The top line has always been leaned on in the NHL. They bring excitement and dominance with their plays that only a select few in the league can pull off. They also help bring in fans who watch games at the arena or at home simply to see them skate with the puck on a string every shift. Most importantly though, they help the team win. They can change the tone of a game in seconds with a great passing play, a scoring chance, or a clutch goal. The top line also varies from team to team, where sometimes it's one player, a duo, or the entire line that manage to go out and have the best chance at outplaying their opponents that night.
Seeing as this is league with a salary cap, parity increases from year to year with the constant eb and flow of talent because of financial constrictions. A team can no longer hoard talented players because of their pricey contracts, so production seen from top lines across the league becomes more and more similar once those talented players leave. As you'll probably tell by this list, a lot of lines have similar offensive numbers at the end of the season. Comparing the potential of the two lines (basically who has a better chance at being better in a few years) is therefore used as the tiebreak when between these similar productions. Here, we will rank every NHL team's no.1 line from worst to best.
30 Vancouver Canucks: Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Loui Eriksson
We're used to the Sedin twins being the most productive players on the Canucks, but this year the offense wasn't even close to past seasons. Eriksson lost the scoring touch he had in his final season with Boston which saw him score 30 goals for 63 points. He finished this season with only 24 points in 65 games. The Sedin twins are also definitely not what they used to be, either. Henrik's numbers are far from his career norm at this point, with 50 points in 82 games, not even close to his career points per game average. Daniel couldn't even crack the 20 goal mark, finishing with 15 goals and 29 assists in 82 games. The end of an era seems to be approaching for Vancouver, and it won't be fun for the next few years.
29 Arizona Coyotes: Max Domi, Christian Dvorak, Radim Vrbata
The situation in the desert is quite bleak until some of the younger players start to develop. Once Hanzal, the team's number one center, got traded, the top line was one of Domi, Dvorak, and Vrbata. Domi is one of the more promising forwards in the Coyotes' organization, but he was injured for most of the season and only had 38 points in 59 games. Vrbata still loves playing in Arizona, since his first year back saw him get right back on his goal scoring horse. He had 20 goals and 35 assists in 81 games. Dvorak was really nothing special though, with 33 points in 78 games, but wasn't on the top line all season. Had the Domi, Hanzal, and Vrbata line been together all year it may have been a decent line, though nothing spectacular since it is still Arizona.
28 Colorado Avalanche: Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen
Another mess of a season for Colorado and an extra year of development for their younger players potentially gone to waste. MacKinnon, who I doubt anyone needs to be reminded was a first overall pick a few years back, had just 53 points in 82 games. Still only 21 though, it's not time to panic on the Avs' franchise player. Landeskog's production dropped off a cliff, going from 53 points last season to 33 this past season. Again, he's only 24 but I'm sure Colorado would love if he'd produce like when he first came into the league. Rantanen, 20, in his rookie season had 38 points in 75 games and didn't look ready to play on the top line, but had to anyway. They could hope for nothing but rebound years for all their young players come next year.
27 Los Angeles Kings: Tanner Pearson, Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli
The Kings offense is a bit of a mess right now since there were hardly any productive forwards this season. The one bright spot was Carter who had 66 points in 82 games, and he was the only forward on the team to score more than 25 goals. Pearson came close with 24, but only had 44 points in 80 games on the season. The final piece of this line was Toffoli for the greater part of the season unless he was injured, but even then he didn't produce to his usual standard, with only 34 points in 63 games. With a new coach in town most probably bringing a new system next year, the heavy hitting Kings could get a bit more dynamic up front at last, especially for their top line's sake.
26 Detroit Red Wings: Gustav Nyquist, Henrik Zetterberg, Tomas Tatar
Detroit were a pretty bad offensive team this year considering the players they had on their team, but their top line still put in a decent effort. Zetterberg played like Zetterberg of old, even without Datsyuk there, at 36 having 68 points in 82 games is really good. Nyquist was far from his 27 goals of two seasons ago once again, with only 12 goals and 48 points in 76 games. Tatar disappointed as well when referring to the same good season as Nyquist had, since two seasons ago Tatar pushed 56 points, and this year only got to 46 in 82. With other factors like Vanek being traded to Florida and Larkin suffering from a sophomore slump, Detroit had to endure a year of mediocre offense and see their 25 year consecutive playoff appearance streak come to an end as a result.
25 New Jersey Devils: Taylor Hall, Travis Zajac, Kyle Palmieri
The Devils finally addressed their lack of scoring last offseason with the addition of Taylor Hall. Though he didn't manage to put up the same type of numbers he had with the Oilers, 53 points in 72 games for the Devils was more than enough for their stagnant offense to improve. Palmieri had a career year just before this past season, and was thought to see his numbers increase with the addition of Hall's playmaking. Unfortunately though, he produced about the same this past season, with 53 points in 80 games, with a respectable 26 goals. Zajac did just bare minimum to keep up with the younger, more talented wingers, putting up 45 points in 80 games. Maybe Nolan Patrick will save Hall and Palmieri come next season if they choose to take him first overall.
24 Carolina Hurricanes: Jeff Skinner, Victor Rask, Lee Stempniak
The younger players on Carolina are coming along nicely and starting to produce more offensively with each passing season. Slightly edging out the Staal, Aho, and Lindholm line however was the trio of Skinner, Stempniak, and Rask, mainly because of Skinner playing to his potential again. Skinner seems to be back on track, tying the point total of his excellent rookie season. He scored an impressive 37 goals to go along with 63 points in 79 games. Rask had a productive start to the season but was bit by an extended cold streak, ending with 45 points in 82 games. Stempniak rounded out the line and wasn't as effective as he was with New Jersey, and finished with 40 points in 82 games.
23 San Jose Sharks: Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski
This old man line has seen better days. The biggest drop off in production had to have come from Thornton. With only 43 points in 79 games, it's an uncharacteristic outlier when compared to his career, but at 37 it's a sign of his potential regression on its way. Thankfully for the Sharks, Marleau, also 37, still managed to score 27 goals and 46 points. Again, not what we're used to seeing, but decent production, especially at that age. What kept that line at the top is Pavelski though, and even he saw a drop when compared to his usual point totals, with only 68 points in 81 games. The low point total for Pavelski also came with fewer than 30 goals in a full season for the first time since 2010-11.
22 Buffalo Sabres: Marcus Foligno, Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart
The final months of the season were exciting for the Sabres. Having missed Eichel for nearly 20 games after getting injured in the preseason, he came back on a mission. Collecting 57 points in 61 games, and taking over 4 shots per game, Eichel is the real deal in terms of offensive firepower. Flanked by a 21 year old Reinhart who is improving on his points totals year by year (finishing the year with 47 points in 79 games), and Marcus Foligno as a big bodied forechecker (only 23 points in 80 games), the Sabres top line looks like it can continue improving next season. Buffalo is finally starting to look like a legitimate contender again, at least in terms of their forwards.
21 Calgary Flames: Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Michael Ferland
Gaudreau and Monahan are well on their way to being added to the long list of good duos on a forward line. But like so many of those duos, the final player is just a revolving door based on who has the best chemistry with them. They played the season with every right winger on their roster, having the most success with Ferland. Ferland himself isn't impressive on his own, with only 25 points in 76 games even though he played with the duo for quite some time. On the other hand, Monahan is a model of consistency at only 22 years old, posting 58 points in 82 games and taking a ton of faceoffs for the Flames. Gaudreau has shown he can be an elite caliber player, but took a step back this year with only 61 points in 72 games after an almost point per game season last year.
20 Ottawa Senators: Mike Hoffman, Derick Brassard, Mark Stone
Even though Brassard came in via trade this offseason and wasn't as productive as he had been in New York, Hoffman and Stone more than made up for his lack of offense. Hoffman was finally getting the first line minutes he deserved with new head coach Guy Boucher and was not disappointing, as he looked top tier on most nights. He has become a consistent 25+ goal scorer for Ottawa, and finished with 61 points in 74 games. Stone once again missed a decent share of games but managed to put up 54 points in 71 games. Consistent 82 game seasons will surely see him getting 60+ points regularly. Brassard wasn't able to keep up offensively with his line mates nor his own usual productivity, but he was still a useful center for the two wingers. His 39 points in 81 games should improve next year.
19 Florida Panthers: Johnathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Jaromir Jagr
Based off the 2015-16 season, this line had the potential to do so much more this past season. Huberdeau's brutal injury in the preseason put a spanner in the Panther's season since, along with other injuries across the lineup, they just never seemed to be healthy enough to continue past success. When Huberdeau did return though, he tried as hard as possible to make up for lost time with 26 points in 31 games. Barkov was having a very good season too with 52 points in 61 games but his season was cut short due to missing all of January with an injury. This left Jagr with his two young line mates only for a portion of the season, which would probably explain why he only put up 46 points in 82 games. We'll have to see if Jagr remains in Florida going into next season.
18 Montreal Canadiens: Max Pacioretty, Phillip Danault, Alexander Radulov
Hopes were high at the beginning of the season for the Habs. With Galchenyuk finally playing center, and Radulov signed to give the team a top line right winger, there was hype over offensive production. The trio started out great, but after Galchenyuk returned from injury, the chemistry wasn't there anymore. In comes Danault, a gritty young center who, against all expectations, meshed well with Radulov and Pacioretty. Danault finished the season with 40 points in 82 games, eclipsing his prior best of 10 in 51. Radulov had a decent season in his return to the NHL with 54 points in 76 games and was competitive each shift. Pacioretty, who started the season slow, got back to his top tier scoring habits but still hasn't managed to reach 40 goals. He finished with 35 goals and 67 points in 81 games.
17 New York Islanders: Anders Lee, John Tavares, Josh Bailey
Even with Tavares' long standing line mate Kyle Okposo leaving in free agency for Buffalo, he still continued to prove he was the main reason any offense happens on an otherwise lackluster Islanders team. Wingers Lee and Bailey never looked back when placed on the same line as Tavares, both posting career years. Lee scored 34 goals and 52 points in 81 games while Bailey had a cool 43 assists and 56 points in 82 games. Both had seasons well above their averages that could easily be attributed to playing with an elite center. Tavares had a bit of a lower point total than what we're used to, with 66 points in 77 games, but he is still more than capable of 70-80 point seasons.
16 Philadelphia Flyers: Brayden Schenn, Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds
This line probably combines grit and skill the best out of any top line in the league. Though their point totals weren't up to scratch as compared to other seasons, they were still a force to be reckoned with. Especially in Giroux' case, his 58 points in 82 games are a long way from his point per game potential. Simmonds, who makes his living in front of the net, scored 31 goals and had 54 points to go with a pest worthy 122 PIMs. Schenn has also developed into a good power forward and completes the line nicely, with 55 points in 79 games. Unfortunately for the trio and the Flyers, most of these points came on the power play. It's hopefully more of a team problem that leads to the lack of productivity at 5 on 5, and they'll improve in the coming years because this line has the potential to be dominant.
15 New York Rangers: Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan, Mats Zuccarello
The Rangers' first line of misfits continued to cement themselves as the top line posting another good, productive season. Consistency seems to be this trio's motto since they all not only posted similar numbers to each other, but also to their personal prior seasons. Kreider has developed into the speedy power forward the Rangers drafted him for, with 28 goals and 53 points in 75 games. Before getting injured and seeing his shooting percentage regress, he looked more than capable of hitting the 30-35 goal mark at the beginning of the season. Stepan has yet another 50+ point season under his belt and seems to thrive at his role of under the radar productivity. Zuccarello continued right where he had left off two seasons ago, with 59 points in 80 games and is always a threat for 60-65 points.
14 Anaheim Ducks: Rickard Rakell, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry
Getzlaf and Perry finally had a solid left winger to play alongside them on Anaheim's top line. The 24-year-old Rakell took a step forward this season, especially in the goal department. Finishing the year with 51 points in 71 games, he wasn't far off his previous best of 43. In those 71 games though, and accounting for a good chunk of those points, Rakell scored a scorching 33 goals. Even though Perry had an uncharacteristic year (probably due to shooting well below his career average), he still posted 53 points in 82 games, with 20 of those points coming on the power play. Getzlaf had a nice bounce back season, scoring 15 goals along with 58 assists to finish just under a point per game this past season with 73 points in 74 games.
13 Columbus Blue Jackets: Nick Foligno, Alexander Wennberg, Brandon Saad
Columbus had the very fortunate problem this year in that their leading scorer in Cam Atkinson wasn't even playing on their top line. Though he scored 35 goals and 62 points, he was on a line with more defensive minded players. The bulk of the offense came from a line of three 50+ point players this season with Foligno, Saad, and Wennberg. The trio complement each other perfectly. Foligno, being the more robust of the two welcomed offense back into his game with 51 points in 79 games. Though not the 73 points he had two seasons ago, it was still an improvement on the 37 from last year.
Saad, playing the role of the sniper, didn't reach the 30 goal plateau again this year, but still 24 goals and 53 points is more than fine for someone who barely saw power play time. And finally, the line is completed with the playmaker in Wennberg who had 46 assists and 59 points in 80 games in a breakout year.
12 St. Louis Blues: Jaden Schwartz, Paul Stastny, Vladimir Tarasenko
At the helm of this trio for the past three seasons has been Tarasenko, who consistently puts up 70+ points with 35+ goals. Unfortunately for Schwartz and Stastny however, Tarasenko could pretty much do it alone. Schwartz had a decent season with 55 points in 78 games but doesn't look to be the 65+ point player they expected him to be. Stastny keeps falling victim to injury but is a steady hand at center for his line mates, however not much in the way of point production with only 40 points in 66 games. Steen played a few games centering Schwartz and Tarasenko and the line did well, so maybe next year it'll be more of a 3 man effort instead of just Tarasenko's.
11 Minnesota Wild: Nino Neiderreiter, Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle
This line barely edged out the Koivu, Granlund, Zucker line for more production, which goes to show how much depth the Wild have on their top 6. This depth at offense was mostly due to breakout seasons by a lot of younger players. Coyle is yet another young player consistently getting better and finally had above average point totals to show it, with 56 points in 82 games. Niederreiter finally lived up to his high draft rank and broke out for 57 points in 82 games. Though he was always good at scoring, he had 32 assists showing he can set up just as well. In Staal's case, a change of scenery helped revive his offense. He had 65 points in 82 games and looks to be his old self again. This line was excellent defensively as well, seeing as they were all double digit plus players.
10 Tampa Bay Lightning: Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov
With Stamkos missing a majority of the season again, it was up to the triplets to carry Tampa as well as they could. Palat finally got back into the 50+ point range, with 52 points in 75 games and he looked like he did when he first entered into the league. Johnson, who could use a bit of luck to get back to the 70 point range by not getting injured, still put up a respectable 45 points in 66 games. The true beast on this line is Kucherov though, who had numbers similar to Crosby this year with 40 goals and 45 assists in only 74 games. A decent top line, though it'll probably look much better when Palat and Johnson are replaced by a healthy Stamkos and Drouin who gained another year of experience this year.
9 Toronto Maple Leafs: James Van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Mitchell Marner
Though the Leafs had rookie phenom Auston Matthews and an improved William Nylander on one of their lines, the line of Van Riemsdyk, Marner, and Bozak were more productive. The arrival of Marner sparked some good chemistry with the two older players and a fresh line of consistent offense was created for the Leafs. The rookie held his own with 61 points in 77 games, with 42 of those points being assists. JVR continued to show he's good for 25-30 goals a season, with 29 goals and 62 points in 82 games. Bozak rounded out that line and helped out in getting the puck for his wingers by winning 56.66% of his face offs. He also contributed 55 points in 78 games. This line, along with the Matthews line, are going to be formidable going forward.
8 Nashville Predators: Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson
One of the most effective lines in the league, and they're all are under the age of 25. Like in Backstrom and Getzlaf's case, Johansen is a playmaking center playing with wingers who score a lot. With 47 assists and 61 points in 82 games, as well as taking a ton of faceoffs, Johansen, now 24, is running with the opportunity he's finally been given to be a number one center. Flanked by two sniping Swedes in Arvidsson and Forsberg, there's a chance at scoring at any angle when they enter the zone. Forsberg saw a bit of a decrease in production from last season but still put up 58 points in 82 games, 31 of those being goals. Arvidsson outdid his opposing winger, with 31 goals and 30 assists for 61 points in 80 games. Nashville finally has the top tier scoring line they've been looking for since joining the league.
7 Boston Bruins: Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak
The Bruins probably couldn't ask for a more dominant top line of Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak. Though Bergeron is known more for his stellar defensive play and dominance at the faceoff circle, his 53 points in 79 games are still respectable and he is still more than capable of 60+ points. Marchand and Pastrnak are where this line really shines, though. Out of nowhere, Marchand is now a point per game player, finishing the year with 85 points in 80 games. Though his shooting percentage saw a bit of a bump which would explain the 39 goals, he added 46 assists which almost doubles any prior season best. Rounding off that line is one of the best young players in the league in Pastrnak. He exploded for 70 points in 75 games and at 21 years old, there may be even more production to be seen from him.
6 Winnipeg Jets: Nikolaj Ehlers, Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine
The Jets are another young team in the NHL that's finally figuring out how to produce offensively. Scheifele, 24, was joined by Ehlers, 21, and the rookie Laine to form the best young top line in the league. Scheifele continued to improve on previous seasons, reaching 82 points in 79 games and cementing himself as the number one center for the franchise for years to come. Ehlers also took off from a good rookie season, bringing an element of speed to go along with 64 points in 82 games. The rookie sensation in Laine definitely made his mark in his first year in the NHL, with a superb 64 points (36 goals) in 73 games. This looks to be an elite top line in the making.
5 Dallas Stars: Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin
The dynamic duo of Benn and Seguin were at it again this year but at a much more tame level than what we're all used to. Their previous point per game production eased up this year, with Benn having only 69 points in 77 games, and Seguin with 72 points in 82 games. The last piece of that line was Patrick Eaves for a good part of the season until he was traded to Anaheim, with 37 points in 59 games up until that point. Spezza then joined them as their center, pushing Seguin to the wing for the remainder of the season. He performed well putting up 50 points in 68 games in total. The team that led the league in offense last year, carried by Benn and Seguin, will hopefully get back on track next season.
4 Chicago Blackhawks: Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane
Though the Toews line always gets denoted as the top line, the real performers are the dynamic duo of Panarin and Kane on the "second" line. Though Kane may not have had 106 points like last year, his 89 points in 82 games is a good reminder of why he was drafted first overall and has helped the Hawks win 3 cups. With Panarin, they are capable of dissecting teams at will both during zone entry and in the offensive zone. Panarin also proved he wasn't just a flash in the pan this past season, with another 70+ point season since being signed from the KHL two offseasons ago. Anisimov is the glue that keeps the two talented wingers together with his defensive play, but also contributed offensively this year with 45 points in 64 games.
3 Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie
Even with a surprisingly quiet year from Ovechkin, Washington's top line was still lethal all season long. Oshie finally hit the 30 goal mark this year, with 33 goals and 56 points in only 68 games. Though he probably won't score like that ever again, it was helpful to make up for the lack of goals from the Great 8. After getting accustomed to his consistent 50+ goal seasons, Ovechkin finally had only an above average, and not elite, season with 33 goals and 69 points in 82 games. The best player on that line was arguably Backstrom though, who not only had 86 points in 82 games but was a force at both ends of the ice all season long. He was also greatly instrumental on the power play with a league leading 35 power play points.
2 Pittsburgh Penguins: Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby, Conor Sheary
It usually doesn't matter who Crosby plays with, he'll always produce and whoever is lucky enough to play next to him will have above average seasons. This past season though, he was given two rookies who could easily keep up with him and the numbers show it. Crosby unsurprisingly had another ridiculous year, with 44 goals and 45 assists in 75 games. What makes that line even scarier though is how effective Guentzel and Sheary were. In his first 40 games in the NHL, Guentzel scored 16 goals and added 17 assists for 33 points. Sheary,now finishing his second season, had a similarly incredible season of 53 points in 61 games (he had 10 points in 44 games before that). Next season will be an offensive boom if these two can continue at that pace next to Crosby.
1 Edmonton Oilers: Patrick Maroon, Conor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl
The kid is finally here. In his first full season, McDavid lived up to his potential and hype by being the only player this season to put up 100 points. Going into the season it was thought that Eberle and Lucic would be the benefactors of McDavid's talents but the Oilers had better performers lying in wait. Maroon played a role similar to what Kunitz has done with Crosby for so many years. Both play well along the boards and go into the rougher areas of the ice to dig the puck out for their centers'. Not that Maroon minds, since it gave him a career best 27 goals playing with McDavid.
On the other wing is Draisaitl who experienced quite the breakout this season. With 77 points in 82 games, he'd lead most other teams in scoring. Overall a very quick, talented, and forceful line that could change the momentum of a game in seconds. It should be noted that Draisaitl was moved to center towards the end of the Oilers' playoff series, so you wonder if this line will be broken up next season.