The Top 5 NHL left wingers of 2022

      The left wing position boasts plenty of young talent that will dominate the league for many, many years to come.

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      With the holiday season in full swing and 2023 quickly approaching, it’s time to take a look back at the year that was and see who the best players of the calendar year were. We witnessed some incredible performances over the course of the second half of the 2021-22 regular season, the 2022 playoffs, and the 2022-23 regular season so far, but only the best of the best will make these lists.

      Today it’s the left wing position, one that is loaded with many talented options who made it tough to decide who made the cut. It’s an interesting group as well, from high-scoring power forwards to smooth-skating playmakers who discovered their two-way games and a couple forwards that have changed the makeups of their teams.

      Those who’ve read my work know how much I like to use statistics to base my lists off. While that’s still the case here, it’s hard to do a complete list solely off stats because I’ve yet to find a website that combines regular season and playoff stats over the course of a specific date range, so I had to put a little bit of personal opinion into it as well. I’m sure this will go well and we’ll all have a great time.

      Honorable Mentions

      Jonathan Huberdeau
      Huberdeau may have made bigger headlines this year for being the second best player on this list involved in a blockbuster trade and for his defense not being good enough for Hart trophy consideration, but don’t let that distract you from the year that he had. He was lights out in 2021-22, including when that season stretched into 2022. That said, he misses out on the list due to a mediocre start to the 2022-23 season with the Calgary Flames, as well as an even worse showing in the 2022 playoffs.

      Alex Ovechkin
      Ovechkin is still a goal-scoring threat in this league, even at 37, but he also isn’t the big impact player that he was in his prime, and he doesn’t quite produce at the level of his peers on this list. But that doesn’t mean that he didn’t accomplish anything this year. Ovechkin’s parade up the all-time goal leaderboard and pursuit of Wayne Gretzky’s record still makes him a player to watch, especially now that catching 99 is not only realistic, but likely. This isn’t a list for necessarily the best players, but players who’ve had the best year, so Ovi at least deserves a shoutout for cementing himself as the best goal scorer of all time.

      Brad Marchand
      Marchand goes a bit under the radar, partially because his accomplishments get diminished as a linemate of Patrice Bergeron, and partially because everyone outside of Boston hates his guts. But he’s almost reached the point where you love to hate him and respect his ability to balance two-way play with elite scoring along with the ability to piss anyone in the league off (and he doesn’t let that aspect distract him from the rest of his game like a certain goaltender in St. Louis). He’s a big reason why the Bruins are as dominant as they are, especially with the start that they’re having this season.

      5. Artemi Panarin

      Regular Season: 21G-80A-101P-79GP, 48.5% 5v5 xGF%

      Playoffs: 6G-10A-16P-20GP, 40.26% 5v5 xGF%

      Panarin has been one of the most productive players in the NHL since joining the league in 2015, scoring well over a point per game, and 2022 was no exception for him. He hit the 100-point mark, including a whopping 80 assists, and he also finally got his first chance at a deep playoff run with the Rangers when they made the Eastern Conference Final, and he played a big role helping them get there.

      However, what keeps him at No. 5 is his defensive play. Does he need to be an elite defensive player? No. But the problem is that all four players above him are also good defensively, or at least enough to break even when driving play. It was the Rangers’ biggest issue last season, and despite the fact that the team has improved this season and Panarin has spent a good chunk of his time with Vincent Trocheck, he’s still just been barely breaking even on ‘D.’

      4. Jason Robertson

      Regular Season: 55G-49A-104P-86GP, 59.25% 5v5 xGF%

      Playoffs: 1G-3A-4P-7G, 38.32% 5v5 xGF%

      Robertson’s career trajectory has to be one of the most drastic I’ve seen in my time as a writer and fan of the sport. Once an afterthought on the Stars as a prospect, Robertson went from a high-scoring rookie to a 40-goal, point-per-game scorer to one of the best players in the league this season. In the 2022-23 season particularly he’s gone absolutely nuclear, tied for third in the league in goals and points.

      If this list was talking about the best left wingers at this moment, Robertson might even be first. However, since we’re looking at 2022 as a whole, there is half of his year where he was really good but not quite as good as the three above him. Luckily for him, he’s only 23, so there’s even more room to grow and best some of the other players on this list.

      3. Johnny Gaudreau

      Regular Season: 38G-78A-116P-86GP, 55.36% 5v5 xGF%

      Playoffs: 3G-11A-14P-12GP, 57.93% 5v5 xGF%

      Gaudreau has always been a dynamic offensive winger, feared for his many years in Calgary when the puck was on his stick with both his hands and his skating. He was a consistent threat in the offensive zone, but 2022 was a whole new type of Gaudreau, finishing 2022 with 115 points in the regular season and 14 more in the playoffs. And in case you thought those numbers are boosted from his great year in Calgary, he has 34 points in 33 games since moving to Columbus.

      But what makes Gaudreau’s evolution even more impressive last season was how he progressed his two-way game. A lot of credit goes to Flames head coach Darryl Sutter, as his system demands that level of commitment, but Gaudreau still could have easily coasted on his offensive talent. Instead, he stepped up his game and was a dominant play driver on top of his best year offensively. We’ll have to see if this continues in the long run for him in Columbus, but that doesn’t take away from the year he had.

      2. Kirill Kaprizov

      Regular Season: 54G-61A-115P-84GP, 55.18% 5v5 xGF%

      Playoffs: 7G-1A-8P-6GP, 57.49% 5v5 xGF%

      The Wild took a gamble committing term and money to Kaprizov after his spectacular rookie season, as there was still the question of if what he was doing was a one-hit wonder, but Kaprizov has definitely lived up to expectations. He single-handedly made the Wild a must-watch team and immediately added a whole new dynamic to them that they had been lacking for so many years.

      Kaprizov certainly had an advantage stepping into the NHL just a few months away from turning 24, entering just as he was beginning his prime, but you still very rarely see a player debut playing at this caliber. He’s just two calendar years in, and he’s already producing at a 110-plus point pace, and he even had a crazy 2022 playoffs with seven goals in six games. Hopefully this cap situation with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter’s buyouts doesn’t prevent us from seeing a much deserved playoff run with Kaprizov in his prime.

      1. Matthew Tkachuk

      Regular Season: 44G-74A-118P-85GP, 60.33% 5v5 xGF%

      Playoffs: 4G-6A-10P-12GP, 56.82% 5v5 xGF%

      I don’t think there’s any better way to describe Matthew Tkachuk than the term that always flies around about him: a unicorn. It’s exactly what he is, a rare specimen that you don’t really see in the NHL. He’s a premier power forward, capable of both dishing the puck and wiring it (with slick hands to boot), one of the best at defending and driving play, and he has a nasty edge to his game – although sometimes it’s a bit too nasty.

      It says a lot that when he was dealt in the offseason, he was dealt for another player on this list, PLUS a top pair defenseman, PLUS a first round pick, PLUS a prospect. Even if Florida has been struggling, Tkachuk certainly hasn’t, and his impact has actually improved the Panthers under the hood, as their offensive possession and scoring chance numbers are better than last year’s team, with bad shooting luck being the cause of the team’s struggles. They were smart to invest as much as they did in Tkachuk, even if the cost to get him hurts them this year, as they will reap the rewards for the duration of his new contract, if not longer.

      (disclaimer: Tkachuk could’ve qualified for the right wing list, too, as he was a second-team all-star at right wing last season, but his official designated position in 2022-23 is left wing)


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