For today’s top 10 list I decided to look at the best duos in the NHL today. In years gone by forwards tended to stay in trios. Famous units like the Production Line, the French Connection Line and the Triple Crown Line featured some of the greatest players in hockey lore. It makes sense that forwards would be lumped together in threes; after all there are three forward positions. However, in recent years the trend has been to find two players – duos, if you will – that share great chemistry and slot in a rotating third player that will hopefully compliment the duo. Tandems like Wayne Gretzky with Jari Kurri and Brett Hull with Adam Oates are among the most successful pairings in recent decades.
On defense, the duo makes more sense. You have two defensemen on the ice at any given time, and you’d like those pairings to be as familiar with one another as possible. Great pairings from recent history would be Scott Stevens with Scott Niedermayer and Al MacInnis with Chris Pronger.
So, who are the most dynamic duos in the NHL right now? Read on as I count them down:
10 – Brad Richards & Loui Eriksson
For some reason Brad Richards is almost always criminally underrated when it comes to discussing the best players in the NHL. Last year he finished with 91 points, good enough for 6th overall in league scoring, but no one even seemed to bat an eye when he was left off Team Canada’s Olympic roster.
Loui Eriksson is a talented Swedish sniper who, at the age of 25, is only starting to hit his prime. Richards’ playmaking ability, combined with Eriksson’s ability to finish make this tandem one of the most feared by goalies around the NHL.
9 – Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley
Last season this pairing would have certainly be higher on the list, but they haven’t exactly been setting the league on fire this season. For years Thornton has been known as perhaps the best passer in the game, and Heatley – a two-time 50 goal scorer – has been one of its deadliest snipers. Those credentials will give any opposing defender nightmares, but with the two of them hovering around a point-per-game pace right now I can’t justify ranking them any higher than 9th.
8 – Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry
Speaking of opposing defenders’ nightmares, these two certainly fit that description. Both big power forwards with soft hands and matching mean streaks, this pair can beat you any which way you care to try. Like Heatley and Thornton they are scoring at a point-per-game clip right now, but the physical punishment they dole out puts them ahead of the pair from San Jose.
7 – Nicklas Lidstrom and Brian Rafalski
With a combined age of nearly 80 this defensive pair won’t have much longer together, but despite their advanced age they continue to be one of the most effective blueline pairings in the league. Lidstrom already has 20 points, and though Rafalski has yet to score a goal, his 13 assists in 14 shows he knows how to set up his teammates. The two eat up huge minutes for their team, and are one of the main reasons why the Wings are currently sitting first in the Western Conference.
6 – Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane
No, they don’t always play together, but when they do, magic happens. Both have great hands, both are great passers and shooters, and both have a penchant for coming through in the clutch. Last season Toews won the Conn Smythe as playoff MVP, while Kane scored the Stanley Cup winning goal. The duo might be without one another for a while though. Kane went down last night with what appeared to be a nasty leg injury.
5 – Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook
If there is a tandem more valuable to the Chicago Blackhawks than Toews and Kane it is these two. These two always seem to be on the ice, and the combination of Keith’s quick stick and tremendous skill and Seabrook’s punishing physical game make an extended cycle in the Blackhawks’ zone a virtual impossibility. Keith is the defending Norris Trophy winner, and both are a major threat at the offensive end of the ice.
4 – Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom
You know the competition is fierce if this dynamic duo only hits number 4. Ovechkin has been arguably the most dominant player in the game since entering the league in 2005, and his 2 Hart Trophies as NHL MVP will back that up. However, a huge reason for Ovie’s incredible success to date has been his pairing with slick Swedish playmaking center, Nicklas Backstrom. Backstrom cracked the 100 point plateau for the first time last season, and he is currently sitting 7th in league scoring this year. With his passing and Ovechkin’s wicked shot goalies are often left helpless when these two are on the ice together.
3 – Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg
Reunited, and it feels so good! Datsyuk and Zetterberg have spent significant time apart over the past few seasons as coach Mike Babcock attempted to give his forward lines more balance. However, these two are at their absolute best when they play together. Both are averaging over a point a game so far this year. However, their offensive stats only tell part of the story. Datsyuk is the three-time defending Selke Trophy winner as the league’s best defensive forward, and Zetterberg’s defensive game is only slightly worse. These two virtually coach themselves and it is rare for one, let alone both of them, to make a bad decision on the ice.
2 – Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos
Though this pairing has cooled off a little in recent games, for much of the season these two have been the talk of the league. At 35 years of age, St. Louis shows no sign of slowing down, and his 34 points have him tied for 3rd in league scoring. As great as St. Louis has been, it is his linemate Steven Stamkos who has really been making headlines. A season after tying for the Rocket Richard Trophy with 51 goals, Stamkos is out to prove that the best is yet to come. He has 21 goals in 27 games, and though the talk of 50 in 50 has died down it is almost guaranteed that he will eclipse the 51 goals he scored last year.
1 – Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin
Watching these two guys operate in the offensive zone makes you wonder if these guys are telepathic. Twins that have played together their whole lives Henrik and Daniel Sedin have the uncanny ability to know where their sibling is on the ice at any given time. Not a game goes by without the pair making at least one highlight reel tape-to-tape no-look pass. Defending Art Ross Trophy winner Henrik currently leads the NHL in assists and brother Daniel’s 31 points put him in 6th in the NHL in scoring right now.
There you have it, the top 10 dynamic duos in the NHL today. I really wanted to find a spot for Sidney Crosby on this list – after all, he is currently tearing up the league, his 23 goals and 46 points both tops in the NHL at this point. Unfortunately, his regular linemates are so far beneath him skill-wise I just couldn’t justify adding him. Imagine if this guy gets a bona fide sniper to work with on a regular basis.