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      The Top 5 NHL right wingers of 2022

      From record-breaking regular seasons to dominant playoff runs, see what some of the best right wingers in the NHL did in 2022.

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      With the holiday season in full swing, and 2023 quickly approaches, 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 right wingers, one of the two wing positions that gets a lot of flak for being the easiest to play due to less defensive responsibility, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some incredible wingers in the game.

      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

      Mats Zuccarello
      Zuccarello might be in the best form of his underrated career at a time where most wingers fall off at age 35, but he’s proven to be an excellent complement to Kirill Kaprizov in Minnesota. Zuccarello had a career high 79 points last season in just 70 games, and he already has 37 in 33 this season, plus he also brings an excellent two-way game to the fold. I don’t think anyone thought he’d still be this good at this point of his contract when he initially signed it with the Wild.

      William Nylander
      While Nylander doesn’t quite get the love that Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and John Tavares do, it’s his work in the shadows that gets him a shoutout for this list. Only six right wingers had more points in the calendar year than Nylander’s 88 in 85 games, only three had more goals than his 41, and only four that played 1,000 minutes at 5-on-5 had a higher xGF% than his 56.31%. And for the second playoffs in a row, he was at least a point per game (even if that playoff run was cut short again). He’ll never not be in trade rumours in Toronto, but he’s proven to be elite like the other three who share the spotlight with him.

      Patrick Kane
      Kane continues to be one of the most productive wingers in the game, even at the age of 34, as his 92 points in 84 games sit him sixth among right wingers in points per game. The fact that he’s done it on a Chicago team clearly tanking is also quite impressive. He might have made the top five if not for the fact that his defensive game is one of the worst in the league at this point. Not that he was ever good in his own end, but it’s quite obvious that he’s mentally checked out in that regard ever since Chicago has been a bottom dweller.

      5. Valeri Nichushkin

      Regular Season: 22G-30A-52P-59GP, 57.64% 5v5 xGF%

      Playoffs: 9G-6A-15P-20GP, 63.65% 5v5 xGF%

      Did anyone raise their stock value more than Valeri Nichushkin in 2022? While he was gaining a lot of steam in the analytics community for the past few seasons for being an elite defensive forward, he really cemented himself as an elite player this year.

      A lot of that came from his playoff run, where he played a big role both in terms of producing but also his reliability to shut down opponents and be strong on the forecheck. Now, underrated players always get a bit of a boost in value when people finally see enough of them on a Cup run, but his start to the season before his injury was proof that he may have the scoring ability to be a household name in hockey.

      4. David Pastrnak

      Regular Season: 56G-47A-103P-79GP, 58.83% 5v5 xGF%

      Playoffs: 3G-3A-6P-7GP, 64.79% 5v5 xGF%

      The Boston Bruins just aren’t fair. Just as their core of Bergeron, Chara, and Rask were starting to age themselves out, it seemed like we might see the Bruins not be a juggernaut, but David Pastrnak had other ideas. While his possession stats over his career could be a product of his linemates, he is far from a passenger on this team, and that’s been proven even more in the past year when he was moved away from Bergeron and Marchand, and put on the second line with Taylor Hall.

      Despite that, Pastrnak hasn’t slowed down. He has more goals than anyone else at this position over the last calendar year, and is second overall behind Matthews’ 57. And of course, he’s one of the best right wingers possession wise when he’s had to drive the bus away from Bergeron and Marchand. Even as the Bruins get older, and some of that core retires, players like Pastrnak are proof that they’ll still be tough to beat… if he re-signs by next season.

      3. Mitch Marner

      Regular Season: 42G-74A-116P-82GP, 62.09% 5v5 xGF%

      Playoffs: 2G-6A-8P-7GP, 59.06% 5v5 xGF%

      While many will criticize the lack of a deep playoff run as a reason to not give any Toronto Maple Leaf credit, the work that Mitch Marner has done in the regular season is some of the best in the league, and not just at his position. He’s one of the highest scoring players, and while many associate that with his playmaking, he also had 42 goals over the course of an 82 game sample. He’s like Patrick Kane, except he can defend better than pretty much anyone at his position, and was incredibly valuable on the penalty kill.

      Yes, the Leafs got knocked out in the first round – again – but even in the playoffs he didn’t slow down, and finally got a monkey off his back with a couple goals against Tampa. And I think completely obliterating the Leafs point streak record to start 2022-23 is enough to make up for the fact that the Leafs are too cursed to win a round. That said, I probably would have put him in first if not for the lack of a playoff run that the other two ahead of him had.

      2. Mikko Rantanen

      Regular Season: 45G-59A-104P-83GP, 54.69% 5v5 xGF%

      Playoffs: 5G-20A-25P-20GP, 61.24% 5v5 xGF%

      Like Nichushkin earlier on this list, Rantanen had a year that few players wouldn’t want, playing a big role in the Avalanche’s run to a Stanley Cup. While a couple players stole the spotlight, Rantanen put up a lot of points, and had the defense to back it up, and was a big reason why it was hard to see anyone in the postseason beating Colorado.

      He’s also played a super important role so far this season, as since he was one of the few players on the Avalanche to not get hurt early on, he’s been key to the Avalanche staying afloat. While it’s unlikely that they miss the playoffs anyways, they could have been in a lot more trouble without Nichushkin, Gabriel Landeskog, Bowen Byram, Josh Manson, and recently Nathan MacKinnon than they currently are with their 19-11-2 record. He doesn’t get the attention that MacKinnon and Makar get, but he’s just as good.

      1. Nikita Kucherov

      Regular Season: 37G-77A-114P-76GP, 51.64% 5v5 xGF%

      Playoffs: 8G-19A-27P-23GP, 51.7% 5v5 xGF%

      While many have tried, Kucherov is a hard player to dethrone as the top right winger in the game. It feels like he’s dominated the league forever, especially because of the last three Cup Final runs, but he hasn’t even hit 30 years old. His regular season span in 2022 wasn’t quite 128 points like 2018-19, but he was the highest scoring right winger in terms of points-per-game over the year, including 49 points so far in just 32 games.

      While his defense isn’t quite up to par as the players below him, no one can deny the fear that runs down his opponents’ spines when he touches the puck. Whether you’re a goalie facing him 1-on-1, or a defender trying to figure out if he’s going to pass through the slot or snipe it short side on the power play, he’ll always be tough to match up against, and he’s a big reason why the Lightning have been considered one of, if not the best team in the past decade.

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