stanley Cup, and this line is a huge reason why. No, none of its members will likely be in the top 10 in scoring, but you can bet they will outscore their opposition by a wide margin.