These Guys are Good

With all the talk over the past couple of months about what the best line in hockey is, you always hear the same names come up. Mackinnon-Rantanen-Landeskog, Marchand-Bergeron-Pastranak, McDavid-Draisaitl-“Literally anyone it does not matter” (I mean look even Kassian is doing well) and of course, Hansen-Hansen-Hansen. While those are all fair answers to the question of what the best line in hockey is right now, I want to give credit to the one that plays in front of around 14 thousand people a night. That is the Florida Panthers top line of Jonathon Huberdeau, Alex Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov.

Who reading this knew that Huberdeau put up 92 points last year, or that Dadonov put up 70?!?! We knew they were good players but literally NO ONE talked about them last year. Barkov has long gone under the radar as one of the best two-way centres in the game and now his linemates are catching up to him. Barkov put up 96 points last year with little media attention and is off to a hot start again this year. The Finn has 17 points in 14 games, Huberdeau has 9 goals and 9 assists and Dadonov has 11 points. What also should not go unnoticed is the line’s two-way ability. They are very responsible in their own end, each is a net positive in Corsi and Fenwick.

( Read Here if you do not know what Corsi and Fenwick are)

Barkov is also an unreal faceoff man and Huberdeau has shown he can step in there if need be. It can be hard for a top-line to generate offence and make sure of their duties in the defensive zone, but the Cats’ top line does a pretty good job.

What makes them so good?

The first thing that stands out when you watch these three together is how good each one is at passing. There isn’t really an elite scorer among the three.   Barkov hit 36 last year, but Huberdeau has only hit 30 goals once and Dadonov hasn’t. This isn’t to say they are inadequate scorers, not by any means, they just prefer to make that extra pass to get a better goal-scoring opportunity for the team. Here are some examples of absolutely wicked passes they have made to each other for goals.

They are all also power-play specialists, Dadonov stands in the slot, with Huberdeau and Barkov on either side of Aaron Ekblad, who sits at the top of the umbrella. Their puck movement is again on full display and although it hasn’t been the strongest start for them on the PP, they have looked a lot better of late. Barkov has scored PP goals in two straight games and has 9 points in his last 5, Huberdeau has 8 points in his last 5 and Dadonov has 4. None of them have McDavid level speed or an Ovechkin level shot, but they all are very intelligent, heady players with incredible amounts of skill and are willing to work. If you have that combination of things you are going to produce. They deserve more recognition and more people should be watching them because that is the only way NHL fans will fully understand how good they are. With the Panthers rolling right now, they are a fun team to watch.

Why does no one talk about them?

Playing in Florida which is not exactly the hockey hotbed of America, let alone even their own state, doesn’t help. But seriously, it is disappointing that they aren’t getting appreciated for how good they are.  Although a trip to the playoffs could go a long way. Lack of exposure is part of the issue.  By my count, only 1 Panthers game was or is going to be nationally televised this year in the States. ONE! Of course, hardcore fans know how good these guys are and so do Panthers fans. But I would consider myself a hardcore NHL fan and I had zero clue Huberdeau had 92 points last year. As I said before none of these guys are especially flashy, I mean in the literal sense of the term. Barkov has shown how skilled he is in the shootout and Huberdeau and Dadonov can also dangle up there with the best of them, but we don’t see it very often. It isn’t like they are playing like grinders, not at all, but their play is more effective than flashy and that doesn’t make SportsCenter Top 10’s. It is surprising how many people think a player is good just because they scored a sick goal that one time.  Take Marik Malik.  The guy went between his legs once and everyone knows his name forever. (but if you don’t here’s the reference ) 

Just to clarify, I am not saying that these 3 are a better line than the Bruins or even the Avs top line, but I think they do deserve to be considered on that level because for too long they’ve been forgotten. For now, let’s hope they don’t go on 8 game pointless streaks all because someone gave them a little ‘love’.